Tuesday, July 5, 2016

X-Yachts X6 Review







X6



The X6 has finally arrived. This all-new design from Niels Jeppesen and the X-Yachts design team is the first of their new "X" line of high performance cruising yachts. It appears that the X6 is designed to provide luxurious cruising amenities combined with very high performance. This is interesting because the company already offers a high performance cruising yacht, the Xc-50, as well as a luxury racer/cruiser in their Xp-55. Therefore I thought it would be informative to compare the dimensions and ratios of all three boats.

Note that some dimensions and ratios for the X6 are estimates based on the published data for the Xp and Xc.  Sail area and SA/D are somewhat inflated because I did not have actual rig measurements, but used published data from X-Yachts instead. Still, this table provides a snapshot of the performance potential of each boat relative to its siblings.



Comparing D/L ratios, notice that they are nearly the same for the X6 and Xp at 145 and 142, while the Xc weighs in at 182. The X6 and Xp will be able to surf when conditions are right, while the Xc will require relatively more energy to break free of its bow and stern waves and surf.

Most notable in these numbers is that all three boats have large rigs for their size and type. The Xp has a higher SA/D ratio than the X6, which is appropriate for the more racing oriented boat. The surprise here is that the cruising oriented Xc also has quite a powerful rig. We can think of the SA/D as power/weight ratio. A boat with a high SA/D is like a lightweight car with a big motor.

I included profiles of each boat below so you can visually compare them. The fairbody line of the Xc is significantly deeper than the other two boats, indicating a more V-shaped hull and more deadrise than the others. This shape gives the boat more comfortable motion in a seaway and allows heavy items such as tanks and the engine to be mounted below the cabin sole. Interestingly, the Xc has a higher ballast/displacement ratio than the others.

Xc 50
High performance cruiser

Xp 55
Racer Cruiser



X6
Very High Performance Cruiser

The underwater profile of the X6 is similar to that of the Xp, but notice that it is beamier relative to its length. Another interesting difference is that the aft overhang is longer on the Xp. All of this implies that the Xp will be the faster boat in light air, but only by a little bit. I think the X6 will be faster upwind in anything more than light air. With its long waterline and powerful rig, the X6 will be significantly faster on a reach.

We are fortunate to have a lines plan for the X6. In studying it, the first thing you'll notice is that the hull is V-shaped to about station 7, then it becomes "U" shaped from that point to the stern. The hull is nearly flat-bottomed near the transom, which is not overly wide. Above the waterline there is little change in the angle of the topsides, this is apparent in the body plan. That consistent angle gives the hull a somewhat slab-sided appearance, but it is a very efficient shape. I'm glad to see that the design team didn't succumb to the temptation to add chines, which on a boat like this would be nothing but a styling gimmick.






The X6 is equipped with a vertical fin-and-bulb keel with three draft options. The shoal draft version draws 8.50 feet and the competition keel draws 11.15 feet. There are twin rudders, which ordinarily I would be critical of.  But the reason for that arrangement is to allow space for a dinghy garage. In the Xp-55, the dinghy must be wrestled aboard and stowed athwartships because the rudder post is in the way. The twin rudders on the X6 allow the dinghy to be hauled aboard and stowed all in one go, a more practical system by far.

If I could afford my own X6 I would sit down with Niels and ask about a lifting keel. Nothing beats a deep keel for sailing performance, but there are lots of destinations that are too shallow for even the shoal draft version. I think a variable draft keel of six to ten feet would give me the performance I would demand it a boat like this, and access to some of my favorite coves as well.

A new generation  X.
Deep draft and twin rudders.

The standard rig is aluminum and an optional carbon fiber rig is offered. Of course the winches are all electric. The mainsheet is led to a pair of blocks on the arch instead of to a traveler. For a luxury cruiser like the X6 that is a perfectly acceptable arrangement. The boat is equipped with a transverse jib track just forward of the mast that accommodates a self tacking 96% jib as well as longitudinal tracks for the 106% jib. There are no genoas on the X6.

The cockpit is large and well set up for cruising. The companionway is offset to starboard and the table is large enough for six to dine. The winches are located just forward of the helms. The controls and instruments are located on the consoles at the helms.

