Does the Sunbeam 46.1 have what it takes to be the bluewater cruiser she claims to be? Graham Snook travels to Barcelona to find out
In the wrong boat, living on board can feel like camping on the water. There are, however, boats that aim to be a home away from home.
It’s a nice idea, but many boats fail because there has been a compromise too far — trading deck stowage for comfort, quality for price, comfort for practicality or worse still, practicality for comfort.
There is no denying that all boats are a compromise, but a yacht aimed at bluewater cruising has to be a home from home and work as a proficient offshore or ocean cruiser.
At 46ft, the chances of finding a comfortable and practical bluewater yacht are increased, but still some manufacturers compromise, so to find a boat with the right balance makes the Sunbeam 46.1 a rare animal.
While she might not look like a conventional bluewater cruiser, she has bags of features that those who are looking to sail extended passages hanker after — and I’m not talking about the illuminated, waterfall shower, although she does have one of those too.
THE TEST VERDICT
I was a little sceptical that a boat that looks as sleek and modern as the Sunbeam 46.1 could be touted as a bluewater cruiser, but I was wrong.
While she might look ultra-modern and sporty, she is also packed with practical features, including easy-to-access technical areas, a rig that doesn’t require running back stays, lots of deck stowage and a safe and comfortable cockpit.
She also has appealing qualities that make her stronger, like the sump in the hull and recess in the keel, the two crash bulkheads in the bows and the carbon-reinforced structural grid. There’s little doubt she’s a solidly built boat.
These subtle features might not be instantly apparent, but they help to set the Sunbeam apart from a regular coastal or offshore cruiser.
I really wanted to take her out in more wind, but it was not meant to be this time. I have sailed her smaller sister, the 40.1, in well over 30 knots and she took it in her stride.
I have no reason to think the 46.1 would be any less of a boat. If anything, initial impressions suggest that she would be better.
WOULD SHE SUIT YOU AND YOUR CREW?
A boat builder in land-locked Austria may not be the first place that many start looking for a boat capable of crossing oceans.
But brothers Gerhard and Manfred Schöchl have put their experience into the 46.1 to make her a capable and classy cruiser.
She’s a big step up in quality from many mass-produced yachts, but doesn’t command the prices of her Swedish counterparts.
She has a quality and feel that runs deep, showing that modern yacht design has progressed faster than traditional attitudes to offshore sailing: you don’t need a skeg-hung rudder or a long fin keel to cross oceans. This boat is more than tough enough.
You don’t need to compromise comfort for practicality, either, as this boat has managed to deliver on comfort while retaining all the practical features you need to be self sufficient. Sunbeam has got things just about right with the 46.1, and because of that she’s a great boat.
FACTS AND FIGURES
Price as tested: £448,682
LOA: 14.75m (48ft 5in)
Hull Length: 13.99m (45ft 11in)
LWL: 13.26m (43ft 6in)
Beam: 4.45m (14ft 7in)
Draught: 2.20m (7ft 3in)
Displacement: 13,500kg (29,762 lb)
Ballast: 4,500kg (9,921 lb)
Ballast ratio: 33.3%
Displacement / Length: 161.7
Sail area: 115m2 (1,238sq ft)
SA/D ratio: 20.6
Diesel: 300 litres (66 gal)
Water: 550 litres (121 gal)
RCD category: A
Designer: J&J Design
Builder: Sunbeam Yachts OG
Tel: +43 (0) 62 17 55 81-27