Wednesday, May 20, 2020


Cover and above, Jeanneau 440
On the blog I don't talk much about mass production boats and there are not many posts about them. That's because most don't fit on what I consider interesting sailboats, mainly because, even if they can be interesting inexpensive cruising boats, they are not particularly interesting in what regards sailing, seaworthiness or building quality.

All main shipyards have pretty much followed the same tendency in what regards spending most of the money on the interior while saving money in simplifying sail systems and building methods, using on the hull cheaper materials and bonding agents, avoiding anything that is time-consuming in order to offer boats with a very nice interior at the best possible price.

Bavaria C45
In what regards design criteria they all have opted for very beamy hulls to allow a bigger interior and to maximize sail performance downwind and beam reaching, at the cost of upwind performance, hulls that can sail relatively well with a low B/D.

They all maximize light and low medium wind sail performance at the cost of medium-high and strong wind performance as well as seaworthiness in strong and extreme weather.

Jeanneau is from them the one that consistently chose to have less beamy models, generally with a better performance in light wind and upwind in fair weather. Upwind with strong weather they are almost as bad as the others because the B/D is as low as on the other brands, not allowing power to cope with stronger upwind conditions.

Regarding this particular, Hanse is the brand whose models have generally a bigger B/D and due to that, they have a slightly better performance in bad weather, especially upwind. Their models average a better final stability, even if that has to be seen model by model.

Hanse 458
It is not by accident that Hanse is from these manufacturers the only one that sometimes presents the stability curves of their boats on the public technical papers and brochures.

Contrary to what many think there is sound logic in all these decisions about where the money should be spent on a cruising sailboat. In fact mass production brands produce and sell to cruisers the boats most need and want and that is why they sell so many boats and are profitable.

Note that I said cruisers, not sailors because for most cruisers sailing is just a way to cruise less expensively and not, by far, the most important factor in what regards choosing a cruising sailboat. Price and a better, more spacious, nicer and more comfortable cruising interior are the main factors.

And face to an ideal cruising sailboat, one that has not only a great cruising interior and a low price, but has also a great sail performance, a very good seaworthiness, strong built, mass production brands have to cut somewhere to save money, to be able to offer boats at a much lower price than "perfect" cruising sailboats.

Dufour 430
And they cut on the things that are less important for most and that cost more money: less B/D (that dispenses a stronger interior structure), simplified and less strong building methods using plywood bonded bulkheads, single skin hulls, less strong interior structures, the use of less expensive polyester resins and simplified sail hardware.

The typical final product is a yacht that is remarkable for what if offers for the money, normally with a nice and great cruising interior, even if obviously it is not expected the same finish as a much more expensive boat, and a sailboat perfectly adapted to the needs of most, that will never sail in bad weather and will give more importance to cruising than sailing.

Even so in what regards sailing these very well-designed cruisers have a very good performance downwind, a satisfactory one beam reaching, a good one upwind in light or medium winds, if there are no significant waves.

Beneteau Oceanis 46.1
The safety stability could be much better but it is up to Class A standards, the performance in bad weather or upwind in strong conditions leaves much to be desired, as well as the hull rigidity on those conditions, but the point is that most of the ones that will buy these boats are not going to use them on these conditions, so why pay much more for things one does not need or use?

After all, most do coastal cruising, never sail in really bad weather and motor upwind, so the boats that are offered make very good sense, as well as the powerful engines they come with and even the more powerful ones, offered always as an option.

For what I said it is obvious that these boats are not as well built and resistant to bad weather as others much more expensive and if they are to be taken to situations where they can be exposed in a storm for several days, the changes are that breakage will occur more easily on these boats and also that their safety stability is typically not as good as the ones of more expensive boats, neither their ability to sail and cope with strong conditions.

But it is also true that if one is careful in choosing the right time to make passages and sail out of high latitudes, the chances are that they will not experience any trouble, neither really bad weather doing that or even circumnavigating. Many have done that and only relatively few experienced serious problems.

