Boats & Gear

2014 ANNAPOLIS TEST SAILS: Garcia Exploration 45, Seascape 27

Garcia 45 sailing

Day two of this year's test-sailing program looked to be a bit snotty weather-wise, with the forecast early on showing wind gusting to 30 knots, rain, and a good chance of thunderstorms. Great conditions, in other words, for trying out the new Garcia Exploration 45. As things turned out, the weather was actually a bit more moderate than that, but we still enjoyed sporty conditions out on Chesapeake Bay during our first test sail, with the wind blowing about 20 knots true.

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2104 ANNAPOLIS TEST SAILS: Bavaria Cruiser 46, Xc 35, Beneteau Oceanis 35

Bavaria 46 stern

Just back from test-sailing boats après-show this past week at Annapolis. Five boats in two days in fairly strong conditions, with the wind blowing 20 knots at time. Once I even saw gusts to over 30. This is ideal! Normally we get light wind, which makes it harder to get a good sense of how boats behave. My first boat on day one was the Bavaria Cruiser 46, which really is just a new updated version of the Bavaria Cruiser 45. The hull and underwater appendages are the same, but the deck and interior have been modified. As you can see in that photo up top, she has a very wide butt and an enormous fold-down transom.

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2014 ANNAPOLIS BOAT SHOW: Jimmy's New Boat

Garcia 45

Not surprisingly, one of the big draws at this year's U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis has been the new Garcia Exploration 45, developed by French builder Garcia Yachts in cooperation with bluewater sailing guru, author, and ARC founder Jimmy Cornell. I'm a big fan of Garcia, which has been building boats for 40 years now, both because they build in aluminum and because they do it exceedingly well. In the last several years most of their boats have been large stratoshperic custom jobs, well beyond the reach of mere mortals with less than a couple of million to spend, so it's heartening to see them again building something a bit more accessible.

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CRUISING BOAT EVOLUTION: The Golden Age of the Cruiser-Racer

Bolero under sail

Last we reveled in this topic we examined how early cruising boats sailed by more middle-class yachtsmen in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were often working boats that had been repurposed. This marked the beginning of a trend in which the nexus of mainstream yachting shifted inexorably away from the upper crust of society, which mostly viewed yachting as a social activity, toward less affluent, more Corinthian sailors, who practiced it as a sport. Interestingly, one thing that helped precipitate and accelerate this was a growing interest on the part of small-boat cruising sailors in the sport of ocean racing.

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2014 NEWPORT INTERNATIONAL BOAT SHOW: Gunboat 55, Varianta 37, Salona 33, C&C Redline 41

Gunboat 55

I spent yesterday cruising the docks at the show in Newport and was particularly pleased to have a chance to get aboard the new Gunboat 55. You've got to hand it to Peter Johnstone--he is not one to rest on his laurels. After sailing the Gunboat 60 last year at Annapolis, I was impressed by how willing he's been to rethink what a Gunboat might be. Given the great success of the first generation of boats, a lot of builders would have been very happy to just do more of the same. The 60 is definitely a different sort of Gunboat, but the new 55, a very elegant open-bridgedeck design, is something else entirely.

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GARCIA PASSOA 47: French Metal Surfboard

Passoa 47 under sail

Aluminum centerboard cruisers like this are not often seen in North America, but they are common in Europe, particularly in France. Garcia Aluminum, a highly respected French builder, now reorganized as Garcia Yachting, often works on a custom basis but also builds to several standard designs. This Passoa 47, drawn by Phillipe Harle, is very representative of its species. Unlike the keel/centerboard boats most Americans are familiar with, these French boats have integral centerboards descending directly from their bilges. They draw very little water when their boards are up and make great coastal gunkholing boats. They stay upright when aground and can be driven straight on to a beach if desired. They also carry a great deal of fixed internal ballast in their bilges and are self-righting, thus are also suitable for ocean sailing.

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OPEN 60 REFIT: Great American IV Ready to Sail

Brian Harris on GA4

While dropping in occasionally at Maine Yacht Center over the winter to keep tabs on my own boat, I always had half an eyeball on Rich Wilson's new IMOCA Open 60, Great American IV (ex-Mirabaud), which was undergoing a refit for Wilson's 2016 Vendee Globe bid. Recently, MYC general manager Brian Harris (see photo up top) gave me a nickel tour and told me about all the work they'd done.

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DUTCH BARGE RACING: Demolition Sailing

Racing barge

Who says you need a modern go-fast boat with foils to make sailing really exciting? Check out these video clips of traditional Dutch barges, called skutsjes, which were originally used for hauling cargo in Friesland and are still actively raced today. What blows me away in the first one are the guys to leeward with the sounding poles. Looks like a much dicier job than bowman! Note also the major TV sports coverage. Very impressive that. You can tell the Dutch have their priorities straight. Also... there's a nice collision at 3:21.

Funny thing about Dutch, I tried translating the YouTube video description in a couple of different online translation programs, and Dutch translated into English looks just like Dutch in the original Dutch. Maybe someone who speaks Dutch can explain that to me.

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MAINE CAT 38: Minimalist Performance Cruising Cat

Maine Cat 38 quarter view

Speaking of catamarans, this is a new Maine Cat launch coming up this year that I'm looking forward to. I love cats like this--lean and mean and simple, with enough accommodations that you can really go somewhere in them, but not so much that the boat gets fat and slow. This is an open bridgedeck design, similar to the Scape 39 Sport Cruiser I sailed across the South Atlantic a few years ago, but not quite as severe, with some serious hardtop shelter on deck. Basically it looks to be an open-air saloon. Or a huge pilothouse. Take your pick.

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