The Xcruising range was X-Yachts’ first step in the direction of an out-and-out cruising yacht, but has she stood the test of time? Graham Snook sailed an XC42 to find out
The Xcruising range was X-Yachts’ first step in the direction of an out-and-out cruising yacht, but has she stood the test of time? Graham Snook sailed an XC42 to find out
XC42: Stunning Scandinavian that still sparkles
Danish brand X-Yachts has built an enviable reputation for making quality racing yachts for more than 40 years.
In 2008, it took a gamble and launched the Xcruising range with the XC45. In doing so, it proved it could make quality, comfortable cruising yachts with a turn of speed.
The XC45 won European Yacht of the Year in 2009, and later the same year the XC42 was launched.
Andrew and Karen Hunt bought their XC42 in 2011, but the condition of Freya means you’d be forgiven if you thought you had turned to the pages of a new boat test by accident.
She is immaculate. If it wasn’t for the polished off satin varnish on the wooden fiddles around the yacht, and the aroma that the boat heads acquire (from the shower drain), she could have come out of the X-Yachts factory yesterday.
While the XC range was aimed at cruising – with their tankage low down for great stability, a fuller hull with increased rocker for a more spacious interior, and deeper V-shaped forward sections for greater comfort – they still had the performance gene, and appeal to the type of sailor (with deep pockets) who comes from racing or who enjoys sailing.
On our test in Chichester Harbour, the true wind was rarely above 10 knots, but she still bowled along at 6-7 knots and felt delightful on the wheel.
Andrew grew up sailing with his father, who’d owned a succession of yachts: ‘I used that knowledge to find what I wanted out of a boat, so we’ve only owned two boats.’
Karen hadn’t sailed before meeting Andrew. ‘Luckily I took to it,’ she smiles. ‘And I had to learn horse riding,’ laughs Andrew.
‘We couldn’t afford a house,’ says Andrew, ‘so we lived in Karen’s flat and bought the Moody instead.’
They owned the Moody 336 for 21 years before buying Freya in 2011.
The X Factor
They were drawn to X-Yachts as Karen is half Danish, so a yacht from Denmark held a certain appeal.
‘I didn’t know enough about Faurby, the other Danish builder, at the time, but they didn’t have interior volume,’ confesses Andrew.
They looked further north to Sweden, to Arcona and Najad, but there wasn’t a boat that offered the same mixture of speed and comfort; they could find quality fast boats or cruisers but the XC42 combined the elusive mixture.
They also wanted what Andrew called a ‘cruising draught’ – one of less than 1.83m (6ft) so Freya was ordered with a shallow keel giving her a 1.70m/5ft 7in draught.
Launched in 2011, Freya was hull number 53 of 78 MkI XC42s. The XC42 went out of production in 2018.
‘The dealership has really made a difference, they have been wonderful,’ explains Andrew.
The couple also enjoy the active owners’ association. ‘We have rallies away and the racing is good, although I might be a bit more competitive than some,’ laughs Andrew.
She’s proven to be a solid performer for the couple, even in light winds, which was just as well given the sub-10-knot wind from the north-east on the day of our test.
The couple has sailed around 25,000 miles in her and cruised the Baltic, Brittany and the West Country.
Their son was 10 when they bought the yacht and he was onboard when they delivered her from the Baltic to the Solent.
They sailed back to the Baltic three years ago with just two onboard – the heads seacocks needed replacing under warranty and the chance to sail back to Denmark and visit family was an opportunity they had to take advantage of.
A sunny, if light day greeted us as we met Chichester Harbour Patrol off Itchenor – our photo boat for the day.
Karen and Andrew handle Freya with the reassuring air of an experienced couple who’ve sailed a lot together and are wholly familiar with their boat.
With the aid of the electric halyard winch – to port of the companionway – the main was up in no time.
XC42: responsive sailing
On the water, Freya had plenty of grip and was quick to accelerate in the puffs.
With such light winds, I wasn’t expecting much, but at 120° AWA she was making 4.7-5.4 knots in 5-6 knots AWS (10 knots TWS) further off; dead downwind with 10-12 knots TWS she was making around 5 knots.
The width constraints of Chichester Channel became more apparent as we went on a beam reach (making 6 knots in around 8 knots of breeze), then onto a fetch and close-hauled, the apparent wind increasing above 10 knots meant her speed didn’t drop below 6 knots and she made over 7 at 30° AWA.
She tacked beautifully and the helm was responsive without being twitchy.
As Karen pointed out, ‘Just because you cruise, it doesn’t mean you have to sail slowly.’
