Ocean ready

Bigger is definitely better, and eminently more comfortable, when it comes to luxury cruising yachts. For the serious bluewater sailor, life really does begin at 50 (feet).

Text Kevin Green  Images Oyster / Bavaria / Kevin Green / Buizen / Discovery Yachts  / Hallberg-Rassy / Hanse / Kevin Green / Hanse / Oyster Yachts / X-Yachts

Our latest 2013 collection of luxury cruising yachts is a fairly eclectic mix, albeit each selected model being in a comparable 50 – 60 foot range. These ten production yachts represent a fairly wide price band (ranging from the sharply priced Bavaria 56 to the premium end where the Australian-built Buizen 52 tops this list, with the UK’s Oyster 575 and Discovery 57 not far behind). Price is by no means the only factor as these yachts are of varying sizes and they reflect different levels of build, interior specification and of course functionality. All these yachts do share a CE ‘A’ rating – which means they are deemed “ocean ready” but how each of them crosses a particular ocean will be very different.

Most of the large production yachting marques such as Hanse, Beneteau, Jeanneau, X-Yachts and Bavaria build what can be described as multi-purpose cruising yachts, which translates into relatively light displacement, high volume hulls. This style of yacht has proven itself in every kind of sailing, including ocean crossings, but being a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ comes at the cost of really being master of none. So when it comes to true bluewater cruising capability, the specialist builders such as Oyster, Discovery, Hallberg Rassy and the local Buizen find their niche. Characterised by heavy displacement, with deep hulls (and bilges) and with elongated lead-filled keels, these boats will sedately sail you across oceans without adding too much extra fizz to your G&T, or water in your wellies, as many are sheltered centre-cockpit designs. Typically the rigs of these ocean voyagers are much more versatile as well, reflecting the variety of weather conditions they may encounter – double headsails for tradewind running, staysails for short-reefed beating and a hull that can be driven without the autopilot wearing itself out – are common features. Their ballast ratios will be high because most of the weight is deep down in the keel. Apart from the premium prices (and of course premium resale values) these often semi-custom yachts reward the discerning owner seeking adventure on the deep blue sea.

This style of yacht can be good in a blow, as I found out first hand during an Atlantic crossing.

We were running in huge seas when our 87-foot Camper & Nicholson began surfing on one particularly large swell. At the time I was working forward at the foot of mainmast and glanced up as I felt our speed gather under the 50-foot swell and then stared in abject fear as the mizzen mast began moving across my position as we started to broach. My crewmate on the helm froze in fear as we careered down the wave, slipping sideways into the broach. But just when the situation was looking hopeless the long keeled yacht corrected her slide and once more tracked straight ahead. Afterwards our shell-shocked crew talked it over – with double tots of rums in our teacups – and most of us put our salvation down to a deep rudder and long, lead filled keel. And of course a good measure of luck.

For the majority of us though, the modern production cruiser will do all we want, and do it with aplomb. Unlike heavy displacement passage making yachts, it won’t stick to the water like glue in light airs when we coast hop or take that dreamed of Darwin-Ambon blue highway to Asia. But the current trend of open plan cockpits with minimal transoms is ideal for ‘warm-water’ boats where ease of swim access and a generally alfresco cruising lifestyle in protected waters is the norm. An interesting variation on this theme is the deck saloon, which is a phrase often used but seldom really meant. An exception is the Moody 54DS that offers truly single level living between the cockpit and saloon.

Several of our listed yachts, or their predecessors, featured in the world’s largest cruising event – the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) last year including several Oyster 575’s, the Hanse 531, Beneteau Oceanis 54’s, Jeanneau 57, Hallberg Rassy 53 and more. Among the accolades for the speediest crossing was the X-Yachts Xc50 that won it’s division, which is unsurprising given that these are thoroughbred performance cruisers. But getting to where you are going at speed may not be everyone’s preference, especially if it’s a bumpy ride, so the heavy displacement cruisers such as the Hallberg Rassy, Oyster and Buizen offer a more sea kindly voyage and can be more effective to windward in heavy seas.

Looking at entrants in the 2012 World ARC it’s no surprise to see that last year’s event – a 26,000 nm circumnavigation – was dominated by the heavy displacement yachts such as Hallberg Rassy and also included the British-built Discovery 67, the larger sibling of the new 57 we list here. The next World ARC sails in 2014 by the way for those of you with circumnavigation on your bucket list.

