Best yacht 2023: European yacht of the year winners

The European Yacht of the Year 2023 winners have been announced and comprise the best yacht winners in five categories including a special mention award. Toby Hodges was one of the 12 jury members who test sailed each of the 21 shortlisted yachts before deciding on the winners.

The European Yacht of the Year programme is a highlight of my year as it gives us  jury members the opportunity to assemble our shortlist of the best nominees, seatrial each and every one of them and discuss what works and what doesn’t at sea and in port, in order to choose the best yacht of 2023 in a variety of categories. Our trials were held in La Rochelle and Port Ginesta, Barcelona over the autumn of 2022.

This is the 20th anniversary of the European Yacht of the Year awards, which were presented at a gala event on the opening evening of the Boot Düsseldorf Boat Show on 21 January 2023.

Together we comprise 12 magazines across Europe, each the leading voice on boat testing in their respective countries. The result is indisputably the most thorough, impartial and respected awards programme for new production yachts worldwide.

Best yacht 2023

Best Performance Cruiser

Nominees: Elan E6; Beneteau First 36; Grand Soleil 40; Italia Y 12.98; Solaris 50

Three Italian pure performance cruisers and two very different yachts built in Slovenia made for a varied and exciting Performance category. Where once we could assume a cruiser-racer was a fairly standard format design, over the last decade it’s been much more the sexy fast cruisers the Italian yards specialise in. But as French yards like Pogo and JPK have proven, we salute lightweight planing yachts – and the Beneteau First 36 is the first real production yacht in that spirit.

Winner: Beneteau First 36

Here’s a yacht that puts the focus firmly back into sailing. The First 36 has been kept inviting and approachable – unlike many yachts that can plane, the look is modest, not aggressive. It’s uncomplicated, unfussy and the result is a pleasure for all to sail. It’s more about what you can’t see, the design and engineering, which should ensure longterm demand.

The small, fiddly heads compartment and lack of tiller options are perhaps the only real detraction from an otherwise brilliant collaboration by Seascape and Beneteau, from concept to build quality.

It was their goal to keep this area of the market relevant and prove a mainstream brand can do it, rather than only niche specialist yards. To create a mass produced yacht at this weight and to this foam-cored quality and one that can bring so much fun is a feather in the cap of the First brand.

Price: (ex VAT) €238,813

Jury comments:

“The complete universal cruiser-racer.” Pasi Nuutinen, Fin.

“The truly modern fast cruiser that dares to be different and that not enough yards dare to build.” Jochen Rieker, Germany.

“Fast but easy going, precise but not nervous, and lightweight, yet comfortable.” Marinus van Sijdenborgh de Jong, Netherlands.

Best Luxury Cruiser

Nominees: Oceanis Yachts 60; Oyster 495; Ice 62 Targa

A spacious production yacht, a premium bluewater cruiser and a highly customised Italian performance cruiser shows the variety on offer in the 50-60ft+ market, while giving the jury some tricky comparisons to make.

Winner: Oyster 495

It is hard to imagine that the decor of a yacht can change its look and feel quite this much, yet the layout of this second 495, Eddie Jordan’s dramatic looking Tuga, is in fact identical to the first boat that I spent several days aboard last summer. At its heart is a wonderfully (Humphreys) designed and engineered luxury bluewater cruiser conceived from the ground up, built in a new dedicated facility to a repeatable quality very few yards are capable of.

The 495 offers consistent passage making speeds in real voluminous comfort – whether enjoyed from the deep cockpit or the best-in-class aft cabin. Deck stowage and mechanical space is also superb. Then factor in the family appeal of Oyster’s after sales and world rally programme and you start to appreciate the premium world this sub 50-footer gives access to.

Price: (ex VAT) £1.35m

Jury comments

“So reassuringly strong, so surprisingly quick in straight line speed, so great to helm, so easy to handle and so, so comfortable if you want to retreat to her living quarters!” Jochen Rieker, Germany

“A true blue water cruiser that makes no compromise in terms of comfort, safety or sailing abilities.” Loic Madeline, France

“The entry level of the Oyster range brings with it the build quality and customisation typical of the yard’s largest models… perfect for a couple’s globetrotting dreams.” Alberto Mariotti, Italy

Best Family Cruiser

Nominees: Bente 28; Dufour 37; Linjett 39

Typically this category brims with midsize cruising yachts from mainstream manufacturers. And while the Dufour flies that flag, when you put these three nominees together you have a diverse selection of interesting new cruising yachts from 30-40ft to suit significantly different budgets.

Winner: Linjett 39

If you haven’t heard of Linjett before, prepare to be impressed. The 39 offers easy fast family cruising and occasional racing in luxurious comfort and proves that classic needn’t be old fashioned.

