Theo Stocker headed to Germany to see all of the best new yachts coming to harbours near you in 2024

Mid-winter on the banks of the Rhine might seem like an incongruous time and place for a boat show, but boot Düsseldorf, held for 10 days every January, remains the world’s largest, housed snugly in 17 vast halls.

Two of these are dedicated to sailing boats alone; there’s another hall for charter and marinas; two more for kit, clothing and equipment; another for beach sports; another for diving; and then a few halls for motor boats, from inflatable tenders to flamingo pedalos and all the way up to superyachts.

It’s little wonder that the show is a mecca for sailors from all over the world. Oh, and the old town’s cobbled streets, with their traditional beer cellars and excellent food – not least the obligatory pork knuckle – make for a thoroughly enjoyable weekend on the Continent.

All shapes and sizes

At least a dozen new boats I’d not seen before were at the show, and we’ll be having a look aboard over the next few pages. Some of the boats on show have been previewed in YM before, while others were totally new. Things were undoubtedly quieter than in the post-Covid boom, but new models across the full range of sizes proved there’s still life in the market.

Boot Düsseldorf is a useful bellwether as to current trends and it’s clear that many yards continue to pursue the top end of the market, as demonstrated by the Hallberg-Rassy 69, Arcona 50, Xc47 and the Moody DS48.

In the mid section of the market, high-volume hulls and ever-fuller bow sections remain the order of the day, with the Dufour 44, Beneteau Oceanis 37.1 and Jeanneau’s Sun Odyssey 350 all new for this year.

There’s a healthy amount of innovation happening among smaller cruising yachts too – an area largely ignored by the big brands, leaving space for smaller yards and innovative ideas, including Saffier’s sporty SE 24 Lite, Sunbeam’s ultra-modern 29.1, the Flaar 24, and Swallow Yacht’s surprisingly affordable Bay Cruiser 21, as well as a couple of more left-field ultra-stylish weekenders.

Plans announced

Besides the ready-built boats, new plans were unveiled, revealing some of the new boats we might expect to see at shows over the next year or two. Swedish yard Faurby, which builds fibreglass cruising yachts with hand-finished solid wood and semi-custom interiors, floated its concept for a Mark 2 version of its 460, as well as a new concept for a 430 – essentially using the same hull as the 460, but with the overhangs aft reduced. Saare Yachts is also planning a 47-footer as a new flagship.

I tested the Pointer 30 recently and found her to be a thoroughly capable and lively boat. Plans have been revealed for a more conventional ‘lounge’ version, in which the forward heads, galley and coffee table to port are changed for a larger forward cabin, straight settees in the saloon, and an aft galley and heads either side of the companionway at the expense of the two large quarter-berths.

Over in France, RM Yachts is in the process of building its first 1080 – a cruising boat with Class 40 ideas – and Wauquiez is back under new ownership with bold plans for an all-new Wauquiez 55 – a blue-water cruiser with a remarkable aft cabin and some fresh thinking on deck and below.

XC47 Below the waterline it’s clear the hull shape is designed for comfort in rough weather while fully loaded

X-yachts Xc47 & Arcona 50 comparison

Two particular yachts making their debut at the show looked more like a Scandinavian derby than any others at the show. Rivals X-Yachts and Arcona were going head to head with two similarly sized boats both aiming at the 45-50ft blue-water cruising market.

Both the Xc47 and Arcona 50s aim at the performance end of the offshore cruising sector, and are built to similarly high levels of construction, quality, comfort and finish. I’ve covered the Arcona 50 in these pages for you before, and hope to test her in due course, but it’s worth taking a second look, given that she’s just won the coveted 2024 European Yacht of the Year Luxury Cruiser category.

For X-Yachts this is the first all-new boat since the retirement of X-yachts founder Nils Jeppessen, albeit drawn by the same in-house design team. The boat is intended as an offshore cruising boat, built for good passage speeds in comfort and safety.

Commensurately, she’s heavier with a bigger rocker and deep v-shaped bow sections than the Pure and Performance ranges, and she retains the same distinctive stern overhangs as other boats in the Xc (X-Yachts cruising) range, all of which contributes to sea-kindly motion. She’s still got X-Yachts blood in her though, and will keep moving in 5 knots of breeze, as well as enjoying cruising speeds into the the eights and nines.

