Toby Hodges takes a look at all the nominees and the winner of the special yachts category in the European Yacht of the Year Awards

Often one of the most interesting categories in the European Yacht of the Year Awards, the special yachts category once again comprises a wonderfully eclectic mix in 2022, which bring some fascinating ideas.

Where other categories in the awards such as the best family cruisers, best bluewater yachts, or best luxury yachts are made up of boats that are similar in terms of their usage the best special yachts category has a plethora of options, all of which have found a new, interesting or otherwise noteworthy design direction.

Best special yachts of 2022

Take the Revolution 24 for example, a really special looking special yacht, this aluminium built David Raison scow design is a veritable tardis. The test boat is very basic below decks, agricultural even, but the boat has intrigue, innovation and charm. The concept was to keep it simple and light (although it is 2.2 tonnes), so, for example, a spray cork insulation is used for the interior with no liners needed. Built by Afep Marine in La Rochelle it has a vertical lift keel which reduces draught from 1.9m to 1m and it can dry out on its bulb and rudders using legs. Whether you admire the scow shape or not, the volume it buys you below is astonishing.

Revolution 24 price: €72,600

Arguably at the other end of the spectrum, the De Cesari 33 is a timeless, gorgeous daysailer, the product of an 80-year old, third generation yard near Rimini, which only builds in wood.

The Ceccarelli design is constructed from mahogany using three layouts of diagonals and vacuum infused with epoxy. It proved a delight to sail with – slicing high to windward into a short swell and Force 4-5, twisting the square-top main to spill the gusts – and fun to trim (although a mainsheet plinth would certainly help).

An appealing option for classic regatta sailing and flat water daysailing, which would give pride of ownership.

De Cesari 33 price: €145,000

Although the aggressively contemporary look may not be to everyone’s aesthetic tastes, the Sunbeam 32.1 is perhaps the most innovative design of the nominees. The 65-year old Austrian yard went back to a blank drawing board to try to re-evaluate what a certain sector of the market wants. It’s decision to focus on a demand for weekenders has already met with formidable response with over 30 orders taken last autumn.

Sunbeam sought something practical and fun with the space to take friends aboard for watersports etc. The 32.1 therefore maximises deck area, using an electric bathing platform to give an additional 4m2, while the entire cockpit can be enclosed in a sprayhood and bimini. The novel ‘Flightdeck’ forward section is also designed to create more foredeck without widening the waterline.

Rigged to be easy to handle solo, the Sunbeam offers approachable sporty sailing. It powers up and heels easily thanks to the square top main, which may suit lake sailing, but is perhaps a little tender. The interior has lots of natural light and bright colours to ensure it feels modern and spacious, plus a separate private heads. Finish quality is superb.

Sunbeam 32.1 price: €179,000

The smallest and most inexpensive of the nominees this year is the Tricat 6.90, which scooped a special mention award for versatility. It has a practical folding mechanism, can be trailered, beached and used by a small family for camping – plus it hits a price point in which most other yacht manufacturers have given up competing.
A vacuum-infused polyester build with Corecell core ensures that it’s light enough (720kg) to plane easily and trail behind a normal car and can be slip-launched quickly to open up your sailing locations. On the water it provides really easy, light, fast performance sailing in a simple, no-frills package. The 6.90 comes in three versions from basic to sport. The deck design is well thought out, the interior Spartan but functional.

Tricat 6.90 price: €52,000

Winner special yachts of 2022 – Saffier SE33

Just when you think it’s found the perfect daysailer formula, Saffier adds more and more refinement, from the design to the first class finish throughout. So even though the SE27 won this award last year, this slightly bigger and better version made it almost impossible not to award again.

The SE33 is a beauty, an absolute joy to sail. It has a beamier shape than its predecessor and that beam is carried all the way aft. The resultant volume is felt throughout but particularly below decks, which can be laid out with two or four berths. Interior fit out quality and finish quality is now top notch.

Saffier uses a carbon foredeck to avoid bulkheads and allow for a 2.20m vee berth with a fill-in section. The test boat also had a carbon mast (all owners have chosen this so far), with curved spreaders that allow for a 115% genoa.

The ease with which you can leave the dock and be sailing is a calling card of Saffier, particularly with the noise-free electric engine option. Then it’s all about the pure sailing experience: stable, stiff, rewarding, light handling and, thanks to the deck ergonomics, easy.

Upwind, the SE33 responded well to keeping the bow down and speed up to slice into the sharp swell, where boatspeed stayed up around late 7s-8 knots (in 15-18 knots). I particularly like the inclusion of reversible Harken winches, which allows you to control the main and jib sheet from the windward seated position. Then with the A-sail popped, we had the best downwind sleighrides, with the log clocking between 11-15 knots across and with the waves.

Once again this is a Saffier which, in a heartbeat, can change from elegant gentleman’s daysailer to an adrenaline ride of a sportsboat. It’s a dangerously addictive formula.

Saffier SE33 price: €139,500

Jury comments:
“By combining elegant styling, excellent workmanship and fantastic sailing characteristics Saffier has found the philosopher’s stone for the concept of daysailers” Roland Duller, Austria.

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