New yachts at Excel

We catch up with J Boats and speak to Niels Jeppesen and Russell Bowler about the X-35 and Beneteau First 34.7 respectively

Monday January 16th 2006, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

Joining the cruiser-racer party in the 34-35ft LOA range, going up against J Boats' highly successful J/109 and Beneteau's new First 34.7 is the new X-35 from Danish manufacturer X-Yachts.

While the X-99 is well known in the UK, it is now 20 years old and with 600 boats built, orders for new boats have dwindled to 10-15 a year, says company founder and designer Niels Jeppesen. X-Yachts have also had success with the IMX40 and 45 but these were designed principally for IMS and with the tide slowly turning away from this rating system so the company have been looking for a new avenue to go racing. "The way ahead is one design and a lot of our clients have asked us to come up with a new boat of this size - 35ft," confirms Jeppesen.

Since it was first announced, the success of the new X-35 has been staggering with 100 boats sold from the plans alone and 129 now sold in total. "We did the same back in 1985 when we introduced the X-99," says Jeppesen. "But we did that by giving a discount on the first 100 boats. This time we didn’t offer a special discount, so that is very pleasing." They are roughly one third up on forecast for the numbers of boats they anticipated selling by this point. Following this success X-Yacht have since announced the launch of a similarly conceived but larger X-41, the first boat available next winter.

Class rules have already been formulated by X-Yachts in conjunction with ISAF and from the outset they have been carefully measuring hull and deck weights to maintain consistency of construction. Overall the concept of the X-35 is for a boat made for racing, that is faster than their other cruiser-racer models, but with adequate accommodation to enable it to work as a family cruiser.

Designed in house, as is usual for X-Yachts, by a team led by Jeppesen, the boat has familiar lines, although compared to their other models, the X-35 is 'less IMS': beam is slightly narrower, Bmax is slightly further aft, there is less rocker in the hull and the bow is sharper. Compared to the IMXes, the X-35 should offer better off the wind performance. "The boat will be slightly harder to sail than a normal X-Yachts, but most of the owners buying this boat would like a more sensitive boat," says Jeppesen. Added performance has come from upping the size of the sail plan, so for example the spinnakers are similar in size to an IMX40, but on a boat three tonnes lighter.

Some of the on deck details are unique to X-Yachts, but are refinements of what has been seen on many of their other models - the single backstay disappears below deck to a 'Power Magic wheel' mounted on the bulkhead separating the two aft cabins, providing a 45:1 purchase. Each side of the twin-tailed mainsheet runs down from the forward end of the boom out to the sidedeck, where it feeds into a tunnel re-emerging in the cockpit. Similarily, there are fore and aft sheet tracks for the jib, but with controls for the barber hauler disappearing beneath the cabin top. On the cabin top the Harken winches both have dual drum sizes to suit whether the winch is being used for a loop of spinnaker sheet or to crank up a halyard. "Compared to a one-off race boat we have put more energy into this to this boat here to really work on the details, because we can justify spending the hours working on it, because we can expect to sell 300-500 in the next five years," explains Jeppesen.

The rig itself is simple with swept-back, full width spreaders, discontinuous rod rigging, non-overlapping jibs with a forestay going 9/10ths of the way to the top of the mast. The company debated about giving the boat asymmetric kites, but in the end opted to keep a conventional pole/symmetric kite arrangement.

Unusually for a 35 footer the boat has wheel steering. This Jeppesen says is something owners prefer as it is makes it easier to steer from either side of the cockpit, to see up to the weather or to drop down to study the jib tell tails.

Construction of the X-35 is relatively conventional in glass with Divinycell foam fore above the water line, monolithic glass below the waterline but with a galvanised steel keel frame in the bilges, doubling as a lifting point for the boat. Unusually the keel fin and bulb are entirely encapsulated in epoxy in a mould.

Down below the layout is relatively conventional with a symmetric saloon with twin bench seats and a table that can be removed while racing under one design rules. There are three cabins, one forward, two aft with the head compartment up forward, and the galley to port and chart table to starboard either side of the companionway.

Under class rules the boat will be sailed by a crew weighing 600kg total (7-8 people) while under IRC it is expected to be sailed by eight.

In the UK the X-35 costs around £120,000 all up including 3DL sails, B&G electronics and VAT. A large percentage of purchasers by all accounts are trading up from X-Yachts' smaller models and down from their larger ones. Interestingly aside from the large number of yachts pre-sold, X-Yachts have given each of their European dealers an allocation of boats in this first year in order to increase the international appeal of the boat. They are expecting their first Championship for the X-35 to be held in Holland in September this year by which time around 90 boats should be sailing. One design racing for the class is expected to start up in the UK in 2007.

LOA: 10.61m (34.8ft)
LWL: 9.12m (29.9ft)
BMax: 3.27m (10.7ft)
Draft: 2.15m (7.05ft)
Ballast: 1,700kg (3,748lbs)
Disp: 4,300kg (9,780lb)
Mainsail: 40.1sqm (431.6sqft)
Genoa (108%) 33.9sqm (364.9 sqft)

Beneteau First 34.7

A boat with a similar destiny to the X-35 is likely to be the latest offering within Beneteau's First **.7 range. The new First 34.7 (above) is the eighth model in the French manufacturer's cruiser racer range and like the three models above it - the First 36.7, the 40.7 and 44.7 - is from Farr Yacht Design, while the four smaller models are Finot/Conq.