Unusually, this is the first X-Yacht with a deck-saloon style coachroof (though not a true deck saloon), matching distinctive diamond-shaped hull windows. Below, every inch of space is used for well thought out stowage and systems, with her epoxy hull and steel keel matrix frame ensuring an incredibly stiff hull.

ARCONA 50 Having won European Yacht of the Year 2024, the new flagship seems to have hit the spot

Over at Arcona, Urban Langneus was on the hunt for a designer to replace the late Stephan Quivberg, and who should pop up but a newly retired Nils Jeppesen looking for projects to fill his time alongside partner in crime Ariadna Pons. The result was a new flagship for the Swedish yard – the 46 was their largest boat before this).

It represents a significant departure from the understated, but sharp, fast coastal performance cruisers in favour of a boat capable of carrying a high payload without sacrificing sailing ability. Displacement is just over a tonne and half lighter than the Xc47 with nearly 20m2 more canvas.

The hull shape is dramatically fuller than earlier Arconas, and sports twin rudders for the first time, but she claims to have lost none of Arcona’s typical performance or precision on the water. Below, the design is luxurious, comfortable, and fully up to date, without eschewing any Arcona craftsmanship.

Swallow Yachts Bay Cruiser 21

Swallow Yachts Bay Cruiser 21

Over the years, Swallow Yachts have carved out a particular niche for themselves. Built in ply or GRP and coupled with powerful sail plans and carbon masts, their hard-chined hulls are instantly recognisable.

Combining a traditional sheerline with some touches of modernity, particularly the Bay Cruiser 26, and the their new 32-footer, the plans of which are still waiting for a customer, though more often, they are superficially fairly conservative. It’s under the surface, as well as aloft, that you find the innovation in these clever little trailer sailers.

The Bay Cruiser 21 is no different. Effectively a beefed-up version of the yard’s most popular model, the 20-foot Bay Raider Expedition, this boat is only one foot longer, but has significantly more waterline length as well as higher freeboard and more beam. This supports a bigger and more efficient sailplan, allows for side decks that you can walk forward on securely, a decent height cockpit coaming to lean back against, and the same, vast self-draining cockpit.

Below the cockpit sole is a water ballast tank adding 400kg to her righting moment; the boat can still be sailed without it, even in a stiff breeze if you like dinghy sailing, but from around Force 4 the ballast may be appreciated. This also makes her fully self-righting from 90º if the worst were to happen, while allowing her towing weight to be a mere 600kg – easily within the limits of most ordinary family cars.

This 29.1 is about stepping aboard, turning on the electrics and having a boat that’s ready to go in an instant

Sunbeam 29.1

We recently covered the plans for this little sister of the all-new Sunbeam 32.1, which I tested a few months ago, but this is the first time I had seen the 29.1 in person. While Sunbeam Yachts has been a family-run business for generations, former iterations of these pretty Austrian boats were conservative and relied on their sailing prowess to attract customers. They also catered for cruising sailors with boats up to 46ft.

The latest of the Schöchl family to run the business is Andreas, who believes that most boats are too unremarkable and boring to stand out, and there was a market for customers who want something striking, without being an out-and-out racing boat.

Vast hull-window panels make for a striking look and plenty of light below

Dufour 44

Testing the latest generation of high-volume cruising boats, I’ve been surprised to find just how satisfying they are to sail, and how well they handle chop. Wide hulls and chines make for a more powerful hull while keeping the waterline narrow and a decent ‘V’ in the forefoot, and bringing this beam into the bow balances the boat, and helps keep the rudder gripping the water.

The Dufour 44, in replacing the 430, takes this concept further again, with some of the strongest bow chines on show. Umberto Felci has maintained performance by sticking with a decent deep single rudder, tucked forwards to avoid aeration, and a deep keel prioritising keeping the boat upright rather than anchoring close in to the beach.

In fact, this boat is happiest sailing at 15-18º of heel (my old early 1980s boat didn’t start moving forward until she heeled to 25-30º). Five hull windows adorn each side, partially disguised in the distinctive black panels set into moulded recesses.

