One thing you can say for sure about sailboat designers and builders, they are always up for a challenge—whether that’s finding new ways to provide comfort and glamour to a sailboat’s living spaces while delivering improved performance; seeking more environmentally sustainable propulsion systems, charging methods, or building processes; improving what’s tried and true; or stretching into new thinking about some aspect of sailing.
All of this and more is reflected in the designs that are nominees for SAIL’s Top 10 Best Boats for 2024. From comfort and performance to size range and customizable options, we’re seeing production boats deliver more than ever before. It’s heartening to see solidly traditional bluewater designs that look like they could take us anywhere for a long time in even the toughest conditions, as well as models that thoughtfully consider how to make sailing more fun and inviting for sailors with different ambitions. Some may be entirely not your cup of tea, while others may be your floating holy grail. But no matter which, we can learn something from all of them—some persistent problem cleverly solved, some innovation making us rethink how we have sailed for decades, some new model that fulfills every dream a new sailor has and brings them to the water for the first time.
The sporty VPLP-designed Astus 20.5 from Redbeard Sailing is an update on the popular 20.2 design, which has sold over 120 models to date. As the smallest of this year’s nominees, the Astus 20.5 has one area in particular where it outshines the giants: transportability. A specially adapted trailer allows owners to move this boat from one body of water to another with ease. The outboard amas are retractable to convert the boat’s 14-foot 10-inch beam to a convenient 8 feet 2 inches when folded for transport or storage (potentially fitting in the garage for safekeeping during the cold months). The main hull is designed for streamlined gliding with a tuliped shape to deflect spray away from the crew. It can accommodate up to seven sailors, but is probably more comfortable with five. The boat comes in two models: leisure and sport. The former is set up for gentle, family sailing; the latter has a lighter, stiffer main hull thanks to vacuum-infusing the layup. Both options can support a main, jib, and gennaker.
LOA/LWL 19’6” Beam 14’10” Draft 6’11” (deep) 5’4” (shallow) Displacement 860 lbs (sport) 950 lbs (leisure) Sail Area 250 sq ft (sport main and jib) 215 sq ft (leisure main and jib) Engine 4.5hp
Beneteau Oceanis 37.1
Beneteau’s new 37-footer updates the popular 38.1, and the brief given naval architect Marc Lombard and Nauta Design, who developed the deck and interior, was better performance and more volume. In terms of the former, easy sailing is the driver, with a self-tacking jib on the standard version, no backstays, and in-mast furling an option. The First Line version offers a square-top mainsail and a genoa adding 12% more sail area. Dual helm stations control twin rudders. An integral bowsprit with anchor platform provides a tack point for the Code 0. The cockpit is more than 9 feet long, with a central table and a drop-down transom platform for swimming. Belowdecks, the request for more volume has resulted in a space the builder says rivals that of a 40-footer. The dining settee is to port with seating for six, with a linear galley to starboard. The standard boat comes with a 40-hp engine, but Beneteau is offering an electric version with a 12-kW pod running on 10-kW batteries, enabling about two hours of cruising range at 5 knots.
LOA 39’2” LWL 35’6” Beam 12’10” Draft 6’11” (deep) 5’4” (shallow) Displacement (light) 15,125 lbs Sail Area 646 sq ft (standard main, jib) Engine 40hp
Beneteau First 44
Hot on the heels of its First 36 (a 2023 SAIL Top 10 Best Boats winner), Beneteau launches its First 44. Two versions—the First 44 and First 44 Performance—are basically cruising and racing oriented, respectively. Taking a page from their work with the Figaro design, Beneteau has given the First 44 the option of two 92-gallon water ballast tanks beneath each aft cabin that can be filled and drained via electric pumps that are push-button operated at the helm. This offers shorthanded sailors the ability to carry more sail in windy conditions. The First 44 Performance carries a carbon spar 5 feet, 10 inches taller than the aluminum version and weighs 1,100 pounds less. Both share the same three-cabin interior layout, with a master cabin and en-suite head forward, two nice-sized aft cabins, a second head with shower in the main salon, an offshore-worthy L-shaped galley, portside C-shaped dinette for six people that can convert to a bunk, and an opposite settee that doubles as a sea berth (with lee cloth). The end of the settee also serves as seating for the aft-facing nav station and small chart table.
