by Quentin Warren
Blue Water Sailing
A high-end European performance cruiser with blue-water appeal
In ways both subtle and stunning, Denmark-based X-Yachts has parlayed two decades on the European production front into a strong contemporary U.S. presence. More the steady evolution of a solid line of yachts than the invasion of a market force, the phenomenon in this country began small and has come to reflect high levels of performance, boatbuilding and refinement carried in a range that spans 30 to 73 feet. Blue Water Sailing had the opportunity to spend some time aboard the X-482 in Chesapeake Bay last fall on a 150-mile trip from Annapolis, Md., to Norfolk, Va. Conditions included flat water and fluky breezes that varied between eight and 15 knots. The boat was a joy to sail and steer.
X-Yachts was developed in 1979 by a partnership composed of designer Niels Jeppesen, builder and market specialist Lars Jeppesen, and laminate and production mastermind Birger Hansen – all three of whom still run the company today. They struck pay dirt in May of 1979 with the introduction of the X-79, a high-octane 25-foot one-design developed in the vernacular of the American J/24 and Sweden’s Albin Express. By 1983, the X-79 Class was 350 boats strong and dominated the Northern European one-design scene. For X-Yachts, it was, quite literally, off to the races.
With a well established emphasis on performance and cutting-edge production, the company continued to ratchet up its international persona with successful forays into high-tech racing fare, from Half-Tonners to One Tonners and right on up to 50- and 60-foot offshore racers. Significant was a continuing effort to design for and incorporate state-of-the-art materials and fabrication techniques such as carbon fiber, Nomex honeycomb core, and autoclave curing.
In the past ten years or so, X-Yachts has applied diligently learned lessons to the development of what the company calls its Performance Cruising line. The harbinger of this effort was the popular X-412 introduced in 1990, currently in Mark III production and still in demand. The boat combined graceful good looks with IMS championship-level jets. The X-482 followed in its wake in Europe five years later. Both vessels pursue the mission statement developed by X-Yachts for the entire range: “That is, to have the most comfortable, easily handled yacht possible which, in the right hands and with the right sails and crew, is capable of winning the most prestigious regattas against the toughest competition.”
Niels Jeppesen’s approach with the 482 has been to invoke elements of classic appeal in terms of its lines and accommodations, and wrap this up in a high-performance hullform with plenty of sail power and good stability numbers for heavy-weather work. The boat boasts a long, lanky profile that allows it to carry considerable freeboard; this, in consort with a subtle rising sheer forward, suggests a conscious attempt by Jeppesen to divert boarding seas upwind and keep the vessel as dry as possible. Hull entry is V-shaped, fine and deep, resolving as you move aft into a fairly substantial U-shaped underbody with plenty of deadrise for good tracking and directional stability under way. Max beam of 14’1” occurs fairly far aft, around Station 6, then tapers back gracefully astern.
All in all, it makes for a versatile boat, extremely controllable and fun to sail, whether you are eyeing coastal day hops or settled in for some long-distance transoceanic passagemaking. Deeper sections reduce the uncomfortable tendency of so many modern thoroughbred racers – with their flattened, pan-shaped underbodies – to pound relentlessly in headseas while thrashing into breezes forward of the beam. The keel is short in chord length, deep and hydrodynamically astute; it’s there to hold the boat upright, aid tracking and provide lift while minimizing drag. The rudder shows a lithe, tapered, semi-elliptical profile; it is balanced keenly, and the fingertip control you reap at the helm is worthy of emphasis here.
A run through the numbers offers a telling profile of the 482. Ballast/Displacement tips in at a reassuringly stable 42 percent. Given a deep keel that keeps this ballast low (the standard torpedo fin is 8’2”, and even the optional “shoal” keel is fully 7’2”), the figure becomes even more impressive. It is comparable to the Swan 48 (39 percent) and the Morris 48.6 (44 percent), both of which aspire to similar performance goals. Displacement/Length (D/L) at 171 is light without being featherweight, again falling midway between the Swan (200) and the Morris (147). The sailplan, featuring 1,195 square feet of sail area flown off a three-spreader tapered aluminum Sparcraft/X-Yachts masthead rig, delivers a potent Sail Area/Displacement (SA/D) ratio of 21.5, which edges out both the Swan and the Morris. In short, the math points to a powerful yacht with a stiff stability component and restrained displacement. True to form, the X-482 favors a healthy blend of performance and seakeeping.
