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Sailboats change their course

With gas prices high and the economy low, the mood in many leisure industries is cautious. A casual survey of some sailboat builders and importers implies that selling such products was more entertaining and lucrative in the recent past. But nobody wants to head into the boat show season under a pall, so defiance and a sense of determination to weather these choppy waters prevail. Change is in the air, and that means opportunities for vendors who have their finger on the pulse of the market and for buyers who are hunting for bargains.

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“The industry has to adapt, just like consumers do,” says Karsten Johnson, marketing director of Island Packet Yachts in Largo, Fla., a builder of cruising boats that in 2009 celebrates 30 years in business. “We’ve been here and done that, and the lesson learned is that the economy will make a comeback, even if oil prices look like they could go up some more.”

By harnessing the wind — a free and clean source of energy — sailboats offer independence from fuel prices, and that puts them at a distinct advantage over powerboats. But not all sailboat builders were ready to put their cards on the table, hedging their bets for the launch of new models or limiting introductions to markets that are less affected by the U.S. credit crisis and the weak dollar.

Lagoon Catamarans, for instance, won’t show new models until later in 2009, but it will offer upgraded versions of existing boats, along with its diesel-electric hybrid propulsion system. Even if a model has been available for a while, visitors are encouraged to take a closer look, says Nick Harvey, director of Lagoon America of North America “They might discover new interiors and improvements that were made to details,” says Harvey.

More than improved details can be expected from well-known builder Santa Cruz Yachts. Under new ownership, with a new address and a heavy Australian influence at the top, the company plans to roll out the first new Santa Cruz model in more than a dozen years, a 37-foot racer/cruiser produced in Florida. In a nod to the past, Santa Cruz retained the services of Bill Lee, who started the original outfit and the sled-craze of the 1970s and ’80s in a chicken coop in Santa Cruz, Calif.

European manufacturers are playing it a bit closer to the vest, except for German builder Hanse Yachts. Hanse will show the new deck saloon cruiser Moody 45 DS, the first new Moody since Hanse acquired this brand of seaworthy British bluewater yachts. Bavaria and Dehler, two other German builders, did not announce new boats for a U.S. premiere, but it will show models that made their European debuts last year, such as the Bavaria 38 Cruiser and the Dehler 44.

Beneteau, one of the world’s largest sailboat builders, has plans to show four new cruising boats and two new performance models from 32 to 54 feet, although not all of them should be expected at all shows. Jeanneau, by contrast, wasn’t ready to announce the lineup of new models for the U.S. market at the time of this writing.

“We haven’t decided yet, but you have to pick your battles,” says Paul Fenn, president of Jeanneau America. The company, however, will display the Sun Fast 3200 at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis. The 32-footer is suited for one-design and IRC racing and won its category (under 10 meters) for 2008 European Yacht of the Year. The boat features a unique twin rudder configuration and integrated bowsprit, as well as light and strong resin infusion construction technology.

J/Boats, the Rhode Island-based builder of performance-oriented boats with operations in Europe, says there won’t be any new models at the fall shows in the United States. However, sources close to the company hinted that work is under way for one new model that’s destined for a European premiere late this year, and another one for a U.S. launch in 2009.

“In light of the new economic realities, I expect to see the redefinition of the triangle that is formed between manufacturer, seller and buyer,” says California yacht designer Tom Wylie about the big picture of the sailboat industry’s future. “As people realize that less indeed is more, the cost of ownership, quality of build and sensibility of design should become more important than just a low sticker price.” Efficient hull shapes, simplicity of equipment and the conscious use of resources, according to Wylie, will emerge as drivers for purchasing decisions.

It will take time for bold visions to take shape, but in the meantime potential buyers who are in a position to move forward on a purchase in these times should hit the docks this fall. “While there are challenges, this situation is cyclical, and boating won’t disappear,” Island Packet’s Johnson suggests.

So the best thing to do is take the soft market in stride and look for the best deal on the boat you’ve always wanted.

