As 2018 kicks off, we take a look back at some of the very best boats of the last twelve months. From high-end motor yachts to entry-level bowriders, there’s something for all tastes and wallets.
Topping the best Sportsboat and RIB category at the 2017 Motor Boat Awards, the Axopar 37 defies conventional design philosophy. Powered by two 350hp Mercury Verados and utilising a smart modular design, the Axopar features a choice of three different deck layouts: an enclosed cabin, open suntop and T-Top, all of which are offered with an optional aft cabin. All the variants are decked out with well-finished upholstery and Flexiteek second generation flooring. The layouts are similar with each sharing the same extended roof and accommodation below.
The enclosed cabin design offers security and weather protection whilst the Suntop variant puts you out there with the sun and spray. The cabin option is fitted with a retractable canvas roof and wraparound windows to ensure spectacular views. The cabin version also features twin helm seating whilst the other two models are fitted with a row of three, all of which spin 180 degrees to create ample dining and entertainment space for seven plus people around a folding wooden table. Step through the lockable door and you’ll find a forward cabin featuring a modest galley, a double bed, lounge and head. The sun lounge in the bow is reachable via walkways as is the wide deck and swim platform at the stern. There’s plenty of stowage space including a hold capable of holding at least six deck chairs. With sublime handling with very little pitching or slipping and capable of reaching 50 knots, the Axopar 37 is a safe and predictable choice for any sailor.
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Bayliner Element E21
The 20-foot-8-inch E21 is a wide-open, dual-console deck boat that is affordable to buy and easy to own. The base model is equipped with a Mercury 115 Command Thrust outboard which can be upgraded to a Mercury 150 four-stroke. The design features a deep transom platform, plus a pair of wing platforms port and starboard. There’s stowage space under each of the three U-lounge seat cushions and the cockpit is self-bailing. The console seating is moulded as part of the deck with simple mounted cushions. The hull is a modified version of the ubiquitous Bayliner M-Hull which features a V centre section flanked by deep chines and outboard sponsons. This softens the ride and improves handling in turns. This narrow beam design is less tippy than traditional V-hulls. The base model doesn’t feature a windshield; however, it can be added as an optional extra.
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The Marex 310 is essentially a scaled down version of the 375 and is a practical, safe and sociable craft. Powered by a variety of options all from Volvo Penta and featuring a single sterndrive setup that delivers a lively and fun ride. The space below decks utilises an enormous companionway door which splits so the lower section drops into the deck whilst the top half slides into a recess behind the helm leaving a bright and airy galley and hallway area. There’s an angled berth forward and a double berth amidships beneath the cockpit with space for a hanging wardrobe and plenty of changing space next to the bed. The head, situated between the cabins, is spacious and well-finished.
The Marex isn’t short of fine detailing such as the cockpit covers which stow in the hardtop supports and draw around the cockpit like curtains. The woodwork and mouldings are sublime as is every facet of the boat. The Marex is a boat designed by sailors for sailors and although not perfect in every possible way, is a well-rounded package.
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Oyster Yachts are the undisputed king when it comes to designing large cruisers and the 675 is no exception. Sporting twin rudders, flush foredecks and blade jibs, the 675 has far more power in its rigs and keel than previous Oyster designs. The 675 is the first Oyster design to feature a forward master cabin as standard and there’s a myriad of internal layouts available. The improvements in building technology and the use of more uni-directional rovings ensures that the 675 is approximately three tonnes lighter than previous incarnations even though the craft has a longer waterline and significantly more internal volume.
The master cabin benefits from three vertical windows on each side which provide an excellent view and ensure ample natural light. The three other cabins consist of a small twin with bunk beds aft of the navigation station, a double forward of the main bulkhead, and a large VIP suite in the bow. The galley is equipped with pretty much everything you’d expect to find in a domestic kitchen including Corian worktops, deep fiddles, a large capacity fridge freezer, and a washer dryer. Just ahead of the companionway is a well-appointed navigation station on the starboard side of the vessel. The impressive saloon spans the full width of the boat and features a settee on the port side and a dining area to starboard.
Attention to detail abounds with features such as fibre-optic lighting and cedar lined lockers. Oyster offer enough varieties of upholstery and timber finishes to appeal to every taste. Although Oyster have standardised many features across their range, the 675 still features a large degree of customisation options for the prospective buyer.
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Formula 310 BR
The 310 BR is Formula’s flagship bowrider. Powered by twin MerCruiser 6.2L 300hp V-8s with Bravo Three drives, the 310 BR peaks at 51mph and can accelerate from standing to 30mph in a fraction over seven seconds. The 130-gallon fuel tank has a range of just under 200 miles and will burn through around 1.7mpg at a swift but steady 30mph. The deep V-hull is incredibly responsive and the 22-degree deadrise at the transom delivers a smooth ride in the water.
