Designed by the late Ed Dubois, the Wauquiez Centurion 48s is a fast racer-cruiser that remains popular in the second hand market
Wauquiez Centurion 48s: ‘a thoroughbred yacht’
Thanks to the art of the late, great Ed Dubois the stunning Wauquiez Centurion 48S, with her raked stem, shallow forefoot, exaggerated rocker and sawn-off counter is testimony to a tried and tested form of tradition.
Dubois always set himself the task of dovetailing seaworthiness with performance via imaginative and elegant lines and the 24 Centurion 48s are just one of his many legacy fleets.
She may be two decades old, but the spec of the Wauquiez Centurion 48S still holds up well against contemporary standards.
Her foam sandwich build keeps her hull light and stiff, while the first layer of laminate is impact-resistant aramid, the fibre used in police protective vests, so she’s literally bulletproof.
We joined the 1997 boat, Never Mind – hull No 1 – named after a Nirvana album, at Universal Marina on the Hamble.
Motoring her down the river towards Southampton Water, it was noticeable how quickly way comes on.
Once in clear water, we set the fully battened mainsail with one reef, the electric winch on the coachroof makes the crew’s life much easier.
With a southwesterly breeze rising from 9 to 17 knots she never dropped below 6 knots through the water and quickly, but sedately, slipped regularly into 9-knot mode.
She’s a joy to helm, giving a masterful feeling, tacking her in long and short legs towards the Solent proper.
In reality, it was the mastery of Ed Dubois I had to thank; any fool could manoeuvre this beauty with ease.
My only reservation would be, in the worst weather, knowing her rudder is spade with no skeg for support.
But if anyone could reassure those for whom Fastnet ’79 is a recurring fear, it would be Mr Dubois.
Even with the spade rudder and fin keel she has good directional stability.
She is impressively stiff even with such a huge rig and even at high speed she nicely balanced.
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Without way on, you could see she would blow off thanks to her lack of forefoot.
That said, this is a boat designed for way to always be on.
She was close-winded, nippy in stays and even dead downwind running away from 8 knots apparent she never dropped below 6 knots.
The Wauquiez Centurion 48S has a 192m2 (2,065 sq ft) symmetrical spinnaker available, but owner Tom and crew Mo prefer using Never Mind’s screecher sail, rigging her as a cutter for long distance, light weather performance.
At the helm
Her Whitlock steering gear uses rod transmission and universal joints to give the smoothest helm; little stress is put upon the system thanks to the boat’s overall design and sail plan which make all 48ft of her a finger-light in almost any weather.
She has Lewmar 48ST winches for the German mainsheet system either side of the helm and Lewmar 66ST winches further forward for the genoa, though these cannot be accessed from the helm.
There is excellent forward vision, either standing at the helm or seated, in the latter case through the sprayhood.
This has the practical feature of pockets inside the flaps to take sail ties, suntan lotion and other items the cruising sailor needs.
The cockpit is long and wide, but feels a tad on the shallow side.
Design & construction
With her fine entry, full beam and deep polyester stub to take her bolted, swept-back lead keel, she declaims eloquently that she is all about controlled performance.
Her hull is a sandwich of glassfibre and vinylester/polyester resin enclosing PVC closed-cell foam.
The hull is vacuum formed enclosing integrated ribs and stringers.
She has two layers of aramid cloth from bow to keel for impact-proofing and has multiple internal coating treatments to prevent osmosis.
Bulkheads and furniture are bonded to hull or deck and aluminium floors are bonded to the internal framework under the sole.
Her stainless-steel rudder stock is fitted with self-aligning roller bearings and her keel bolts are embedded in the lead ballast.
The deck is also of sandwich construction bonded to the hull using a moulded overlap with mechanical fastenings.
Her 20.04m (65ft 9in) mast is keel stepped and supported by triple swept back spreaders, rigged with a split backstay, cap shrouds, intermediates and babystay.
Her masthead rig sports a fully battened mainsail with three reef points and a 150% genoa.
Her planked teak deck supports six mooring cleats and starts behind a double bow roller which had a 60lb plough anchor with 60m of chain attached.
The bow cleats are sensibly placed 1.55m (5ft) aft of the bow rollers, giving the crew room to grab a mooring rather than be pinched up at the point of the stem.
There is a forehatch for warps and fenders, in which sits an electric windlass.
This locker can also accommodate a 2.4m (7ft 10in) inflatable dinghy.
There are twin forehatches aft of this, separated by a pair of dorades protected by a stout stainless-steel frame which gives a good handhold when going to the bow.
There’s an inner forestay strong point on a vast foredeck, an area that has ample space for performing sail changes or when at anchor.
Her chainplates are taken to the deck by the coachroof leaving the side decks clear to go forward.
The remarkable impact of this boat’s maple furniture is that it seems to get lighter as you go below, such is the effect of the warm straw colour that reflects the available light, of which there is plenty from an abundance of hatches and coachroof windows.