But even if mass-produced brands have much in common the truth is that not all these brands build the boats the same way and make the same choices in what regards building techniques and because many are not aware of that I think it would be interesting to make a post about it, making those differences clear.

Hanse sandwish hull in some yachts
If you try to look at or understand those differences, you will have a hard time because contrary to what it is done by more expensive brands, these ones tell you very little or nothing about the way the boats are built, and in what regards that, the worst are French brands.

Beneteau, Jeanneau and Dufour all use a single skin hull having on the bottom a "contre moule" bonded to the bottom that works as the boat structure. Basically, it is a huge piece of GRP, a giant liner that occupies all the bottom of the boat and that is made industrially. The bulkheads are plywood and bonded to the hull and the furniture goes over that liner.

Hanse and Bavaria use in many models a vacuum infused sandwich hull (check for each model) and on the Hanse sometimes sandwich bulkheads, bonded and laminated, that offer advantages over plywood bulkheads. 

For boat structure they use a frame that is bonded and laminated to the hull. Bavaria uses as core, on the sandwich, a closed-cell foam while Hanse uses balsa.

Bavaria used already a sandwich hull before the new C line but on these  the boat structure was modified and it has become more solid. With the C line many things were altered in the production chain and some finish and youth problems happened on the first models, but I have not heard about recent complaints and I hope they are on the right track now.

All brands use a sandwich deck, infused or injected, with a  foam core or balsa core. A high-quality foam core is preferable to a balsa core due to less problems if there is a water intrusion while a balsa core can offer very good mechanical qualities at a good price. In the last years almost all expensive brands changed for high-quality foam cores, even the ones that previously used balsa.

That is the Dehler case, that is also made by Hanse, and that changed from balsa to a foam core. By the way, the ones that want a better-built boat at a slightly more expensive price can opt for Dehler or Azuree, that offer not only better sailboats but better-built ones, even if they don't invest so much in updating constantly their interiors.

Bavaria. Below, the C-line structure is similar to IT 13.98. 
 All mass production brands use deck steeped masts with compression posts, that have the advantage of allowing a lesser intrusion on the interior and limiting water ingress through the mast. Typically masts that rest over the keel have a superior performance in what regards resisting breakage but today even some race boats use steeped masts, especially smaller ones, so it is a sound solution.

I bet some of you would be saying, fine, but what does all this mean? What is the best choice for me?

 First of all I would like to say that there is nothing wrong with choosing a boat by its interior,  especially if the boat is to be used lightly or almost always in fair weather conditions, and choosing by the interior is a thing you can do by yourself on a boat show.

Saying that, I would like to give you some hints about what all those different techniques and materials mean in what regards quality and regarding that, let me say that all more expensive brands use vacuum infusion sandwich hulls, most of them using a closed-cell sandwich core and vynilester or epoxy resins.

This type of hulls offer a much bigger resistance to torsion, several times more than a monolithic hull with the same weight and allow much more rigid boats, lighter boats. Many think that a sandwich hull has a lesser resistance to impact and that is not true, for the same weight, because resin enters the foam and makes it solid and what you get is a solid sandwich, several times thicker than a monolithic hull, with an inside GRP layer, a solid foam layer and an outside GRP layer.

Dufour: structural contre moule.
So, for the same weight of fiberglass, you have a middle layer of rigid foam with a natural absorbing shock capacity. The first skin would be breached more easily but the foam and the second one will resist better. You will have a hull in need of repair but not a breached one.

The vacuum infusion technique will provide a better and more controlled fiber and foam saturation without wasting more resin than what is optimal (excess resin makes GRP more brittle and the boat heavier).

 That will result in a better composite and a lighter one, meaning that for the same weight a vacuum infused sandwich hull is stronger than a monolithic hull.