First 44: LOA 46’5” Beam 13’11” Daft 7’1” Displacement 22,708 lbs (light), Sail Area 1,140 sq ft (main, genoa); Performance: LOA 48’1” Beam 13’11” Draft 8’2” Displacement 21,605 lbs (light) Sail Area 1,260 sq ft (main, genoa) Engine 57hp
Beneteau Oceanis Yacht 60
Beneteau’s new flagship, the Biscontini-designed Oceanis Yacht 60, pays tribute to the previous Oceanis Yacht 54, but the forward sections are broader with more flare, creating greater interior volume. It replaces the 62, and though it is shorter, has lower freeboard, and is more than 10,000 pounds lighter than the 62, it offers the same livability and exceptional performance. It’s offered with a self-tacking jib or a 105% genoa, and with a standard rig or the performance version, which adds 5 feet to the mast and 20% to the upwind sail area. The cockpit has walk-around space aft of the helm seats and twin L-shaped settees ahead. Two hi/lo tables on either side open for dining or lower electrically to form matching sunbeds. Below, a dedicated nav station has a bucket seat, and the galley is forward and split, with plenty of countertop space on both sides. The boat is available with three to four cabins and three to four heads. The owner’s suite layout is a nod to the styling on much larger yachts with an array of four overhead hatches and a bed that’s inverted and offset to starboard, adding to the owner’s privacy.
LOA 62’2” LWL 55’9” Beam 17’5” Draft 8’9” Displacement 47,840 lbs Sail Area 1,636 sq ft (std) Engine 150 hp (shaft)
The new Dufour 41 comes quickly in the wake of the Dufour 37, one of SAIL’s Top 10 Best Boats of 2023. Both draw their DNA from their bigger sister the 470 launched two years ago, with the same sheer line and chine that enables the boat to carry maximum volume forward on a narrower profile under the waterline. Like the 470, the 41 comes in three versions—Easy, Ocean, and Performance. Ocean—by far the most popular—features an overlapping 108% genoa, Code 0, and an asymmetrical spinnaker flown off the 2-foot 3-inch integral bowsprit. One big change for this boat was moving the mast aft, which enabled a bigger foretriangle— hence bigger, more powerful headsails and about 17 square feet more sail area overall—and belowdecks, a bigger master cabin forward with the main bulkhead moved aft. The companionway has also been moved forward, creating a cockpit as spacious as a 43-footer that’s luxurious but sensibly laid out for sailing. Belowdecks, multiple layouts are available, including three- and four-cabin.
LOA 41’8” LWL 36’6” Beam 14’1” Draft 6’8” Displacement (light) 21,384 lbs Sail Area 898 sq ft (main, genoa) Engine 50hp (optional 60hp)
The new Excess 14 benefits from VPLP’s racing experience, with asymmetrical hulls that are fuller outboard and flatter inboard. This moves the center of buoyancy outboard for better stability and reduces interference drag between the hulls. The bridgedeck has been raised for better clearance, and the bows are inverted and free of the surface, making for more precise steering. Compared to earlier Excess models, the keels are thinner, and the rudders are 8 inches deeper for a better bite and higher pointing ability. Two rigs are available—standard and the powered-up, performance-oriented Pulse Line, the latter adding 6 feet to the mast and 130 square feet to the upwind sail area. Twin helms with the wheels out on the hulls have textile-based direct steering for a superior feel that more reflects the sailing experience of a monohull. Available layouts include three or four cabins, with the owner’s version suite in the starboard hull. Twin bunks may be added on this side ahead of the owner’s head; when not in use, they simply fold up to the sides and the platforms beneath them fold inward to instantly provide more storage.