Linjett exudes Scandi heritage: a third generation 50-year old brand, it’s run by three brothers and has built 900 yachts from its 19th Century Rosättra yard in Sweden. Sturdy and stable the 39 instils instant confidence and proved a delight to sail. The Linjett is set up to easily shorthand it too, with two winches and a bank of clutches each side positioned aft in reach of the helm.

The interior is offered with two or three cabins and the latter we saw had an excellent layout, including separate shower/wet hanging compartment aft. The joiner work is first class, with traditional mahogany used as standard, or the more contemporary European Oak on the test boat.

This is a premium yacht, but you get what you pay for. It will surprise most and ensure everyone steps ashore smiling.

Price: (ex VAT) SEK 4,208,000 (approx €400,000)

Jury comments

“Practically flawless yacht for offshore, coastal and archipelago cruising, peppered with a big spoonful of performance and a strong flavour of luxury,” Pasi Nuutinen, Finland

“Aesthetically immortal because it is impeccably designed and built with modern construction techniques.” Alberto Mariotti, Italy

“A fast luxury yacht that is also the best family yacht… timeless.” Axel Nissen-Lie, Norway

Best Multihull

Nominees: Balance 482; Catana OC; C-Cat 48; Excess 14; Fountaine Pajot Aura 51; Lagoon 51; Nautitech 44 Open

What started out as two separate multihull categories – Family and Performance – merged into one once the jury appreciated the boundaries are quite blurred and that some of these catamarans belong in both camps.

All seven of these 40-50-footers merit close scrutiny for anyone after space and cruising comfort. The decision lies with how much you tweak the performance:comfort ratio.

Winner: Nautitech Open 44

We saw a good, interesting battle of the aft helm cruising cats this year in the Excess 14 and the Nautitech. For those who cite a lack of visibility and protection as reasons not to choose this route, try sailing this boat! Direct steering brings so much more helming pleasure – you get the enjoyable feeling and communication more associated with a monohull. I consider this 44 Open to be the ideal size to go distance sailing, with good performance, low draught and space for family and friends.

The interior design is smart and inviting – not as voluminous as some, but certainly enough to be smugly comfortable at anchor. Out of all the multihulls nominated or sailed in the last year, this cat impressed me the most.

Price: €560,800 ex VAT. (€818k ex VAT as tested).

Jury Comments

“This is a catamaran that makes the heart beat out at sea rather than at a boat show.” Axel Nissen-Lie, Norway

“Sailing sensation sets the Nautitech apart. She’s delightfully sensitive in light wind and gets more and more convincing with speed – which she picks up to very decent numbers.” Pasi Nuutinen, Finland

“This shows why the desire for catamaran sailing is spreading: It combines the comfort of two hulls with the good sailing characteristics of a modern yacht.”  Lori Schüpbach, Sui

Special Yacht award

Nominees: Astus 22.5;  Ecoracer 25; Ace 30

Always the most diverse category, once again this did not disappoint with its contenders comprising a plywood IRC scow, a trailable trimaran and a recyclable sportsboat!

Special mention: Sustainability – Ecoracer 25

A reusable, recyclable prototype competitive sportsboat. If a ‘garage project’ such as this can successfully prove that the use of more sustainable materials, such as thermoplastic resins, linen fibre, basalt and recyclable carbon, are a viable solution for boatbuilding already, there is no excuse why the mainstream production yards shouldn’t already be employing them!

While most fibre-reinforced boats are destined for landfill, here the composites can be separated from the resin after immersion in a solvent, to make reusable composite products.

This is an on trend one-off racer, which at 1.1 tonnes and 2.7m beam can be towed when tilted and takes one hour from crane to sailing. It’s so much fun to sail, even in the lightest puffs, and won the ORC sportsboat class on Lake Garda on its debut season.

A shame it’s only a prototype, but the future looks bigger and brighter for this startup brand Northern Light Composites, with a 30ft version going into production. Congratulations on taking the initiative.

Price: Circa €80k

Jury Comments

“Without changes the leisure boat market will be regulated and potentially fade away. The 100% recyclable Ecoracer 25 has shown that it’s possible to turn green for real.” Morten Brandt-Rasmussen, Denmark

“Shows that a technically complex sailboat can be built in a better way – without compromising on performance.” Axel Nissen-Lie, Norway

European Yacht of the Year Jury

Toby Hodges, Yachting World, GBR
Jochen Rieker, YACHT, GER
Loic Madeline, Voiles & Voiliers, FRA
Pasi Nuutinen, Vene, FIN
Roland Duller, YachtRevue, AUT
Alberto Mariotti, Vela e Motore, ITA
Morten Brandt-Rasmussen, Bådmagasinet, DEN
Marinus van Sijdenborgh de Jong, Zeilen, NED
Joakim Hermansson, Praktiskt Båtägande, SWE
Axel Nissen-Lie, Seilmagasinet, NOR
Diego Yriarte, Nautica Y Yates, ESP
Lori Schüpbach, Marina.ch, SWI

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