Hunter Marine is introducing two new vessels at opposite ends of the size range. The Hunter 50CC is the luxurious rendition of the builder’s center cockpit concept, a bluewater cruiser that includes a hot tub in the owner’s suite. On the smaller side, the company introduces the Hunter Edge, a trailerable, beachable 28-footer with centerboard, water ballast and a mast-raising system. The boat follows the powerboat/sailboat concept that MacGregor was first to explore and market with considerable success. The Edge can be powered with an outboard to 75 hp, which gives the boat planing speed.

28 feet, 6 inches LWL: 24 feet, 2 inches BEAM: 8 feet, 4 inches DRAFT (centerboard up/down): 1 foot, 6 inches/ 5 feet, 11 inches DISPLACEMENT: 5,540 pounds (including water ballast) SAIL AREA: 333 square feet ENGINE: outboard to 75 hp PRICE: $32,990 (without power) CONTACT: Hunter Marine, Alachua Fla. Phone: (386) 462-3077.

Beneteau has announced four new additions to its cruising line — the Beneteau 31, 34, 37 and 54 — and two new racer/cruisers, the First 40 and First 45. Though the 37 was in Annapolis, Md., last year, Beneteau decided to reintroduce an adapted version for the U.S. market. The company continues to use different naval architects for different models: Finot-Conq for the 31 and 34, Groupe Finot for the 37, and Berret Racoupeau for the 54; and Farr Yacht Design for the First 40 and Philippe Briand for the First 45. The new Beneteaus cover a wide range of tastes and budgets, with sailaway prices ranging from $110,000 for the 31 to $485,000 for the 54.

LOA: 31 feet, 8 inches LWL: 28 feet, 6 inches BEAM: 11 feet, 1 inch DRAFT (shoal/standard): 4 feet, 5 inches/6 feet, 1 inch DISPLACEMENT: 8,933 pounds SAIL AREA: 508 square feet ENGINE: 20-hp Yanmar diesel PRICE: $110,000

LOA: 37 feet, 8 inches LWL: 34 feet, 1 inch BEAM: 12 feet, 10 inches DRAFT (standard/deep): 4 feet, 7 inches/6 feet, 3 inches DISPLACEMENT: 14,088 pounds SAIL AREA: 640 square feet ENGINE: 28-hp Yanmar diesel PRICE: $165,000

LOA: 44 feet, 11 inches LWL: 38 feet, 7 inches BEAM: 13 feet, 9 inches DRAFT: 7 feet, 10 inches DISPLACEMENT (light): 23,400 pounds SAIL AREA: 1,238 square feet ENGINE: 54-hp Yanmar Saildrive PRICE: $380,000 CONTACT: Beneteau USA, Marion, S.C. Phone: (843) 629-5300.

Jeanneau Sun Fast 3200
Bolstered by winning its category in the European Yacht of the Year awards this year, the Jeanneau Sun Fast 3200 is set for a U.S. premiere at Annapolis, Md. Light and stiff, simple and fast is Jeanneau’s marketing thrust for this one-design racer that came off the board of Andrieu Yacht Design. Bowsprit, asymmetrical spinnaker and tiller-controlled twin rudders promise good fun, especially downwind.

LOA: 33 feet, 1 inch LWL: 28 feet BEAM: 11 feet, 5 inches DRAFT: 6 feet, 2 inches DISPLACEMENT: 7,500 pounds SAIL AREA: 667 square feet ENGINE: 15-hp Yanmar diesel PRICE: $160,000 CONTACT: Jeanneau America, Annapolis, Md. Phone: (410) 280-9400.

Santa Cruz 37
If you call the offices of Santa Cruz Yachts these days, you’ll end up in Florida, and someone with an Australian accent is likely to answer the phone. In January the iconic California builder changed hands and location. Vice president and director of operations Darren Williams, like sales manager Dave Tomlinson and production manager Rod Gill, are Aussies who served in different capacities at Sydney Yachts. But there is still a West Coast component with designer Tim Kernan and the original founder of Santa Cruz Yachts, Bill Lee, who signed on as director of development. The company expects to show the Santa Cruz 37, a new design with racer/cruiser characteristics featuring a retractable bow-sprit, non-overlapping headsail and an optional lifting keel. The boat will be followed by a 43-footer.