LOA 45’9” (52’5” Pulse Line) Beam 25’9” Draft 4’10” Displacement 28, 219 lbs Sail Area 1,323 sq ft upwind (1,453 Pulse Line) Engine 45hp (two) (57-hp upgrade)
Elan Impression 43
Elan Yachts has created the second model in its cruising Impression line with an eye to the ultimate voyaging boat, with comfort, ease of use, and bluewater capabilities all part and parcel of the design brief. Double or even singlehanding is possible thanks to strategically placed winches and an optional furling main. A self-tacking jib comes standard, but it can be upgraded for other options including a genoa and gennaker. Twin helms and twin rudders are made in-house and optimized for rigidity, endurance, and control especially when heeling. The optional modular cockpit table converts into sunbeds, making a great place to relax while keeping the driver part of the party. Transom boxes that offer additional seating can be fitted with a grill and fridge. The optional swim platform size upgrade will give the transom a closed feel, which bluewater cruisers may appreciate. Belowdecks, owners have the option of a three- or four-cabin layout with two heads. The salon has a warm, Scandinavian vibe with a dining table and chart table to starboard and a linear galley to port.
LOA 44’7” (with bowsprit) LWL 40’ Beam 13’11” Draft 6’5” (other keel options offered) Displacement 11,100 lbs Sail Area 870 sq ft (main, jib), Engine Yanmar 4JH45 45hp
The HH44-SC is a luxury, high-performance cat for cruising families and couples aimed at answering what HH CEO Paul Hakes says has been sailors’ frustration at “the slow pace” of the marine industry’s adoption of electric-based technologies. A whopping 4,232 watts of solar on the coachroof is standard, serving a 43.2 KwH 48V lithium battery bank and supporting the EcoDrive parallel hybrid propulsion system—a combination of two 30-hp Beta diesels and two 10-kw electric motors (each about 15hp). The electric motors can provide one to two hours of powering at 7.5 knots, or used as alternators while motoring under traditional diesel power. While sailing, the folding Gori propeller can free spin and act as a hydrogenator. HH has lowered the coachroof, in turn lowering the boom height, which translates into a lower center of effort and the ability to put more power into the sails. Construction is a carbon-reinforced, foam composite sandwich with infused epoxy resin; the boat’s skeleton—bulkheads, beams, hulls, deck—is carbon fiber, with external e-glass, also epoxy infused.
LOA 49’8” LWL 43’7” Beam 23’5” Draft 3’7” (up) 9’10” (down) Displacement 20,701 lbs (light) Sail Area (main, solent) 1,349 sq ft Hybrid engine Beta 30-hp diesels w/ 15-hp electric motors
The Hallberg-Rassy 400 was deemed one of SAIL’s Top 10 Best Boats for 2023. Interestingly, it came to the U.S. ahead of its immediate predecessor, the center-cockpit 40C, which this year is making its U.S. debut. It’s the same handsome, powerful-looking hull as the 400, with twin rudders, plumb bow, and integral bowsprit for setting A-sails, as well as a three-spreader Seldén spar with in-mast furling. The well-sheltered cockpit has a single helm; electric winches and smart placement of controls make shorthanded setting, trimming, and reefing a piece of cake. Below, two spacious galley options are offered. The full-width owner’s cabin aft can be two berths—a single and a double with lounge seat between—or a wide centerline berth with settee to port and dressing table to starboard. The salon may have the traditional H-R comfy chairs to starboard or a straight settee that doubles as a sea berth. Opposite is the C-shaped dinette, and forward through a short passage is the V-berth. Throughout, this boat exhibits the attention to detail, stout construction, and joinery that are hallmarks of Hallberg-Rassy.