Freya’s cockpit is broad enough for comfort but doesn’t feel like the shallow, wide racing soap dish or a Med port hopper; it feels deep, safe and comfortable thanks, in part, to the central cockpit table.
All the winches have the wiring for them to be converted to electric at a later date, if required.
Her cockpit might not be wide, but she still has twin wheels, mainly for better views outboard and easier access from the electrically operated fold-down transom.
On the MkII version (hull #78-99) the width of the bathing platform was extended and a liferaft locker was added under the access step into the cockpit.
All the cockpit locker lids are supported by gas struts; the exception is on the lid forward, just abaft of the cascade washboard, on the rope locker, or the ‘snake pit’, as Karen calls it.
All the running rigging was replaced by Marlow Ropes recently, which does a lot to smarten up her appearance as well as making everything a lot smoother.
The cockpit and hull sides are polished twice a year and she also has a winter cover to protect the deck which, if her looks are anything to go by, was an excellent investment.
She still carries her original North Sails which are going strong.
Andrew has found the mast steps are essential to detach the mainsail halyard as it stops some way short of the deck once it’s on the boom.
They have considered going to an in-boom furling system, but they are unconvinced and are looking at other sail handling solutions.
Teak in abundance
The decks have a deep solid toe rail, outboard is a stainless-steel rub-rail and on top is a thick teak capping rail.
The teak here, on the deck, coachroof, in the cockpit and on the coamings, and the generous use of stainless steel (grab rails, chunky roller-fairleads and rub rails) and the polished window surrounds add to her row-away factor.
Forward, she has a stainless-steel framed bowsprit that houses the anchor.
A windlass is forward of the chain locker, and the chain locker is divided with the chain forward and hull-depth stowage for fenders aft.
There’s a pretty tuck to the aft sections of the hull, more teardrop than the modern bullet-shaped hulls we see nowadays; the trade-off is the narrower aft berths.
Down below, you’re greeted by teak with a prominent horizontal grain pattern; it’s all reminiscent of the warm, familiar feel of Danish furniture.
There is lots of visible wood and it’s all lovely. There’s great detailing with the use of routed lines, vents and lots of curved corners.
A wooden grab rail blends in and runs the length of the saloon at deck level. Above, the windows all open and are recessed, cleanly hiding the blinds from sight.
Although 10 years old, the condition of the wood was remarkable. Part of this is down to the materials and finish X-Yachts employed, but Andrew’s secret is coloured wax wood repair sticks.
Any nick or damage is simply hidden and sealed before moisture can make it worse. High wear areas have lost their satin finish to a glossy patina.
At the bottom of the companionway, there’s a large J-shaped galley to port; its shape offers good bracing. The inboard longitudinal sink faces outboard.
The orientation is a little peculiar. The MKII had the sink athwartships so the cook is forward-facing whilst using it.
Instead, when Freya’s cook is facing forward, they have a large Corian work surface and glass splashback in front of them.
The stove and top-opening fridge are outboard; above them is very good down lighting (beneath deck level) that makes cooking at night a shadow-free affair.
There is a line of vertically-hinged lockers outboard and two more ‘floating’ lockers forward, which came as standard on Freya.
The bin isn’t the most convenient place for those cooking – it’s in the inboard locker, opposite the chart table – it does, however, make it easy for the rest of the crew to use.
The saloon has L-shaped seating to port, a central island seat (providing inboard seating for those at the table and excellent stowage for provisions) and a long straight bench seat outboard to starboard.
At the forward end of the seating is a handy fiddled unit forward. Stowage is accessed by removing the seatback.
One excellent feature is the central cushion back, to starboard, which hinges down and on the back is a small table suitable for cards or drinks.
Above the seating, there are more wonderful examples of craftsmanship and Danish styling. There is a fiddled shelf on each side.
She is more ‘cruising’ than X-Yachts’ Performance range but more ‘performance’ than its Cruising range, so who is she for?…
Light winds don’t usually make for fast or enjoyable boat tests, but most boats tested aren’t like X-Yachts’ new X40.…
Extra photographs from Yachting Monthly’s test of the X Yachts XC38
360º images to drag and scroll your way around to explore the interior of the X Yachts XC38
These typify a familiar theme throughout the boat: X-Yachts haven’t made things the easiest way, but have made them in a way that looks good and is practical.
At either end of these shelves are lockers, there are vertical vents on the rounded corner posts and where they meet the lower fiddle they blend into it.
The fiddles are a wooden rail held up by vertical stainless-steel rods which, unlike a solid fiddle, allow for the contents to be seen whilst still retaining them.
