Looking for something different, Chris Beeson took a whistle-stop tour of Europe to test a boat from a family-owned Austrian builder
What’s she like to sail?
It’s encouraging to see that yacht designers of every stripe – from Hanse’s Judel/Vrolijk to Nordship’s Lars Buchwald and indeed the Schöchls of Sunbeam – have taken on board the fact that most cruising boats are usually sailed by two crew and that they should design cockpits to reflect this. With main and jib sheets that lead to a primary winch within easy reach of the helmsman, the Sunbeam 36.1 can easily be manoeuvred singlehanded. Having the rest of the sail controls on the coachroof is a good compromise, too, as they are used far less than the sheets and the helmsman isn’t left ankle-deep in a snakepit of lines. Wherever the helmsman looks there’s a comfy spot to sit. Resting on the pushpit, the finger-light wheel was only just in fingertip range so I might choose the optional larger wheel – only 5-8cm (2-3in) bigger, but that would be enough. You need to squeeze past the benches to get round the wheel anyway, so it’s no great sacrifice. The Jefa steering system is a delight, as ever, it’s just a shame that the lack of breeze prevented us finding out more about how she could perform.
What’s she like in port and at anchor?
Her distinctive looks – rather fine, to my eye – are reflected in some original thinking below. I’m not referring to the genuinely regrettable green of the ‘Avant garde’ version (I recommend the ‘Elegance’ for its cream upholstery and African teak), but instead the sliding doors into the forecabin and the heads. It’s such an obvious space-saver that one wonders why they’re not seen more often. The big coachroof windows bathe the saloon in light; the curves and matched-grain woodwork in the galley are lovely. On deck, the cascading washboard-style bathing platform access is a triumph, as is the very thoughtful stowage in the cockpit locker. But there are some ideas I’m not so sure about. The fold-out sink cover is ingenious in port but this also means you can’t have fiddles inboard, so any water on the work surface will run off onto the sole, and you can’t use the sink without opening it, so at sea I would be concerned about someone clattering into it and breaking the hinges. And the loo and the shower should really swap places, so that you’re not walking water through the yacht whenever someone has showered.
Would she suit you and your crew?
This yacht will suit a couple with a bit of individuality about them, who don’t want to follow the pack into the world of the ‘average white boat’ and who will welcome her design quirks. With her fine bow, sheer and deep forefoot she’ll handle the sea well, and she’s light enough to make up for the fact that her sail area is similar to that of some sporty 34-footers – to notch up 5.4 knots in such a weak breeze is testament to the fact that they’ve got the balance right. Although we comfortably sat six for lunch, the cockpit design is tailor-made for a couple to go sailing. She has a decent ballast ratio too, which should keep her stiff.
The rather meagre ventilation in the saloon suggests she’ll be happier in northern Europe than southern, with all those coachroof windows eking out the best of the daylight. She’s not the cheapest 36-footer you’ll find but build quality is generally very good and on our boat, a hard-working charterer built in 2011, there were few signs of wear and tear. If you’re looking for something a bit different that still delivers, she’s well worth a look.