In the grey skies of the northern hemisphere this is most welcome.
The saloon is offset to starboard and can accommodate 10 crew around the oval-shaped table; there’s an L-shaped settee with twin chairs opposite.
She has twin aft cabins with double beds – and they need the lubberly description as the term ‘berths’ does not do them justice. Both cabins are en suite and the one to starboard boasts an overhead pilot berth as well.
The master cabin is in the bow and sports another double bed, again with en suite.
All three cabins have hanging lockers, shelving and cupboards.
There is standing headroom throughout unless you are over 6ft 5in tall. Halogen lighting throughout supplies illumination at night.
The chart table has the novelty of two seats, one facing aft, the other forward.
This option is useful for racing when the navigator perhaps needs to confer with the watch leader, but it is also when in offshore cruising mode, especially if a tired skipper needs a clear briefing from his navigator on a night passage.
All instrumentation is at the navigator’s side outboard and there is plenty of space for a half-size Admiralty chart plus stowage beneath the table for pilot books, spare paper charts, plotting instruments and whatever else might aid passage.
One minor detail: there is no fiddle on the aft or forward end of the chart table, but it does make it more comfortable to sit at in port.
The linear galley is set well forward, abeam of the mast, and is stylishly finished off with marble-effect work surfaces.
There are two front opening fridges near the centre line and aft of the mast is another handy fiddled space.
Forward is a double stainless-steel sink with mixer taps and an additional fresh water, foot-operated pump for rinsing.
There is a gimbal-mounted, four-burner cooker with oven and grill and an extractor fan.
Maintaining and servicing the engine is carried out via the access panels in each aft cabin and also from the lift-off companionway stairs, the removal of which also allows for inspection of the generator.
Shroud plates are visible within the saloon furniture for inspection and access to the bow thrusters can be made through the forehatch on Never Mind’s deck.
Our verdict of the Wauquiez Centurion 48S
What’s she like to sail?
The Wauquiez Centurion 48S is a fast racer-cruiser with finger-tip control for all points of sailing.
This boat carries a huge rig – the mast is 65ft 9ins above the deck – but unlike with lesser breeds, she has the dynamic stability, thanks to a high level of righting force, to handle it.
Her fine entry bow ensures she picks up speed as soon as the breeze fills in giving her an exhilarating helm, magnificent upwind performance and reassuring directional stability.
Her beam sections add to the overall sense of smooth stability and her lead keel bolted low on a deep polyester stub gives her a high ballast ratio.
Her fully-battened mainsail slides on roller batten cars and is sensibly fitted with three reef points.
A top spec mainsheet winch system and powerful boom downhaul enable crew to trim efficiently and the genoa has a foam luff band ensuring the best possible set even when partially furled.
What’s she like in port and at anchor?
This is a boat you can truly show off in the swankiest marina: she not only looks great but she feels good below: with the loveliest pale yellow maple furniture immaculately finished off.
At anchor she provides open deck space for sunbathing and an indented sugar scoop within her lovely sawn-off transom which comes with a swimming ladder.
This is a boat with much top hamper so it is well she comes with a 60lb plough anchor and 60m of chain, but there is an electric windlass with separate vertical winch and capstan to retrieve and secure it.
She has double guardrails with gates port and starboard, cockpit lighting and dorades, with protection, to supply fresh air below deck.
There are also courtesy lights at floor level in the saloon which are ideal for entertaining.
Would she suit you and your crew?
Whether your crew are a nuclear family or a menagerie of gorillas the Wauquiez Centurion 48s can accommodate either, or even both.
The saloon can accommodate 10 crew, and all of the three double cabins are en suite, giving both you and your guests privacy when cruising.
The forward-set galley might not be to everyone’s taste, but it offers workspace and storage in abundance.
She’s a joy to sail, although her size makes handling her short-handed a bit of a handful at times.
That said, she showed good performance and would no doubt post some impressive passage times for you and your crew.
She a good-looking yacht with a pleasing interior and quality of build that isn’t always found boats today.
Although she’s over 20 years old, apart from the inevitable patches of wear, she’s still got many miles in her yet.
Facts and figures:
LOA: 14.90m (48ft)
LWL: 12.50m (41ft)
Beam: 4.50m (14ft 9in)
Draught: 2.15m (7ft 2in)
Displacement: 16,000kg (35,273lb)
Ballast: 5,000kg (11,102lb)
Ballast ratio: 31.3%
Sail area: 143m2 (1,538 sq ft)
SA/D ratio: 42.4
Diesel: 360 litres ( 95 gal)
Water: 600 litres ( 158 gal)
Engine: 75 hp
RCD category: A
Designer: Ed Dubois
Builder: Wauquiez Yachts
UK Agent: Parkstone Bay Yachts
Tel: 01202 724917
Owners Association: www.wauquiezforever.com