This French production yacht offers groundbreaking innovations at an affordable price.
Europe is the epicentre of production yacht building. This is where all the trends, all the innovations are introduced and tested. And the epicentre of the epicentre is France.
When I do my PhD it will be on the history of the French production yacht because the industry has never ceased to break new ground in the affordable yacht market. The French set the tempo that everyone else plays to.
One of the big-name players is Olivier Poncin. Olivier is credited with revamping the Dufour line towards the end of the 20th Century; then, early in the 21st he set up Harmony Yachts. In the process, he built a new factory that uses closed moulds, which are efficient and control emissions. And robots do a lot of the work. The result is tightly-controlled moulding, efficient production and cost savings, the latter reflected in the price of the Harmony 42. It is good value.
The design theme of the 42 is an interesting combination of features. The hull is straight-stemmed with medium displacement, heavier than some of the competition, which for a cruiser is a good thing. You have a choice of three keels, a fin/bulb in iron, the same thing in lead, or a shallow-draught tandem keel two vertical blades supporting a bulb.
The rig is interesting. The chainplates, which attach the rigging to the hull, are on the hull sides instead of inboard, so the rig gets nice long spreaders and hence good mast support. Because the shrouds run out to the hull sides the headsails cannot extend aft of the mast so they must be short-footed. This limits area and makes them easy to winch.
The diagonal shrouds "the angled ones between the spreaders" are led down to the deck for easy adjustment. So this rig reflects the best of current racing practice and is simple, strong and efficient.
Hull construction is special. The skin has a foam-core and Kevlar reinforcement in the bow and around the keel. The shell is strengthened by a moulded internal structure, which presents a Gelcoat finish to the bilge, attractive and easy to clean.
The options list includes a gennaker or, as on this boat, an asymmetric spinnaker with a sock. When the sail is hoisted it is shrouded in a long sock. To free the sail the mouth of the sock is pulled up. To douse it, the sock is pulled down, snuffing it like flame deprived of oxygen. Then you lower the head of the sail to the deck and put it away.
This is a sensible option, even for cruising because the sail's area offsets the small jib, especially when deep-reaching in light airs. And it can be handled by a small crew.
The boat shown here was fitted with the optional Comfort Pack, which costs $18,461, great value because you get a bigger Volvo Penta (55hp instead of 40hp), fully-battened mainsail with batten cars (the sail slides up and down easily), an extra battery, battery charger, insect screens on the windows and lots more. Cheap for the price.
The accommodation layout shows three cabins (two aft, the owner's cab forward) with a navigation area and a large bathroom next to the companionway. The only option is for a second, smaller bathroom (the alternative is a desk) in the main cabin forward.
The galley is a straight-line arrangement on the portside, opposite the dinette, good for serving meals but holding on in a seaway could be a problem.
The fridge is huge, 200lt, and clever, a top-loading device that carries its contents in trays so they are easy to recover. Harmony importer Kevin Brandt reckons if you crank up the thermostat the lower contents freeze.
Part of the Comfort pack option is a strong dinette table mounted on two pedestals so that when it is lowered for sleeping it is rigid. The tabletop's central stowage box touches the floor when the table is lowered, adding rigidity.
There is full headroom everywhere, and opening ports for ventilation.
The cockpit is arranged with the mainsail traveller on the coachroof and the primary (headsail) winches Lewmar 48s on the coachroof. With these you raise the mainsail halyard, roll out the jib then cam off the lines to free the winches so they can handle the jib sheets.
This set-up keeps the winching activity forward so guests aren't disturbed. The secondary winches, for the spinnaker, are near the helmsman.
Vertical bows are vulnerable to anchor damage, a problem which builders tackle in different ways. Harmony have a nice solution, a metal bowsprit (with two rollers), which should hold the Delta plough clear of the Gelcoat. There is a huge anchor locker and a Lewmar electric windlass.
In light, shifty air I found it easier to steer from the leeward side, where the headsail tufts are easier to see.
The steering is well geared and weighted. We took no performance figures, but it doesn't matter if you have a polar diagram to refer to.
This shows the 42 will give you 6 knots hard on the breeze in 15 knots, and above that wind speed the performance builds quickly, reflecting her modest sail area.
The numbers show a sensible approach for a boat intended mainly for cruising not too much working sail, which makes her easy and safe to handle, but performance boosts from the spinnaker (downwind) and, on this boat, the 55hp diesel for when there's not enough wind.
But Kevin will race a 42, fitted with the optional racing sails (tri-radial Mylar main and jib) and presumably the optional lead keel.
The Harmony 42 is biased towards cruising but, as with almost all the mainstream builders these days, the hull is of sophisticated design and should not be slow. The rig is terrific.
This is a well-priced boat. The standard craft basic but, to my mind, not too basic is $299,000, which is great value. Most people will want more but I like the idea of a low base price and comprehensive options list from which I can make careful choices. I, for one, would not want sophisticated entertainment systems.
Malcolm, one of the owners of this boat, reckons his kids won't come sailing if there's no TV and sound system. Leave the kids behind, I say.
As well as the Comfort Pack mentioned above, you can order more electronics, TV and sound system, a PC system, and much more. On top of the Pack options there is a long list of general options, which includes the spinnaker, teak side decks, bow thruster, folding prop, heaps of stuff. Everything is fitted at the factory.
The boat as we sailed in cost $359,000.
The Harmony 42 is pitched at the charter/cruising end of the market, but Olivier Poncin has made sure the buyer can dial up a specification as sophisticated as he or she wants.
The French invented the modern production yacht 40 years ago and they continue to occupy the high ground.
You wonder where the builders and designers can go in the future as they continue to develop the product. Maybe I should write about it one day ?
WORDS : BARRY TRANTER