The Age of Super Cruisers


In this modern gilded age, family cruising boats have grown and grown and grown  (published May 2016)

It has happened so gradually and so steadily over the last 15 years that you would hardly have noticed that the average size of a family cruising boat has increased to the point where 50 footers are common and 60 footers are becoming the new normal.  In the last three years, we have seen all of the high volume production builders introduce cruising boats 60 feet long and larger and most of the more limited run and semi custom builders are pushing the envelope even farther into the LOA stratosphere.

It might take a sociologist to explain the demand for 60 foot family cruising boats since any experienced cruiser will tell you that 60 feet is a whole lot of boat to be handled by an amateur crew let alone a couple or cruising family. Just imagine you and your partner trying to hump the mainsail of your 60-footer into the dinghy and off to the sailmaker for repairs. Of course, most of the boats in the super cruiser fleet have crew quarters, either wedged into the forepeak or tucked into an interior nook and cranny.  And, we imagine, most of the 60 foot and larger boats will live in marinas and boatyards most of the time when not actively cruising where service professionals are readily available.

Steve and Linda Dashew were early pioneers in the super cruiser field with their line of Deerfoot yachts that ranged from 60 to more than 80 feet overall and were designed specifically for couples and families who sailed without crew. In the 80s and 90s, this group was small and comprised of elite sailors who had both the wherewithal to purchase such boats and the experience to handle them.  Many of the Deerfoots were ketches for obvious reasons.

But today, the super cruisers are almost all sloops with very tall masts, large mainsails, and innovative headsail combinations. The technology that made Deerfoots possible has spread to the production line fleets. It is common to find bow and stern thrusters on these boats so docking is more manageable.  Manual winches have gone the way of the handy billy as electric or hydraulic winches manage halyards, control lines and sheets. On larger boats, captive reel winches are making sheet handling even easier.

Every task on a modern cruiser has been made effortless with technology and sail handling is probably the most obvious. If you can manage all sail maneuvers with two people who don’t have to leave the cockpit, except in a rare emergency, then you have created  a super cruiser that can in most cases be handled by a couple.  Roller furling, in-mast furling, self tacking headsails and roller furling or top down furling downwind sails  have changed the dynamic of sailing. That has made the 60-foot family cruiser a reality.

In the following pages, BWS takes a quick look in alphabetical order at a broad cross section of the boats that are now sailing in the 2016 super cruiser fleet.
Amel 64
French builder Amel builds about 12 new cruisers annually in either 55 or 64 foot models. The boats are luxury cruisers that come completely fitted out for cruising. Unlike most of their compatriots the 55 and 64 have ketch rigs with in-mast furling mainsails and cutter style headsail rigs. With the rig broken into these small packages and with all sails handled from the cockpit with hydraulic furling systems, the Amels are a breeze for a lone watchstander—half of a cruising couple—to manage.

The cruising systems on the Amels are as well thought out as you will find anywhere whether you are looking at the anchoring systems, energy systems, water making capability and tanks, or at the way the galley and storage is laid out. The newest versions of the 55 and 64 are much more luxurious and a lot less quirky than Amels from the past and compete in raw quality with any luxury cruiser in the fleet.
17/09/2014, Cannes (FRA,13), Chantier Beneteau, Oceanis 60
Beneteau Oceanis 60 & 62
Beneteau introduced their new Oceanis 60 to the U.S. market in 2015 and proved to themselves and their dealers that there is a demand for family cruisers of this LOA at a price well below the usual custom and semi-custom boats in the 60-plus fleet.  The 60 has a garage for the dinghy under the cockpit and crew’s quarters forward. It has a huge folding transom and a cockpit with twin wheels that can seat 10 people for sundowners.  Down below, the 60 has an interior styled by Nauta Designs that is Euro-modern and both bright and functional.  As you might imagine, Beneteau offers a variety of cabin layouts to suit your needs from an owner’s version to a layout that works for charter.
The 60 paved the way for the all new Oceanis 62 that will be introduced in 2016. The new design is billed by the company as the model for the Oceanis line of the future. With aggressively modern styling and a very streamlined hull and deck, the 62 is bound to turn heads as she sails by.  Look for a BWS boat test and more details as the 62 gets closer to being launched in the U.S.
Bavaria Cruiser 56
The German production builder Bavaria has revamped its whole line in the last five years with full bodied Farr Yacht designs that are more voluminous than earlier Bavaria designs and sail quite a lot better. The flagship of the Bavaria fleet is the Cruiser 56. The boat has all the modern design attributes we expect from a modern  Bavaria cruiser—the huge cockpit with twin wheels, the fold-down transom with a dinghy garage, well laid out sailing systems that allow the boat to be sailed and managed by a couple and a simple efficient rig with a roller furling headsail and either a slab reefed on in-mast furling main.