Production certification and plan approval don’t necessarily beget a great boat, but in terms of pedigree they clearly don’t hurt. The 482 has been built in accordance with European CE-Certification and meets the requirements of the CE directive 94/25/CE for recreational craft, which dictates minimum standards for items such as hull and deck modulus, structural bulkheads, foil attachments, equipment and systems installations, and safety compensation in general. Furthermore, items including hull, deck, keel attachment, bulkheads and frames are plan-approved and built in accordance with American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) prescribed scantlings.
It is probably safe to say that X-Yachts exceeds these criteria by more than a comfortable margin. Hull and deck are fabricated of Divinycell foam core in varying densities with biaxial and triaxial E-glass in an isophthalic polyester resin matrix. Solid laminate occurs in all high-load areas, including a rather impressive hull framing grid, keel and rudder attachment points, and thru-hull locations.
Indeed, the crux of the structure is the hull framing grid itself – a fully integrated 1,100-pound heat-galvanized steel floor frame and girder system that accepts loads from the keel, mast and rig, reinforces the hull in general, and allows the remainder of the vessel to be built light. Monocoque integrity is underscored by structural bulkheads of marine plywood that vary in thickness from 16 to 30 millimeters and are tabbed to hull and deck, tying together the whole ball of wax. The boat feels solid as a rock, whether you are running around the teak decks topside or spending time below; it moves as one, nothing creaks, and the impression you form aboard is one of confidence in the way that everything is put together.
The keel consists of antimony-hardened lead let into a cast-iron top flange. The idea here is to concentrate weight low and to optimize structurally the keel-hull interface. The rudder blade is hand laid in solid biaxial and triaxial E-glass and laminated directly to a tapered aluminum rudder stock with three sets of welded wings. It bears at hull and deck and is operated by way of a custom Whitlock direct-link steering system. We found the helm to be smooth as silk under way, and very responsive in tight maneuvering situations.
SYSTEMS AND MECHANICAL
The 482 lends itself well to being owner maintained – the installation of systems is logical and access to major components is optimized. A 75-horsepower Yanmar 4JH 2-HTE lives beneath the companionway and you can get to it pretty much all the way around by lifting up the companionway steps (assisted by handy pneumatic struts) and by opening large panels port and starboard. There is room for a diesel generator and additional equipment including a watermaker, cabin heaters and air conditioning in the large space beneath the cockpit and between the two after cabins.
Stainless steel water and fuel tanks are installed between floor frames to keep the weight of these components low and to relieve space in the main cabin for provisioning and storage. Tank volumes are recounted on digital readouts at the electrical panel. Cleverly, deck fills are separated to avoid cross-pollination; three freshwater fills are located on the port side, while one diesel fill and two holding-tank pumpouts reside all the way across the deck to starboard.
Electrical distribution is neatly addressed in a main panel at the nav station that hinges outward to reveal a well organized mélange of bundled, carefully identified wires and bus bars. The AC component is isolated from the DC and shielded by a clear plastic safety cover. Discrete switchboards control 12-Volt house and nav circuits on the one hand, and generator/shorepower feeds on the other. Capacities include one 70-amp-hour dedicated engine start battery, and six 70-amp-hour house batteries. Standard charging (not including the genset) is by way of an 80-amp 12V alternator on the engine and a shorepower charger at 110V and 12V/25-amp.
ACCOMMODATIONS AND DECK PLAN
The 482 is available in four standard interior versions, all of which feature satin-finished teak, modern molded furniture for that soft radiused look, and an emphasis on open, airy, functional space. The alternatives include three-cabin and four-cabin arrangements, each in so-called “modern” and “classic” configurations. The three-cabin option features doubles aft in the hips, two heads (forward and aft), a large main saloon, and a spacious double V-berth forward; the four-cabin option features the same, but with an added two-bunk stateroom sharing space with the V-berth in the bow. Sail storage is forward of this and accessed from the deck.
In the modern versions, the main saloon features a nav station on the starboard side at the base of the companionway, and forward of that a large oval dinette and U-shaped settee. Stretched along the port side is a long, longitudinal, Euro-style galley. In the classic versions, the nav station is located on the port side, opposed to starboard by a traditional L-shaped galley in its own niche. Forward are conventional longitudinal settees port and starboard, with a fold-out dinette amidship and pilot berths tucked in above the settees.