So, if you have two boats with about the same size and weight, one with a sandwich hull and infusion techniques and the other using a hand-laid monolithic hull, probably the one with the sandwich hull is stronger, because the other would need to be heavier, to be as strong or flex as little.

However, a sandwich hull has several places that are built using a thick monolithic skin, and that happens in all parts that have through-the-hull passages (to prevent water intrusion) and on the parts where maximum strength is needed and a foam sandwich is not the best solution, namely on the floor where the keel is bolted, where a thick monolithic performs better.

Beneteau an Jeanneau
Another important point is the quality of resins that are used and in this case all use basically polyester resins and only Hanse says that it uses vinylester resin on the outer hull layer (for better osmosis protection). All the others use better polyester resins on the outer layer namely Isophthalic acid resins.

Of course, more expensive brands use vinylester on the hull outside layer, some use only vinylester (that are epoxy-based resins) and a few only epoxy resin, which are better but much more expensive, allowing for lighter and stronger boats.

More expensive brands often use carbon reinforcements on the boat structure or steel frames.

If you have any doubts that sandwich hulls are an improvement over monolithic hulls you should know that not only more expensive brands, but also that the biggest and more expensive yachts from these mass-production brands, use them, like on the Dufours 63, the Beneteau Oceanis 62, the Jeanneau 54.

They all use not the monolithic hulls used on cheaper and smaller boats but, like smaller Bavarias and Hanses, cored hulls, some of them using vinylester resins too. 

The same happens with the proportionally more expensive and better-built racers from Jeanneau and Beneteau like the Figaro 3 or the Sunfast 3300 or 3600. Some of the First have also a sandwich hull, like the First 27 and the First 53.

Let's talk now about boat structures and about the advantages or disadvantages of the structural huge contre-moules (liners) that cover the bottom of the Dufours, Beneteaus and Jeanneaus versus the grid solution that is used by Hanse and Bavaria and also on more expensive brands.

Hull with a superior built (Solaris)
The biggest advantage of the contre-moule is that it provides an inexpensive and safe way to distribute all the charges from the keel by a large portion of the hull, contributing to rigidify it.

The disadvantage is that it does not allow an easy way to inspect if all the liner remains effectively bonded to the hull and in case of a grounding makes inspection very hard and reparation very, very expensive.

It seems that Jeanneau has been working to better verify structure damage in a grounding, but all is relative. Typically a small repair on these systems will cost several ten thousands euros because the boat has to be taken apart for doing it.

Hanse has sandwich bulkheads in some yachts
The grid system that is also the one used by more expensive brands, is a more expensive way to obtain the same results but will allow a much easier inspection and will make a repair much cheaper and that is very important not only in new boats but in used boats where it is impossible to know if the boat has been grounded.

Bavaria and Hanse really use a kind of mixed system, a more substantial grid structure that is also a liner, but a much smaller one. Bavaria has improved the type of structure on the C-line, using one that has some similitudes with the one used on the better built and more expensive Italia Yachts (same designer), which allows also the integration of the bulkheads and furniture, increasing rigidity.
Hanse 418 one of the smallest MP with a SW hull
Note that I am not saying that although when basically made the same way, more expensive yachts have not a stronger keel structure. It has to be stronger because they have a bigger B/D. 

A good way to have an idea about the boat strength in this area is to look at the boat structure and at the size and number of bolts on each boat as well as the size of the steel backing plates.

But good luck with that on a boat show. Most
more expensive brands will be happy and proud to show that to you but from my experience  it is very difficult to manage that someone will show that to you on a mass-production brand. 

That's for the same reason why you will find photos and descriptions about the way hulls are built on the sites of more expensive brands and nothing about it or very little on mass-production brands and nothing in what concerns French brands.

The photos we can find showing how the hulls are built and the different boat structures are incredibly few and I apologize for the lack of visual information on this post but you can believe me, it is very difficult to find any.