Below decks the 56 has a four-cabin layout with the master suite forward, two large quarter cabins aft and a Pullman cabin with upper and lower berths tucked in to port.  A family with three or four kids would be happy living aboard. The saloon has a unique amid-ships galley –U-shaped—to starboard that will be a fine seagoing galley. The proper chart table lies just aft of that and is slightly raised. The dinette with its adjustable table to port seats six.  Bavaria has managed to retain a lot of traditional styling in this thoroughly modern cruiser so you feel at home at once when you climb down the companionway.
Discovery 67
The Discovery line of British-built cruising boats has earned the reputation for offering some off the best blue water yachts in the world. The Ron Holland designs are stout seagoing vessels with unique raised deck saloons. The 67 is the company’s largest boat and was created specifically for adventurous couples and families who are headed over the horizon to landfalls far away.  Everything about the 67 is big and robust. The cockpit is large but well protected and has good handholds and foot braces so the crew will be safe and comfortable at sea. The sloop rig can be managed from the cockpit and with the Solent-style headsail arrangement—self-tacking jib inside a large reacher—you can add or decrease sail area at will, all with the press of buttons.

The Discovery difference lies with the way the raised saloon has been designed; you sit at either a U-shaped dinette or the chart table at deck level so you can always see out through the large saloon windows. The galley and forward cabins are down three steps going forward. The engine compartment and tanks lie under the raised saloon floor. The Discovery 67 is a truly luxury world cruiser that will offer her crew many 200-mile days offshore and a comfortable and safe ride in just about all weather.
Dufour 560
Dufour Yachts is one of the venerable boat building brands in France and accounts for a large percentage of boats sold in their home country. The Grand Large  560 is their flagship and the design evokes all that is modern and trendsetting about the French sailing scene. The sleek hull with hard chines aft evolved from the more radical Open 60 designs used in offshore events  like the Vendee Globe. With a low cabin that flows directly aft into the cockpit coaming, the boat looks fast—and is fast. It has a large rig with a performance, fully battened mainsail, a self-tacking jib and a large reacher mounted on the bow sprit.

Below decks the 560 has various cabin options but the basic boat has the master suite forward and quarter cabins aft. The saloon is laid out with the large dinette to port with the U-shaped galley forward of it.  This works very well and the galley is going to be great for the cook while underway. The dinette seats eight. A bench settee and the chart table lie to starboard.  The modern Dufours are trend-setting, high performance sailing machines that have elegant, spacious Euro-modern interiors and the 560 is the queen of the fleet.
Euphoria 54, 68 & 84
A new player in the international cruising market, Euphoria Yachts in Turkey introduced their new Euphoria 54 in 2015 to rave reviews. The sleek, performance cruiser was designed by German Frers and looks magnificent.  Those who have sailed the boat rave about how easy it is to handle and how fast it is in all breezes and points of sail.  The 54 has a very low cabin top so it looks almost like a race boat or an Italian mega daysailer. But this is a proper cruising boat with plenty of living space and systems set up for a couple living aboard for the long haul.
Turkey has become a Mecca for custom yacht building and with the introduction of the Euphoria and Azuree lines, it is poised to become a player in the production market too.

The 54 is very interesting but the company has a 68 and an 84 on the drawing board that will be introduced in the future. The 64 will be a super cruiser for an experienced couple and promises to be great looking, a fine sailing machine and a thoroughbred passagemaker. The 84, on the other hand, will be a super cruising “yacht’ that will require a crew of two or three to run her properly.  Stand by for the  BWS reviews of all three boats as they become available to test.
Grand Soleil 58
Grand Soleil has been building elegant, high quality cruising boats for two generations in Italy and as they have modernized their designs the company has increasingly leaned toward the performance side of the racer-cruiser concept. The new 58 that will be launched in 2016 is the big sister of the fleet and a boat that will shine making fast passages or racing in point to point events.  The boat is available in a stripped out version that will be a racing machine with some accommodations aft. But, for BWS’s audience the two owner’s versions will be more appealing and these offer simple but very adequate galleys, dinettes, chart tables and heads.

