Can British upstart GT Yachts take on Europe's established luxury cruisers? Graham Snook sails the new GT 35 to find out
What’s she like to sail?
As modern as she looks, there’s no hiding the figures: at 7,200kg (15,900 lb) she’s no lightweight. To my knowledge, only the Fisher 34 and Rustler 36 trump her in the weight stakes. But for a heavy boat she handles remarkably well. The 1.2m (47in) wheel has all the trademarks I love about Jefa steering – light, precise and smooth.
Short-tacking back up the Orwell was a doddle on the helm, she reacted to any change of wind direction in a well-heeled fashion, carrying her way in a fine manner. Sadly, sailing off the wind further than around 100° causes the mainsheet to pass within fouling distance of the genoa winches. If she were a boat to be raced it would be an issue – as is, it was a mere inconvenience.
Reefs one and two are single-line, while the third reef has separate tack and clew lines. Reefing pennants are colour-coded green, amber and red. I’d have liked to have taken her out in a seaway to see how she handles a few waves, but I suspect it might be fairly uneventful from the shelter of the secure, deep cockpit.
What’s she like in port and at anchor?
Both substantial bow rollers can be used at once without fouling the through-deck headsail furler. A Lewmar windlass is standard and she has a bilge keel option, enabling her to dry out if required.
Down below, her internal space and volume makes her feel like a boat three feet longer. She has 1.8m (6ft) headroom throughout, and the sole hasn’t been taken to the hull to achieve this, either. Where the hull is faired to keel, the bilge is 28cm (11in) deep.
Although the saloon design didn’t excite me, I appreciated the craftsmanship of the faultless shut-lines in the furniture and the concealing of all the hinges from view, including the door hinges.
The saloon table has pieces of solid oak that form a tray in the centre. Opened out, only diners sitting well aft will complain about its 1.1m (46in) length. It also has good stowage at each end.
All the opening port lights have shelves beneath them, to catch and hold any drips of condensation. Another nice touch is having a light switch for the saloon above the forecabin door – when turning in for the night or waking up in the dark, there’s no need to fumble through a dark cabin to switch on the lights.
Would she suit you and your crew?
The GT 35 is like a modern-day Nicholson 35, and much more – a boat to be used, lived on, and to go places in. She’s well built, well engineered and well thought out. Her modern exterior styling conceals her traditional heavy displacement heart and values. Though not the fastest 35ft (10m) cruiser on the market, there’s a lot to be said for feeling safe and secure while cruising.
She is packed full of details. The joinery making up the vents on the hanging locker doors is beautiful. It was good to see one switch for turning a selection of the white LED lights to red night lights, doubled-up light switches and dipsticks in the tanks. She also feels safe, thanks to the aft watertight bulkhead around the rudder stock, the countersunk helm floor and her high cockpit coaming.
She’s not cheap, and neither should she be, as so much work, enthusiasm and thought have clearly gone into her. It seems a pity to mention money at all. Conrad’s vision was to create a range of cruisers that provide seaworthiness, safety, power and comfort.
I think that he has succeeded. And now I can’t wait to see what surprises he has in store with the GT 39.