Monday, August 27, 2012

X-Yachts XC-38 Review

Over the last thirty years or more, X-Yachts has created a reputation for building fast, high quality sailboats that have won major regattas in both the old and new worlds. In recent years they have broadened their product lines to include all-out cruising yachts, as opposed to the racer-cruisers they have built their fine reputation on. I think Niels Jeppesen has been the chief designer for the company since it was founded around 1979, and he has produced a long and successful string of what I consider conservatively aggressive sailing yachts. Their cruising boat line carries the designation "XC" and the  XC-38 is the smallest in that line.

XC-38: Conservative proportions coupled with a powerful rig.
 I've always liked the juxtaposition of conservative and aggressive characteristics that Jeppesen and his team instill in their products and this 38 footer is an excellent example of their thinking. With its relatively springy sheer and conservative cabin trunk, beefy hull and aggressive rig, the XC-38 looks like a fun, yet serious cruising yacht. It is, to my mind, unfortunate that we don't see more of this type of boat on the west coast of the USA. In studying the profile view above, notice the depth of the hull and the proportions of the underbody. My guess is that the hull incorporates "V" shaped sections instead of the the more often seen "U" shaped bottom. Couple this with the efficient keel and deep rudder and you have a hull that will be especially fun to sail upwind. Here are some stats:
LOA:            37.99'
LWL:            34.06'
BMAX:         12.50'
Draft:               6.50'
DISP:            19,621 LB
BAL:               8,448 LB
SA:                     865 SF
BAL/DISP      43%
D/L ratio:        221
SA/D ratio      19

These numbers are indicative of  boat of moderate proportions and good manners.The keel and rudder are deep and efficient shapes for cruising. These days there is no shortage of stuff in the water to snag and foul keels and rudders. You only have to dive overboard to free the keel from nets, pots or kelp in the middle of the night a few times to appreciate clean and streamlined appendages on your boat.

Big cockpit, artfully curved windshield, conservative lines.

On deck you'll find simple lines forward without any fancy flourishes. The foredeck is flat and uncluttered, with an anchor locker and deck mounted windlass. The nearly plumb bow requires a bowsprit of some sort so the anchor rode doesn't rub the finish off the hull when at anchor.
Clean lines forward and an A-frame bowsprit
The sailplan incorporates non-overlapping jibs. I've designed a number of boats with this type of rig and it's great for windward/leeward racing. It's not as good for reaching because when you ease the sheet on this type of jib, the top of the sail opens up much more than the bottom so you end up reaching with the lower part of the jib over-trimmed to keep the top from flogging. One solution is to set up outboard leads for the jib and that's what I'd do on this boat if I owned one.

Twin wheels, trapdoor transom and artfully curved windshield.
The cockpit on this boat incorporates nice, high coamings and twin wheels along with a curved windshield. This arrangement invites comparisons with the Hallberg Rassy 412. Notice the instrument console on centerline, with a dropleaf table incorporated into it. This is an acceptable arrangement for daysailing but not very good for passage-making, although it is redeemed somewhat by the instrument displays built into the forward cockpit coaming. The fact is that cruisers spend little time behind the wheel when on a passage, so locating vital displays back there is inconvenient at best. Aboard the Honcho we mounted the GPS on a swivel just forward of the binnacle so you could see it from anywhere in the cockpit. We also traded the Raymarine instruments for TackTick wireless units, which could be mounted anywhere we wanted them, even below. Our Beneteau 423, Finisterra, came with the Raymarine instruments and, reliable as they are, we've already replaced them with Tackticks. Another unfortunate aspect of this cockpit is the permanently mounted dropleaf table that bisects the cockpit. Again, we have this arrangement on the Finisterra and find it to be inconvenient when sailing. I've already started designing a stowable table that will give us room to maneuver while under sail and still provide fine dining accommodations in the cockpit when we need them. Notice the nearly vertical transom. It sports a drop-down panel and gate to make a swim step or platform. I think a reversed transom with a molded-in swim step is preferable because it is so much more convenient than this arrangement. It would also increase the sailing length of the boat and reduce turbulence at the  transom.

Nearly perfect accommodations plan

X-Yachts offers only one interior plan in the XC-38, which is fine with me because it works really well. The forward cabin is spacious and incorporates a large V-berth, multiple lockers and cabinets, and plenty of light. Those windows built into the hull look small but provide a good deal of light and visibility. The settees in the main cabin are big enough to serve as sea berths. With the galley, nav station and head aft, the crew that sleeps in the main cabin won't be disturbed when you go below to check the chart or fix a cup of coffee during the midnight watch. The galley is large, with lots of counter space and double sinks amidships. I respect the designer's decision to eschew a second head on this boat. One is plenty for the cruising couple and this one incorporates enough room for a shower as well. The aft cabin offers a good sized berth and plenty of storage. In studying the photos of the boat on the X-Yachts web site, it took some time to get used to the horizontal grain pattern on the furniture. I'm not sure I like it yet, so I'll reserve judgement until I see a boat in person.

Overall, I think the XC-38 would make a very good medium sized cruising yacht. I'd ask for that reverse transom and swim step if I ordered one but other than that, this boat is ready to cruise.

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