Moody 54 Review

Issue: October 2000

Murphy’s Law, as it applies to sailing, holds that a gust shall arrive at the least opportune moment at a force approximately correlating to the size of the vessel, therefore maximising the potential for mayhem. He’s a sod, that Murphy …

He caught us out while sailing the new Moody 54 on The Solent in July, during a tour de force of international journalists to the Isle of Wight – courtesy of the British Marine Industry Federation. During my 15-minute ‘famil’ on the helm we mostly had five knots of breeze, and thus every inch of working sail (157sq m) was flying on the cutter rig. The yacht glided along at around three knots, trailing a clean wake and showing easy handling.

Just before I handed over the helm the wind strengthened to 15 knots for a few delightful minutes and I had the Moody powering on a close fetch at seven knots. It was a tangible taste of the great power manifest in the 16.7m hull, although I was also aware of a hint of weather-helm. The wind then returned to its fitful self and a French journalist took the wheel. Bored, he tacked the boat and aimed for shore.

We entered a bay dotted with moorings. Yachts and ferries were steadily spilling out of nearby Cowes Marina. The tide was ripping along at three knots. It was hectic but nevertheless we regarded the scene with a certain nonchalance, trusting in the Frenchman’s skills. They make, do they not, the world’s finest singlehanded sailors ?

That’s when Murphy hit, sending 25 knots in all its fury. The Moody heeled, groaned and accelerated. Things happened quickly then as 20 tonnes of plush and powerful cruising yacht headed for disaster. Moorings suddenly presented a perilous slalom course, and yachts appeared from nowhere above our bow. The weather-helm began to take command, for the boat was grossly overpowered. The Frenchman fought for control of the helm and also his English vocabulary. A stream of Gallic expletives ushered forth, which I interpreted to mean “get off your bums and help me, you cretins”.

We eased the sails and also the boom vang for good measure, and the bow bore away towards safer waters. It proved once again that only fools underestimate the handling of a large, powerful yacht in close quarters, even one dressed as a mild-mannered centre-cockpit cruising yacht.

The new 54-footer, designed by Bill Dixon and built by Marine Projects Limited, made her debut in the English spring (our autumn) as the new flagship of the Moody range. Luxuriously appointed and spacious, it has been designed to accommodate seven people in style for serious bluewater cruising. For ease of shorthanded handling, standard equipment includes electric-powered primary winches and a 10hp bow thruster. The triple-spreader cutter rig has a self tacking staysail and furling for all sails (including in-mast for the main). Auxiliary power comes via a 100hp four-cylinder turbo-charged Yanmar diesel.

Internationally respected Roel de Groot designed the interior of the Moody 54. Smooth, richly lacquered teak finishes and fine fabrics create a warm and inviting space, accentuated by the natural light that floods through the forward and side-facing windows. There are three generously-proportioned double cabins, including an owner’s stateroom aft with en suite facilities (separate shower). An opportunity exists to convert one of the cabins into an office. The C-shaped galley, to port of the companionway, caters for protracted periods at sea with ample bench and cupboard space. The central cockpit is very spacious and well protected, having a runabout-style wrap-around glass windscreen instead of a canvas dodger. Halyards lead beneath this to be tended from the cockpit.

So successful is the arrangement, in Moody’s eyes, that it is now exclusively a centre-cockpit builder. Certainly with hull designs carrying their maximum beam further aft, it makes more sense these days. The flat surface aft of the cockpit can be used for sunbaking, or tender storage. Davits are another option although Moody has gone to the trouble of providing a hydraulic-powered drawbridge boarding platform – seems a waste to block the transom access.

Price is around $400,000, with the first year’s orders being snapped up. Simon Limb of Marine Projects states: “The 50 to 60-foot band within the market place is a particularly active area and the Moody 54 has a very competitive position within this market.

“With the boat’s modern styling, and aimed squarely at the bluewater cruiser, the Moody 54 is appealing strongly in both home and overseas markets.” Factor in the exchange rate and Aussies are looking at a million-dollar investment. But if that’s the price of quality, so be it.

Story by Mark Rothfield.