Above the shelves is a hull window formed with an X shape across it. This same arrangement can be found in the forward cabin above the berth.
The forward cabin has a 2.2m-long berth.
It is so long that the owners sleep with their heads forward and have their pillows 40cm from the forward bulkhead to get shoulder room; even so, they still have a 1.83m-long berth.
There are reading lights at both ends of the berth, which were added by Andrew and Karen.
There’s a useful seat aft of the berth and an en suite heads and shower, to port.
The base of the mast is hidden in a locker forward.
The chart table is a good size and has a handy separate lid for odds and ends outboard of the main lid for chart access.
It’s surrounded by high fiddles, but the chart storage isn’t the deepest at 45mm (2in).
Outboard is a switch panel with good quality switches and neat wiring behind it. There’s storage in the seat and the column of drawers beneath the table.
Engine access is good, although the space from the cascade washboard does remove space from the top.
The rear of the engine can be accessed to replace the saildrive leg seal, but it is a bit awkward.
Andrew has also had to change the rudder bearing, which has to be done every 6-7 years, depending on use. There is a heads to starboard abaft of the chart table.
It has a forward-facing toilet and a pull-out shower nozzle. Aft are two double cabins.
The starboard cabin is slightly narrow, having lost space to the heads and 5cm (2in) from the space between cabins, which is wide enough for a generator.
In contrast, the port aft cabin has much more room and a 1.51m-wide berth that’s over 2m long.
The corner of the fiddled shelf is rounded, both inside the shelf and outside, which prevents things from getting lost in the corners.
But it’s the details that I relished; the way the wood has been shaped and curved where one piece meets the next, the thick dark veneer edging strips around every cupboard door and drawer, the labelling of the wiring, the stainless-steel inserts for the screws that secure the floorboards.
These are the details you can see.
Having visited the X-Yachts factory, I know there are others; the steel frame that takes the loads from the keel and mast, the way every through-hull fitting is faired smooth, the lead bulb on the cast iron fin.
None of these are easy or cheap, but X-Yachts know its owners value the results.
The couple have no plans for another boat, and it’s easy to see why.
Not only is Freya like new, but they know her inside out. They might go a bit smaller one day, but it depends on how long they can keep sailing Freya.
Expert Opinion on the XC42
Nick Vass B,Sc B,Ed HND FRINA MCMS DipMarSur YS, Marine Surveyor
I have found rudder problems on two X-yachts that I have recently surveyed.
One was a 2003-built X43 and the other was a 2012-built XP44.
In both cases, the rudder blade had cracked apart because the aluminium rudder stock had corroded and expanded.
The XC42 uses the same make of rudder and so it is well worth checking the stock for evidence of corrosion.
Copper in conventional antifouling paint could be the culprit as it is a dissimilar metal to the anodic aluminium stock, and has been known to cause a reaction.
The trick is to apply copper-free antifouling such as Trilux to the hull and rudder around the stock. This can be done easily as Trilux or similar would be applied to the aluminium saildrive leg anyway.
As far as I am aware all XC42s were built with white gelcoat topsides as I believe they were intended to be cruised in hot climates.
However, I have found print-through on dark-hulled X-Yachts. Print-through is caused by the gelcoat continuing to cure and shrink once it has been exposed to hot sunshine.
The gelcoat contracts and the pattern of the glass fibre cloth shows through the coating. XC42s have teak decks.
Teak wears out and is expensive to replace so make sure to check the wood thoroughly.
Between 2009-2018, 99 XC42s were built making them something of a rarity so they don’t come on the second-hand market often.
Ben Sutcliffe-Davies, Marine Surveyor and full member of the Yacht Brokers Designers & Surveyors Association (YDSA)
The XC42 has been developed from the pedigree of X-Yachts racing vessels, and for those who want a performance cruising yacht, I don’t believe she will disappoint.
The production run was from about 2009 to 2018, with several improvements in the craft in 2014.
Like all good racing yachts, the XC42’s mast is keel stepped; it’s important to see the condition of the deck around the collar and ensure it’s not damaged.
The mast step condition is also equally important to look at to check for any signs of developing corrosion.
The rig is normally rod rigging and, while the rod can be good for 20 years, the ball/foot does need to be properly inspected or re-made about every five years.
The keel is a combination of iron and lead encapsulated in an epoxy E-glass sheath; it’s important to ensure that it is undamaged, with no obvious corrosion staining.
Check the galvanised framing for corrosion too by going through the bilges. Pay attention to areas where water can become trapped.
The rudder is GRP with an alloy stock. It is important that good galvanic protection is provided.