Rendering of the cockpit


Laminated wood/carbon fiber wheel and pushbutton controls.

There are plenty of choices in the accommodations.  I think the centerline V-berth is more convenient than the pullman type owner's stateroom. The galley, as you would expect, is large and well laid out. Guests can be accommodated in the quarter-cabins. The boat can  easily accommodate three couples.






Visually, with it's truncated cabin and expansive foredeck, the new boat is a departure from previous production X yachts. This may be an incremental step in the design evolution of X-Yachts, or it may be an indicator of a changing of the guard at the company. Either way, the X6 is a stunning addition to their product line and I can't wait to see the new X4.




 All  images  courtesy of X-Yachts.  






Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Dehler 38 Review





Here is an interesting cruiser/racer from Dehler Yachts. As you may know, Dehler Yachts was one of many builders that were knocked out in the Great Recession. Fortunately, the Hanse Group acquired the company in 2009, so the well respected Dehler marque lives on. Nowadays Dehlers are built at Hanse's facility in Griefswald, Germany, on the Baltic coast.

Dehler 38 at speed.
All photos courtesy of  Dehler Yachts and Yachtworld.


Designed by Judel/Vrolijk and launched in 2013, the 38 is the first of the revamped Dehler line. It is a performance cruiser with comfortable accommodations wrapped in a visually attractive package. It fits in roughly the same market segment as the J/112E and the X-Yachts XP38. This is pretty tough competition.

The D38's hull incorporates a long waterline, moderate beam and, by today's standards, a moderately beamy stern. Its Displacement/Length ratio of 179 indicates a boat of medium displacement that will sail well to weather and will deliver reasonably good performance off the wind. As you know, a high Sail Area/Displacement ratio indicates a boat with a relatively large sailplan. The D38's SA/D is 21.63. By comparison, the J112E's D/L and SA/D are 152 and 25.0 respectively. This tells us that we should expect the D38 to deliver a bit less performance in lighter conditions, but you'll need to reef the J a little sooner in a breeze. This is an appropriate trade-off for the slightly "cruisier" Dehler. For the more performance minded sailor, Dehler offers the boat with a deeper keel, lighter displacement and a carbon fiber rig.  That boat's D/L of 168 and SA/D of 24.67 puts it squarely in the the category of racer/cruiser instead of cruiser/racer.

Here are some more numbers:
LOA .......................... 37.07 ft
LWL .......................... 34.12 ft
BMAX ...................... 12.30 ft
Draft .......................... 6.56 ft
Displacement ............. 15,875 lb
Ballast ........................ 4,850 lb
Sail Area .................... 854 sq ft
SA/D .......................... 21.63
D/L ............................. 179

Freeboard on the D/38 is fairly high and the vertical stem is balanced by the very slightly raked transom. The keel is a hydro-dynamically efficient vertical fin with a torpedo bulb, while the rudder is deep enough to provide good control. I like that Dehler opted to include a deeper, more powerful rudder on the competition model. Many builders offer competition keels but don't provide a commensurately high performance rudder. Another important detail is the hull/keel interface. Notice that the keel fin is lengthened where it meets the hull. This spreads the loads out which reduces hull flex in this area and allows for a stronger hull/keel joint. This is offset by slightly more turbulence in this area, but I think it's a good trade-off.

The standard keel incorporates a cast iron fin with a lead torpedo bulb, as does the deeper competition keel. The shoal keel is  made entirely of cast iron.




High freeboard and a nearly straight sheer are offset by a highly sculpted deck.

The standard aluminum rig will provide enough performance for the average cruising sailor. End-boom sheeting, the option of symmetrical spinnakers and a 48:1 block and tackle backstay adjuster round out the D38's sailplan.


Dehler put a great deal of effort into creating a beautifully sculpted deck and I think the result is well worth the effort. The cabin trunk is long and low, with the cabin sides angled at roughly 45 degrees. The center of the cabin top is recessed slightly to allow lines led aft from the mast to be enclosed. The designer thoughtfully included an instrument pod just above the campanionway hatch. Notice that the cockpit seats are angled sharply, making the cockpit a bit cramped for a racing crew.  I prefer them aligned more with the centerline of the boat. The large dropleaf table will further hamper the racing crew. Aft of the cockpit seats, the mainsheet traveler is mounted on the sole and there is a pair of beautiful carbon fiber steering wheels. The transom includes a removable "tailgate" panel. I am not a fan of these folding transoms, but I do like the fact that this one can be removed for racing.









