Good New Sailboats – 1990

First published in several Maryland newspapers, 1990

Good new sailboats

by Tom Dove

The sailboat market has been depressed for several years, and that bad news for builders is generally good news for boat buyers.

You can get a high-quality vessel at a reasonable price on the used market and only the most successful builders got through the market shakeout. The same process has begun in the formerly-booming powerboat field and already has resulted in widespread business failures and bargains.

New sailboats generally are of higher quality than the new vessels of ten years ago, as only the fit have survived and only people with money are still shopping for new craft. The low-priced, mass production builders (notably Hunter and Catalina) have upgraded their products substantially in the past few years.

In the course of testing new boats for SAIL magazine, I have had the opportunity to sail some truly fine vessels. Here are my impressions of them:

ISLAND PACKET 32 – This full-keel cruiser has surprising light air performance combined with excellent accomodations, a well-planned interior layout and very good construction. The excellent finish and detailing are the result of a lot of cruising experience. It won’t appeal to the racer, but if you are more laid back, check out this nice little vessel.

PEARSON 34 – Pearson has a long history of building good quality boats that are within the price range of middle income sailors. The new 34 is an attractive cruiser/racer with a self-tending jib and other features that make it easy for a couple to handle. It sails well, powers well and is a fine all-around family boat.

CONDOR 30 – This sleek little rocket will give you an adrenalin rush in any breeze over ten knots and will keep moving even in light airs. The interior is not fancy but it is functional and the sailing performance is spectacular. Passing planing, pounding motorboats at 20 knots while staying dry and nearly level is a mind-expanding experience.

SABRE 34 A/C TARGA – This revision of the popular Sabre 34 gives a very livable aft cabin. Sabres have a reputation for high grade construction, good finish and detailing and competitive speeds for racing. The new 34 will continue that.

JEANNEAU 44 – This is a 44-footer that can be handled easily by a couple or cruised by a small crowd. It is well built and detailed, has excellent hardware and deck layout and sails fast and comfortably.

NAVY 44 – Traditionalists and experienced ocean racers will love this boat. It has modern, pretty lines and is absolutely functional in layout both above and below decks. It handles well (although it needs a good feathering prop instead of a folder) and should take its crew anywhere in the world in conservative safety.

KANTER 42 – This welded aluminum beauty was one of my favorites. It is solid as bedrock and finished like fine furniture. It has a centerboard for shallow draft and responds to the wheel like a sports car. This boat is fast and easy to handle and could be the ultimate cruiser/racer for a couple – small enough to manage but big enough to take on an ocean.

HUNTER 42 – The newest Hunter is fast and easy to sail and has a higher level of construction quality than this company has shown in the past. The welded arch and general lines of the boat will appeal to some and not to others, but this center-cockpit vessel has a practical layout and a low price and should make a fine coastal cruiser.

PDQ 34 – Catamarans are beginning to show up more on the Bay as their advantages (shallow draft, good speed, level sailing) are recognized in this generally traditional region. The PDQ 34 is made in Canada for typical East Coast light to moderate wind conditions. It will move at several knots even on a flat Cheapeake day and steer itself steady as it goes.

TASWELL 49 – My wife’s favorite is this Taiwan-built beauty. It has nice lines, a comfortable center cockpit, fine sailing ability, a gorgeous interior and easy handling. Taswell ranks with the top builders in the world, and “Taiwan” no longer means “cheap.”

CLASSIC 59 – The Herreshoff “Bounty” ancestry of this beautiful yacht shows everywhere. The vessel is built to ABS standards and will take its crew anywhere in the world in comfort, safety and style. If you have to ask the price, you probably can’t afford it.

We have sailed a lot of other boats in the past year or two, but these stand out. The new boat field is more limited than in the past, but what is being built, is being built well.

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