The well-fitted cockpit is clean and comfortable with snap-in removable Sea Weave vinyl flooring and cockpit seats with reversible locking seat backs. The helm features padded dash accents and light-touch controls. The cockpit boasts a moulded fibreglass dashboard with storage for the seat and sun pad filler cushions. To top this there’s a six speaker Clarion stereo powered by a 400-watt amplifier. The 310 BR is a superbly crafted boat designed to last.
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Princess V58 Open
The Princess V58 Open is an old school sportscruiser which utilises the best of the latest technology. There’s a range of engine options, the most powerful being a pair of Volvo Penta D13 900hp engines powering the boat to 35-knots with ease. Fun in the sun is guaranteed with the spacious sunpad aft, a long sweeping bow and sleek roofline and a vast single-level cockpit with seating space for a football team. Below decks the boat is immaculately finished with two double cabins and a bunk cabin for children or occasional guests. The design won Best Sportscruiser over 45ft category at the 2017 Motorboat Awards for, in the words of the judges, “a truly intoxicating mix of style, sophistication and speed with a superb party boat deck layout.”
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Four Winns HD220
Designed to reflect the ethos behind For Winns’ HD Series, the 220 is however, an entry-level compact deckboat. The cockpit makes the most of its 2.55-metre beam with a pair of rotating helm seats, a port console that doubles as a compact head compartment and an L-shaped seating section to port. Aft of the helm seat, there’s an additional seating pod that can be specced as a compact wetbar. The cockpit table uses a side-mount bracket thus avoiding getting in the way of people’s legs.
The helm features a two-tier dash, an adjustable offshore seat and a sporty six-spoke wheel. To supplement the aft swim platform, the 220HD features a pronounced forward swim platform. With the outboard in position, the space beneath the aft bench offers additional storage to the regular under-deck and seat box stowage. This also ensures the swim platform remains complete and intact from port to starboard. To top it off, this watersports-friendly space features an aft-facing bench complete with armrests and cupholders. Although an entry-level craft, the 220HD has three dining areas and a quality of build and finish that belies its price.
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Designed utilising a tried and trusted canoe body and a hull hand-laid with a laminate schedule including an outer layer of vinylester and bulkheads bonded to both the hull and the deck with high-performance polyurethane adhesives, the Jeanneau 54 is more of an evolution of previous designs rather than new breakthrough. The craft’s deck-stepped double-spreader rig has a Z-spar aluminium mast, discontinuous wire rigging and mid-boom sheeting.
The deck layout features a pair of cutouts in the aft cabintrunk bulkhead, thus allowing the cockpit benches to extend a foot or so forward of the companionway. The foredeck sunpad has its own bimini and drop-down swim platform. The L-shaped helm seats are easily large enough for two people and include a stainless-steel handhold inboard. Below decks there’s a large in-line galley to port facing a large dining area. The palatial owner’s stateroom is situated in the bow and has an en suite head and shower. The two quarter berths aft are also equipped with their own heads and showers. Additional sleeping space can be provided by the starboard-side settee which converts into a double berth by lowering the dining table. The Jeanneau 54 doesn’t only look great, it sails great too.
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A fun-filled entry-level bowrider that despite its low price, features high quality construction and finish. Its high coamings, padding and good handgrips make the GT-180 an ideal starter boat for families with small children. Although the performance isn’t earth-shattering, the GT-180 can still deliver a top speed of around 45mph and is ideal for tubing and water toys. The XL package has sumptuous helm seats with folding bolsters, snap-in carpet, stainless-steel pop-up cleats and stainless-steel trim. There’s plenty of stowage with self-draining carpeted lockers forward, a huge centreline ski locker and a large glove box equipped with a Bluetooth stereo and MP3 plug. Probably the best value smiles per mile boat you’ll find for your money.
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Princess 75 Motor Yacht
Plymouth based boat builders Princess have created a worthy successor to the 72 in the form of the 75. Based on a modified Olesinski deep V-hull and powered by a pair of 1,800hp MAN V12s, the 75 can reach 36mph. Below decks there’s a spacious master en suite with separate access and three guest cabins forward, including a VIP en suite. The main deck has a totally flat floor from transom to companionway and large panels of glass either side. The galley is midships opposite a dining table with a floor-to-ceiling window. The flybridge extends right over the cockpit ensuring there is space aft for either open space sun beds or tender storage.
A foredeck seating area is equipped with sunpads with flip-up backrests and extra socialising space. Winner of the Flybridge over 55ft category at the 2017 Motor Boat Awards, and described by the judges thus, “The winner is a boat that doesn’t put a foot wrong in any department. A vast saloon with a flat floor from transom to helm and panoramic side windows sets the tone for a truly indulgent boating experience but the real surprise is a genuinely entertaining driving experience and a top speed of 35 knots.”
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