Closer to home waters, less voyaged new cruising grounds are opening up such as the Myanmar coast, where I visited recently, even Chinese waters are gradually becoming accessible and a friend recently completed the famed North West Passage. Whatever course you set, bon voyage!

The Bavaria Cruiser 56 is a cost-effective contemporary cruiser with a designer-style interior and hull from Farr Design.

Bavaria’s Farr designed 55 was rated as one of my top cruisers in its category when I tested it (alongside the other French and German flagship offerings) so I have high hopes for its successor, the Cruiser 56. What won me over at the time was its performance, combined with a much-improved standard of build throughout, compared with previous non-Farr incarnations of the marque. The twin ruddered hull is aimed at a wide market – from family sailors to the charterers – so volume is high, as are the topsides. Twin rudders are used to cope with the wide beam, which allows for a large cockpit where twin steering binnacles and centre table dominate. Two sets of Lewmar Evo winches are specified plus another a set of halyard winches on the low profile coachroof. The transom houses a large dinghy garage with fold-down swim platform, which worked well on the 55.

The accommodation offers three to five cabin versions in six designs and each provides a crew cabin in the forepeak allowing 11 people to sleep on the yacht at a time. My main gripe on the 55 was the measly portlights and skylights but the 56 has improved this vastly with large skylights, though the small portlights continue. Saloon storage has also changed, with cupboards elevated to the gunwales, as competitor Beneteau has done with its Oceanis 55.

Model Bavaria 56 Cruiser
Design Farr Yacht Design
LWL 14.96m
Beam 4.87m
Draft (option): 2.35m
Displacement (light): 18,600kg
Engine Yanmar 4JH4-HTE 110hp
Sail area Mainsail and foresail standard: 144.5m2
Water 690 litres
300 litres
Ballast 5,500kg
Price $521,625 (sailway Australia)

Beneteau's Oceanis 55 is an ultra modern cruising yacht with stylish accommodation in a sleek hard chined hull.

Beneteau’s ‘bread and butter’ cruising range, the Oceanis, makes up the majority of the French builder’s sales so the new and radically different Oceanis 55 is a significant yacht. Sporting hard chines, twin rudders and a more open deck plan there are many commonalities with Beneteau’s deck-saloon Sense range, as I found when I sail tested it recently.

But look closely and many of the key Oceanis features remain: a deep and practical cockpit with well spaced deck gear, mainsail arch and composite twin wheels and an electric swim platform, so there’s plenty to like; apart from the main hatch saloon style doors.

The interior has been created by Italian Nauta’s Design who have rung the changes. These include the first Oceanis with large hull windows, white bulkheads and cabinetry that has been elevated to the gunwales that frees up space around the settee level.

Typical of Oceanis, there are plenty of accommodation options with three to five cabins available. The forepeak owner’s cabin has discreet forward facing windows, French-style separate toilet and Plexiglass shower area, which also enlarges the main cabin space around the queen bed. The stern guest cabins are fairly conventional but come with plenty of cupboards and headroom.

Model Beneteau Oceanis 55
Design Berret Racoupeau Yacht Design
LOA 16.78m 55"
LWL 15.16m
Draft (deep): 2.20m
Engine Yanmar SD 75 cv POD 120
Sail area Mainsail 67,00m2, Genoa (105 %) 66,00m2
Water 364 litres
Fuel 400 litres
Displacement 16,700kg
Ballast (deep): 4,390kg
$636,000 (base boat from Vicsail)

The Buizen 52 is a strongly built Australian yacht with premium quality finish and easily managed sail plane.

Sydney based Buizen has just launched their second 52 footer to join the beautifully built hull #1 that debuted at the Sydney Boat Show last year. These highly customised deck saloons of Peter Lowe design represent the traditional end of the luxury cruiser market and having watched the first being built I can vouch for the quality. Along with the 60 model, which is yet to be built, these are very much owner’s yachts with many custom touches up for discussion. With these new yachts the yard carries on the work tradition embodied in their award-winning Buizen 48 model but under the new ownership of Steve Howe who told us that he intends to carry the mantle for the original owners, brothers’ Eddy and Fritz Buizen. The brothers would typically spend 10,000 man-hours to produce these hand built customised boats.

The new Buizen 52 continues the 48’s layout of a forward owner’s stateroom with separate shower, toilet and vanity unit. At the stern the guest cabins also have ensuites.