LOA: 37 feet LWL: 34 feet, 9 inches BEAM: 10 feet, 7 inches DRAFT (shoal/deep): 6 feet/7 feet, 6 inches DISPLACEMENT: 8,662 pounds SAIL AREA: 725 square feet ENGINE: 29-hp Yanmar diesel PRICE: ca. $315,000 CONTACT: Santa Cruz Yachts, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Phone: (888) 723-2781.

Bavaria 38 Cruiser
Bavaria Yachts lists three models for this year, the 31, 34 and 38 Cruiser. While the two smaller models were introduced in the U.S. earlier this year, the 38 is expected to make its American debut this fall. Bavaria calls it a midsize cruiser and touts its electric swim platform, large cockpit lockers, spacious accommodations and functional galley. The hand-laid fiberglass hull has Kevlar reinforcements in the bow section, while the rig consists of a fairly conventional two-spreader Selden aluminum mast with shrouds far inboard.

LOA: 38 feet, 6 inches LWL: 32 feet, 6 inches BEAM: 12 feet, 10 inches DRAFT (standard/deep): 5 feet, 3 inches/ 6 feet, 5 inches DISPLACEMENT: 15,840 pounds SAIL AREA: 745 square feet ENGINE: 40-hp Volvo Saildrive PRICE: $184,000 CONTACT: Bavaria Yachts, Annapolis, Md. Phone: (410) 990-0007.

After showing a new model each year from 2004 to 2006 and an updated version of its entry-level boat last year, catamaran builder Lagoon is taking a breather before rolling out the Lagoon 400 and 620, both Van Peteghem-Prevost designs. The company says the 400 won’t replace the 380, but it hopes to repeat the 380’s success (more than 500 sold). The 620 is destined for a clientele that wants size and variety; for example, four, five or six double cabins. In other news, Lagoon has updated its hybrid drive system, now called Hybrid2, and will phase out the venerable 570.

LOA: 39 feet, 4 inches BEAM: 23 feet, 9 inches DRAFT: 4 feet DISPLACEMENT: 22,700 pounds SAIL AREA: 990 square feet ENGINE: twin 30- or 40-hp Yanmar Sail-drives PRICE: unavailable CONTACT: Lagoon America, Annapolis, Md. Phone: (410) 280-2368.

Island Packet 460
It’s been more than 20 years since Island Packet Yachts rolled out the IP 38, the company’s first aft-cockpit, two-stateroom, two-head yacht. It is a tried-and-true concept that was improved and refined in the new Island Packet 460, which makes its debut at the fall shows. The boat continues the Island Packet tradition of comfort-oriented cruising, with its cutter rig and plenty of space on deck and below. The company also emphasizes such features as an extra-large lazarette, fiberglass and teak transom platform with retractable swim ladder, and a longer boom that increases sail area and accommodates an optional “ExtendoBoom” hoist.

LOA: 42 feet, 9 inches LWL: 38 feet, 1 inch BEAM: 14 feet, 4 inches DRAFT: 5 feet DISPLACEMENT: 32,000 pounds SAIL AREA: 1,148 square feet ENGINE: 75-hp Yanmar diesel PRICE: $550,000 CONTACT: Island Packet Yachts, Largo Fla. Phone: (727) 535-6431.

C&C 131
C&C Yachts is under new ownership and talking up the 131, a lean racer/cruiser with a retractable bowsprit. Features such as “Carbopoxy” composite hull construction, a resin-infused deck, carbon fiber rig, PBO standing rigging, and carbon fiber rudder and post keep things light and fast, which is indicated by a sail area-to-displacement ratio of 26.3. C&C says the 131 is “uniquely designed for the performance-minded racer/cruiser” and it will be offered with an optional retracting keel.

