Britain has a new maker of cruising yachts - Gunfleet Marine. Chris Beeson goes to the East Coast to test its first boat
What’s she like to sail?
I was impressed with her performance. She has a rather low sail area/displacement (SA/D) figure of 16.3. Boats with this sort of SA/D usually have big engines to handle light winds. To give this figure relevance, the Océanis 43 is 20.7 and the Arcona 430, 26.4. They would revel in these conditions but I wasn’t expecting more than five knots from the Gunfleet upwind, in maximum apparent wind, and much less downwind. She was very fleet-footed.
Having said that, she’s not designed for pootling around the coast and it’s notable that the two other boats that match her SA/D figure are the Najad 410 and the Malö 40, both solid ocean cruisers designed to lug a life’s worth of kit around the top of the world. The Gunfleet wasn’t fully loaded but she wasn’t empty either.
The helm position seemed unnervingly high to start with – you stand at a level only just below the sidedeck – but once you establish that the boom isn’t going to decapitate you, you begin to appreciate the uninterrupted views forward. The wheel wasn’t as engaging as I’d hoped for, with little in the way of feedback, but as a blue water boat, she’ll spend the vast majority of her time under autopilot so the fact that she was smooth and light is a big bonus.
What’s she like in port and at anchor?
One thing’s for sure, you won’t be roughing it. With the space below, and the evident emphasis on light, ventilation and stowage, you wouldn’t need to compromise your standards one iota. The quality of workmanship is excellent throughout and a huge amount of experience has been built into this boat.
The basic spec is very high, including the CZone systems management touch-screen, shore power cable, battery charger and inverter, antifouling, fenders, mooring lines, wine glasses, whisky tumblers, cutlery, bone china place, Lewmar One-Touch winch handles, spare halogen bulbs, bucket and brush, and three bottles of Champagne – ‘one for launch, two to drink.’ You also get tanks two-thirds full and free berthing for the week’s sea trials they will take you through. The only things you really need to add are a chartplotter, an offwind sail and the extra halyard for it. I expect most owners will also ask for a TV, generator, watermaker and some sort of satcom, but she’s genuinely ready to go.
Would she suit you and your crew?
She’s no slouch, as we’ve established, but she’s also undemanding as a cruiser in that you don’t need decades of sailing knowledge to get her to perform to a very decent standard. The deck is laid out to allow plenty of space to move around: lunch in the cockpit under the bimini, then lounging in the sun before stepping down onto the aft deck, grabbing your mask and snorkel from the lazarette and jumping into warm, azure water for a poke around the coral.
Below decks, you’ll recognise the build quality as being a bit special and appreciate the fact that everything just works, everything does what it should and does it elegantly. It’s a prime example of designing with experience and using technology well.
I see her owners as a successful couple looking to slow down their hectic pace of life and add a bit of uncomplicated fun. I would imagine she’ll be more regularly found further south, where the weather is a bit more reliable, guaranteeing some sun in your busy schedule. Nor would I be remotely surprised to see her seduce her owners into packing it all in and sailing around the world.