The 58’s sailing qualities will be what sells her to performance cruisers. Light, stiff and endowed with a powerful rig, the boat will cruise in the eight to 10 knot range under working sail and will scoot at speeds in the teens with downwind racing sails. The 58 is for the serious sailor who is seeking spirited sailing.
Gunfleet 74
Founded by Richard Matthews who was the founder and long time CEO of Oyster Yachts, Gunfleet is a British builder of very fine, seaworthy blue water yachts.  Although relatively new to the scene, Gunfleet has already demonstrated that their boats are on par or better than just about any other luxury cruisers on the market.  The Gunfleet 43 and 58 are both Tony Castro designs and are both superb sailing boats with innovative accommodations for families out cruising.

The new flagship of the line, the Gunfleet 74, which will be  launched in the near future,  propels the company into the super cruiser category with style. While the 74 could be handled by a very experienced and younger couple, the boat was clearly designed to be run by a skipper and mate who would have their own living quarters forward of the galley which in turn is forward of the saloon.  The owner’s cabin aft is full hull width and all four cabins have en suite heads.  The Gunfleets are go anywhere, no compromise blue water boats for very discerning owners.
Hallberg-Rassy 64
Swedish builder Hallberg-Rassy is known worldwide for the quality of their yachts, for the intergity of the company and for their insistence that things be done the HR Way. They build fine cruising boats from 31 to 64 feet with the HR 64 being their flagship.

Designed by German Frers, the 64 takes the HR ethos to a logical extreme in a boat that can be handled by an experienced couple. A center cockpit design with a large aft cabin under the after deck, the 64 has a sweet Frers hull and a sleek cabin top that is interrupted by the patented HR windshield that protects the cockpit. The rig is a simple cutter configuration, with roller furling on the genoa and staysail and in-mast reefing on the mainsail.  With all sheets, and control lines leading aft to the cockpit, one person (and the autopilot) can sail the boat by him or herself.

Down below the 64 offers a lot of comfort in a warm traditional interior that evokes generations of experience and tradition.  The saloon has a round dinette that will seat six. The galley is in the passageway that leads aft to the wonderful aft master cabin. Forward you can have two good guest cabins and customize the space to suit your cruising needs.

You see Hallberg-Rassys all over the world because they are true blue water boats that are built to last and persevere.
Hanse 675
In the high volume production side of the cruising market, Hanse has paved the way with their super cruisers with the voluminous 505 and 575, both of which have been built in large numbers. The 675 is another leap into the LOA stratosphere. The boat is massive with nearly full length waterline, an expansive beam and very high topsides. You could measure the living space in the 675 in square feet as you would a house and find that combining the cockpit and below decks areas you would be living in a very comfortable four bedroom, four bath bungalow—with an amazing water view.

The boat was designed for simple sailing by a couple so all sail controls, sheets and halyards lead aft to the cockpit. The boat comes with a self-tacking jib and it would be wise to have a reacher on a roller furling unit forward. In-mast reefing is the simplest if least efficient mainsail handling system.

The cockpit will seat 10 to 15 for sundowners and you can have 20 at a party below. Hanse provides so many options it is hard to put your finger on a standard arrangement plan but a four cabin plan with four heads makes sense, particularly if you will be having a couple running the boat for you…professionals. The 675 is a unique boat and a uniquely good value.
Hylas 70
The Hylas 70 is one of the boats that has set the bar very high for a good combination of design integrity, quality of build and value.  But the boat had a rough start since the original deck and raised saloon design did not come out well. But the guys at Hylas went back to the drawing board and came up with a much prettier look and a better boat.

The 70 is a big boat—the cockpit, the foredeck, the rig, the saloon—all are spacious living spaces for a large group.  The master cabin aft is a very big suite with a large head and lots of storage. The main guest cabin forward would be a master cabin on lesser boats. The second guest cabin has a Pullman berth and lots of storage space. Finally, the crew’s cabin near the companionway will be good for a couple. Built in Taiwan, the fit and finish is classic Far Eastern teak, holly and varnish.

Jeanneau 64 - Chantier Jeanneau - Porto Vecchio (FRA,Corsica) - 01/07/2014
Jeanneau 64
Jeanneau introduced two super cruisers to the US market in 2015, the Jeanneau Yacht 54 and the Yacht 64. Jeanneau is a member of Group Beneteau and their larger boats are built in France. The 54 came out of the box at the Annapolis show and proved an instant success. It seems 54s must be the new 45!

