Thursday, November 22, 2018


Sunbeam is an Austrian shipyard that have been making boats for more than five decades. For many years they looked like Bavarias, with a better finish but designed along the same lines, maybe because the designer was the same (J&J) and like Bavarias were a bit on the conservative side of yacht design.

They have recently modernized all their line, the boats are well designed (still by J&J) the finish is very good and the Sunbeam 46.1 looks nice and comfortable. That’s a pity that the recent actualisation on the designs did not reach their building methods that continue do maintain good quality but using conservative methods: the hulls are monolithic and they still use manual lay up instead of vacuum infusion.

Even so the boats are not too heavy maybe because they use some carbon to reinforce the boat structure and use the bulkheads, that are laminated to the hull and deck to form a kind of integral structure.
Above, Sunbeam 46.1, below, X4 6

The Sunbeam 46.1, as the new X46, belong to a new class of yachts: till now in what regards high quality boats we had performance cruisers, also caller cruiser-racers and medium weight sailing boats. Performance cruisers are boats like the Arcona, Solaris, and medium weight cruisers, boats like Halberg Rassy, Najad, Amel.

Between these two types there was space for a new type of boat, one that stayed in between these two, lighter than the medium ones, heavier than the cruiser racers, trying to achieve speed with comfort and minimum fuss. X yachts and Grand Soleil pioneered the way creating a new line of yachts that was aimed to achieve this, on GS the LC line on X yachts the X line, staying in the middle ground between the XC line and XP line. In fact this is only a new type of boat because it is better built and has a considerably bigger B/D than the mass production boats (Oceanis, Bavaria, Jeanneau etc) otherwise, in what regards SA/D and D/L they have not very different characteristics.
Above, Oceanis 46.1, below XC45 and HR 44

Taking a look at the D/L and SA/D we can see that the Sunbeam 46.1 has a 147.4 D/L and a 21.2 SA/D, the Oceanis 46.1 has a 127.0 D/L and a 21.5 SA/D, the X46 has a 146.3 D/L and a 23.6 SA/D, the XC 45 has a 173.2 D/L and a 20.4 SA/D and the Hallberg Rassy 44 has a 173.7 D/L and a 19.9 SA/D.

This means that, generally speaking and compared with mass production boats, in light wind and downwind the performances are similar but the Sunbeam will have a slightly better performance beam reaching in medium winds, a better performance upwind with medium winds, a much better performance with strong winds and a considerably better reserve stability and AVS.

The Sunbeam 46.1 35% B/D on a bulbed keel with a 2.20m draft is a good value but one that cannot be compared with the 40% on the Hallberg Rassy 44, the 45% of the XC 45 or the 41% on the X46, but a value that will compare favourably with the 29% of the Amel 50 or the 26% of the Oceanis 46.1.

Note that the HR has10cm less draft than the Sunbeam, that the Oceanis has 15cm more , that the XC45 has the same draft, that the Amel 50 has 5cm less and that the X46 has 10cm more and that all have similar bulbed keels with the exception of the X46 that has a more efficient torpedo keel. More draft means that the B/D is maximized, less, the opposite.
Regarding beam the Sunbeam has 4.45m, similar to the one of the Oceanis 46,6 (4.50), the smaller HR 44 has 4.20m, the slightly smaller XC45 has 4.32 and the X46 has 4.27m. The Oceanis is the only one that has all beam pulled to the transom. The HR and the X46 are the ones closer in what that concerns, followed by the Sunbeam and the XC45 that is the one that has a more “classical” hull even if modern and not far from the one of the Sunbeam.

The displacements of the Sunbeam 46.1, the HR44 and the XC 45 are not very different, 13 000kg, 13 300kg and 13 200kg respectively. The Oceanis 46.1 is much lighter with only 10 597 kg, a displacement not far from the one of the X46, 10900kg.

If we consider the weight of the boats without ballasts we will find a different picture, with the Sundbeam 46.1 weighting 8450 kg, the smaller HR44 8000kg, the smaller XC45 7235kg, the smaller X46 6400kg and the Oceanis 46.1 weighting 7862kg.

If we compare the weight of the Oceanis with the one of the Sunbeam, both without ballast, we will see that the difference in weight is far from the difference in boat displacements, only 588kg, that can be easily explained by the need of a stonger structure and hull on the Sunbeam due to the extra efforts that the superior ballast will create.
In fact that difference in weight is surprisingly small if we consider that they say that the Sunbeam has a “massive hull reinforcement” and because the Oceanis, contrary to the Sunbeam, has not only a monolithic hull but also an interior “contremoule” a kind of interior skin that is bonded to the hull and increases boat rigidity. 

We can see that the XC45 and the X46, boats that have a lot of ballast, are the ones that weight less if we take out the ballast weight. That is only possible because they are the boats that use more advanced building techniques having a steel frame as boat structure.
Above Sundbeam 46.1, below Xc45

Till recently on the XC45 the fibber was hand laid but almost all the hull, with the exception of the keel and engine area, was cored, not only the part of the hull over the water line. 

