Contrary to popular belief, a fast yacht has a lot of advantages when you’re heading off on holiday as a couple or with family. Safety, effortless manoeuvrability and fun sailing even in light airs are all substantial, if not essential assets, when you want holidays on the water to play out without a hitch. Indeed, its benefits are in stark contrast to a typical heavier cruiser, which has less ballast stability and a deck layout geared around lounging about rather than manoeuvring. Below are four reasons why a high-performance cruiser is the best choice for sailing with confidence.
“Between Malta and the Italian island of Lampedusa, we encountered 40 knots of breeze on very choppy seas. I was very happy to be on a seaworthy yacht with a deep draft and a cockpit designed to manoeuvre quickly,” explains Thierry Douillard, an inshore and offshore racer, who also relishes family cruises every summer. To escape a gale, a high-performance boat with a reasonable draught (1.90m) and well-proportioned deck fittings, which are positioned in such a way as to enable effortless manoeuvring, is a guarantee of safety. “For years, I’ve chartered yachts designed for anchoring rather than sailing. Close-hauled in a strong breeze, it’s impossible to get to your destination so we’ve had to turn back on several occasions. It’s enough to put you off sailing!” admits Gilles Mendiboure, owner of a J122 Elegance, based in the Mediterranean and built at J Composites in Les Sables d’Olonne on France’s Atlantic coast.
More fun when sailing
Some meticulous work by the naval architects and the design office goes into these so-called high-performance cruisers, particularly with regards to the power-weight ratio, which ensures the best possible balance. At the helm this translates as a thrilling ride: finesse, precision, a bow clear of the water and hence responsive to the slightest twitch of the rudder as well as safe reactions in the gusts. In short, it ensures you get an immense amount of pleasure from sailing! “I often sail alone on my boat and I love feeling that the trimming is serving a purpose. The boat sure is nifty. I only sail along the coast from island to island. I love the idea of going from place to place under sail with a well-trimmed sail wardrobe,” smiles Gilles Mendiboure. Thierry Douillard echoes this sentiment: “An ergonomic deck layout designed around trimming your sails and set up for manœuvres like reefing, well-positioned mainsheet tackle… All this makes for a seaworthy boat and that’s the definition of pleasurable sailing. Equally, it’s more comfortable for everyone on-board and it’s less hard on the crew.”
Devouring the miles faster
Isn’t the pleasure of cruising associated with discovering an unknown island, a solitary anchorage or a foreign port? Whether it’s a question of a long sea crossing or a shorter passage, making fast headway across the water means you can get much more out of a stopover. “Only yesterday it took me just 5 hours to cover 30 miles. Close-hauled in 18 knots of breeze, the boat racked up an average speed of 7 knots. What more could you ask? enquires Gilles. At 30° to the apparent wind at an average speed of 7 knots, or at 55° making 4.5 knots, this takes cruising to another level. “The extra 50cm of draught on these high-performance yachts makes a huge difference when you’re sailing and ultimately it’s not a hindrance at anchor, especially if you’re sailing in the Mediterranean. 1.50m and 1.90m makes no difference when you’re dropping anchor, but it makes a world of difference when you’re sailing!” explains Thierry Douillard.
Less time under power
These high-performance yachts may not be able to boast a Louis XVI chest of drawers, but the layout is very adequate and above all there is a concern for weight distribution, like water and diesel tanks generally being positioned close to the centre of gravity. Add to that a light, stiff construction, and you’ll get a lively craft, which gets up and going in the slightest puff of breeze. High-performance boats love the light airs! Gilles Mendiboure backs this up: “In three years of sailing for 6 months of the year, I’ve only clocked up 120 hours on the engine. In fact, I only use it to exit and enter port.” Less motoring, less noise, even greater pleasure under sail!
Here is an example of a course between Marseille and Ajaccio, mostly upwind in strong breeze.
Green boat : fast cruiser-racer sailboat
Pink boat : cruising sailboat
We notice a difference of 7 hours at the arrival.
So, you’ve got it, for sailing along the coast or long passages, a high-performance yacht can only be an advantage, unless you want to sail in long, narrow inlets or shallow areas. The very essence of navigation is respected on these cruising craft, with more and more emphasis on habitability. The equation of performance = less comfort, no longer holds true. So why deprive yourself when you love real sailing?