The most noticable difference of the First 34.7 to not only the X-35 but the other models in the First range, is that the new boat features a retractible prod and asymmetric kites, rather than a pole and symmetrical spinnakers. The boat has a large cockpit and wheel steering, while Farr has been keen to optimise fore and aft weight distribution. Thus down below the head compartment is forward allowing for two berths aft and, bravely, an inverted T-keel arrangement (rather than an L-shape) has been fitted. "That has picked up on all the studies we have done with the Volvo bulbs and also the America’s Cup," says Bowler. "We are trying to lower the CoG as much as we can, also the effective span and reduce the drag as much as we can too."

Another significant step in weight reduction as well as build time has also been carried out by using a new resin infusion/injection technique. This enables the complete laminate, be it for the deck, hull or interior structure, to be laid up in one hit (glass laminates, core materials, et all).

While the 34.7 has been conceived as a one-design, it is also optimised for IRC or as well as it can be to a rule that is 'secret'. “You have to find out what it favours by looking at the racing results," says the Farr Yacht Design's Russell Bowler of the IRC rule. "By looking at rating certificates and looking at our predictions you have an opportunity to uncover the information. So where our designs have being doing well under IRC, we can dissect those and we know a lot about their performance and because there are lots of different styles of boats racing IRC you can almost ‘de-engineer’ those to help the design process." He adds that there are clear guidelines for the type of boat IRC is attempting to promote: a wholesome, stable, seaworthy boat. "I think if you keep that in the back of your mind all the time you are designing you’ll come out with a reasonable rating."

IRC for example doesn't measure stability, says Bowler (above with rudder) so one area of optimisation with the 34.7 has been to get weight as low as possible. "That is always a challenge for a production boat as they are built to a price and that means that the production process determines to some extent how low you can get the weight.” He adds that Beneteau have managed to achieve this without compromising the interior. Equally under IRC you try to maximise the boat's effective length and minimise wetted surface.

LOA: 10.3m (33ft 9in)
LWL: 8.73m (28ft 7in)
Beam 3.37m (11ft)
Draft: 1.65/2.00m (5ft 5in/6ft 7in) - depending upon keel option
Displacement: 4,400kg (9,700lb)
Mast height (above water) 15.8m (51ft 10in)
Mainsail area: 35.3sqm (380sqft)
Genoa area: 35sqm (376sqft)


At Excel J-UK were showing the new J/92S (above). This is the first revamp of the J/92 since it was launched in 1992 and the new version has effectively been 'turboed': the fractional kite has been replaced with a masthead, the keel is a modified shape and a little heavier lowering the CoG and the rudder has been updated. The cockpit is now 40cm longer and includes moulded-in footrests. Smaller mods include the removal of an anchor locker and the wooden toerail while the non-slip is now moulded into the deck.

Racing the boat in the Winter Series, the boat showed exceptional downwind performance, however the Heys were pipped at the post for first place by a J/109.

Unveiled at Southampton Boat Show in September was the slender and slippery J/100 day boat. Something of a departure for the company, the low freeboard, narrow beam lines of the new boat combined with a full-length teak toerail and chrome mooring line fairleads gives the boat something of a retro-look which one imagines goes down a storm in New England.

Unlike the smaller Js the new model doesn't feature a spinnaker pole or even a retractible prod - the tack for the asymmetric kite simply goes down to a block at the bow for simplicity of handling. As the boat weighs just under 3 tonnes, it is light for its 10m (33ft) length. This, combined with a slippery hull shape, requires less power to drive it, thus smaller, easy-to-handle sails that can be managed by a smaller or older crew. One gets the impression the aim of the J/100 has been for a high speed but less hair-raising ride than the boat's bowspritted smaller brothers - more Dragon than Mumm 30. In line with this is the class' has a no-hiking rule and even an option to race without asymmetric kites.

Above deck the mast is carbon fibre and for added ease of handling there is the option to fit a Gary Hoyt self-tacking jib boom. Roller furling for the kite is also soon to be offered as an option. The price of the boat is just short of £90,000 all-up. The fourth J/100 is being delivered to the UK in late January. Production of the boat is also soon to start up at the company's European yard in France.

A new larger version of the J/100 has also just been introduced, the J/124 (above). The concept of this is also as an 'executive dayboat' again without spinnaker pole or bowsprit. The first example is due in the UK in April for an Irish owner who will race it at Cork Week.


LOA: 9.14m (30ft)
LWL: 8.14m (26.7ft)
Beam: 3.05m (10ft)
Draft: 1.9m (6.24ft)
Disp: 2,545kg (5,610lb)
Lead keel: 1,051kg (2,317lb)
100% sail area: 46.91sqm (505sqft)


LOA: 10m (32.8ft)
LWL: 8.84m (29ft)
Beam: 2.82m (9.3ft)
Standard Draft: 1.75m (5.8ft)
Standard Ballast (cast lead w/antimony) 1,134kg (2,500lb)
Displacement: 2,948kg (6,500lb)
100% SA 44.4sqm (478sqft)


LOA: 12.4m (40.7ft)
LWL: 11.03m (36.2ft)
Beam: 3.45m (11.33ft)
Standard draft: 2.1m (6.9ft)
Standard Ballast (cast lead w/antimony): 2,268kg (5,000lb)
Displacement: 5,715kg (12,600lb)
100% SA: 70.04sqm (754sqft)

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