D38 looks fast even in the slings. Notice the large anchor roller. This is a necessity for boats with plumb stems. 



The three windows in the hull appear to be mere slits, but they provide plenty of light and visibility,



With the tailgate removed the D38 looks pretty racy.


The accommodations plan includes options for two or three cabins. I prefer the two cabin version for cruising. The forward cabin incorporates lots of storage and a good sized V-berth. There is plenty of room to dress and the large hatch allows for plenty of ventilation.










The forward cabin has plenty of storage and shelf space


The main cabin incorporates an L-shaped dinette to starboard and a long settee to port, separated by a centerline dropleaf table. The chart table is one of those convertible affairs. Using it involves relocating a couple of seat cushions and sliding the table forward. Once that is done you have a decent workspace for navigation chores.



Sliding chart table. The radios and electrical panel are concealed behind the curved locker doors.
I could do without the "head rests".




The galley is compact but appropriate for a racer/cruiser. It is equipped with a top and front access refrigerator, which is very convenient. There is enough storage space for cruising provisions and enough counter space to make sandwiches for the racing crew.

Throughout the main cabin and galley there are top-hinged locker doors with gas springs. They give the boat a modern appearance below that is complimented by extensive indirect lighting. I am not sure this is the most practical arrangement but it is beautiful.

I like the light colored counters and the tall fiddles.



Beautifully styled main cabin.



The head is a versatile area. Notice in the accommodations plan that the toilet/shower room is in the forward part of the head.  It is separated from rest of the compartment by a door that does double duty, closing off the entire compartment from the main cabin as well. 

This is the view of  the D38 that Dehler is hoping the competition sees most.
Overall, the D38 merits high marks for design and performance. As I noted earlier it lives in a very competitive market niche and I think it's going to hold it own against the J's, X-Yachts and Salona performance cruisers. I am looking forward to seeing a D38 Competition on the starting line here in Southern California.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

J/112 E Review


It's refreshing to see that J/Boats is paying more attention to style and aesthetics with their "E" series of boats. The company has always produced good looking boats but I think of them as being good looking in the sense that they are always well proportioned and functionally efficient.  However, in the E series they have gone beyond their tried and true, but somewhat pedestrian "form follows function" aesthetic standards. As I look at the stylistic progression from the J/97E to the 122E and now the new 112E, it is clear that they are taking the artistic aspect of yacht design more seriously and I think that is a very good thing.

Another interesting aspect of the newest E boat is that while the 97E and 122E were both upgrades of existing boats, it appears that the 112E is an entirely new boat. When I first saw it, I thought it was based on the J/111 or J/109, but one look at the deckplan told me it was neither of those boats. I've included deck drawings of all three below so you can compare them.

J/112E
The "E" designation signifies "Elegance and evolution in performance cruising design."

The hull of the 112E is thoroughly modern, but notice that it does not have chines, twin rudders or an extremely wide stern. Those things are, in many cases, design gimmicks that don't contribute materially to the boat's performance or seaworthiness. That is not to say that those design features are always wrong, but in a boat of this type they would add nothing of value.



The underbody of the 112E shows fine waterlines forward and a deep keel that incorporates a cast iron fin and lead bulb. The rudder is made of fiberglass with a stainless steel stock. With a displacement of 11,300 pounds, the 112E has a displacement/length ratio of 152, which makes it light enough to surf and husky enough to sail to weather in heavy air. Its moderate overall proportions combined with the deep keel and powerful rudder will impart good manners in a seaway and will make the boat easily handled. These are just the things you want in a cruising boat.


