Toby Hodges is one of the 12 strong jury who tested each of the 21 shortlisted boats aiming to be crowned best yacht 2024. He gives his verdict on the winners and nominees
In what is dubbed as ‘Yachting’s Oscars’, The European Yacht of the Year 2024 winners were announced this evening, Saturday 20 January 2024. The awards this year comprise winners of four categories and a special mention prize for sustainability.
The European Yacht of the Year continues to be the focal point of my year and testing programme and brings much to many. Firstly to you, the readers, sailors and yacht buyers, it helps show what to look for and why, what trends are coming up, what works and what doesn’t.
To us, the 12-strong jury, leading yacht test critics in their individual countries, it is the ideal opportunity to comparatively test multiple yachts and weigh up our varying critiques – whether those are stemming from Med, Atlantic or Baltic based backgrounds.
And I believe it has helped and continues to benefit the yards too, to encourage the production of more refined and better value yachts, with less flaws, for which they should be recognised.
All 12 jury members seatrial each yacht individually before we all discuss in detail the pros and cons we found, what works at sea and what doesn’t. We then analyse them further before voting on the best yachts of 2024 in their various categories. The result is the most impartial and coveted awards for new production yachts available worldwide.
Our trials were held over two weeks in the autumn of 2023 in La Rochelle and Port Ginesta, Barcelona.
Whilst we concentrate on the five winners below, all 21 yachts shortlisted were done so for good reason, all have interesting or different features and many will have been very close to winning themselves. We will go into these in more detail, here online, in video and of course in Yachting World (March 2024).
Best yacht 2024
Best Luxury Cruiser
What defines luxury will differ according to personal opinion and from boat to boat. The Contest 50CS for example (also available in different layout as the 49Cs) is an archetype luxury cruiser in my eyes, one built to the highest standards and that could take you to most waters in impeccable comfort.
Equally the Xc47 is a wonderfully engineered and thought out yacht for distance cruising, in particular for those who also enjoy hands-on helming pleasure (indeed its marketed by X-Yachts as the best bluewater cruiser ever). And the Jeanneau Yachts 55 offers a new concept in comfort on deck while at anchor and a unique accommodation layout.
Winner: Arcona 50
When you enter such a fiercely competitive market as the 50ft luxury performance sector currently is, you better get it right. And the jury felt Arcona managed that. This watershed design for the traditional Swedish brand, by X-Yachts co-founder and former designer Niels Jeppesen, is a big, contemporary new Arcona, one that sees it transition from its cruiser-racer heritage and classic interiors (which some may miss).
And it’s a stunner – inside and out. Its looks are backed up by high build and finish quality and performance on the water. While I doubt it’ll be raced (like the smaller Arconas typically are), or will suit typical bluewater use, it offers a purity of performance push-button sailing. Where the Arcona is a handsome prospect upwind in a light breeze, it transforms into a powerful reaching machine with stacks of control.
As chairman of our EYOTY jury Jochen Rieker puts it: “The boat certainly did not win for her somewhat borrowed looks or her lack of visual innovation. Yet she wins simply by checking all the boxes in all other respects. Slipping along gracefully in the lightest of airs, holding her stride and her balance in more demanding conditions, offering warmth, light and this reassuring feeling of utter quality down below – there simply isn’t anything to fault. In a busy market segment this 50-footer stands tall.”
Starting price ex VAT: €879,000
“Her sailing performance is nothing less than exceptional, in speed, stability and precision, and her layout is smart and practical both on and below deck.” Pasi Nuutinen, Finland.
“A super modern yacht with familiar X-style looks which impresses in terms of sailing, appearance as well as workmanship.” Roland Duller, Austria.
“Not only a feast for the eyes, it also sailed the best out of all boats, in all conditions that we encountered during the week – in light airs as well as in breeze.” Axel Nissen-Lie, Norway.
The small number of entrants in this category this year does not reflect the rich range or huge demand for multihulls. Many new models were launched by the big yards in the preceding years and they are struggling to keep up with bulging order books.
However, these three shortlisted represented a handsome pick of the latest fast ocean cruisers. While Neel continues to enjoy its cruising trimaran niche, with accommodation on the bridgedeck combined with the type of sailing enjoyment and feedback monohull sailors will appreciate, these two catamaran brands are responding to an insatiable demand for high end space and pace cruising.
The HH44 seemingly manages that while being one of the most innovative new production yachts I have sailed. From its looks to layout, to practical on deck solutions such as side entries and transom gates, it’s the incorporation of the first parallel hybrid electric drive units which really makes this high tech high performance cat stand out.
In the end however, it was the Outremer 52 which won the vote for being such an enjoyable well rounded fast cruiser in all aspects.
Winner: Outremer 52
My highlight test of 2023? Sailing this Outremer 52 for 200 miles over two days and nights! Quite how such a large vessel, one that is capable of doing multiple laps of the planet in true comfort, is also capable of providing such enjoyable sailing is the secret sauce that helps scoop this prize.
And it was pushed hard by the HH. But the Outremer is such a well rounded, measured and thought out yacht for bluewater cruising at a reliable speed – it’s the full package, a dream boat for family bluewater sailing and arguably their best and most refined model to date.
There is too much to point out here, from the variety of helm positions, including completely protected, to the well conceived spaces, so I would recommend reading our full Outremer 52 test report.
Starting price ex VAT: €1.38m
“The measure of all things in the performance catamaran segment. The perfect symbiosis of sailing performance, comfort, and overall enjoyable movement on the water.” Roland Duller, Austria.
“Outremer is the clear market leader in the performance sector of bluewater multihulls. The flawlessly built and superbly finished 52 easily sails at double-digit speeds and offers real comfort at the same time.” Lori Schüpbach, Switzerland.
