Will Bruton looks at the latest trends and innovations shaping the boats we sail
Boat design is developing constantly. Sometimes it is just incremental changes but occasionally, completely new concepts capture imaginations.
The desire for more space on board is nothing new, but how it’s being achieved is subtly different, while the awareness of plastic pollution that has erupted into the public consciousness could have an impact on how yachts of the future are built. We made our pick of the top trends.
The quest for volume
The quest for more internal space in production boats shows no sign of abating, but how this is being achieved has taken a new tack.
Designers have been determined not to sacrifice performance while gaining volume.
Taking their lead from racing yachts, notably Mini Transat 21s and IMOCA 60s, hard chines, which have been a theme for a while, have been taken all the way to the bow.
While this allows a generous beam higher up, the hull below the waterline can be slender with a sharp entry, reducing wetted surface area as well as slamming, while retaining form stability when heeled.
While chines have been familiar in boats such as Ovnis and RMs, where they have been built with flat aluminium or plywood sheets, in more recent years production boats such as the Jeanneau 440 and 400, as well as the new Beneteau fleet have taken this chine all the way to the bow.
Leading the pack at Düsseldorf this year, following a spell of absolute secrecy (dealers only saw the design two days before the show) was the Beneteau 30.1, a tardis-like creation drawn by Finot-Conq; naval architects more commonly associated with Mini-Transat and Pogo designs.
The partnership is no accident, showing a desire to make an impact as a leader in the small cruising yacht market.
The 30.1 harks back to the success of Beneteau’s most popular designs, such as the First series – small yachts where remarkable value and accessibility delivered thousands of sales from one mould.
The 30.1 bears a strong family resemblance to the 46.1 launched in 2018, and the 50.1 from 2017.
The result comfortably sleeps four with a large heads, while being narrow enough to be towed on the road, and promises exciting performance to boot.
Building yachts capable of exploring extreme environments is big news.
With an increasing number of yachtsmen setting their sights on the high-latitudes, a lot of effort is being put into building strong aluminium craft.
Drawing a lot of attention at the show was the latest offering from Garcia Yachting, the Exploration 52.
An evolution of the Exploration 45, as owned by YM columnist Pete Goss (hull number one was commissioned by Jimmy Cornell), the 52 is an evolution of the concept.
Land Rover-like in appearance, though far from ugly, it is the product of an almost obsessive focus on utility. Beachable, with a lifting keel and armoured prop, she is built for rough treatment.
Cabins are equipped with central heating and one enormous walk-in area is dedicated to spares stowage. A sail locker forward doubles as a water-tight crash bulkhead.
For anyone that dreams of casting off, perhaps forever, the Exploration 52 could quite easily facilitate decades afloat.
Longstanding aluminium aficionados Alubat were also showing a high-latitudes equipped Ovni 450.
With on-trend upgrades from the 445 including twin wheels, a straighter stem, and a built-in bowsprit she is an evolution of an already proven design.
The Eco Revolution
Attitudes towards all things environmental have shifted dramatically. With the educated consumer becoming a market-driving force rather than a concerned observer, some manufacturers are re-aligning their entire operation with a view to long-term sustainability; particularly their industrial processes.
If there’s a pioneer in eco-friendly boatbuilding, it’s the German company Greenboat.
It promises to use 80% renewable materials in the build, and a build process that uses 80% less energy.
Materials used include linen, flax, cork and more sustainable resins, including some derived from vegetable oil. It’s no pipe dream either; the company’s latest offering, a 26ft day sailer, is built of these materials and manages to be both lighter and stiffer than GRP.
Closer to home, Marlow Ropes have launched an entirely recycled mooring line made from plastic bottles.
With no loss in performance and only a moderate increase in price (around 15%), the company is now openly working towards making its entire product line recyclable.
Sonic antifouling, which drives multiple pulses of ultrasonic energy through boats to destroy growth on the hull, is becoming extremely popular, driven largely by the search for more environmentally friendly alternatives to biocidal antifouling.
Having made its mark initially on the commercial boat sector, UK company Sonihull is now selling many more ultrasonic antifoul systems for sailing yachts.
The rise of the weekender
The bigger the yacht, the slower to get on the water, the less you go sailing.
A growing trend towards accessible fun has fuelled a new generation of weekend yachts aimed at the time poor seeking an immersive sailing experience.
At the top end, there is a surprising number of designs taking the concept to extremes.
The Eagle 37, designed by superyacht experts Hoek, has been drawn for single handing without compromise.
An elegant sheerline reminiscent of much larger classics really stood out, and follows in the wake of the enduringly popular and pretty Rustlers 24 and 33.
In stark contrast, the aluminium-hulled Speed Lounger 8500 bears a strong resemblance to the 1980s DeLorean car; promising to stand out as something very different and fun for days on the water in good weather.
Beneteau has re-invigorated the popular First concept with its acquisition of Seascape, thereby adding several high-performance good-value designs under 30ft to its range.
Packing a lot of boat and innovation into 22ft, the Aira 22 was nominated for European Yacht of the Year and presents a great value option for both clubs and those seeking a fun boat they can easily tow behind a car. Available in several guises, including one version with an electric propeller, she seats six.
Continuing the theme of maximum fun (and also sporting full length chines and wide bow) is the RS21, a keelboat designed to sail comfortably with up to four on board, but is equally happy with only two crew.
Taking the possibilities of a small yacht to extreme, Northman yachts were showing off their Maxus range from 21-33ft, having last year proven that their 22 model was capable of completing a single-handed circumnavigation.