J/112E Deckplan
The deck of the J/112E is just about perfect for a performance cruiser of this size. The cockpit is designed for sailing efficiency and reasonable comfort, and it's nice to see that they did not try incorporate a fixed table into it. The steering wheel is fairly large and some people may want two smaller wheels, but I prefer the arrangement shown here. The mainsheet traveler is on the cockpit sole and the sheet is led to a pair of self tailing winches on the coamings. Halyards and control lines are led aft through a gang of clutches to self tailing winches on the cabintop. Everything on this deck is straightforward and simple. This boat is going to be an absolute pleasure to sail.
J/111 Deckplan
Not quite as well designed as the 112E

J/109 Deckplan
Not quite as well designed as the J/111
I  guess this is what J/Boats means by "Evolution in performance cruising design." 

The cockpit looks spacious and comfortable, and I like the molded-in toe-rails. The backstay adjuster is hydraulic, which is probably okay, but I would prefer a block and tackle system for simplicity and reliability.

The spars are aluminum. Performance would be enhanced by a lighter carbon mast, but of course it would also increase the cost of the boat. I'm sure you could have a carbon rig built for the boat if you wanted to seriously race it, but why not just buy a J/111 instead?
The chainplates are out at the sheer so jibs are limited to about 105%. With no big genoas to trim, this is a versatile sailplan that can be easily managed by a couple, yet with a sail area/displacement ratio of 25 it's capable of delivering plenty of horsepower when needed.  The boat is equipped with a retractable sprit and the sailplan drawing shows masthead spinnakers so downwind performance will be superb.   
The slightly sprung sheer and stylishly shaped cabin-side windows look better in reality than in the drawing. 




E stands for elegant too.


The accommodations plan looks ideal for a boat of this size and type. I lived aboard a 36 foot Beneteau with very similar accommodations for over a year and can attest to the practicality of this layout. If you only race or daysail your 112E you probably won't find the dedicated chart table very necessary, but if you actually go cruising, you'll find many uses for it in spite of the fact that nowadays you can do all your navigating and weather predictions on your IPad. The V-berth is snug for two adults but a good place for a couple of kids. The large dropleaf table in the salon will seat six for meals and offers convenient storage. The head is large for a boat of this size and includes access to the very large storage compartment under the port cockpit seat.


Practical accommodations make for efficient cruising comfort.



The salon looks like a comfortable place to lounge, and the settees appear to be long enough to serve as sea berths if fitted with lee cloths. All photos courtesy of J/Boats.
J/Boats has used the SCRIMP process for molding hulls and decks for years. SCRIMP is a trade name for vacuum infusion. You can find out more about the process online, but the key things to know about it is that the process results in high quality fiberglass parts with the optimum resin-to-glass ratio and a high degree of precision in the finished part. It also has the benefit of being environmentally responsible.

I don't know what the price of the 112E will be, but if I was in the market for a new boat, this one would be at the top of my short list of must-see boats.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Morris M29 Review




As you may know, Morris Yachts was recently acquired by the Hinckley Company. When I learned of the sale I thought it was another example of smaller boatbuilders in the US being swallowed up by the bigger ones. In  my opinion this is a necessary evolution, a sign of the changing economic times. It takes deep pockets to survive in this business, and this is true not just because boatbuilding is becoming more and more technology driven. These days environmental regulations demand expensive equipment and methods, the cost of industrial space continues to rise, qualified labor is both scarcer and more expensive, insurance costs are going up every year, and the list of challenges for boatbuilders continues on. So I was not surprised to see that Morris was taken over by a bigger and financially stronger company. In fact, you may recall that Hinckley itself was acquired a few years ago by Scout Partners, LLC an investment firm based in New York. It could be argued that absentee ownership of these companies does not bode well for the creativity and innovative drive of these companies, but I don't think that is necessarily so. It takes money to innovate, experiment and develop new products, and I think enlightened ownership that is dedicated to preserving and supporting companies like Hinckley and Morris can help them maintain the levels of excellence they have been known for. At least that's my hope. 

I thought it would be fun to take a critical look at one of Morris's current products, the M29. This boat was designed by Sparkman & Stephens in 2008 and is the smallest of Morris's M line, which includes 36, 42 and 52 foot models. I have to say I'm partial to this baby sister of the bunch because in  my opinion, it comes closest to delivering the pure, undistilled essence of sailing pleasure.    