LOA 40’4” LWL 38’6” Beam 13’8” Draft 6’4” Displacement (light) 24,250 lbs Sail Area 970 sq ft (main, genoa) Engine Volvo Penta D2-60
After selling more than 200 Hanse 460s in just a few years, Hanse is rolling out the big sister to this popular mid-sized model—the 510. Designed by Berret-Racoupeau, the boat has a wave-piercing reverse bow and chines fore and aft that maximize volume above the waterline while minimizing wetted surface below. The boat is semi-customizable with numerous options throughout. The cockpit has large seating areas port and starboard with a table at each. Twin helm stations are equipped with all the necessary tech, with all lines covered and led aft behind the lounging cockpit to this sailing station. Belowdecks, myriad layouts include two double cabins aft with a luxurious owner’s suite forward and from two to four heads depending on layout. A livable crew cabin is also an option, as is a storage room with laundry. Ventilation is enhanced by more than a dozen opening hatches and windows, and a large nav station in the salon can double as an office space.
LOA 52’7” (with bowsprit) LWL 47’3” Beam 16’1” Draft 7’10” (other keel options offered) Displacement 37,037 lbs Sail Area 1,312 sq ft (main, jib), Engine 80hp
Italia Yachts 12.98
The Italia Yachts 12.98 fits neatly between its big sister, the 14.98, and smaller sibling, the 11.98, in size, design, and purpose. Cossutti Yacht Design has drawn a sleek, lean-looking hull with a comparatively narrow entry and more defined fore and aft rake than other models. Two versions are the more laid-back and luxurious Bellissima, and the racing-oriented Fuoriserie, or Sport. The latter uses foam-cored cabinetry to reduce weight, there’s an option for a bowsprit that’s twice as long, and a deeper keel with a slightly different shape for optimal performance. Likewise, the cockpit layout is different for each, with the Bellissima focusing all trimming and sailhandling from the helm. Both have dual helms controlling a single rudder. Belowdecks, Mirko Abore created an interior rich with diffused light and bright fabrics and surfaces to provide a sense of openness. Two cabins aft each have double berths, with the owner’s cabin forward. The structure is carbon-reinforced and construction is vacuum-infused vinylester, all helping to make a stiff, strong boat.
Bellissima: LOA 46’11” LWL 38’3” Beam 13’ Draft 7’3” Displacement 19,886 lbs Sail Area 1,178 sq ft (main, jib) Fuoriserie: LOA 48’7” LWL 38’3” Beam 13’ Draft 8’3” Displacement 19,280 lbs Sail Area 1,211 (main, jib), Engine 50hp Volvo Penta (both models)
Italia Yachts 14.98
Designed by Maurizio Cossutti, the new Italia Yachts 14.98 bucks the trend of fuller bows and beams for maximized volume. In both versions—the cruising Bellissima or the racing-oriented Fuoriserie (Sport)—her profile is greyhound lean, with a fine entry, a nearly flat sheer, relatively low freeboard, and a smooth run aft ending in a lovely, soft lift to the saucer-shaped, vertical transom that drops down as a swim platform. The fine entry helps minimize slamming, and the comparatively narrow stern sections mean less drag and more speed. The build is vacuum-infused vinylester in a blend of fiberglass, carbon, and PVC core, aiming for a strong structure with minimal flex. Each version has deck layouts to support shorthanded cruising or crewed racing/cruising. Both have twin helms controlling a single, deep rudder. Below, the sleek vibe continues with the design by Mirko Abore that uses recessed lighting and mingled textures to create an elegant yet functional interior. Two nice-sized cabins aft share a head in the main salon, while the owner’s suite forward, with a centerline double, has a luxuriously appointed en-suite head.
