The 45-foot Jim Taylor design that Sabre Yachts reintroduced at the fall boat shows has long been one of our favorite mid-size family cruisers. In its earlier incarnation as the Sabre 452, I sailed the boat offshore from Maryland to Massachusetts and had a lovely trip. The boat—then and now—has an excellent hull shape, so it moves easily and surely through the water. We had a bit of wind on that trip and the boat handled it with real grace and style.
Sabre ceased production of the boat simply because the company was so booked up building Sabreline powerboats that they needed the factory space that the 452 line was occupying. But there remained over the years a steady interest in the 45-footer, so last year the company decided to bring it back to life with some improvements and modifications.
Last fall on Chesapeake Bay, I had a chance to sail the new 456 fresh out of the factory and rigged for cruising. Aboard was designer Jim Taylor, who has designed all of Sabre’s sailboats since 1991; Bentley Collins, Sabre’s director of sales and marketing; and the boat’s owner, Bob Comeaux. A congenial crew, all of whom are good sailors.
A typical fall morning on the Chesapeake brought light winds and fairly balmy temperatures. The lack of wind didn’t deter us. We set out from Mears Marina in Annapolis, MD and motored into the bay. The 456 has a turbocharged 75 horsepower Yanmar, so it had no trouble achieving hull speed of 8.2 knots at maximum revs. We hoisted the full battened main, rolled out the genoa, and soon we were sliding along sweetly in 8 knots of wind.
Sabres are known for their classic lines, thoughtfully laid out deck plans and rigs, and finely finished, Maine-style interiors. But they are also known for their consistently good performance under sail. The 456 made 5+ knots in 8 knots of wind and tacked easily in 90 degrees. We sailed out into the bay, then turned back and jibed downwind on our way to Annapolis. Off the wind, the boat seemed to almost ghost along as the apparent wind dropped and the boat speed increased.
The 456 steers positively, with the single Edson destroyer wheel linked to the large, balanced spade rudder, and swings very nicely through tacks and jibes without losing momentum. The rudder has a carbon fiber rudder stock that reduces weight and provides superior stiffness and strength. Also, the carbon post can be laminated into the rudder, which prevents water from seeping into the laminate as it always does around a stainless rudder post.
Trimming sheets in the cockpit worked very well with four experienced sailors…and the electric winches. It is so simple to trim and ease the sheets that you find yourself fiddling and trimming as the breeze fluctuates much more than you might in normal cruising mode with manual winches. Once you are over 50, electric winches are the way to go—particularly if you sail singlehanded or as a couple most of the time.
The cockpit layout is good for six adults to eat around the table or manage sheets, but not so large that the volume becomes a liability should a wave break into it. The aft lockers are large enough for a lot of deck gear, and on the boat we were testing, the port locker has been transformed into a storage and work room where the genset is mounted. Access is through the locker from the cockpit or via a door aft of the galley. For extended cruising, this is a useful innovation. Alternatively, this space could also be a standard quarter cabin with a double berth.
The swim platform aft is quite modest in size and fits neatly with the boat’s attractive lines. You will be able to board and debark the dinghy easily here, as well as swim and shower.
Moving around the boat you always find a good handhold where you need it. The side decks are wide and fairly unobstructed by the shrouds. The propane locker is under the port side deck—out of the way but convenient for handling the tanks. All the way forward, the chain locker is huge and partitioned to accept two anchor rodes; this fits neatly with the dual bow rollers that can permanently carry two 20 kilo or larger anchors. The vertical axis windlass is mounted aft of the locker. For safety as well as styling, the locker doors close completely to make the locker watertight—a feature you rarely see on modern production boats.
Sabre pays a lot of attention to the small details that make their boats special. Among them are stainless steel fittings such as chalks, stanchion bases and cleats, which are all sculpted to look elegant but also designed to enhance the boat’s performance.
After a couple of hours of very pleasant sailing, we rolled up the headsail, furled the main and headed back to Mears Marina. Sailing the Sabre 456 gives you the feeling of riding a well-mannered thoroughbred; the boat has a very fine pedigree and is beautifully proportioned, well laid out for sailing, close winded and fast.
It is not often that a boat builder introduces a new word to the sailing lexicon, but this year Sabre has done just that. The interior styling of the 456 that we sailed in Annapolis has an interesting new feel. The main door to the forward cabin—which slides side to side instead of swinging into the saloon—and the cabinet doors behind the settee and dinette are delicate batten and rice paper styling that looks very Japanese.
The design is called, in Japanese, “shoji.” As Bentley Collins informed us, “Shoji, also called souji, was prevalent in the medieval age (1185-1568) and is a generic term for partitions that can divide the interior of a building into separate rooms.”
Ah so. The effect down below on the 456 is subtle and very attractive. Combined with the hand crafted American cherry joinery, the white overhead panels, and the large and numerous ports and hatches, the boat exudes Maine-built quality and innovative design.
The forward cabin has a centerline double berth with access from both sides—much simpler to make in the morning, and you can get in and out without hurdling over your mate. Since we seem to need to check the anchor more often through the night, this is an excellent design improvement. Under the berth you will find four huge drawers that are large enough to serve as home for four seasons of sailing clothes. The forward head is also roomy and has a separate shower stall.
The saloon has the dinette to port and the bench settee to starboard; both of these will make good sea berths when sailing to Bermuda or Hawaii. The dinette converts into a double berth when you have a crowd aboard. With stools that tuck under the table in use, you can get six around the table comfortably and squeeze in eight in a pinch.
The 456’s galley is a sea cook’s dream, with what seems like an acre of counter space. Under the counter, the boat is equipped with two horizontal fridge–freeze drawers. This is such a good solution to the issue of fridge-diving through top loading hatches that we expect to see other builders copy the design.
The tradeoff is that the sinks had to be moved outboard, where they may not drain entirely when hard over on the starboard tack— but what sea cook would allow that at meal time?
The workroom is just aft of the galley through a full-size door. With a workbench, a vise, tool and spare parts lockers, the genset, and more, this is such a useful space that serious cruisers will grasp its value at once.
Consistent with the way we all navigate today—digitally on chartplotters—the chart table has been kept relatively small and serves as the communications center as much as a chart table. Facing outboard, all of the instruments and radios can be mounted right in front of the navigator and within easy reach.
The aft cabin or guest cabin has a good-size double berth that you mount from the forward end. The cabin has plenty of head room and enough floor space to swing a small cat so you won’t have to contort your limbs when dressing.
The aft head will work nicely as the boat’s “day head” and as a wet locker when sailing in rainy weather.
Shoji styling in harmony with the Maine-built integrity of the cherry woodwork gives the new 456 a warm and homey feel. The layout works extremely well for a couple who cruise with friends or children.
In this economy, it is something of a bold move for Sabre to reintroduce a boat that was successful a few years ago, albeit refined and improved. But there was a pent up demand for a Sabre of this size, so the crowds at the boat shows have been large and enthusiastic.
There’s good reason for that—the 456 is a true modern classic in a size now considered suitable for offshore sailing and extended cruising. The boat is a superior sailing boat that will make excellent day runs and fine offshore passages. And, it will be a fine and elegant floating home.
The 456 is built to NMMA, ABYC, USCG and CE category A standards, so you know the build-quality is at the highest level. And, it is Maine-built, which for many sailors worldwide, is all they need to know.
Displ. 27,150 lbs.
Sail area 1,043 sq. ft.
Water 200 gals.
Fuel 100 gals.
Holding 45 gals.
South Casco, ME • 207.655.3831