Morris 29
Could anything be sweeter than sailing this little gem on a Sunday afternoon?

Here are some numbers:

LOA:         29'-2"
LWL:         20'-10"
BMAX:      7'-4"
Draft:         4'-6" or 3'-8"
Disp:          4,735 lb
Ballast:      1.958 lb
Sail area:    395 sf
D/L:           214
SA/D:        23.6

In studying the hull of the M29, notice that the waterline length is about 70% of the overall length. Those long overhangs in the bow and stern, combined with the narrow beam will give this boat a very easy motion in a seaway, but more importantly in a boat of this type, give it lovely proportions. It will not sail nearly as fast as a modern 29 footer with a plumb bow and wide transom, but it will sail more beautifully. And while speed is important, so is beauty.

M29 reaching under mainsail and asymmetrical spinnaker.
Photos courtesy of Morris Yachts

The M29 looks like a classic yacht above the waterline, but below it has fairly racy features including a deep fin keel and carbon fiber spade rudder.  The mast is also made of carbon fiber, clear indications that Morris is taking performance seriously in this boat.

The deck is of classic proportions, with a short cabin trunk and graceful coamings around the generously proportioned cockpit. With such a small cabin trunk, a sliding companionway hatch becomes problematic.  There's just not enough room for it, so it has to be made removable. I've grappled with this problem on several of my smaller designs over the years.




Morris has done away with winches on the M29, using 2:1 purchase on the main halyard and a block and tackle system for the jib sheets. This limits jibs to the small self tacking unit shown in the drawing above. This is probably a good trade-off, given the boat's very generous sail area. The jib sheet is led under the deck to a bank of cam cleats built into each cockpit coaming. I have not used this type of arrangement before so I can't attest to its efficiency, but it does make for a very clean deck layout.

Headsail controls built into the cockpit coamings
Back in the 1970's, when I was in the early years of my career as a yacht designer, I was commissioned to design a similar boat and it was amusing to pull the old drawings out of my archives and compare them to the M29, The design brief was for a traditional sloop of 26 feet, to be built of cold-molded mahogany. The client wanted the boat to have classic lines but was not particularly concerned with what it might look like below the waterline. So I designed the boat with traditional looks and a fast underbody. 
Gryphon 26, "Cinnamon Girl" circa 1979







Deck Plan
The M29 embodies the same approach as the G26 about thirty years later.

The Morris M29 has a basic accommodations plan that includes a pair of settee berths and a Porta-Potty, which is all that's necessary for this daysailer. I like the reliability of the inboard diesel.


Just enough accommodations for an overnight




Cinnamon  Girl
The boat was given a deeper keel and rudder in 2003




Cinnamon Girl
Still going strong in 2014

Color Profile
M29x
The deep keel is probably a bit much for this boat. 
Morris also offer an M29x version, which includes a bowsprit, deeper keel and more sail area. According to data I've seen, the model x is about 18 seconds per mile faster than the standard M29. This boat reminds me of 1969 Jaguar XKE roadster. It's exquisitely beautiful with plenty of horsepower straight out of the box. The extra deep keel and tall rig are a bit like replacing the Jaguar's beautiful 3.8 liter engine with a Chevy 327 V-8. It'll be faster but not quite as perfectly balanced as the original.

The M29 a wonderful example of classic design and very high quality execution. It's expensive, but what a sweet ride! 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Beneteau Oceanis 38 Review

A few weeks ago we were sailing off Long Beach, California and noticed a new Beneteau Oceanis 38 sailing along on a similar course to ours. It was the first time I had seen one under sail and I must say it moved along nicely on a close reach in about ten knots of wind. We bore off onto a parallel course and sailed for a quarter mile or so with them. The boat looked good and moved well under what appeared to be a 105% jib and roller furling mainsail. I regretted that I didn't have my camera at the time.

In studying the hull, the first thing I noticed is that it's quite beamy and slab sided with hard chines running nearly the length of the hull. The sheer is straight and it appears that the waterlines below the chines are finer than the plan view of the boat would suggest.
With its straight sheer,  vertical transom and stem, the Oceanis 38 looks husky and seaworthy. Unless otherwise noted, all photos courtesy of Beneteau.

