The new 76-foot cruising sloop from France’s CNB in Bordeaux, provides superb sailing performance in a luxury yacht that will turn heads (published August 2016)
Newport, Rhode Island is no stranger to luxury sailing yachts. All summer long super cruisers and mega yachts come and go without causing much fuss among the locals. But in June, a new 76 foot racer cruiser had jaded old salts stopping on the dock with mouths open or swiveling their heads as they sailed by. The boat was the new CNB 76, recently minted in Bordeaux, France and then sailed across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and then on to Newport. According to her owner, this CNB 76, Sapphire, had sailed some 13,000 miles in her first year. To us, she looked brand new.
The 76 is a Philippe Briand design and has all the hallmarks of his recent performance-cruiser designs. Briand happens to be one of BWS’s favorite designers because his boats have the wonderful blend of modern technology with an ineluctable elegance that is hard to describe but is very much apparent as soon as your eyes focus on it.
The 76 has a nearly plumb bow that looks purposeful and modern and extends the waterline as much as possible to increase speed potential. The sheer line is fairly straight but has a slight spring to it as it runs from amidships to the bow. It is subtle but eye catching. The stern is very broad and the after sections of the hull are imbued with a chine that will add to initial stability when the boat is power reaching. The transom folds down to open up a large dinghy garage. The stern platform folds down to form a ramp on which the dinghy can be launched or retrieved. The garage has been designed to accept a Williams jet drive dinghy or a standard RIB with a modified transom.
Under the water, the 76 has a 10 foot, cast iron fin keel with a bulb. The twin rudders are set well apart and quite far aft so the leeward one will always have a good connection to the water and the boat will sail as if on rails in most conditions. The only hitch with twin rudders like this is the lack of control when backing under power; you need more speed than you might think. But a little practice makes this characteristic a non-issue.
The 76 is a yacht by anyone’s standard but the concept was to make it simple for a crew of three or four to sail and cruise. In fact, an experienced couple could handle the 76 in most conditions and with bow and stern thrusters will be able to maneuver it around the docks without too much hassle.
The boat’s hull sections start with a fine entry forward and then an expanding beam as you go aft until you get to the maximum beam at the cockpit. With a flat underwater profile, the boat will slip through and over the water with ease and is sure to have very high average sailing speeds, particularly off the wind.
The rig on Sapphire stands 112 feet off the water and flies a large fully battened traditional mainsail with three reef points all set to be tied in. Her owners are very experienced cruisers and have set up the rig so sail can be shortened easily and often without the mechanical liabilities you might find with an in-boom or in-mast furling system. That said, the 76 can be fitted with an in-mast mainsail or a new, CNB developed in-boom furling system.
The cockpit has been designed to accommodate those who are sailing the boat and those who are lounging without having the two parties on top of each other. The twin helms have redundant engine controls, sailing instruments and chartplotters. The sheets are handled with twin electric winches on each side, so you can always leave a working sheet on its own winch and not secured only by a rope clutch.
The forward area of the cockpit has an U-shaped dinette with a large table to port and a bench settee to starboard. The table in the dinette can be lowered and a folding cushion can be added to transform the area into a large sunning bed.
A high performance hull and rig combined with a functional performance cockpit says a lot about the sailing pedigree of the new 76. The large lounge, wide open foredecks, low profile cabin top and uncluttered deck layout elevates the concept into a stunning and comfortable floating home.
Sapphire was moored to a dock in central Newport and we had on board that summer Friday afternoon four top crew from the CNB factory, the local dealer, the boat’s new professional skipper, a stewardess and the boat’s owner. The skipper got the engine going and engaged the bow and stern thrusters as we dropped the mooring lines and retrieved the fenders. The 76 crabbed sideways and when the skipper put the engine in forward we slid effortlessly out of the confines of the marina and into open water. Interestingly, the engine room is so well insulated that you can barely hear the motor even at cruising revs.
Newport Harbor was buzzing with afternoon traffic and Sapphire got her share of admiring looks as we motored into clear water and turned head to wind to raise the mainsail. The main is a big sail and it would be hard to raise without an electric winch. Instead of leading all halyards back to the cockpit, CNB made the decision to have four winches installed on the deck, two on each side of the mast, so a crewmember can raise and lower sails without filling the cockpit with line.