We sailed aboard the Three-Cabin Modern Version, but would recommend the Three-Cabin Classic Version shown on page 48. Longitudinal galleys tend to impinge on living space in the saloon, and they are less secure at sea. The traditional arrangement featuring the galley aft and settees with pilot berths is more convenient in a number of ways offshore – from easier, safer cooking,to greater versatility with regard to sleeping and stowing personal gear.
Moving topside, you enter a roomy but secure cockpit with coamings angled nicely to give lumbar support without hitting you the wrong way in the small of the back. The main hatchboards slide conveniently into spring-loaded pockets at the companionway, so they are out of the way yet ready for deployment on a moment’s notice. Halyards, reefing lines and other cordage are organized conveniently through banks of Antal stoppers at the cockpit’s forward bulkhead. The primary and secondary winch component – four two-speed self-tailing Andersen 58s – reside port and starboard. The helm features an oversize Whitlock wheel, just forward of which is the main traveler servicing end-boom mainsail sheeting. All the way aft is a snazzy teak-stepped transom.
The deck forward of the cockpit is clean, wide-open and easy to get around. The cabin is decidedly low-profile, surrounded by luscious teak decks. A lot of people are over the teak deck thing, but there’s no denying that teak is comfortable and solacing underfoot. Discontinuous rod rigging is secured to chain plates with annotated turnbuckles for tuning ease. A detachable intermediate forestay secures in the middle of the foredeck; it is opposed by running backs led aft to the hips. All the way forward are the obligatory windlass, anchor locker, stemhead rollers and jib furling gear, which in the case of the boat we tested was a shiny new Reckmann unit.
BLUE WATER THOUGHTS
Under way, we found the 482 to be well balanced, responsive and stable. It has the power and feel of a big boat with the control and handling characteristics of something much smaller. On flat water in up to 15 knots of breeze we charged along upwind at 35 degrees apparent hitting easy eights and nines. Cracking off to a reach, acceleration was keen. The boat is light and powerful enough to pick up speed readily; it is also big enough, with a long enough waterline, to carry that speed in puffy light-air conditions.
Certainly there is a lot to like about the X-482; in fact it is difficult to find any glaring flaws. As advertised, it is a “performance” boat, which is to say that there is a lot of potential in it worthy of a savvy crew and a premium suit of sails. The sporting owner with whom we sailed is a devoted Melges 24 racer with a particularly strong yen for boats that go fast and trim to form. To subject the 482 to anything less than this mindset behind the wheel would be to sail it well below its capabilities.
That said, however, it bears emphasizing that this same owner is not a professional sailor but rather an enthusiastic outdoorsman with a land job, a family, and a core of buddies with whom he enjoys spending time on the water, whether it is in round-the-buoys competition or cruising passionately over the horizon on his own timetable. When this reporter got off his boat in Norfolk after a full-moon delivery down the Bay, he was headed offshore for the islands.
Notable about the 482 are its strength and stability. The deep keel is well suited to oceangoing service, as is the powerful hullform. The rig is strong and simple – able to carry plenty of canvas, but not dependent on an elaborate spider’s web of running backs and checkstays. The hull and deck are constructed with a lot of attention to detail and stamina. Accommodations are comfortable and basic, hardly overdone but refined nonetheless. Equipment spec’d is first-rate. In short, here’s a 48-footer at a competitive price capable of combining the performance experience with an offshore voyager’s wanderlust.
Draft (std) 8’2” (2.5 m.)
Draft (opt shoal) 7’2” (2.2 m.)
Ballast 11,023 lbs.(5,000 kg.)
Disp 26,455 lbs. (12,000 kg.)
SA (100%) 1,195 sq.ft. (111 sq.m.)
Brewer Comfort 27.8
Fuel 66 gal. (250 ltr.)
Water 118 gal. (450 ltr.)
Auxiliary Yanmar 4JH 2-HTE 75-hp
Designer Niels Jeppesen
Fjordagervej 21 • Box 104
DK-6100 Haderslev • Denmark
Ph: +45 74 52 10 22
Fax: +45 74 53 03 97
Box 3316 • Annapolis, MD 21403
Ph: 410-268-8098 • Ph: 800-926-2878
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