LOA:  42 feet, 11 inches LWL: 37 feet, 3 inches BEAM: 12 feet, 11 inches DRAFT (fixed/retractable keel): 8 feet, 8 inches/6 feet, 6 inches DISPLACEMENT: 16,975 pounds SAIL AREA: 1,082 square feet ENGINE: 55-hp Yanmar Saildrive PRICE: unavailable CONTACT: C&C Yachts, Fairport Harbor, Ohio. Phone: (440) 357-7223.

Sunsail and The Moorings
For sailors interested in letting their boats earn income as charter vessels, The Moorings and Sunsail are offering two new boats, the Sunsail 44, designed by Philippe Briand, and The Moorings 43.4, a Berret-Racoupeau boat. Both are similar in size and performance and are offered with two layout configurations, either three cabins/three heads or four cabins/two heads. An interesting detail on the Sunsail 44 is the injection-molded deck, which the company says improves performance and reduces pitch because it is nearly 800 pounds lighter than a conventionally laminated deck of similar size. The boats are available through the Sunsail Yacht Partnership Program and the Moorings Advantage Ownership Program (click on the ownership tabs on the company Web sites, listed below).

LOA: 45 feet, 1 inch LWL: 37 feet, 6 inches BEAM: 14 feet, 4 inches DRAFT (shoal/deep): 5 feet, 4 inches/6 feet, 8 inches DISPLACEMENT: 21,900 pounds SAIL AREA: 970 square feet ENGINE: 75-hp Yanmar diesel PRICE: $299,000 CONTACT: Sunsail, Clearwater, Fla. Phone: (800) 817-0807.

LOA: 43 feet, 1 inch LWL: 38 feet, 1 inch BEAM: 13 feet. 6 inches DRAFT  (shoal/deep): 5 feet, 5 inches/6 feet, 7 inches DISPLACEMENT: 21,108 pounds SAIL AREA: 891 square feet ENGINE: 54-hp Yanmar diesel PRICE: $289,000 CONTACT: The Moorings, Clearwater, Fla. Phone: (727) 530-5651.

Moody 45 DS
A name laden with tradition attached to a boat with modern looks and ideas could be a summary of the new Moody 45 DS. The British brand Moody Yachts, synonymous for robust and comfortable cruisers, now has a German owner, Hanse Yachts AG, which builds and markets the boats. The first yacht of the new era is a deck saloon model that draws on the indoor-outdoor living theme on one level, “creating a feeling of space which is usually only experienced on large motoryachts,” according to the design brief. Clear lines, a tidy deck and thoughtful ergonomics are designed to encourage short-handed sailing and safety on offshore passages. The Moody 45 DS is built with epoxy laminate and offered with several interior layouts.

LOA: 45 feet LWL: 15 feet, 11 inches BEAM: 10 feet, 7 inches DRAFT: 6 feet, 6 inches DISPLACEMENT: 30,000 pounds SAIL AREA: 1,033 square feet ENGINE: 75-hp Yanmar diesel PRICE: $650,000 CONTACT: Hanse Yachts U.S., Annapolis, Md. Phone: (410) 626-1493.

Broadblue 500
Scheduled for launch this fall, the Broadblue 500 is designed for private owners rather than charter operations. The catamaran combines a “powerful, comfortable and safe ride with strikingly beautiful lines, superb craftsmanship and elegant joinery,” according to the manufacturer. Designed by Stuart Davidsen, the Broadblue 500 targets customers who like small crews, but long hauls and blue water under their keels.

LOA: 50 feet, 1 inch LWL: 48 feet, 5 inches BEAM: 28 feet, 11 inches DRAFT: 4 feet, 7 inches DISPLACEMENT: 33,000 pounds SAIL AREA: 1,592 square feet ENGINE: twin 55-hp Yanmar Saildrives PRICE: $1.29 million CONTACT: Broadblue USA, Oriental, N.C. Phone: (877) 695-0358.