With the sail up and drawing and the 90 percent jib rolled out, we headed out East Passage in the freshening easterly breeze. The boat has a very solid groove once you get the sails set right and the helm is so light that you can take your hands off the wheel for minutes at a time. The bite of the twin rudders give the impression that the 76 is running on rails.
Just ahead of us as we turned toward the open sea was a new Gunboat 55 under full sail. This is one of the fastest cruising cats anywhere so we noted with real pleasure that the 76 was faster and sailed closer to the wind than the Gunboat. In the 12 to 14 knots of breeze, Sapphire sailed at 28 degrees to the apparent wind and was making 10 to 11 knots over the bottom and seemed to just claw her way to windward in much the way a maxi racing boat does. But she did it without any fuss or bother. One person on the wheel and one managing trim with the electric sheet winches. That’s it, done.
Just outside the entrance to Narragansett Bay, we put the 76 through a tack, which was effortless due to the self tacking jib and then fell off and ran back into the bay. On a broad reach, our speed slowed to eight knots and had we been going anywhere we would have rolled up the jib and rolled out the much larger genoa that is fitted to the head stay. Both sails are controlled with hydraulic Reckmann roller furling systems that you operate with push buttons at the helms. Sapphire also carries an asymmetric spinnaker in a spinnaker sock and, according to the owner, they will be adding two more downwind sails—a Code Zero and a larger chute—for racing.
Even though there were nine of us aboard, the cockpit never felt crowded and the ergonomics worked very well. The working crew managed everything aft and at the mast while the lounging crew made good use of the dinette and settee.
We did not have the dodger or Bimini set up as we sailed. These are stowed in unique compartments built into the coamings and cabin top so they are neatly tucked away and invisible when not in use. When you want protection from wind, sun or rain, the dodger folds out quickly and the Bimini can be set up by one person.
The 76 is truly a cruising boat for sailors who love to sail and who want stellar performance and fast passage making capabilities.
Back inside the bay we rolled up the jib and dowsed the main into its lazy jacks and large pocket boom. It was time to drop the hook and explore the 76’s accommodations. Deploying the anchor is a trick in itself. The bow roller and anchor stow neatly upside down in the anchor locker at the bow. To anchor, you open the locker, press a button on the control wand and the roller and anchor rise up and flip over into position. You then lock the roller into position with a massive stainless steel bolt. While something of a contraption, this is a very neat and innovative anchoring system that keeps the foredeck and bow very clean and uncluttered.
The 76 is a production boat that has a range of options that can be applied buy owners. But it is not a custom boat so CNB has the ability to build them in series and pass on the benefits to owners in terms of a price much lower than for a custom project. CNB is owned by Group Beneteau so they can tap into their parent company’s huge economies of scale.
The boat is arranged around the central saloon that has a large dinette to port and two easy chairs to starboard that can swivel to form a two cushion settee. The kitchen-size galley lies aft under the cockpit and is set up with three fridges and ample working space. It even has a small counter with two bar stools and a large wine cooler. The after double cabin to port is the skipper’s cabin that has two single berths that can be joined to form a large double and its own en suite head and shower. For crews quarters, this is the best you will find on a boat of this size.
The master cabin is all the way forward and has a centerline double that faces forward instead of aft. To protect the occupant’s privacy, the bunk had a high headboard that cuts off the view down the center hallway. The master head is huge. Just aft there are two guest cabins each with its own head. The starboard cabin has bunkbeds and the lower bed can be extended sideways to form a double berth. The port cabin has the same arrangement as the after cabin with twin berths that can be slid together to make a queen.
The 76 is filled with natural light from the windows in the hull, the many deck hatches and the wrap around windows in the saloon. Unlike most deck saloon designs, you can see out of the cabin windows in the saloon while seated at the dinette. Very cool.
The engine room lies beneath the saloon floor and is vast. Access is via two large folding floor panels or through a hatchway under the galley stairs. In Sapphire’s engine room we found the 180 horsepower Volvo diesel, a large genset, a watermaker and access to all of the mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems.
Owners have choices of colors, fabrics, veneers and finish so they can spec a boat to fit their needs. The 76 is a kind of ultimate family cruising boat for sailors of means who want not only a great floating home but also a yacht that sails very well and is capable of making fast, safe and comfortable passages offshore.
Air draft 112’0”
Displ. 99,200 lbs.
Ballast 33, 100 lbs.
Sail area 3,272 sq. ft.
Water 410 gals.
Fuel 675 gals.
Engine Volvo 180-hp.