But the new 64 is the super cruiser that really turns heads. Designed by Philippe Briand, like all  of the Jeanneaus, the boat has extremely attractive lines, a broad transom with hard chines and a dinghy garage under the cockpit.  The cockpit is suitably huge with long benches, a large table and all sailing sheets led aft to the twin helms. The mainsheet runs to the arch that is over the companionway so no lines foul the living spaces.

Down below there are several ways to set up the accommodation plan.  You can have the master suite aft under the cockpit or forward of the saloon. You can have twin cabins forward of the saloon and a crew’s cabin by the companionway. Or the crew can sleep in the forepeak.  Jeanneau is prepared to build a very custom, semi-custom yacht for you.

BWS has long been a fan of Briand designs and the 64 is a classic example of the designer’s ability to get it right —looks, performance, ergonomics and living spaces.
Oyster  625
For more than 30 years, Oyster Yachts have set the standard among high quality, owner operated blue water yachts. Founder Richard Matthews, himself an accomplished racing and cruising skipper, knew what was right in a good sea boat. Many Oysters have sailed around the world and many dozen have sailed across the Atlantic with the ARC.

Matthews sold the company and it is now run by two European investors, who are keen sailors. The trusted old brand is in good hands and the boats they are building live up to the legacy of the years.  The company now builds models from 47 to 118 feet. In the middle of the range you will find the 625, which Oyster aficionados consider one of the best Oysters ever built and one that a couple could easily manage on their own with help on passages.

The center cockpit, aft cabin raised deck saloon concept has dominated Oyster designs for a long time and the 625 is no exception. Designed by Rob Humphries, the 625 sails very well for a  medium displacement cruiser and is known to have great manners in rough conditions. The rig is simple but powerful and all sails run on either hydraulic or electric furling systems.  Sitting high in the center cockpit the crew stays dry, is at the center of the boat’s center of gravity and has excellent visibility forward.

Down below, the master cabin lies aft while the guest cabins are forward of the saloon. All three cabins have en suite heads.  The crew’s cabin is tucked under the side deck next to the companionway.  The saloon has a large dinette, a curved settee, the chart table and access to tanks and systems below the floor. The galley is in the passageway leading to the aft cabin.  Oysters are proper yachts and can take you anywhere your wanderlust drives you in style, comfort and safety.
Swan 60
Nautor Swan has been building high quality performance yachts—racing and cruising—in Finland for almost 50 years and today continues to build on the long traditions of excellence that made the company of choice for the world’s elite sailors. Today they build yachts from 50 to 115 feet and each is a handcrafted work of boatbuilding art.

The new Swan 60 is a perfect choice to focus on the super cruiser market since it is a racer-cruiser in the classic sense while being a perfectly capable passagemaker and live aboard home for a couple or a family. Designed by German Frers, the sleek, low profile 60 evokes performance and luxury in much the way a Porche 911 does. You sense immediately that there were very few compromises made.

The 60 has an open cockpit that will appeal to racers and be comfortable for cruisers. The twin helms give great visibility forward and provide access to the fold  down stern platform.

Down below the 60 has a fairly conventional standard layout that can be customized to suit an owner’s needs. The master cabin is forward, there are two quarter cabins aft and the large saloon, galley and nav station lie amidships. For experienced sailors who demand the best and who will enjoy both racing and cruising, the new Swan 60 is a super cruiser that will bring home the silver.
Tartan 53
The only American-built boat in this survey of super cruisers, the Tartan 53 is also the smallest. Designed by Tim Jackett and built by Tartan Yachts in Ohio, the 53 is a center cockpit, aft cabin, raised deck saloon cruiser that offers a huge amount of volume and interior accommodations.

The center cockpit is large enough for the whole crew to gather and for al fresco meals. The sail plan is designed to give the widest options with roller furling mainsail, roller furling Solent or 100 percent jib and a roller furling reacher all set and ready to meet whatever conditions you face.

The interior comes in either a three or four cabin version and the saloon is fitted with a large dinette, a chart table and comfortable seats. The fit and finish of Tartan Yachts is legendary and very much in the American tradition of fine woodworking, solid doors and drawer fronts, stainless steel hardware and bright varnish everywhere.

Tartan Yachts is still one of the finest boat building operations in the world and in struggling times has continued to turn out solid cruising boats in the American model. Their 53 super cruiser competes with any vessel anywhere in this size range.

Author: Blue Water Sailing