Even if a lack of public information suggests otherwise, it is important to know how boats are built, especially because they are not all built the same way. All this information should be easily obtained on the boat sites and brochures but in what concerns mass-production boats the only one that publishes more significant information is Hanse, which in some cases even publishes the stability curve.

Bavaria also says something about it but in a very limited way and to find more about that you have to search on the pages of the boat designer:

The Dehler 38 has a sandwich hull
The French brands will not tell you how the boats are built, neither on the site nor on the brochures. Independent of generic statements regarding all boats the only real way to know how a given boat is built is to look at what the standard specifications document says about that.

That's the only document that has a  contractual bond to the buyer. But be sure to see if it is updated because sometimes it changes from year to year. Unfortunately those documents are very specific about all things the boat includes but vague in the way the hull and boat are built, many not even referring the material the bulkheads are made of.

Special attention should be given to the way the hull is built, namely with a more expensive sandwich-hull or with a single skin hull, to the material bulkheads are made and if they are just bonded or laminated too, and if they are also laminated to the deck.

Hanse and Bavaria should be checked model by model. Smaller Hanse models are now built with single skin (monolithic skin), the 418 is the first with a sandwich-hull but the new 458 comes with a single skin hull and only bigger boats have a sandwich-hull. 

On Jeanneau, Dufour or Beneteau only the top and more expensive yachts use a sandwich hull.

Some examples of specification files:

Elan and Salona have a vacuum infused sw hull
When the price and quality of the interior are what counts most, it is hard to justify better and more expensive building techniques, when very few care about the way the boat is built and the majority just assumes they are all the same in what regards building quality.

Now you know they are not built the same way, not even among mass-produced boats and it may help you to understand why apparently similar boats can have so dissimilar prices and that, contrary to what boat magazines may lead you to believe, it is not about luxury, it is about better sailboats.

Most advertising on boat magazines is from mass production brands so it is not unexpected that they choose to have as categories, on the European Yacht of the Year contest, Luxury cruising sailboats versus Family cruisers, for differentiating between better cruising sailboats, from the ones that are not so good even if the differences have nothing to do with family and certainly not with luxury.


  1. Incredible article! You made it easy to understand construction and cost differences in yacht manufacturing. Certainly not something you can easily read in mainstream publications!
    Thank you for your excellent work!

  2. 'You get what you pay for' still holds true, although with sailboats it's a bit harder to assess what you really get. Therefore, your article is important and helpful. Congratulations, it's an excellent piece!
    IMO the so-called mass-producers have good reasons to specify and build boats the way they are doing it. After all, there is a lot of demand for what I call floating condos with minimal sailing capabilities. Fortunately, there are alternatives available for those who care ... and have the cash to pay the difference.

  3. Viva Paulo, que maravilha de artigo. Sigo o seu blog já uns bons tempos e é de longe um dos melhores e honestos blogs que já vi sobre Veleiros. Muito Obrigado por ensinar e ajudar a compreender melhor o lado menos conhecido da construção dos veleiros tão famosamente eleitos como o Veleiro do Ano... Dá que pensar! Paulo Rodrigues

    1. olá Paulo, sem dúvida seu xará Paulo está fazendo um ótimo trabalho. eu também estou acompanhando o blog dele faz tempo e já aprendi muita coisa ... ;-)

  4. Great article because it identifies a very important issue; value for money. Few people can afford the yacht of their dreams, but can be very happy with a boat that is more than adequate for their needs.

  5. Great article indeed! Very helpful to better understand value in a very much "invisible" area... and with great technical insights. Well done, thanks!

  6. Clear as usual, I think anyone want to buy a boat should read your blog first.

    Regarding the sandwich construction, many reported heavy problems in case of undetected water entry between the layers, with huge repairing cost. May be for a cruising boat, where some kg more in the hull is not an issue, a single skin well reinforced can have some advantages?

