Despite bigger yachts dominating the new boat scene in recent decades, there are still any number of builders making new smaller cruisers. Here's our pick of the best small cruising yachts in 2023
We have seen a surprisingly large number of builders going against the grain to bring small cruising yachts to market in the last year or so, ranging from trailer0-sailers to smaller traditionally-styled options. Here, we’ve rounded up 4 of the best small cruising yachts launched in the last year.
Typically this size of yacht appeals to those who are looking for a day sailer or weekender and will often offer reduced draught in able to allow you to go creek crawling or nose your way into otherwise hard to get to anchorages.
The best small cruising yachts 2023
Once you’ve seen one, Bente yachts are unmistakable. We revisited the brand’s first boat, the Bente 24, a couple of issues ago, which has been around for 10 years or so. The brand then launched the striking Bente 39 which was immensely innovative, but the company ran into financial difficulties. Now under new owners and a more stable footing, a third model has been launched, which I can’t wait to test sail. The Bente 28 is unlike any other 28-footer.
The hull is cutting edge with wide transom, double rudders and full bows providing a powerful hull form as well as volume below. Construction is polyester GRP foam sandwich, with the basic version being heavier hand lamination, and the more expensive Edition version being vacuum infused. While this is a boat designed to be fast, it’s a long way from a wild racing boat.
Displacement is a not outlandish 3.2 tonnes and draught is 1.6m (there’s an option for a 1.95m performance T-keel with lead bulb that’s 100kg lighter), so it fits well within the scope of a sensible cruising boat.
The Tide 25, built by MFH in north Germany – began its life as a Dehler SQ25, but the mould was sold off when that company hit hard times. Plumb bows and stern with a long hull chine, bevelled deck edge and twin rudders put her on trend, and maximise performance under sail and accommodation on board.
On deck, she has a large cockpit with benches forward and four decent lockers. Under the cockpit sole there’s access to what would be engine space for a diesel inboard, now housing batteries for the electric motors.
Opt for the sport version, and you’ll get beefed up deck hardware and a minimalist fit out, with the mainsheet traveller across the transom, while the comfort version has a smaller main with the mainsheet coming to a fixed point on the cockpit sole forward of the helm. The rig has aft-swept spreaders and no backstay.
The fact that the accommodation of the Pointer 30 is designed around a Nespresso machine, enshrined in glory, tells you a lot about this boat. It was conceived as a comfortable, fast and stylish weekend cruiser that you can take your friends down to for a coffee before a nice sail to somewhere for lunch. This is a boat that knows what it is about. Tea drinkers, don’t worry; there’s still a gas hob to boil a kettle.
The sail area isn’t vast, but this looks to be an easily driven hull. A below-deck furler setting a genoa that sheets to tracks on the coachroof is standard, with a self-tacker being optional.
The fixed bowsprit houses a bow roller, and a tack point for furling offwind sails – the gennaker takes her offwind sail area up to 100m2, set from an aluminium twin-spreader rig with adjustable backstay. She has a powerful kicker, but no traveller for the main, which is sheeted to a raised plinth in the cockpit sole.
Below deck the layout is simple, clean and quietly stylish. Headroom is restricted, dictated by the low freeboard and elegant lines.
To port, the heart of the boat is the ‘coffee bar’ on a shelf in the moulded hull liner, next to a small dinette-style table with two leather swivel armchairs. The forward of these chairs spins round to face a neat lift-top desk (though the drawer below isn’t large enough for a chart).
Aimed at sailors who may have owned larger yachts before but want to downsize, Swallow Yachts owner Matt Newland explained that he ‘wanted to build a boat that was fun and easy to sail, simple to maintain and had timeless looks with as low an environmental impact as possible.’
Though not a true launch-and-sail trailer sailer, a four-by-four will still be able to tow the 32 on her own trailer, as boat and trailer come in at under 3.5 tonnes, and within the 2.9m overhang limit.
With a keel-down draught of 2.8m, a fine entry at the bow and broad aft sections, this boat promises to be a good performer. You can sail with the lifting keel in any position for shoal waters, but lift it all the way and you’ve got a draught of just 40cm for creek crawling and drying out.
Newland has tried to draw lines that are timeless rather than trendy while a retractable bowsprit, backstayless carbon rig and square-top mainsail ensure she is right up there in terms of her contemporary design and latest tech.
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