Bellissima: LOA 51’ LWL 43’2” Beam 14’4” Draft 8’3” Displacement 22,002 lbs Sail Area 1,431 sq ft (main, jib) Fuoriserie: LOA 51’ LWL 43’2” Beam 14’3” Draft 9’10” Displacement 22,002 lbs Sail Area 1,442 sq ft (main, jib), Engine Volvo Penta D2-60 with saildrive (D2-75 optional)
Jeanneau Yachts 55
Jeanneau brings a catamaran design brief to the monohull market with the new Jeanneau Yachts 55. The unconventional cockpit layout places twin helms forward in front of the main outdoor area aft—an at-sea patio with two dining tables/lounging spaces bisected by a clear path to the transom. A second forward cockpit before the helms can be enclosed by a full dodger, optionally extended to a T-top, providing good protection for the helm stations. A furling main is standard, and lines are led to the forward cockpit. Belowdecks, the design prioritizes the owner’s living space, with designers Andrew Winch and Philippe Briand aiming for a “private apartment” feel. The owner’s suite forward has a queen-sized bed and a surprising full-beam head that, though narrower because of the bow’s taper, is still sizeable. The salon and galley complete the main apartment. Guests will stay in one of two double cabins aft, each with ingress from the cockpit rather than through the salon as would be typical, making the owner’s “apartment” a truly private space. A small optional crew cabin is tucked all the way forward in the bow.
LOA 55’8” (with bowsprit) LWL 52’6” Beam 16’4” Draft 8’ (other keel options offered) Displacement 40,880 lbs Sail Area 1,313 sq ft (main and jib), Engine Yanmar shaft drive 110HP-81 kW
The new Lagoon 51 is the work of VPLP and Patrick Le Quément, sharing the same hulls as its predecessor the Lagoon 50, with a slightly different bridgedeck. The new model gained 2 feet in LOA with longer swim platforms but also slimmed down by about 2,000 pounds. The big story is the placement and size of the rig; after a brief experiment moving the mast aft, Lagoon decided to return it to a more forward position, shortening the spar by nearly 10 feet. This opens up the interior, makes sailhandling easier, and creates a larger flybridge surface up top. This new boat dials in some fancy outdoor spaces, but the big draw is the flybridge with its three distinct areas including twin forward sunbeds, the helm in the middle, and the C-shaped dinette aft. Dual staircases port and starboard lead up to the flybridge so there’s never a traffic jam. Below, layout options include four to six cabins and three to four heads. In the owner’s version, the master suite occupies the entire starboard hull with a truly generous walk-in closet amidships. A new white oak Alpi veneer brightens up the interior, and Beneteau Seanapps communication, geofencing, and maintenance app makes its first appearance on a Lagoon.
LOA 50’4” Beam 26’7” Draft 4’ 6” Displacement (light) 43,910 lbs Sail Area 1,646 sq ft (w/square-top mainsail) Engines 80-hp Yanmar (two)
The Oyster 495 is a from-the-keel-up new design and an ode to Oyster’s roots. It fully embraces proven offshore sensibilities and is a near replica of its bigger siblings. As such, it has the same renowned quality and traditional design that sticks unapologetically to a winning formula of stuff that works including watertight bulkheads, high cockpit coamings, pre-rigged preventer lines, deck dorades, generous tankage, a low center of gravity, and copious deck stowage. The deck salon’s sleek windows and coachroof flow neatly aft into the structure of the protected cockpit, where twin wheels—controlling twin rudders—on wide binnacles make push-button sailing possible. The reverse transom’s integrated steps lead to an electric swim “terrace” that slides out like a cassette from the hull. Below, the interior offers a proven offshore layout in a gorgeous package, including a VIP cabin in the forepeak, a large yet seaworthy galley, and large nav desk. A master stateroom aft with a centerline queen berth is bathed in light from the triple vertical hull windows on either side as well as his and hers overhead hatches.