    1. Hi Fillipo, when you say "water entry between the layers" I assume you mean water ingress to the core. The only way that can happen is trough outer skin damage or due to low quality gel coat/paint and polyester resin over the time (osmosis), and when I'm saying over the time I mean years and years. Vinylester and Epoxy resins don't have that problem
      Water ingress in the core is only a "big problem" in wood core like balsa core or plywood but not in close cells foam.
      When you say single skin can have some advantages over sandwich construction, the only way to compare both structures is to know the lay up applied in both cases, something nearly realisticly impossible. In same areas of the boat single skin is preferred over sandwich structures, some others, the contrary.

      Just an opinion ;)


  7. Great article!!!

    There is one detail can be used to see if a boat have been constructed for real sailing: the situation and length of the mainsheet track.

    I am pretty sure than in almost all the boats of this blog is in the pope and it is long.


  8. Great read thank you. There is one discrepancy you state " All mass production brands use deck steeped masts with compression posts". Dehler 38SQ and Dehler 42 both have kill stepped masts.

    1. Hi, Your post entered the first time but it needs to be approved (lots of spam). You have to wait for that to be done for being published.

      I don't consider Dehler a mass production brand. The number of boats manufactured by year does not qualify it as that.

      I would say that is a medium production brand, like Grand Soleil for instance, that on the more sportive range, performance cruisers like Dehler, also use keel steeped masts.

      Almost all brands that make real performance cruisers, or cruiser racers, use keel stepped masts on their models, but none of these brands is a mass production brand.

    2. Hi Paulo. Thank you for your response and clarification. Good to hear you do not consider Dehler as mass production brand. Funny enough they are owned by Hanse and produced is Hanse yard. You discussed Hanse and Dehler in you article along other makes and as a reader I was under impression you were. I keep enjoying reading your blog.

    3. Hi Thomas, yes Dehler belong to Hanse group but they have a separated management, a bit like Grand Soleil belonged to Bavaria group (some years back), or as Nautitech belongs now to Bavaria group. Separated brands belonging to the same group.

      Nice to hear from you and sorry if I gave you the wrong impression, but on the title of the article is clear what are the brands I am referring as mass production builders.

    4. Also the Bavaria C57 is keel stepped.

  9. Hi great insight and whilst been sailing sometime never really thought about construction just what the wife likes from the boat shows. Just put the deposit down on a Bavaria C57 and after checking she has a vacuum sealed foam core, solid GRP bottom and bonded stringers along with a keel step mast. Phew!

  10. Hi Paulo, very interesting article. Small friendly correction from a true fan. The Hanse 458 comes with a sandwich hull, including a core-mat, which I guess is some high density foam as opposed to balsa, and an exterior vinyl ester, between the external GRP laminate and the gelcoat. This seems very similar to the build of Dehler, including for the bonded and laminated grid. I wonder what is your thinking and I pray for the new Hanse 460 to be built alike. Let's see. Cheers and goodspeed

    1. They say that on the brochure but on the document that matters, the specifications, they say it is monolithic.

      Or it is an unacceptable error on the specifications, or more likely they used some parts of the brochure of the previous 45ft, that had in fact a sandwich hull.

      You can download the specifications on this page:

  11. Thank you for this really great and informative article!

  12. I think you try to explain building techniques and materials - but you miss to explain that the cost of a hull is around %30 of the total cost of a ready to sail boat. The interior of the "higher brands" is made of better, rounded, woods. that costs a lot more to build than plywood interior of French and German. I do not agree that Swedish or Germans and French sailboats hulls are built to last. You dont read them sunk or insurance prices in europe would shoot up. Bavaria now (2021) builds hand-laid for sailboats .. no more infusion. What i mean, they change their building methods (all the time more or less the same technologies tough) depending on the circumstances of the industry at that time. In the case of impact with a solid object, I do not believe a HR, Malo, X-Yacht compared to a French or German boat would have significantly different outputs. Their interior and deck fittings, very different. That is where the pricing differs.

  13. Very good article (despite your complicated syntax :)

  14. Fantastic article!! Thank you!!