“A catamaran with about the same comfort as a “normal” cruising multihull, but with almost twice the speed, how is it possible?” Sebastien Mainguet, France.
Best Family Cruiser
A crop of the latest 35-45ft mainstream production yachts, including the ultra spacious Dufour 410 , now a charter special model, and the smaller sister to the award winning Hanse 460, plus a couple more less well known or more niche yachts, made for a competitive grouping this year.
In the end there was one stand out model, from the looks, volume and performance to the time spent in engineering it to a quality repeatable level: the Bavaria C46
Winner: Bavaria C46
The relationship between Bavaria and Cossutti Yacht Design continues to flourish and produce standout results in its second generation. The Bavaria C46’s modern full shape brings incredible deck and accommodation space yet simultaneously still manages to do so on a hull which really performs and rewards through its single rudder feedback.
From design to engineering to finish quality, the perceived richness of this yacht stands out, which is no mean feat in a mass production size and brand. So much so that other big yards may struggle to compete.
Our full report is in the March 2024 issue of Yachting World.
Standard Price ex VAT: €315,600.
“The Bavaria C46 triumphs as a meticulously crafted, spacious, and well performing yacht, which sets new standards for finish and craftsmanship quality in series-produced boats.” Morten Brandt-Rasmussen, Denmark.
“There is no doubt that this yacht has the potential to become a new benchmark in the field of cruising yachts under 15m.” Lori Schüpbach, Switzerland.
“While other boats within the category may look sleeker and boast more modern interior design none delivers as much in solidity, practicability, volume, or sturdiness and few reach as high a level in all-round sailing sensations.” Jochen Rieker, Germany.
Best Special Yacht
Nominees: Cape Cod 767; Flaar 24; Jeanneau Sun Fast 30 OD; Pointer 30; Saffier Se 24 Lite; Shogun 43
What do you when you have yachts that are as diverse as innovative daysailers, lake sportsboat, a recyclable one-design and an elite high-end carbon race yacht? Well we define them as ‘Special’. And this year’s eclectic bunch really were special and full of interesting new ideas. From the folding coamings and retractable electric drive on the Bordeaux built Cape Cod daysailer, to the swivel seat on the amiable Pointer to the exquisite composite craftsmanship on the Shogun 43.
In the end, no one knows how to win this award better than the family run Saffier yard, king of the daysailers.
Winner: Saffier Se24 Lite
Surely the hardest task is to exemplify the very best of what you do within the smallest model you can? Yet that is what Saffier has achieved with its Se 24 Lite. Saffiers just keep getting better and this one is impressive enough to secure yet another EYOTY award for this Dutch yard’s fifth win.
Modern hull shape, with flat underwater sections (particularly aft) combines with high form stability for a stiff, fast, fun ride in both directions. A simple boat to manage, whether rigging, sailing, or maintaining, the Se24 is also very smart – including being an eclectically driven boat which uses a single 24V system, charged via solar integrated into the deck.
A single point lift makes launching easy and therefore trailing possible. And the fine-tune mainsheet system within the boom is just one example of how well this yard develops its boats to ensure they can be solo sailed easily.
This is the full package from engineering to finish quality to the smallest well thought out details. And like the very best yachts, the Saffier Se24 looks good, is a joy to sail and puts a smile on your face.
Starting price ex VAT: €69,900
“Relentless in light winds and capable of bringing out the adrenaline when demanded, this trailerable, electric-powered daysailer is a little gem with great sailing qualities.” Diego Yriarte, Spain.
“The boat that many would like to have moored close to home ready for a sail after work.” Alberto Mariotti, Italy.
“Lightning fast without being nervous, simple without being basic and refined without being complex. Above all, the boat caters to your sailing needs without effort. The maximum in sailing pleasure.” Marinus van Sijdenborgh de Jong, Netherlands.
Special mention award for Sustainability – Bestevaer 36
Think big, choose small. Again we see the culmination of a lifetime of good ideas and practical experience from a veteran designer and builder pairing poured into a comparatively compact package. Designed by and built for veteran racing sailor, designer and J Class supremo Gerard Dykstra to downsize from his previous Bestevaer – in both size and cruising areas – from past high latitudes exploits to future plans to visit his local wetlands.
Favourite features of the Bestevaer 36 include the deep protected cockpit and doghouse, the deep stowage in both, the drop down transom step cum swim platform, the kick up rudder blade and of course the centreplate which helps allow you to dry out in most corners of the planet.
This baby Bestevaer also examples many of the merits of sustainable boatbuilding KM has long incorporated with its aluminium builds. From the recycled aluminium used for the hull and structures, to the lack of coatings and the choice of insulation, the entire footprint and life cycle of the boat has been closely evaluated – and it is this which we are highlighting, celebrating and helping to showcase today.
The downside is it comes with a pricetag more associated with the custom yachts KM is so versed at producing…
Starting price ex VAT: €645,000
“The Bestevaer 36 uses recycled or recyclable materials wherever possible: in the hull insulation, in the components laminated with eco-resins and basalt, making the boat as a whole highly recyclable and considerably reducing the carbon footprint.” Diego Yriarte, Spain.
“A compact ocean sailor ready for tough conditions. The boat is built to cope with vulnerable as well as desolate places of the globe – and very sustainably so. Her aluminium is mostly recycled and efficient to reuse at the end of what is perceived to be a very long lifecycle.” Axel Nissen-Lie, Norway.
“In contrast to greenwashing trends, the Dutch yard KM Yachtbuilders leads with genuine commitment, producing authentic Bluewater boats for polar expedition cruises.” Morten Brandt-Rasmussen, Denmark.
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