Theo Stocker takes to the water in the new Arcona 385 to see if she lives up the reputation of her much-loved predecessor
Plenty has changed in the last 10 years. We’ve come through Brexit, Covid and TikTok dance crazes. Some things haven’t changed much though. Swedish yard Arcona has just launched its new Arcona 385, effectively a Mark II of its highly successful Arcona 380 from 2013.
So confident is the yard in the Stefan Qviberg-drawn hull that they’ve left it almost entirely as it was, with nothing but the faintest nod to chasing the latest trends.
No hard hull chines, full bow sections or double rudders to see here. Yes, she has square hull windows now, but her twin wheels are original and she’s just as fine-bowed and low-topsided as she was before.
Other changes on the Arcona 385 include larger coachroof windows, additional instrument mounting space and an open transom doing away with the aft helm seats to increase space on deck and lazarette stowage as well as getting rid of weight in the stern.
Below decks, light fittings have been moved and that’s about it.
I’m not surprised this was Arcona’s approach, given the 380’s reception at the time. When YM first reviewed the 380, Chris Beeson said that in 30 years on the water, he had never sailed a boat that felt better; the experience was one of ‘pure driving pleasure’.
When Arcona got in touch to say they had a new Arcona 385 ready to sail in the UK, I jumped at the chance to find out if she was not only as good as the yard – and my predecessor – said she was, but also to see if they had managed to improve on the design.
When you hear the words ‘performance-cruiser’ you might think of either a racing boat with few creature comforts, or a cruising boat with pretensions of performance. While the Arcona 385 has race-winning performance (proven over the last decade) this side of the boat is really aimed at making a better cruising boat. It might sound obvious, but she is built around sailing and the accommodation, as lovely as it is, fits within those constraints, rather than vice versa.
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A lot may have changed in 10 years, but the fundamentals of what makes a good sailing boat have not. Windward ability, an easily driven hull and a beautifully balanced helm are all as important as they ever were. The Arcona 385 is a younger, fresher version of the 380 but with just the same delightful sailing experience as her predecessor. There is very little to find fault with on board. The low coachroof and limited headroom forward might put some off. She doesn’t have the stowage of a bluewater cruiser, and she won’t like being overloaded, though she is more than capable of crossing oceans. You can race her if you want to, and will have a lot of fun doing so, but you don’t need to push her to enjoy sailing her. What she will do is eat up the miles whatever point of sail you’re on, and you’ll arrive feeling fresher because she is so easy to sail well.