The X Factor • The new XP 44 from the Danish builder X-Yachts, is a thoroughly modern racer-cruiser built in classic northern European stlye by George Day
Flying overnight from the East Coast of the U.S. to Europe always gives me a through-the-looking-glass sense of being dislocated from time and reality. And so it was when I landed at the Billund airport in central Denmark last September after a hop across the pond from Boston and a layover at Amsterdam’s Shiphol airport. The airport, I was told, was built by and for Lego, whose corporate headquarters are nearby. A Lego airport makes perfect sense. I hadn’t slept a wink and was now, by mid-morning, on my fourth cup of coffee.
I was met by my buddy and host Lars Ostergaard who is with Gori Propellers and immediately swept into his car and driven two hours to a small marina somewhere in west central Denmark. I am sure we talked the whole way, but of what I can’t recall. We found X-Yachts’ CEO Hans Viggaard aboard his XP-44 with his crew Flemming and they were more or less ready to go. They had been in a regatta the day before and had spent a long, amusing evening at the regatta party. They too were on their fourth cups of coffee.
It was a lovely fall afternoon with the promise of a good breeze. We unmoored the 44 from the marina and motored slowly down a narrow channel boarded on both sides by cow pastures and into the arm of a fjord that in turn empties out into the open waters of central Denmark. At one point we passed a herd of cows that was marooned on a small island next to the channel, but they seemed unperturbed when we used them as a turning mark.
Under power the 44 handled easily. The sail drive unit is far enough ahead of the high aspect spade rudder to provide a steady flow of water without any cavitation. In reverse you can maneuver very precisely, while in forward the boat steers like a sports car. The gearshift and throttle lever is mounted below the instrument panel and near your right foot so you can literally operate it with your toes. Once clear of the narrow channel, we gave the engine full throttle and were pleased to see that the 44 has a top speed under power of just over eight knots and a cruising speed of 6.5 knots at 2400 rpms. The feel on the twin wheels is active but not at all hard to control.
We rounded up and hoisted the large, full batten, laminated mainsail and then fell off the wind to reach toward open water. The wind was piping and white caps flecked the sea surface on the horizon. With the 106 percent jib rolled out and with the sails trimmed for reaching, we set out across a wide body of water toward an island just off the coast. The wind speed was a steady 20 knots with gusts over 25. The XP 44 took the conditions in stride and converted wind pressure into impressive speeds with the speedo showing nine knots regularly and 10 from time to time. That’s about a knot and a half over the boat’s theoretical hull speed.
We anchored in the island’s lee for lunch in the cockpit. The cockpit table is easily mountable and demountable and stows away neatly under the cockpit floor while sailing or racing so it is not in the way of sheet trimmers and the afterguard. The cockpit has been designed for performance sailing with the twin wheels aft and the primary and secondary winches positioned for active crew work with both working and downwind sails. On both sides, there are good seats for the helmsman and tactician aft of the helm and the main sheet trimmer can sit right in front of the helmsman to play the sheet and traveler. For a cruising couple, you can have the autopilot steer so you can trim sheets from this same seat. The main sheet is double ended and leads beneath the side decks to the mainsheet winches.
After lunch we hoisted sails again and set off for some windward sailing. The XP 44 lives up to its performance bias by sailing very close to the wind and at good speed. With about 28 knots of apparent wind and one reef tied in, we were able to tack through about 85 degrees and could keep her moving at seven knots or better if I avoided slamming into the rolling waves.
The X-44 handled the gusting breeze and steep chop very well. Playing the traveler we were able to keep the boat fairly flat and that in turn helped to build speed. She felt like a thoroughbred leaping fences as she sailed through the waves.
Once we put the 44 through her paces up wind, we cracked off and ran for home. Again, the 44 showed her pedigree as she pegged 10 knots on a broad reach. This boat would be a lot of fun to race and will be a fine performance cruiser for a couple or family that enjoys sailing higher and faster than the rest of the cruising fleet.
X-Yachts has been building modern, fin keel performance boats since brothers Niels and Lars Jeppesen and their partner Birger Hansen founded the company in 1979. Among their successes on the race course include the world ¾-Ton Cup, the One-Ton Cup and the Two-Ton World Cup. Today, the company builds the XC or cruiser line and the XP performance line to serve both sides of the sailing market.
The XP 44 falls in the middle of the XP fleet with performance siblings ranging from 33 to 65 feet. Designed by Niels Jeppesen, the 44 we sailed was the high performance version with the optional carbon mast and boom and deep bulb keel. The carbon rig is taller and lighter than the standard aluminum spars and increases sail area and provides a higher degree of stability. X-Yachts uses T-bulb keels on their performance designs, which improve balance and keel lift when sailing up wind.
As noted above, the cockpit is set up for a full racing crew yet it is not stripped out or spare. Teak decks are standard in the cockpit and are offered as an option on the decks. The squared off stern is open to the sea but can be fitted with an optional folding swim platform. Two large lockers are built into the aft end of the cockpit.
The 44’s decks are clean and uncluttered since all control lines, halyards and the main sheet run through under-deck conduits aft from the mast to line jammers and winches in the cockpit. On the foredeck, the genoa furling unit fits neatly just below the deck so you can have the maximum luff length on the sail. The anchor fits on a bow roller beneath the short bow sprit from which you fly an asymmetrical spinnaker or Code Zero and the windlass is neatly hidden away inside the anchor locker.
The side decks are wide and uncluttered with the chain plates mounted outboard and the genoa tracks running along the cabin sides. The cabin top has a low profile so you can see over it easily from the cockpit and this gives the whole boat a sleek and elegant look.
I have always admired the Danish design ethic whether it is in modern furniture, architecture or dinnerware since it emphasizes simplicity, natural ingredients and modern trends.
The interior of the X-44, like all of the X-Yachts, has a natural, woody feel yet is thoroughly modern and functional. The boat has a three cabin layout with two quarter cabins aft and the larger master stateroom forward. The forward cabin has a large double V-berth and its own head. The after cabins are set up to be good double berths but the bunks can be split with lee cloths for offshore work and pipe berths can be added above the bunks so the off watch crew can always sleep to windward.
The saloon has an L-shaped galley to port with a three-burner stove and oven, a deep fridge and twin sinks that are close to the centerline and thus will drain on both tacks. The dinette has a table that can be removed for racing but will seat six while you are cruising with friends. The chart table to starboard is on an innovative slide system so you can either have a forward facing chart table or you can slide it aft to expand the bench settee, which will be a good sea berth.
The interior styling uses white surfaces combined with traditional wood trim to achieve a modern “Bristol Fashion” look that provides the warmth you want in a floating home with the simple elegance you expect from a high end, Scandinavian yacht. Certainly, a family of four or five will fit comfortably aboard the 44 for extended cruising and a racing crew will find it serves their needs better than most boats in the fleet.
In the XP-44, form follows function, as it should, but that form is endowed with a distinct X-Yachts flare that beautifully combines the finest boat building techniques and the latest thinking on performance hull and rig design with a comfortable and modern cruising interior. It’s called the X-Factor.
Draft (deep) 8’9”
Ballast 8,488 lbs.
Displ. 19,070 lbs.
Sail area 1,200 sq. ft.
Fuel 53 gals.
Water 92 gals.
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