For entertaining on deck a large table folds out in front of the twin helms which offer a clear walk through to the stern where a transom garage for dinghy storage is hydraulically operated to create a swim platform.

Hull #2 has been tricked-up with a full carbon keel-stepped mast and boom but as standard there is a roller furled rig (Leisure Furl alloy boom with hydraulic furling system) that should make sail handling a breeze. The second Buizen 52 will be based in Tasmania, an apt cruising ground for this rugged yacht but before that look out for it at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week later this year.

Model Buizen 52
Design Peter Lowe
LOA 15.85m
LWL 14.20m
Beam 4.76m
Draft 2.2m
Displacement 20,800kg
Engine 160Hp Yanmar turbo diesel
Sail area Mainsail: 74.5m2, Genoa: 53.6m2
Water 644 litres
Fuel 1,180 litres
Ballast 6000kg (lead)
Price $2,195,000

The Discovery 57 is a true blue water cruising yacht built to modern standards with a highly specified inventory.

A heavy displacement luxury yacht for the serious bluewater cruising yachtsman, the Discovery 57 is the latest offering from this boutique British yard. An evolution of the well proven 55 model, the 57 is a highly specified Ron Holland design.

The Southampton yard produces about 10 boats annually, highly customised with all work done in-house, including specialist joinery. The deck saloon 57 has a deep cockpit, twin helms, four electric Lewmars (plus two more on the mast) and a versatile sail plan. A hallmark of all Discovery Yachts is that they are intended to be handled by just two people, so sail controls include in-mast furling as standard and all control lines and winches are positioned within the cockpit.

The solid wood interior is designed by Ken Freivokh Design with corridor galley and elevated saloon. Accommodation comprises two guest cabins forward while the owner enjoys the privacy of the stern for the master cabin. Each yacht is delivered with a high level of quality equipment fitted as standard including microwave, generator, domestic washer/dryer and central heating, and even memory foam mattresses. A shaft drive Volvo D3 150hp engine is housed in a walk-in engine room that is thickly soundproofed – so ideal for generator use – and is fitted with twin 150amp alternators.

The standard foresail arrangement is a double headsail – ideal for Tradewind running – and has roller reefing, self-tacking jib plus roller Genoa.

An Australian has just commissioned hull #6 and will do a world cruise before returning with his 57.

Model Discovery 57
Design Ron Holland
LOA 17.90 m 58’ 8”
LWL 15.80m
Draft 2.35m
Displacement (half tanks) 29,000kg
Engine Volvo D3 150hp shaft drive
Sail area Mainsail 80.0m2, Jib 58.0m2, Genoa 109.0m2
Water 1,000 litres
Fuel 1,300 litres
Price $1,869,084 (ex-factory)

The Hallberg-Rassy 55 is a sturdily built centre cockpit bluewater cruiser with a hull design by German Frers.

Swedish yard Hallberg-Rassy is one of the most respected builders of solid bluewater cruisers and their latest boat the H55 is an evolution of the well-proven H54. Hallberg build about 100 boats per year, which allows plenty of detailed joinery and hand crafted finishes, something that has maintained the marque’s reputation for quality throughout the decades. This centre cockpit yacht is built to withstand the hardships of ocean sailing – a much smaller sistership has just completed the ice journey through the North West Passage.

Nearly all of the deck gear is oversized and the centre cockpit is deep and well protected with a huge spray hood. An innovative feature on the H55 is the solid sliding main hatch washboard which is fully adjustable. Another good feature is the design of a seaworthy transom that transforms into a swim platform.

Accommodation is very much based around the owner with the centre cockpit allowing a vast aft cabin with island bed and ensuite. The two forward cabins have a shared bathroom but can have a third if the alternate layout is chosen which includes two cabins aft. Hallberg-Rassy interiors are all about lustrous wood and the H55 is no exception with strongly grained dark wood and plenty of wooden handholds, rails and uprights for supporting crew in a seaway.

Model Hallberg Rassy 55
Design German Frers
LOA 16.68m (hull)
Beam 4.69m
Draft 2.30m
Displacement 26,300kg
Engine Volvo Penta D4-180hp shaft
Sail area 181.3m2 (main and genoa)
Water 1,050 litres
Fuel 900 litres
Price $1,267,448 (ex-factory)

The Hanse 575 is a stylish large volume cruiser with extensive options at a most competitive price.

