Boréal is not afraid to forge its own path and its distinctive aluminium cruising yachts have gained a strong reputation over the past 15 years. The latest model is a shoal draught expedition yacht that can take you anywhere on the planet, yet, as we were to discover, is also responsive and fun to sail in more confined waters.
The Breton yard’s success is underpinned by a huge amount of embedded expertise. Founder and naval architect Jean-François Delvoye based the Boréal concept on experience gained during a six-year circumnavigation with four children, plus expeditions to South Georgia and the Antarctic. General manager and co-owner JeanFrançois Eeman’s vast experience includes two trips to Patagonia and the Antarctic on his own boats.
This first-hand knowledge shows through in many ways with this new 47.2, a European Yacht of the Year 2021 winner. The rugged construction includes an ice-breaking stem, watertight bulkheads and 8-10mm bottom plating on substantial framing that enables the boat to be safely beached. Equally, good sailing qualities are an important element. Both centreboard and rudder have efficient hydrodynamic profiles, while heavy items including anchor chain, tankage and batteries are kept low down and central.
SAILING IN FEBRUARY
Our test took place in a large swell leftover from the weather system that forced Clarisse Cremer to delay her Vendée Globe finish. We set out broad-reaching using the optional general purpose asymmetric spinnaker, with the boat maintaining an easy motion despite the swell.
Even when the true wind dropped to only 8-9 knots we made decent progress, with boat speed rarely falling much below 6 knots. Our best speed of the test was 8.7 knots at a true wind angle of 145° in 17 knots of true wind.
Once heeled to a certain point the boat becomes very solid and stable, with gusts not contributing marked extra heel and the lee toerail remained well above the water, even when we were deliberately pressed.
I’m always interested in how a boat handles when overpowered. Keeping the sheets strapped in during gusts into the upper teens when we were carrying the kite at an apparent wind angle of 80-85° provided a good opportunity to test this aspect of handling.
The rudder gave plenty of warning before finally stalling at a much higher angle than those who sail performance boats with deep high aspect rudders will be accustomed to. But, unlike many flighty lightweight boats, the 47.2 didn’t round up and the boat’s angle of heel barely increased.
Dumping the mainsheet and centring the rudder to re-establish laminar flow was enough to quickly regain control, with the boat then happily bearing away to a more comfortable course. While owners are unlikely to plan to push their boats to the limit, it’s good to know that the vessel ought to handle being caught unawares by a squall without undue drama.
A pair of daggerboards either side of the rudder are used to tweak the boat’s handling characteristics. With the boards raised it’s more responsive and behaves more like a smaller and lighter yacht – an ideal mode for sailing in more confined waters and for manoeuvring. With boards lowered directional stability improves markedly. When close-reaching under main and genoa the boat had more of the feel of a traditional long keel design and it was possible to leave the helm for a minute or so without engaging the pilot.
Soon after dropping the kite to round up for the beat home against the tide the wind dropped again to 8-9 knots. Sailing close-hauled in this wind speed is relatively sedate, but above 10 knots the boat starts to come alive and is nicely powered up in 12-14 knots.
It’s no surprise that a boat of this style is not as closewinded as a performance cruiser. Pinching risks quickly losing speed, but speeds of well over 6 knots can be achieved consistently. For instance, with 15 knots of true wind we recorded 6.5 knots boat speed at 55° TWA.
Once we got back into the breeze funnelling out of the Trieux estuary a band of cloud produced gusts of up to 22 knots true. As the breeze increases the concept behind the sail plan is to swap from the marginally overlapping genoa to the optional furling staysail at around 17-20 knots, a transition that proved to be smooth and easy. Alternatively, a removable inner forestay with hanked-on staysail can be provided.
A powerful vang enables good control of mainsail twist, despite the lack of a mainsheet traveller, and lines for the towed headsail cars are led back to the working area of the cockpit for easy adjustment.
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