If using shore power, a galvanic isolator should be fitted. Look carefully at any exposed rudder stock and ensure there are no pits developing.
When checking over the engine, make sure you pay attention to the rubber gaiter on the Volvo Penta Saildrive.
If it is over seven years old, it’s generally recommended to replace it.
Alternatives to the XC42 to consider
Few boats offer speed and a quality interior, but the Swedish-built Arcona 430 does, and she leans more towards performance than the XC42.
She is quick, responsive and a joy to sail for the helm, and comfortable for the crew both on deck and below.
Originally built with a single wheel that dominated the aft end of the cockpit, later models had twin wheels.
Her sail handling is well thought out and works well, whether you’re sailing fully crewed or shorthanded, although after sailing the XC42, her cockpit would feel more exposed as the cockpit is shallower with a cockpit table that lowers into the cockpit sole.
This leaves the cockpit open, which is better for performance sailing.
Like the XC42, the Arcona 430 has a galvanised steel frame to take the loads from the lead keel, and keel-stepped mast.
Her interior layout is similar: an L-shaped galley had the option of a practical rounded return, and the owner has an en suite head forward.
The saloon has U-shaped seating to port with a bench seat to starboard: the curved cushion ends robbed a bit of the saloon seating length for those sleeping.
The second heads is by the companionway. Despite her racy looking exterior, her interior is of high quality with lots of solid wood and well-considered mahogany joinery.
Her interior volume is less than the XC42.
Where the 430 slightly pips the X-Yacht is with quality of fit-out in a few areas – thicker, chunkier woodwork – and her performance, but the XC42 wins in other areas for the cruising sailor: cockpit, larger galley, interior flair and practicality.
The Arcona 430 is a performance-cruiser in every sense, whether you want to cruise with speed and style, or throw her around the racecourse then relax in comfort afterwards; she can be all you want her to be and more.
With a bit more budget you could consider the newer Arcona 435, which has been designed from the outset with twin wheels and a wide cockpit to accommodate them, tweaked performance and still a delight to sail.
The Saare 41cc centre cockpit was launched in 2008, with the aft cockpit version following a few years later in 2012.
It shared the same hull design (including keel and rudder) and rig, but gone were the raised centre cockpit and large double aft cabin, replaced instead by the option of a single aft cabin (to port) or two double cabins.
The larger, lower aft cockpit made sail handling easier, reduced the motion and increased the shelter.
With a teak deck, the Estonian Saare shares many visual similarities with the XC42, including a similar overall style, solid toe rails capped with thick teak, metal-framed windows and oversized stainless-steel mooring gear on deck.
Unlike the XC she has a single wheel and a slightly boxier coachroof appearance.
Her hull gives her a good turn of speed, while a lead keel adds stiffness and absorbs energy in the rock-hitting that goes on in Northern Baltic waters.
It was possible to have a layout identical to the XC42, but Saare chose to offer customers the option of custom layouts and finishes to allow owners to choose the layout that best suited their needs.
Her interior has a similar J-shaped galley with the sink inboard and a large work surface for food preparation.
The level of finish is very good too, and undoubtedly rivals that of the majority of Scandinavian boatyards.
While the Saare yacht lacks the level of detail and style that the XC42 possesses in spades, she undeniably offers much of what the XC42 has at a lesser price.
The Sunbeam 42.1 offers at least two things that neither the Arcona nor the XC42 can; a centre cockpit and a large double aft cabin.
Unlike the XC42, she, like the other alternatives, is still available as a new build – the smallest current XC is the XC45.
The quality of the Sunbeam’s woodwork and joinery was above that of mass-produced boats – not that it’s possible to find a mass-produced 42ft centre-cockpit yacht of course!
Her inventory included some pricey items such as in-mast furling, windlass, oversized genoa sheet winches, teak deck and cockpit.
But she also came with many details which make using a boat less stressful; cockpit lighting, an exhaust temperature alarm and automatic engine room lighting, to name but a few.
She might not have the performance or sailing delight of the XC/Arcona, but she’s not pretending to be anything other than a long-distance comfortable cruiser.
That said, she’s no slouch; she errs around the same distance to comfort that the Arcona does performance.
Her centre cockpit is sheltered and both sets of sheet winches are within easy reach of the helm.
The genoa winches are in line with the wheel, making it ideal if you’re left ‘helm alone’.
The aft cabin, the centre cockpit boat’s raison d’être, doesn’t disappoint either.
It’s a homely haven waiting to travel.
The under-berth stowage, wardrobes and lockers are ideal for long-distance cruising.
Her interior finish may not meet the standards of her Scandinavian rivals, but neither does her price tag.