Is the boast plausible? Toby Hodges takes a close look at this muscular racer-cruiser


A sign that brags ‘the fastest cruising 40-footer in the world’ is a sure-fire way to attract attention. My first impressions of the Neo 400 stern-to at the Genoa Boat Show made me question that statement, but the more I discovered about this quirky boat, the more the boast seemed plausible.

She’s a little like the tweaked road cars in the Fast and Furious film series – ie not an out-an-out racing design, but a muscular racer-cruiser with accommodation.

The Neo is built entirely in carbon (optionally pre-preg), so weighs a butterfly-light 4.8 tonnes, with exactly half of that in her torpedo-shaped keel. And like the nitro-fuelled Japanese cars in the blockbuster films, she is capable of exhilarating speeds – reportedly up to 24 knots downwind.

The prototype has clocked 10,000 miles since launching in February. Once Paolo Semeraro, the man behind her conception, had finished showing me round the boat, she departed for the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

America’s Cup designer Giovanni Ceccarelli drew the Neo for racing under ORCi and IRC ratings. Her hull is optimised for max waterline length at 20° heel and features a slightly reverse stem. The result is, says Semeraro: “She sails upwind like an Xp44 and downwind like a Class 40.”

Unusual options include a very deep keel and high aspect rudder, which can retract for accessing shallower waters. Both aft cabins include three single berths that can be canted to the optimum windward angle to suit racing crews. And forward of the mast a loft option is offered, which is left open to create a large saloon.

Neo 400 interior

Neo 400 interior

Another notable feature is the double compression post in the centre of the interior, which looks like carbon scaffolding, but serves to absorb mast base and shroud base loads. Construction throughout looks rigid, including solid laminate ringframes, a Weldox steel keel fin and a lead bulb.

The Neo is built at Banks Sails in Bari, Italy. It produces two carbon sails per day on average so boasts plenty of laminating experience. It is no surprise then that a large sailplan has been developed for the boat to include a square-top main and a generous foretriangle for asymmetric sails flown off a fixed sprit.

A planned Neo 550 looks sleeker and more refined. With greater attention given to the accommodation and weighing just over ten tonnes, she could be one to watch. The 400 viewed was a working prototype, which was obvious from the standard of finish. And I suspect, however fast or furiously she sails, the price of construction may ensure she remains a niche boat.

Price ex VAT €355,000 (£282,000).




LOA 12.15m/39ft 10in

LWL 11.50m/37ft 9in

Beam 3.99m/13ft 1in

Draught 2.60m-1.60m/ 8ft 6in-5ft 3in

Displacement 4,600kg/10,141lb


This is an extract from a feature in the November 2014 issue of Yachting World