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London Boat Show - January 2016, ExCel
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... the things about the Boat Show that no one writes in paper magazines...

The sailboats at the show did nothing to change my mind, now convinced more than ever that the vessels worth buying are outrageously expensive while the others are just worth a 2-week charter, maximum. The point is that the price difference is hardly justified. Cannot be. An Oyster 46, an excellent vessel but still ashamed of her winches (see below) costs over 900,000 € while a First 45, surely not the same quality and materials but still a very likeable sailboat with good hardware, costs 250,000 €. I mean, you can buy nearly 4 Firsts with an Oyster. No one is going to convince me that the British semi-custom is worth all that financial effort, not even in a time of falling interest rates.
There is indeed something in the middle, shipyards willing to build sailboats that last and keep a very good resale value, like X-Yachts, Halberg Rassys and Sweden Yachts. Still in many details you cannot see where the price premium is justified. Enter one of the two stern cabins or our show's favourite, the Sweden Yacht 54, close your eyes, touch the ceiling and you'll think you are searching the light on a Ryanair flight, because the plastic is the same, if not worse (at least with a supplement you can have it covered with fake leather). Again, every boat now boasts a Corian or simil-Corian galley, carbon fibre wheels, very thin teak decks and more or less the same hardware. And also the stern cabins are all the same, with the ubiquitous full house of berthonthefloor - locker - fancylight - plasticceiling. Except the Hallberg Rassys, which are indeed wonderful and keep a high resale value, but probably because their design hardly changed since the Thatcher's days, and even hard line conservatives like self are ready for a move, at least towards a semi-flush deck. Hallberg Rassy 43 wins our contest for the best cabin of the category, and I was indeed tempted to buy one, until I saw the price tag. Malo yachts are very similar, your bank account will suffer less and the only difference will be probably the colour of the side stripe. Anyway, there is a very trong feeling that good yachts cannot be built south of the latitude of Copenhagen.

If some of our readers love thin and sleek sterns, they are advised to stay away from the show, especially the Elan stand. The new Elan 450 has a beam by the stern which is a penny smaller than the main. Sideways. The penny, I mean. Everybody knows by now how waves move, and a wide stern is a clear declaration of diminished upwind performances. But every shipyard wants two wide stern cabins, and so one might well hope to sail broad reach all the time. Looking at the shape of these modern boats from the mast, you might be tempted to think that they can 'iron' the waves flat. Unfortunately water does not behave like cotton.


Our favourite compromise between quality and price is the X50. Wonderful lines, classic and rational interiors, good materials, decent use of plastic. Pity no one charters them.


Let's begin from the mass production boats. Beneteau, Jeanneau, Bavaria and Hanse are fighting even more than before on the prices, especially now that Hanse's new factory is dishing out nearly a thousand boats a year. To compare, Oyster makes 30. Every 12 months. The German shipyard is invading the market with sleek, captivating, stylish and minimal yachts. They boast two winches and a list of options longer than the London phone book. Thence the nickname, the Ikea boat. Fresh, summerish vessels you do not want to meet heavy weather on, considering that reliable reports say that you won't be able to close the doors after some nice waves. Rent her, no doubt. As they say at the shipyard, 'the Minimum gives the Maximum': would you really use such a line in your life? To pick up a nice girl, for example? Pure German marketing genius.


Jeanneau did not turn us on at all. True enough, the 54DS is a floating villa, even if the interior is full of steps, and you keep walking up and down... no wonder they had no-slip shoe-covers for the visit. Still the shipyard betrays its charter karma. They tried to put a big owners cabin in the rear... they might as well have put a big onion. Being it a derivation of the double cabin, there are 2 small toilets instead of a big one with a shower.It's the first time ever that I see 2 toilets for une double cabin and I certainly hope it will also be the last. And the ceiling is around 4 inches over the bed. Claustrofobic, really. But Jeanneau wins our contest for the worst positioning of the winches; this is a personal battle that, as sailors and bipeds with a little bit of common sense, decided to declare unilaterally. Now let's see, the skipper calls a tack and we approach the winch. Knees on the cockpit seat, we elongate our spine and arms outwards to reach the drum, with subsequent pain to the sciatic nerve. While we carefully prepare to take the sheet off the tailer, we try to place a hand around the drum. That will not be easy, of course, because the drum is sunk into the fibreglass. At this point the skipper asks us how's our tea and if we do not mind to let the sheet go. This we try to do asap, uncoling it from the top, because no other way would work, but we also say a little prayer in case the sheet get stuck between the drum and the boat. Then we go to the other side to man the other sheet. Here we discover that the perfect grinder on Jeanneaus must have very short arms, because the winch is so close to the steering station that a proper winching action is out of the question. You do not believe it? Visit Jeanneau's website. We must admit that the 45 is a nice sailboat, a good interior and classic galley, nice lines and wide spaces. A perfect choice for sunbathing charters, for ladies who do not like the deck covered with such inconveniences as winches and hardware. Moreover the boat is not excessively light, and this might mean safety.



Let's now turn our attention to Bavaria, the Volksvagen of boats. We must begin saying that one of our colleagues from Norway sailed extensively with a Bavaria in places like the North Atlantic (Faer Oers), Biscay and Portugal, not exactly as calm a destination as Turkey, and, although he acknowledges a rather unemotional sailing feeling, he underlines the lack of problems. And a Bavaria won our company regatta, the Ag mini Barcolana in Trieste, winning against sleeker boats. Bavarias are honest vessels, abundant behind, efficiently engineered to deliver, from the same molds they use to make those matrons ferrying 1-litre glasses at the Oktoberfest. What we like is that northern and warm feeling inside, especially in the 46 where they finally decided to use a lighter colour for the woodwork, that was exceedingly craut and coffinish. What we do not like is the choice of bright varnishes, the galley by the side of the dining area, and the fact that they are basically all the same.



The next part in the spring issue .

Action is at... the Guinness Pub'!!
Campaign to defend the heritage of the proper winch: the Sweden Yacht 54
Campaign to defend the heritage of the proper winch/2: Oyster 46. Very well hidden!!
Oyster 56 wins the best galley award
First 45: the stylish chart table.
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