The X46 is built like the X45 with the exception that vacuum infusion is used and that will allow considerable gains in weight due to a better resin use (the X45 is now vacuum infused too). Also the furniture, although nice, is probably lighter than on the other yachts. 

The Sunbeam’s closest rival, the X46, has a nice but slightly different hull, less beamier with a superior B/D, has only four winches, does not have standard a genoa traveller (it is an option) but has a traveller for the main, that is inexistent on the Sunbeam 46.1.

All in all the Sunbeam 46.1 is an interesting sailboat, good looking, lighter than medium weight cruisers, like the Hallberg Rassy and the XC45, not far in dimensions from boats like the Oceanis 46.1 or the Bavaria C45 but with a substantial difference in what regards ballast and B/D ratio. The magazines that tested the Sunbeam 46.1 were impressed with the boat performance and quality:
Above HR44, below Oceanis 46.1

It is also better built than Oceanis and Bavaria, with a much better sail hardware that includes six winches of adequate dimension and a long traveller for different sized genoas as well as traveller for a self taking jib. Like most of the mass production cruisers it does not have a traveller for the boom and instead it has a not very efficient control system on the top of the arch, similar to the ones used on several mass production cruisers.

The Sunbeam 46.1 costs, standard without vat, 365 000 euros while the smaller X46 costs 399 500, the XC 45 costs 457 500, the Hallberg Rassy 44 around 500 000 and the Oceanis 46.1 costs 225 300 euros. Regarding price the Sunbeam 46.1 is midway between the higher one of the smaller HR44 and the lower one of the Oceanis 46.1.


  1. Hi Paulo,

    The new Sunbeam is for sure a step up in design from the older models. I quite like the Xc-style stern.

    I thought I could add some comments that you might find more or less interesting regarding Sunbeam, X-yachts and HR.

    First, hull length of the compared boats is as follows: the Sunbeam is 13.99m, the Xc45 is 13.86, the HR44 is 13.68 and finally the smallest (shortest) one, the X4.6 is 13.50m (I hope I got all numbers correct). So the X4.6 is almost 2 feet shorter than the Sunbeam, which might be worth taking into consideration while comparing for example displacement. I would also like to add that not only the two X-yachts but also the HR has a steel frame structure in place.

    Second, another thing I would like to point out is actually related to these steel frames in the X-yachts, and this is maybe of more interest, especially when making comparisons between boats. As you may notice, HR for example state keel weight in their specifications. For the HR44 this is 5,3t. If you look at X-yachts, they never mention keel weight. They state ballast weight instead. To be fair, a lot of manufacturers do and there is actually no problem with that. However, X-yachts do not only consider the keel weight to be included in the ballast, they also include the weight of that steel frame as they consider the steel frame to help stabilize the boat. I cannot argue that this is incorrect, but it does make it more difficult to compare boats. The reason why I wanted to point this out is because this makes some difference to your comparison, not much but still. I don´t know the weight of the steel frames, but maybe it is around 500kg on a boat this size? I´m guessing here though. This means that the B/D ratio, even though still fine, is not as high as you might think. A good friend of mine sailed his X-43 for many years. One of his main complaints was that it was not stiff enough. The ballast was stated at 3700kg, but the keel weight was actually only 2900-3000kg. Knowing this, one can understand that the X-yacht hulls are not that much lower weight than the other boats since you need to add the weight of the steel grid to the hull weights that you have calculated.

    Just thought I should mention this, so that you can do a more fair comparison! :)

    Best regards,

  2. Hi Thomas,

    For comparison purposes I used the D/L and SA/D and those formulas relativize boat size. On the D/L formula the length considered is the LWL so the LWL is already part of the equation.

    Regarding ballast, yes I know that the steel frame is considered ballast (and not only by X-yachts). Not all the X-yachts use the steel frame, the XP uses a carbon frame.

    Yes, that has some implications on the effectiveness of B/L but the weight of the frame is not that much and on the case of the X4 6, if compared with the Sunbeam or the Hallberg Rassy, the different type of the keel more than compensates for that. The X4 6 keel has a CG considerably lower due to most of its weight being concentrated on a lead torpedo.

    If you look at the XC 45, that has the same type of keel of the HR you will see that it has a B/D of 45% while the HR44 has 40% and that will also more than compensate the weight of the steel frame.

    The X43 is a stiff boat and a fast one. Probably what your friend is complaining is about initial stability, meaning that the boat heels a lot more than designs with more beam and the beam brought aft.

    What the boat has is a hull with less form stability than most more modern designs and that's why he heels more till the ballast of the keel starts being truly effective. For that a considerable heeling is needed.

    Stiffness is also a way of saying boat power and the X43 is a powerful boat that still does well racing.