The new Hanse 575 is the German builder’s second largest production yacht behind the 630 but is very much in the flagship category, with a myriad of options to fit into its cavernous hull. Hanse’s signature streamlined deck with low coachroof lends this yacht a stylish air but practicalities aren’t ignored, thanks to sizable bulwarks keeping the sea at bay.

The 575 is designed for couples to sail or to use as a home-from-home, so interior options are extensive with six different layouts and ‘hundreds’ of finish combinations available to give this yacht your own identity. On all versions the owner’s cabin is in the forepeak – just behind a crew quarters or sail locker – and has an island berth with French-style separate head and shower rooms. The main saloon offers vast headroom and is saved from being too open by a central bench that houses the television, adjoining a U-shaped dinette.

Hatches are prolific for natural light and LED throughout is an efficient way to use the on board power – with genset available to run a host of power-hungry options from dishwasher to wine fridge.

At the wide stern, the swim platform lowers to reveal a large dinghy garage and one option here is a 2.89 metre Williams jet powered tender which launches on an electrical track system.

Australian distributor Peter Hrones at Windcraft is particular excited, he tells us, at having two of these large Hanses models on order with the first arriving (hull #35) in time for the Sydney boat show in July.

Model Hanse 575
Design Judel / Vrolijk
LOA 17.15 m 56´3?
LWL 15.15m
Draft 2.85m
Displacement 19,500kg
Engine Volvo 78 kW / 107hp shaft
Sail area Mainsail 87.50m2, self-tacking jib 63m2, Genoa 105% 74m2, gennaker 210m2
Water 810 litres
Fuel 520 litres
Ballast 5,900kg
$715,000 (base boat Australia)

A powerful hull with proven cruising credentials, the Jeanneau 57 may evolve into a 64 next year.

I attended a press conference during April in Cannes where Jeanneau announced their intention to launch a new flagship cruiser, rumoured to be a 64 footer, but they were keeping very tight-lipped about the details. Breaking the 60-foot barrier is an exciting prospect but Jeanneau has proven capabilities in the large cruiser market with its existing 57.

On board life often centres around the cockpit, which has easy entry via the stepped transom and swim platform, which opens into a dinghy garage. Preferring an enclosed cockpit, Jeanneau has large lockers forming the transom and the wide split level cockpit is dominated by a large teak table that even houses a fridge/icemaker. But it’s a cosy social area despite its acreage thanks to high coamings, the tall cabin top and sprayhood, with a bimini as well to complete an effective bluewater cruising setup. Again, showing its bluewater credentials automation systems include a Quick anchor control on the helm binnacle, where all the Raymarine instruments are easily referred to, with a plotter bulkhead sited on the table. Other features include the tinted Plexiglass sliding main hatch and all lines are hidden under gutters with big electric winches doing the Genoa grunt work.

Jeanneau offers a plethora of accommodation layouts for the new 57 with up to five cabins and the flexibility of movable partitions. One layout has the owner’s suite in the stern, a large double with movable partition up forward and a double V-berth as well – the latter comes standard as a separate sail locker.

Model Jeanneau 57
Design Philippe Briand Yacht Design 
LOA 17.78m
LWL 15.35m
Draft 2.50m
Displacement (light): 20,600kg
Engine Volkswagen Marine TDI 140-5 140hp
Sail area Mainsail 75m2, Genoa 88m2
Water 930 litres
Fuel 435 litres
Ballast 6,100kg

The Moody 54Ds has a  modern version of the traditional deck saloon with real potential as a live aboard cruiser.

The British brand Moody has come a long way since the ownership move to Hanse Group and like the BMW-Mini hook-up the changes have been radical. The latest of these large Deck Saloons is the Moody 54. The Moody concept, unlike some competing brands, is a deck saloon in the old tradition with walk-in access from the spacious cockpit so the appeal should be broad. Folk such as motor boaters, tired of simply turning a key but wanting limited effort for hoisting sails yet plenty of weather protection, are a prime market.

The Dixon design looks pretty similar in styling to its smaller sibling, the 45DS, but the hull has more windows and those deep bulwarks give confidence when striding along the teak clad decks.

Interiors can vary and local distributor Windcraft (who has ordered the first two 54s’ built) are delivering two different layouts. Hull #1 will be the galley-up option, with four cabins so ideal for families. The optional stern accommodation also comprises an office or workshop which is useful for longer term cruising. Hull #2 is the standard version with three cabins and a larger galley- down for those wanting more cooking space while freeing up the deck saloon space. Being a true deck saloon the views are 360 degrees through the large rectangular windows with sliding doors opening to create an inside/outside area. A Selden alloy rig has a hydraulic boom vang, in-mast furling and a good a variety of headsail options – self-tacker, Genoa, staysail, gennaker and Code Zero. Windcraft tell us the first 54DS will be arriving in time for the 2014 Sydney International Boat Show 2014.