LOA/LWL 52’8”/46’8” Beam 15’8” Draft 7’6”(std ) 6’0”(shoal) Displacement 46,297 lbs Sail Area 1,291 sq ft (std) Engine 110-hp Yanmar w/ saildrive
The new Rapido 40 trimaran is designed by Morrelli & Melvin, so no surprise that performance is in its DNA. But it’s also a cruising multihull that’s light, strong, easy to sail, and designed to fit into a standard slip, with retractable amas. This tri combines bright above-waterline living with efficient sailing and easy singlehanding with a self-tacking jib. Twin asymmetric, prepreg, dagger C-foils on the outer amas preclude the need for a heavy centerboard or keel, and the lifting rudder T-foil is excellent for shallow or deep waters. Carbon/foam construction keeps the boat light and agile. At just under 12,000 pounds, it’s half the weight of a 40-foot catamaran, but with an equivalent sailplan that helps her slip along at wind speed even in light breezes. With a reacher or gennaker, expect 20-plus-knot boatspeeds in 15-20 knots of wind. The raised salon, galley, and nav station are all on the same level, and surrounding windows bring in plenty of light. With a double in the forepeak, a hi-lo salon table that converts to a double, a quarter berth, and a cubby-hole aft cabin, the boat can sleep as many as seven, or just a family or couple that want to cruise and get there fast.
LOA 39’6” Beam 28’10” (19’3” folded) Draft 2’10” (foils up)7’2” (foils down) Displacement (light) 11,474 lbs Sail Area 1,044 sq ft (main, wing mast area, solent) Engine 29-hp Yanmar
Tartan 455 Deckhouse Sloop
There’s a comment in the introductory brochure for the new Tartan 455 Deckhouse Sloop that seems to sum up this boat: “It does not cater to the fad of the day.” Designed by Tim Jackett and in collaboration with a Tartan 3700 owner, this new model from the Ohio-based builder combines the traditionally handsome lines and dependably powerful performance of a Tartan with a gracefully integrated deckhouse that provides the best of all worlds—a well-protected, deep cockpit rigged for easy shorthanded sailing, or a comfortable, plush indoor helm with 360-degree views. The carbon spar (64 feet 3 inches air draft) is standard, made by Tartan’s sister company AMP Spars; likewise, the twin steering pedestals are also carbon, controlling a single rudder with carbon fiber rudder post and stainless steel bearing sleeves. A 100% self-tacking jib is standard, and a furling 155% masthead light-air reacher provides optimum sailing options. All solid-lead-cast keel choices can be deep fin, shallow beavertail, or centerboard, depending on the owner’s preference. The boat is available as a two- or three-cabin layout, with Tartan’s renowned interior joinery available in North American cherry or maple as standard.
LOA 45’6” LWL 39’6” Beam 14’1” Draft 6’6” (other options offered) Displacement (light) 25,750 lbs Sail Area 977.5 sq ft (main, jib) Engine 75-hp with saildrive
Xquisite 30 Sportcat
Xquisite Catamarans, builder of comfortable, long-distance cruising cats, is launching something completely different with its 30 Sportcat designed by François Perus. With a rotating carbon mast, carbon deck beams, displacement of just 1,872 pounds, an interior whose greatest luxury is a mattress, and a construction methodology that lets it be dismantled and fit onto a trailer or inside a 40-foot shipping container, this little rocket is just begging to be sailed fast. That is precisely its purpose, according to Tamas Hamor, Xquisite’s founder and CEO, who wants to offer fun sail training to new customers at Xquisite’s base in Freeport, Bahamas. The boat is also for owners who already have their ocean boat but perhaps want this smaller, trailerable version for their homes or other locations. With a 10-hp outboard (optional electric), the boat has two berths aft in each hull, sail storage forward, a portable toilet, and a small sink. It’s camping, Hamor says, and that’s also part of the fun.
LOA 30’4” Beam 16’11” Draft 2’6” Displacement 1,872 lbs Sail Area 860 sq ft (main, gennaker, and self-tacking jib) Engine 10hp, optional electric