Sam Manuard is one of the most talented young designer from the new French generation and one that started is career as a racer on the mini class, designing his own boats (he still races). Today he is one of the more successful designers on class 40, with his last designs winning a lot of races. Regarding performance cruisers his most relevant work is the Seascape 27, a great and fast small week-end cruiser-racer boat. It seems there are plans for a bigger one. Have a look at the seascape 27 and Manuard's site:http://www.thinkseascape.com/en/seascape-27/
He made some very interesting statements regarding the actual and future tendencies of performance cruiser's Design that seem very relevant to me:
Watching the incredible development of offshore racing yachts in the past 20 years, we realized that the gap between custom-made racing and mass production yachts was getting bigger and bigger. Even though some brands finally started following the trend set by the racers, by applying chines to the hull and twin rudders on the transom, we believe the gap is far from being closed, as it lies deeper in the mentality of the boatbuilders.
Until recently both racing and cruising yachts were too heavy to plane which meant that your boat-speed was defined by the length of the yacht measured on the water line. With other words, longer was by default faster, and better hull shape and lower displacement of the yacht could only help her get to her maximum speed a bit sooner.
The main problem was sailing downwind where yachts quickly ended up with excessive energy generated by their sails which couldn’t be transfer to speed due to yacht’s inability to plane. This energy was therefore burned as excessive rolling that often ended up in so called “death rolls” which broached or even worse, uncontrollably jibed the yacht.
You can see here what he is talking about here (on the second one just look at the beginning, -34 sec - till that mad figure with the spi):
Consequently, spinnakers were used only by experienced crews, and downwind sailing in strong wind was neither fast, nor safe nor comfortable. More importantly, those racing yachts were not much different to fast cruisers. Since none of them could plane, heavy wooden furniture didn’t make a major difference in performance.
And then the racing boats started to plane.
Industry launched a new term – the race-cruisers. At the beginning, racer-cruisers looked more like racers, while today, with the notable exception of J-boats, Pogo Structures, and a few other non-mainstream manufacturers, look more like cruisers with bigger steering wheels and better ergonomics on the cockpit. The problem with the modern racer-cruisers is that they are weight sensitive. Add 10% displacement and, instead at 15K the yacht will start to plane at only 20 knots of wind. However, this is true (planing speeds) only if a gennaker is used.
Not being able to handle big gennakers at high wind speeds, some crews will therefore be stuck at the uncomfortable and slow displacement speeds, even though the hull would allow them to plane.
The modern racer-cruisers should therefore provide their crews all the necessary comfort without bulky heavy luxury in the interior and exterior. The main luxury that this kind of a yacht has to offer is her safety, ergonomics and performance close to those of the modern racing yachts, but achievable with a shorthanded crew.
Yes, I understand very well what he says: On my boat I know that an experienced crew can go easily over 15K....but just a look at the size of my geenaker had prevented me to use it solo (maybe if I mount it on a light furler, but that is expensive). The answer for that is a lighter boat (a smaller one would help too ;-)) where the sail area will be substantially less and therefore more manageable. The big beam, fat ass and strong initial stability of an solo Open racer style hull would help too. Not surprisingly is that the kind of performance-cruisers that Sam Manuard is designing.
Let's have a look at his designs, first the Seascape 27 (I really am waiting with a lot of expectations their bigger boat) and his most accomplished racer, the new GDF/Sebastien Rogues 40class sailboat: