Tuesday, January 23, 2018


This year’s European boats of the year choices leave me a bit concerned about the way test sailors and sail magazine directors are viewing the industry, consumer needs and the way sailboats respond to them.

On the more prestigious category the Luxury Cruiser one, that was won by the Amel 50, they nominated more two boats, the Halberg Rassy 44 and the ICE 60....except that the ICE 60 is a performance cruiser and has nothing to do with the Amel or the Halberg-Rassy. It is a mystery why the ICE 60 was included in this category and not on the category where it belongs, the one of Performance Cruisers.

It can be said that on this class all cruisers, including performance cruisers, can be included if they have a price tag and a finish that makes them a luxury product, but then the Swan 50, for its price, finish and the clients that it is aimed for, should have been included here. If we consider the luxury market, the Swan 50 is from all yachts nominated the one more aimed at the luxury market.

The lack of definition in what is valued in this class leads to arbitrary choices: what is more valued, luxury, finish and the boat interior design or seaworthiness, sail ability and yacht exterior design? Or as it seems fit to me all these things balanced together with a bit more emphasis on the last group?

Why more on the last group? Because a seaworthy sailboat with a good sail performance and a not so good interior can still be a good cruising sailboat but an unseaworthy sailboat with a bad sail performance even if with a very good interior can never be a good cruising sailboat.

If this was the perspective the boats were looked upon, the choice of the Amel 50 over the Halberg Rassy 44 makes no sense. Sure there are points where the Amel is stronger namely a very spacious high quality interior very well designed but at the cost of a huge freeboard and a huge beam that results in a lot of windage, less finer entries and finer forward sections, making it a very massive boat that hardly has the visual finesse of lines that characterize 50fters and bigger boats.

Compared with the narrower and lower HR the superior Amel’s windage, the much bigger beam, the larger forward sections and the consequent bigger prismatic coefficient will result not only in more pounding upwind, bigger drag, particularly wave drag upwind. To match the HR performance the Amel will need much more power and it will be always at the cost of comfort and sea motion. And the Amel is not a more powerful boat than the HR, quite the contrary.

We cannot compare directly, due to the difference in size, but I can put things in perspective if I say that the Amel 50 has about the same beam as the beamiest of all mass production boats, about the same as an Oceanis 51.1, while the Oceanis 45 has 4.50 that compares with only 4.20m on the Halberg Rassy, a considerably less beamier boat.

But that is not the worst of it: contrary to what was usual on older Amels, the Amel 50 has a B/D similar to mass production boats, a factor that is aggravated by a smaller draft and in most cases a less efficient keel. That’s true that a beamier boat needs less ballast to sail since more stability comes from hull form but in what regards safety stability at big angles of heel and AVS, hull form stability is irrelevant and detrimental in what regards inverted stability. For that what counts is the boat lower CG that is obtained trough ballast and draft.

The HR 44 has a B/D of 39.9% with a 2.1m draft keel, the Amel 50 has a ballast of 28.5% with 2,15m draft. If we compare with a mass production boat with just a bit less beam (4.75 to 4.78m), the Hanse 505, we will see that the 28%B/D is close, having the Hanse a much lower CG on that ballast due to more draft (2.35 to 2.15m) and to a much more efficient (in lowering the CG) torpedo keel. That means that actually the Hanse has a higher B/D than the one of the Amel if we consider draft and type of keel.

We can also look at the Jeanneau 509 that with a less beamy hull (4.69 to 4.78m), more draft (2.36 to 2.15m) and a 29.6% B/D compared with 28.5% on the Amel . Note that to be of similar effect the B/D of the Amel should be considerably bigger (not smaller) than the one of the Jeanneau to compensate the difference in draft, when in reality is smaller.

This means that the AVS of the Amel, as well as its safety stability is smaller while the inverted stability is bigger than the ones of the Jeanneau and Hanse and much smaller than the one on the HR.

These are not the only disadvantages of having a boat with a lower B/D than the ideal one. These boats if beamy and well designed sail well in light or medium conditions, even upwind. But with stronger conditions upwind, when waves start to grow, because of the large beam and beamy forward sections, the wave drag grows much more rapidly than on a narrower boat, with finer bow sections and much more power will be needed.

On strong conditions upwind the extra power has to come from the ballast while the boat heels, except that on the Amel´s case not much will happen when the boat heels, the power will not be there due to the low B/D and low draft.

The difference between the Amel and the HR in what regards sailing upwind in strong conditions will be simply huge as it is big the difference in what regards safety stability, AVS and inverted stability.

If we look at other expensive similar type of boats like Najad, Discovery, Halberg Rassy, Oyster we will see that the Amel 50 is an exception, that all the others have a B/D superior to the ones of mass production boats and much superior to the one of the Amel. In fact that is normal because it is not only a safety factor but also one that increases the boat power and stiffness.

The reason why all boats don’t have the most desirable B/D regarding the type of design, namely the less expensive ones, has to do with costs. It is expensive to increase the ballast on the boat not because of the cost of the keel or ballast itself but due to the increasing in forces transmitted by the keel to the hull. Also more power means more sail area and that results in bigger efforts on the rig that are transmitted to the hull. All these extra efforts need a stronger hull and a stronger hull structure to absorb them and that is what is expensive.

Finally we arrive to the much praised big fixed dodger of the Amel 50 with a big armchair for the sailor that seats in front of the wheel facing a lot of buttons to command all the winches that are way back on the central cockpit.

Except that this type of set up, big chair and all is used on motorboats or cats, boats that don’t heel. Even with a moderate heel of 15º seating, with all the body weight to one side, is not comfortable, much less for a long time.

 And most of all how can someone adjust the sails under a big fixed dodger without being able to see the main and seeing poorly the trim of the frontal sails?

It is assumed by the ones that have chosen the boat as a winner that this setup, kind of cat style, is the ideal setup for a skipper while sailing on a cruising monohull. I doubt very much.

 If that was the case we would have seen long ago many boats adapting this set up, namely the ones designed as offshore ones. It seems to me that the steering position on the HR is much better than the one on the Amel, with the winch and the traveler at easy reach of the sailor, seated on the high side of the boat with a much better view forward.

ICE 60
On the few occasions that it will be more comfortable or agreeable for the sailor not to hand steer the boat or sail it from near the wheel he can sit under a big removable dodger and command the boat from there the same way the Amel is sailed, with the exception that he will be sailing on autopilot or using a portable autopilot control device to steer the boat.

It would be expected all this to be taken into consideration regarding the comparison between the AMEL and the HR but obviously it was not. I would say that we can all have a look at the sailboat interior and see the differences and our preferences, what is expected of test sails and specialized reviews is the information most cannot see regarding the differences between boats.

And one of those differences that a test sail can help to clear is how different boats sail, except that sailing the boat once or twice, especially if the conditions were light (as it was the case) will only give information regarding those conditions and eventually how the boat feels at the steering wheel and nothing regarding all other sailing conditions.

So, it is not possible to have a good idea of how a given boat will sail on all conditions without testing it? No, it is quite possible to have a good general impression and that is why I am saying that the HR will sail upwind very well with strong winds and the Amel will do it badly. Also that, comparatively to the boat weight, the Halberg Rassy will be able to carry more sail and will reef considerably later than the Amel. To be able to know this all it is needed is to know enough about sailboat design and have comparative data.

If we add to those sailing performance advantages the ones regarding a better safety stability, a better recovery from a knock-down, a better AVS and lower inverted stability, we can say In few words, that the HR is a much better offshore sailboat than the Amel.

While the Amel 50 is in some aspects worse than old designed Amel, the Halberg Rassy 44 is one of the best HR ever made, one that unites the good building and seaworthiness of previous boats to the better speed a modern hull design has allowed.

And the confusion continues on the Performance Cruiser class. Here they nominated three boats: The Swan Club 50 that is used almost exclusively for racing and that does not even have an anchor stand, having a very small galley.

The Grand Soleil 34 points much more for sportive sailing and racing than for cruising, it does not have an anchor stand (much less problematic than on a 50fter) but has a better interior for cruising than the Swan (sizes apart), with a comparatively bigger galley.

The third one, the JPK 45 is a very fast boat with all the needed equipment even for long range cruising without handicapping performance, a kind of a Pogo with a smaller beam, with a much more comfortable interior and better equipped for cruising.

And they chose as 2018 Performance Cruiser the yacht that is designed and used almost exclusively for racing, the Swan club 50!!!

Not meaning that the Swan 50 is not a great and innovative boat but certainly not a performance cruiser. Putting it on this category and not on the category of Special Yachts makes not any sense. Choosing it as the best Performance Cruiser, even less.

This is providing bad information to the public: a performance cruiser is a boat that has as clients the ones that like to cruise in a performance way, fast, having fun while doing it. The Swan club 50 is a boat that has as client rich racers that like to race in a kind of social way and therefore the name Club racer, a top one no doubt in what regards that.


  1. Very, very good post, and a very good conparison on the Amel and HR. I wholeheartedly agree with you on all points.

  2. there's a joke going around here in San Diego where I dock my boat...there are 10's of 1000's boats across all marinas...90% of them never leave their slip (and the anedoctal observation of the quays around me confirm it), of the remaining 10%, 90% never leave the bay, of the remaining 1% only an handful adventure much farther from the entrance channel...sailing from SD to Catalina Islands over one typical last summer night and day I may have may be had visual contact with only another boat...and there a LOT of boats in South California between Los Angeles, Newport Beach and San Diego...this to say...sailing industry is not certainly catering to offshore lone wolves like me and you...magazines are part of the same industry...just saying...


  3. Hello Paulo, I met you on the fair in Düsseldorf on board the Pogo 12.50 and addressed you, but here I would like to take the opportunity to thank you again for the best sailing blog in my opinion. It is always very, very interesting and enriching to read the articles. Also, because not only everything is praised, but sometimes even critically considered. A very, very big THANK YOU for that. Christian from Frankfurt / M.

  4. Hi Christian,

    Thanks for your words. It was very agreeable to meet you on the boat show even more in such an unexpected way LOL.

    Fair winds

  5. It is very clear that you are favoring narrower beam heavy ballasted cruising boats. They are becoming a thing of the past. HR build a great boat but they are just a little slower modernizing their hull design. Look at the new Oysters with the twin rudders and wide sterns. Next thing is foils...

    It is also very clear that you dislike the Amel 50 and you favor the HR boats. The European Yacht of the Year judges disagree with your 'findings'. They could have very easily voted for the HR. Maybe they know something you do not want to consider.

    Finally, have you ever cruised on an Amel? The protected helm area is incredible. Ask the Amel owners who routinely cross oceans. The Amel boat design philosophy works either you like it or not.


    1. That is a very funny thing to say about me on two counts: that I favor narrower boats to beamy boats and that I favor heavy boats to lighter boats and I bet that the ones that know me for a long time will be smiling, if not laughing at your remarks.

      Before beamy boats become the norm, more than 15 years ago, I was already defending the advantages of beamy boats with a hull based on solo racers for most cruising situations.

      At that time the Amel where still narrow boats. It seems or that you don't understand nothing about what I said or that you don't have the knowledge to understand.

      A very good safety stability, a very good RM at 90º heel and a very good AVS are all items that are indispensable to all very good offshore boats, being them narrow or beamy.

      The older Amels had these characteristics, the Halberg Rassy 44 has them too the new Amel 50 has not.

      This has nothing to be beamy or not, the Pogo 50 or the Cigale 16, beamier boats than the Amel, have them as practically all Luxury cruisers, beamier or not, like Malo, Najad, Halberg Rassy, Oyster, Discovery and many others.