As ever with Dufour, there is also a strong emphasis on comfortable living on board, and the deck layout feels like a boat for the sunshine. A relatively high cockpit sole and low coach roof gives amazing all-round views, while a central table (housing a fridge) provides bracing in the wide cockpit.

The Sun Odyssey range takes on a number of performance-enhancing ideas from the sportier Sun Fast boats

Jeanneau SO 350

Jeanneau’s long-running Sun Odyssey range has now gradually been updated into this, its eighth generation. The Sun Odyssey 349 sold 2,500 hulls but after 12 years of service it was due for replacement.

The 350 follows her older siblings with a wide hull (15cm beamier – widest in her class), more volume, an aft-raked stem and sharp hull chines, all the way to the bow. Step-free access to the deck is via a ramp aft of the wheels up onto the side deck which, amazingly, doesn’t steal any useable space from the aft cabins.

Keel options remain the same, making this boat unique in offering winged shoal-draught and lifting keels as well as standard options. A 29hp engine is now standard – and the only option – where this was an upgrade on the 349 from the standard 19hp.

Twin rudders and a performance pack should make this a fun boat to sail

Beneteau Oceanis 37.1

Much like Jeanneau, Beneteau’s Oceanis range has been a stalwart for decades and we’re now onto the seventh generation of these boats. The 37.1 takes the place of the 38.1 but continues to focus on fun, easy sailing and comfortable living, especially life on deck in the sunshine, where the Jeanneaus focus a little more on sailing performance.

Twin rudders ensure there’s decent grip on the water. You can also opt for a performance pack, which gives you a square top main thanks to the backstayless rig.

The beam remains the same width as the old boat, but this is carried further down to the waterline thanks to the ubiquitous hull chine, making the topside more or less vertical, which allows the accommodation to be pushed out wider.

The DS48 promises satisfying sailing with a reassuring heavy displacement

Moody Ds48

Indulge me. I know £1.5million is a lot of money, but this boat is unlike any other cruising boat on sale at the moment. The DS48 spares no expense, ensuring that this is the most comfortable home from home you can have, save buying an actual house.

Joining the family alongside the DS41, DS45 and DS54, the DS48 shares the Bill Dixon-designed DNA and one-level living, save for one or two steps between deck and cockpit, and saloon and cabins.

Like on a cat, the saloon really is up at deck level with 360º views through tempered glass windows. On deck, the cockpit is sheltered beneath a targa-top, with two steps up to the twin helms, where you’ll find buttons to control every winch and system, whichever wheel you’re at. From there, waist-high solid guard rails top the deep bulwarks, forward to the seating area in the bow.

Below, past the on-deck grill and fridge, the vast cockpit lockers that also house the washer-dryer. Slide aside the glass door and you’re into a big galley, complete with double sink, fridges, freezer and dishwasher, and an opening sash window to the cockpit.

The new flagship is Hallberg-Rassy’s largest ever yacht

Hallberg-Rassy 69

Go big or go home? Well Magnus Rassy has decreed that Hallberg-Rassy needed a new flagship, and this is it – the largest yacht that the Swedish has ever built. It’s a direction that many other yards are also taking. Just look at the Arcona 50, the Saffier SL 46 and the Jeanneau and Beneteau Yacht ranges (55-65ft) as cases in point.

So just what has Hallberg-Rassy managed to squeeze into 69ft? Well, they’ve stuck their guns about what they believe makes a good boat, and the queues at the boat show suggest the punters think so too. Designed, as has been the case for many years, by German Frers, the 69 follows the overhaul of the range begun in 2017 with the 44 – fine bows, wide stern, twin rudders, a long waterline, vertical stem and integrated bowsprit.

Forward of the mast, the deck is completely flush, while aft of the mast, the coach roof and cockpit could almost be a cut and shut from many of the other models, save for the fact that this boat has twin wheels – it’s designed to feel secure and offer a commanding position for serious cruising, rather than the wide, open sun decks that are more common these days.

In the cockpit, you’ll find all the controls to hand at the push of a button – this is a boat intended for family sailing rather than with a crew, though you might struggle to single-hand her.

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