Model Moody 45DS
Design Dixon Yacht Design
LOA 7.15 m 56’3
Beam 5.20m
Draft 2.60m
Displacement 14,000 kg
Engine Volvo D3-110 110 kW/ 150hp
Sail area Main 81.50m2, jib 65.00m2, genoa 79.00m2, gennaker 200.00m2
Water 810 litres
Fuel 1000 litres
Ballast 7,000kg
$1,085,000 (base boat Australia)

A benchmark standard among dedicated bluewater cruisers, the Oyster 575 oozes luxury and style.

The 575 is one of the most popular Oysters built so the new revamped version of this luxury British cruiser is well worth inclusion in our listing. The company has just told us they are currently building hull number 24 and one of the latest is going to an Australian buyer.

Following in the wake of the award-winning Oyster 625, the saloon on the Rob Humphreys’ designed 575 now has vertical ‘Seascape’ windows, an increasingly popular feature on even mass produced yachts that much improves natural light below decks.

For offshore cruising the centre cockpit design is hard to beat, as it protects you well while also opening up the stern to unobstructed cabin space. The deck saloon interior with its elevated design and large windows is another attractive feature. A four-cabin layout devotes the aft section to the owner’s suite while two double guest cabins are forward, leaving a small cabin with bunks amidships.

The 575’s mast is from Formula Spars or Selden, keel stepped and a sailplan that is a cutter rig with in-mast furling and hydraulic tensioners, including the boom vang/backstay.

The latest 575 comes with flush hatches and the deep cockpit has twin-wheels outboard along with a table for al fresco dining.

Several 575s are coming to Australia as part of the 26 strong Oyster World Rally Fleet due in Mackay by the end July. and Oyster management are flying down to host a ‘half-way’ party at Hamilton Island 4th August, so this is a great chance to see these yachts.

Model Oyster 575
Design Rob Humphreys
LOA 17.89m 58’8”
LWL 15.72m
Draft 2.70 m
Displacement 27,250kg
Engine Volvo Penta D3-150hp 110kW
Sail area 194.8m2 (with 150% foretriangle)
Water 950 litres
Fuel 1300 litres
Ballast 8,090kg
$1,780,080 (ex-factory)

X-Yachts Xc 50 is a  performance cruiser with quality deck gear and intended as a fast passage maker.

Premium performance cruisers have been exemplified by the X-Yachts brand for several years now, since the Danish builder launched its dedicated XC cruising range. Bringing the rigorous build quality that it was known for in its main business – performance yachts – to the cruising range has successfully opened up a new market and the XC50 is its flagship boat in this range (comprising the 38, 42 and 45). Having sailed several of these modern X-Yachts, I find they never fail to convince, something that can’t be said for all in this category. Of course this comes at a price as well as a particular focus that may not suit every potential owner.

This flagship model delivers plenty of space and big boat features such as 24V power, layout options and long-range cruising capabilities. For marina handling a retractable MaxPower bow thruster is available. Sail handling is done via high quality Andersen gear while the alloy rig has rod shrouds. A flexible sailplan can include in-boom furled main, self-tacking jib as well as conventional roller furling genoas (140 or 106 per cent).

The layout has three cabins, all ensuite, with owner’s suite forward. A fairly conventionally laid out saloon has a dinette with bench while opposite the lounge is well ventilated with several elongated opening portlights. The Xc range has deeper V-shaped hulls unlike the more slippery U-shaped hulls of their performance brethren while an internal steel grid locates the keel, mast and rigging for strength and rigidity. The keel uses a lead bulb on a cast iron shaft, thereby keeping the weight low and resulting in a high ballast ratio, always a positive for a serious cruising boat.

Model X-Yachts Xc 50
Design X-Yachts
LOA 14.99m
LWL 13.51m
Draft 2.35m
Displacement 16,085kg
Engine 110hp
Sail area Mainsail 73.1 m2, self-tacking jib (94%) 53.3m2, Genoa (106%) 60.1 m2, assy. 180m2
Water 800 litres
Fuel 600 litres
Price $990,000 (base boat)


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