Issue: October 2002
You know that the times are a-changing when a young bloke, thirtyish, buys a new 42ft yacht as his first boat – of any kind. And learns to sail. You know the times have really changed when he buys a fast cruiser/racer as his second boat and takes second place in a major long-distance ocean race.
He was able to do it because he could (a) afford it, (b) because we can safely assume he’s not a mug and (c) his new boat is a stock model, so the boating industry could give him a lot of after-sales support.
It seems that the old days, when ocean racing was impenetrable, the most exclusive sport in the world, dominated by the rich and powerful supported by prima donna yacht jocks, have gone. And it’s a good thing, too.
Nick bought his Bavaria 42 from Sydney importers North South Yachting. He had a good time with his Bavaria, cruising with the family and a bit of racing, so he went back to North South for his next boat, a Danish-built X-Yacht.
The X-Yacht company is big news in the Northern Hemisphere for building very classy boats in two basic lines – the X-Yachts (ten models, which they call their Performance Cruising Line i.e. fast cruisers you can race) and the IMX series (three models at the moment) which are racers, pitched at the IMS and IRC rating systems but retaining a high level of trim.
The French team recently won the Commodore Cup with a team of two IMX 40s and an X-442. Nick chose the X- 442, but he wanted to tailor the boat for his requirements. He wanted to be able to sail it, safely, with his wife and two children, a three-year old boy and a new baby girl. He also wanted to be able to indulge his increasing passion for racing.
Nick and Andrew Parkes of North South Yachting decided they would specify electric primary winches and self-steering to make the boat easy to sail short-handed. They put in a plasma screen TV with DVD, so the three-year old could watch videos below and stay out of trouble, while the baby slept in a suspended cot. Nick also chose the teak deck.
For the racing sails Andrew sent Nick to Quantum Sails, where Geoff Couell built the sails and maintains them. “We don’t have allegiance to one loft, but because it was Nick’s first campaign we needed a loft that would make a big commitment to the programme,” Andrew said.
“On top of that Geoff is a nice guy, which never hurts your sailing. No one wants to go out with a bunch of yellers and screamers.” Andrew helped the new owner work his way through the complexities of the safety regulations and Nick tracked down an ocean racing crew from various sources.
So with a mix of friends, sailing acquaintances and experienced offshore sailors, the new crew sailed the boat to second overall on PHF in the Sydney-Gold Coast race in July, seven months after taking delivery of the new boat. The race was won by an X-412.
Nick’s next objective is to have his boat rated under IRC. “One small step at a time,” he said.
The X-442 was designed by Neils Jeppesen, one of the company founders in the 70s. The 13.5m hull displaces 9700kg, with 4300kg of ballast for a very healthy 44 per cent ballast/displacement ratio.
Most of the ballast is in the bulb at the bottom of the steel fin, which has a modest aspect ratio and draught. 500kg of the hull weight is in the galvanised steel frame to which the keel is bolted and the chainplates are attached.
The three-spreader mast carries a conservative masthead rig whose No. 1 genoa is 73 sq m and the main 47 sq m. The chainplates are mounted well inboard, so the big genoa can make the most of fine sheeting angles.
Halyards and control lines are led between deck mouldings, so the deck is clear. You can go forward along the sidedecks, outside the shrouds, or along the flat coachroof inside the shrouds, stepping over the split mainsheet.
Below decks you can have three or four cabins. With the three-cab layout, as on Nick’s boat, you get a big owner’s cabin forward and en suite bathroom, but this format leaves room for a sail locker in the bow, complete with a ladder and a light for night work. There are two mirror-image double cabins in the stern. The galley is along the starboard side, but the curved settee on the centreline provides some support for the cook when on starboard tack.
The owner mentions the fact that all the vertical surfaces are curved, so there are no sharp corners when you are moving through the boat at sea.
The dinette table converts to a double berth, while the cupboards mounted behind the cook-top feature bottom-hinged doors, so the X-Yacht branded crockery doesn’t fling itself out when the boat is heeled to port.
Fridge and freezer are in one compartment – the fridge bit is high and the freezer bit low, separated only by a small partition. Nick’s only complaint about the boat is that the fridge is too cold.
One of Nick’s crew, Spice by name, reckons one of his personal highlights of the Southport race was being able to produce poached eggs for breakfast on the second morning, on the wind at 7 knots.
The navigation area is big and comfortable on the starboard side; opposite to port, is the second bathroom.
A 51hp Yanmar is behind the companionway; Nick reports that access to the engine’s vital bits is excellent.
The trim is very classy classical, in satin-finished teak. The owner’s wife chose the trim material, a sort of upmarket, breathing, alcantara, which they bought and sent to Denmark.
The crew of three had put up the spinnaker for the photographs so, having avoided the hard work I climbed aboard from the powerboat and grabbed the wheel. Andrew had sheeted the kite to the electric Harken primaries and was trimming by pressing the two buttons as the dark-blue hull rolled on at 8.3 knots in 8.3 true at 60 degrees.
Up with the headsail, down with the kite, bring her up onto the wind. From my position, steering from the lee side, I could lean forward and wind in the main on the leeward winch.
The mainsheet is split and leads forward along the boom, down to the sidedecks and back to a sheet winch each side. The helmsman can reach it if needed and so can the crew when racing.
“You can trim from either side,” says Andrew “and when gybing in a bit of a wind you can get two people on the mainsheet.” The steering is rack and pinion, nicely weighted and well geared, though Nick reckons that with the self-steering disconnected completely the steering has even less residual drag. Tacking needs only a couple of spokes of wheel movement.
The X-442 is simple to sail. For cruising and club racing the runners and inner forestay are not needed, but they steady the mast when racing offshore. The cockpit seats are wide and the sides well angled for back support. The coamings are flat and wide.
Nick says his only change would be to consider placing the primaries on the after end of the coachroof, which is an option. The helmsman’s footrests are well placed and there is a raised panel on the centreline of the cockpit floor, to give the crew
We headed upwind at between 6.4 and 6.8 knots, which are the target numbers Andrew provided for this boat. Another sign of the times. Nick found the instruments – with big repeaters mounted on the mast – helped improve his sailing, rapidly.
We did not have enough wind to test the hull’s stability, but this is a beamy hull with a beamy stern and a high ballast ratio.
Nick says that one of the X-4421s best features is its ability to track straight while absorbing the gusts – nice when racing, even nicer when out with the kids.
The X-442 is not a cheap boat, but it is pitched at the top end of the quality scale and embraces an unusually wide range of capabilities. It provides a safe and comfortable and elegant weekender for a young family, and it enables dad to go ocean racing.
Spice paid the boat a final compliment. Off Stockton bight, north of Newcastle, on the first night of the Southport Race, they put up the TV aerial and watched the Bledisloe Cup Rugby on the plasma TV. And that, surely, is the modern face of ocean racing.
This X-Yacht will set you back around $655,000.
Story & Photos by Barry Tranter