Clever add-ons changed the personalities of these two classy yachts.
One of Australia’s better boating journalists once wrote that modern motor cruisers are as similar as snowflakes.
This statement also applies to production yachts. It is also a line I wish I had written. At a boat show, the ranks of white-hulled production yachts may all look alike but they are as similar as, ah, fingerprints (sorry, that’s the best I can do at short notice).
Two boats I have sailed recently, the Dufour 525 and the X-50, have little in common but they are good examples of what their respective manufacturers are up to. They are even better as examples of how a standard yacht can be adapted to personal needs by, on the X-50, careful choice from the manufacturer’s list of options and, on the Dufour 525, how the Aussie importer tailored the boat’s sail inventory to make a good cruiser even better.
X-Yachts hail from Denmark. The company builds two cruising boats and two racing boats, but the bulk of their boats are from their Xperformance range; well-engineered, well-built craft which are cruiser/racers that rate and race well.
The X-50 we sailed recently is an example of how a smart buyer and a smart boatbuilder created an amazing yacht. The owner is based in Darwin and it is a fact of geography that the nearest Indonesian islands are only some 400 miles away. So he wanted to be able to cruise, for weeks at a time, and stop at their small villages and deserted bays. He also wanted to be able to race in regattas like Hamilton Island Race Week, where there are categories for a boat like the one he was planning.
The X-50 is a racer/cruiser, so the owner wanted to accent the cruiser side of its nature. It was an obvious choice because it has a lazarette in the bow, a space that can be used as a sail locker on a raceboat or as general storage when cruising.
Our owner turned to the options list. For a cruising yacht shallow draft is desirable, so he ticked that box on the list. But because a reduction in draft decreases a boat’s stability he chose a carbon mast, which saves weight above the decks and increases stability.
The latest technological developments had a strong role to play. Furling sails, which are good for cruising, have always been a disadvantage when racing. But not anymore. Our X-50 was given a boom furling system for the mainsail, so the sail rolls down into the boom like a Holland blind (remember those?).
The usual problem with boom furlers is that you can’t adjust the sail’s foot tension for racing. But now you can. With this system, the sail rolls around a carbon tube and an outhaul line is led through the tube to the clew of the sail so foot tension can be adjusted as on a conventional main.
The forestay is a similar story. The usual drawback with furling headsails is you can’t adjust the forestay for tension and length ? but now you can. Problem solved.
The boat was given North sails with a taffeta fabric, light in weight but not too precious to handle, like the more racing-oriented cloths.
Our owner also added obvious options such as a watermaker, generator and air conditioning. If you are going to cruise Asian waters, you might as well do it in comfort.