The hull was designed by the firm of Finot/Conq which has vast experience with this basic hullform, including the Pogo 12.50 and other very successful offshore racers with very wide beam and hard chines.

Pogo 12.50, also designed by Finot Conq.Notice that the boat is heeled about 15 degrees and the starboard rudder is almost completely out of the water. Photo courtesy of Finot-Conq.  
The stern of the Oceanis 38, a more conservative approach to hard chines than the Pogo.

The Oceanis 38 is offered with shoal, deep and lifting keels. Upwind performance will suffer with the shoal version. Both of the fixed keels are cast iron with a molded-in bulb. This is another boat with a very large fold-down transom panel. I like the looks of the Pogo a bit more, but given the intended purpose of the 38, it's probably better to have the "Tailgate".

This view shows the slippery proportions of the hull below the waterline along with those of the shoal keel. The rudders look bigger than shown in the drawing. I like the way the boot stripe is terminated about four feet forward of the transom.  Photo courtesy of Yachtworld.com
The deck design of the Oceanis 38 incorporates some interesting innovations. The cabin trunk is fairly low and sleek, with hard edges and squared off windows that complement the squarish proportions of the hull. The arch at the aft end of the cabin trunk provides a base for the mainsheet and support for a dodger and bimini. With this arrangement there is no need for a mainsheet traveler and the sheet is led to a cabintop winch.

The Oceanis looks husky under sail. I think it will show good speed reaching and running, but suffer a bit going hard on the wind.
With over 13 feet of beam there is lots of room on deck and the cockpit is huge.
The cockpit is a study in straight lines and hard edges. Notice the cockpit table. It's massive and incorporates large drop-leaves and plenty of storage capacity. Instrument displays and engine controls are located at the helms. Having the mainsheet blocks located up on the arch opens up the cockpit for lounging and entertaining. It could also be considered a safety feature since there is no chance that a guest would get fouled in the mainsheet or hit by the boom. Jib sheeting angles are wide, but that's probably alright on this boat because its proportions are designed more for comfortable cruising than sailing hard on the wind.

The mast is deck stepped and, with the chainplates out at the sheer, it will accommodate jibs of up to about 105%. The standard mainsail is set up with a stackpack arrangement, with in-mast furling optional. Notice that the backstay is split with an adjuster on the port side. The stemhead fitting is designed with the anchor roller about 18 inches forward of the stem of the boat,  which probably isn't far enough to prevent the anchor from bouncing off the hull occasionally.

Beneteau offers three main interior options, Daysailer, Weekender and Cruiser. The daysailer includes a V-berth, galley sink and refrigerator but no stove, a head, chart table, a large quarter berth platform without a mattress and plenty of storage space. There are no bulkheads between the companionway and the forward end of the v-berth, so the boat is pretty wide open. I'm not sure who this configuration would appeal to, but it does offer the possibility of starting out with a bare bones interior and adding more later.


The Weekender comes in two or three cabin arrangements. The galley is the same as the Daysailer, but I believe you can order the stove with this version. The major difference is the inclusion of the quarterberth. Again, this is a wide open layout.


Weekender version is wide open from  the companionway to the bow.







Two-cabin Cruiser version incorporates a bulkhead between the salon and V-berth as well as a full galley
The cruiser version also comes with a single aft cabin or twins. I'm not sure who would buy the fairly sedate Daysailer version of this boat. At 38 feet, I would want my boat to be capable of spending at least a week at the island, and I don't see why you couldn't day sail the Cruiser just as easily as the Daysailer. It would be interesting to know which version of this boat is the best seller.



In the Oceanis 38 Cruiser version a bulkhead divides the forward cabin from the salon. 
The Oceanis 38 offers an interesting contrast to the Varianta 37. In this boat Beneteau seems to be trying to appeal to a variety of customer types, ranging from bare bones to full cruise by the use of multiple furnishing and outfitting options. The Varianta went for a basic but fully outfitted boat with much more limited options. As the number of choices for boats in this size range increases, each brand must find ways to differentiate itself from the competition. It will be interesting to see how the Oceanis fares in this competitive market segment.