It was Oscar time at the Düsseldorf Boat Show. Four hundred invited guests, among them Jessica Watson, who last year became the youngest person to sail non-stop around the world, attended the awards ceremony last Friday of the 2011 European Yacht of the Year contest.
After several years of focusing on volume and comfort below deck, the pendulum is swinging back in the other direction, as several manufacturers are shifting attention toward performance, balance and control.
"It was the closest contest since its inception eight years ago," wrote the German magazine Yacht. "In all categories, there was more than one promising candidate." Two boats did not make the final cut after missing the sea trials, one of which was the J/95 by U.S. builder J/Boats.
A jury composed of editors from 11 European sailing publications sea-trialed the 18 nominees in the Netherlands and in Spain and picked the following winners:
Performance Cruiser: Elan 350. Three entries in this class, including the winner, featured a wide stern with chines and twin rudders, as seen on modern offshore racers in the Vendee Globe and Volvo Ocean Race. Lots of downwind speed under gennaker combined with solid control and cruising comfort netted the win for the Slovenia-built Elan
Family Cruiser: Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 409. A near unanimous decision put the Sun Odyssey 409 ahead of strong contenders from Hanse and Bavaria in this category, thanks to her variable sail plan, well-organized line handling in the cockpit, sleek lines, elegant interior and lively performance.
Luxury-Cruiser: X-Yachts Xc 38. The jury found the Xc 38 equally convincing under way and at rest. Roomy yet manageable for a shorthanded crew, the Xc 38 - timeless in design and solid in construction - won the award for X-Yachts for the second time in this category since 2009.
Special Yachts: Saffier 23. The smallest contestant was the one that stood tallest in the end. Judges found this little Dutch beauty to be solid yet agile under sail and easy to handle. Simple and fun, she is equipped with an electric motor.
— Dieter Loibner