Friday, March 8, 2019


Remember the Neo 350? I have posted about it 4 years ago: beautiful design by Ceccarelli, on the lines of the bigger 400, that had already proven to be an incredibly fast boat, specially with strong winds:

The first Neo 350 is on the water, the second almost finished and a third on the way, time to have a look at the boat and to see if it is as nice as the drawings. And yes, it is  a beautiful boat, slim, very elegant, looking bigger than a 35ft cruiser-racer.

Let me tell you that after having meet  Paolo Semearo, the technical director, there is no doubt in my mind that this boat is made by sail enthusiasts for sail enthusiasts. Yes, they want to make a living out of it but the funny thing is that talking to them you understand that the money is not the more important issue here but making beautiful fast boats.

They don't make boats for making money, they make boats because they love building and sailing fast boats and they even say that they know that it is impossible to make real money building this type of boats. They just survive, but doing what they like, with great quality, attention to the details and even adjusting each boat to the needs and demands of each sailor.

This attitude is hard to find today on the boat building business. Among small builders they are not unique in their passion about sailing boats and sailing,  but there are so few that they deserve to be mentioned and applauded.

 Of course, this means that the boat can be made with vinylester or epoxy resins with carbon reinforcements, it can have one rudder blade or two, that can have a tiller or two wheels, that it can have different types of keels and even small variations in ballast to make it more adapted to IRC or ORC racing and the interior can be slightly modified to suit owner's tastes.

Unidirectional E-Glass / pvc foam composite by vacuum infusion used on the two versions and on the more high tech they use hull carbon reinforcements, epoxy resin, carbon bulkheads and keel frames, steel/weldox blade with lead CNC machined bulb,  carbon rudder,carbon mast and boom, carbon bowsprit and carbon tiller.

The displacement on the two versions is the same and all the weight saved goes to the ballast that is bigger on the high-tech version. That will give it a not very different performance in light winds but with stronger winds the boat with more ballast will be quicker. With demanding conditions the boat should be a blast to sail and also very seaworthy.

The predicted displacement turned out to be a bit optimistic and the real displacement is 4400kg, the ballast is 1700kg on the ORC maximized version. The IRC maximized version can have more ballast. Even on the ORC version the B/D is already 39% and that and a beamy hull, with a big hull form stability, will make it a hugely powerful sailboat.

Paolo says that the only boat on the water is a more cruising oriented version with all cruising equipment, the low spec version and that the owner is an amateur racer that has made only local races, all light to medium wind races. Even so the boat proved to be faster on the water than a top X35.

The X35 is one of the two boats from the racing line of X yachts, faster than the XP line and due to its hull characteristics the X35 has its better performance in light to medium winds (much narrower boat) and on stronger conditions the Neo 350 should not only be faster but much faster, especially the higher specs version that is designed to be very near to the maximum rating allowed for ORC group C, with a CDL of 9.76.

Curiously in what regards displacement, ballast and draft the Neo 350 and the X35 are very similar (4400kg - 4300kg; 1700kg - 1700kg; 2.09m - 2.15m) but the LWL is bigger on the Neo (9.65m -   9.12m) and the beam is much bigger, all of it brought back on the Neo, more classical on the X yacht (3.65m - 3.27).

With similar displacement and ballasts, the Neo 350 much bigger hull form stability (due not only to a much bigger beam but also to the hull design, with all beam brought back) will give it a considerably bigger overall stability and that allows it to carry a bigger sail area for a given wind.

I would say that in light winds the X35 is probably faster but with medium and stronger winds the Neo 350 will not only be faster but much faster. For the ones that want to sail solo or in duo ( to compensate the weight of a crew seated on the side) the Neo 350 can have 350L of water ballast that can be passed from one side to another (two tanks).

I would say that option would not only make sense to sail offshore in duo as it will also be a very interesting way of increasing the water tankage for ocean crossings. The standard tankage is 150L water and 60L diesel.

It is yet early to know the real sailing potential of the Neo 350 but I would say that the hull looks beautifully designed, the numbers seem right and on the video it sails very well. We will soon know how it performs racing since the two first boats, the two existing boats will be doing the ORC World Championship in Croatia, in just about two months and I hope at least one of them will be on the Middle Sea Race.

 I have no doubts that they will be very fast in real time, it is more of a question to know if the boats will be competitive in compensated time. I also don't have doubts that the boat with a torpedo and a bit more ballast will be even faster in oceanic conditions. That's the stupid thing about handicap racing: they don't make the boat as fast and seaworthy as it can be but as competitive it can be for a given rating and most of the time that results on a slower boat.

My enthusiasm is a bit more moderate regarding the boat interior. Yes it has nice features as the furniture to be part of the boat, made in fiberglass and the open layout but I cannot say the same about that idea to close the cabinets with carbon "sail". If the boat is used for cruising and they are full of jars and bottles I foresee a lot of stuff spilled while going hard upwind.

Above the Ofcet 32, Below JPK 10.10
Also hard to open them without everything coming out. I suppose that at request and at a cost they can be closed with veneer or sliding transparent plastic material but it is a pity that they do not come standard on the more cruising oriented version.

The other thing I don't like is the poor functionality of the galley and not only due to the opening of the cabinets. On a small galley like that all space has to be functional and polyvalent.  As it is it will be ver difficult to prepare a decent meal there.

And it would not be difficult, heavy or expensive to make it better, the only things needed would be a removable veneer board over the stove, that would provide additional working space and instead of the single sink (that does not cover all available space) a double aluminium one, with a board closing one of the sinks, a board that would work as cutting place to prepare food.

Regarding storage for cruising and racing the boat is well thought of: for racing the table can be lowered and the cushions taken away providing a great place to have sails ready to deploy at the bow. For cruising the boat has a swim ladder and a good space aft, under the cockpit, for storage with an access that doesn't look very easy or practical, at least while sailing.

Of course, for cruising one of the aft cabins has to be turned into storage space and the boat will be suited only for a couple, or a couple with two small children. An interesting boat as a very fast cruiser-racer even if some details have to be reviewed in what regards cruising. Nothing big or difficult.

The prices are not high for the quality: the vinylester version will start at 170 000 euros and the epoxy one with carbon reinforcements at 190 000 euros.

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