Dufour 525 Grand’large
Dufour plans to show its new flagship, the 525 Grand’large, which was designed by Umberto Felci and Patrick Roseo for comfortable liveaboard bluewater cruising. It boasts a low coach roof and uncluttered deck, in addition to such practical details as a transom storage compartment for the dinghy and life raft, hidden control lines led aft under the roof, twin steering wheels, and a bowsprit for asymmetrical sails. Dufour says almost any appliance can be added to increase creature comforts and convenience, and touts the boat’s “luminous and warm” saloon. Customers can choose from eight different interior layouts with three or four cabins, and an inline or L-shaped galley.

LOA: 50 feet, 3 inches LWL: 45 feet, 1 inch BEAM: 16 feet, 1 inch DRAFT (shoal/deep): 6 feet, 6 inches/7 feet, 8 inches DISPLACEMENT: 35,640 pounds SAIL AREA: 1,381 square feet ENGINE: 75-hp Volvo Saildrive or 110-hp straight shaft PRICE: $649,000 CONTACT: Dufour Yachts, Annapolis, Md. Phone: (410) 757-9401.

Alibi 53
Catamaran specialist Aeroyacht is showing the Alibi 53 at this season’s shows. It’s a high-performance cruising cat that doesn’t need an alibi, with its combination of green and fast features that include carbon/Kevlar composite construction, hybrid electric drives, asymmetric daggerboards, square-top mainsail, wing-mast, aft water-ballast to prevent pitchpoling in heavy weather, and tender storage.

LOA: 53 feet LWL: 52 feet BEAM: 26 feet, 2 inches DRAFT (boards up/down): 4 feet, 5 inches/7 feet, 8 inches DISPLACEMENT: 25,000 pounds SAIL AREA: 1,323 square feet ENGINE: 75-hp Yanmar diesel PRICE: $1.4 million CONTACT: Aeroyacht, Setauket Harbor, N.Y. Phone: (631) 246-6448.

Tartan 5300
Tartan Yachts will show its latest — and largest — boat, the Tartan 5300, a cruiser with a raised saloon, center cockpit and large accommodations. Fitted with the Novis carbon fiber Cruise Control Rig, with a small overlapping jib, furling reacher and a pocket boom, the boat provides optimum performance and ease of handling, according to Tartan. Using epoxy laminates to save weight and preserve stiffness, Tartan touts a higher ballast-to-displacement ratio and greater sail-carrying ability and stability. The 5300 has a centerboard option and is offered with several cabin layouts. Also in the pipeline is the 5100, a performance-oriented raised-saloon model for short-handed offshore sailing. A launch date hasn’t been set.

LOA: 53 feet LWL: 46 feet, 6 inches BEAM: 16 feet, 1 inch DRAFT (keel/centerboard up-down): 6 feet, 8 inches/5 feet, 6 inches-9 feet, 6 inches DISPLACEMENT (keel/centerboard): 37,225 pounds/38,225 pounds SAIL AREA: 1,387 square feet ENGINE: 106-hp Yanmar diesel PRICE: $1.1 million CONTACT: Tartan Yachts, Fairport Harbor, Ohio Phone: (440) 357-7777.

Oyster 54
Under new ownership, but upholding the values that made it one of the enduring success stories of the industry, Oyster Marine introduces the Oyster 54, which replaces the established 53. Rob Humphreys and Oyster’s own designers came up with a modern iteration that promises markedly better performance, with close to a foot more waterline, 4 feet more beam, 60 square feet more sail, but a half-ton less weight. The boat will be offered with various rigs and interiors, two different keels, and a centerboard version with twin rudders, which reduces the minimum draft to approximately 5 feet.

LOA: 53 feet, 11 inches LWL: 46 feet, 3 inches BEAM: 15 feet, 7 inches DRAFT (shoal/standard): 6 feet /7 feet, 10 inches DISPLACEMENT: 47,000 pounds SAIL AREA: 1,658 square feet ENGINE: 110-hp Yanmar diesel PRICE: $1.69 million CONTACT: Oyster Marine Ltd. USA , Newport, R.I. Phone: (401) 846-7400.

This article originally appeared in the October 2008 issue.