For most of us, our boat is a compromise – very few of us can afford a pure custom built boat for our chosen form of voyaging, especially if that includes high latitudes. Of course, there are boats that can be modified for more ‘off piste’ voyaging with greater or lesser difficulty and cost, but even then the choice is not extensive. So when I heard about the Boreal 44, which seemed to have many attractive features designed and built in, I was, to say the least intrigued.
And so it would seem were many of you, judging by the response to my short original piece on the boat. This led to a contact from the builders, with an invitation to come and see and sail the boat at the lovely French port of Treguier, an offer that I snapped up.
I was welcomed to the factory by the two men behind Boreal Yachts, Jean-Francois Delvoye and Jean-Francois Eeman, both from Belgium originally, but now settled in Brittany. The two of them originally met in Patagonia, both having sailed from northern Europe to cruise the wilds of South America. Jean-Francois Delvoye was sailing his self built steel cutter with his wife and four children on a six year sabbatical, and the two men began talking about the shortcomings of their relevant boats. M. Delvoye was very disappointed with some aspects of his lifting keel boat, and had decided to return to France and build himself a new boat to continue voyaging, a boat that would incorporate many features that he by now considered essential.
The basic philosophy that he brought to the new project seems to be to keep things simple, strong and serviceable – all good points as far as I’m concerned. Three 44s are currently in build at various stages of completion, and that allowed me to see the boats from basic metalwork to near completion, which could then be compared with a sail on the finished item – ideal.
So where does the Boreal differ from other aluminium lifting keel yachts from French yards? Starting at the bottom, the Boreal has a wide, full keel box, as opposed to the more usual flat bottom plate. Engine, ballast and batteries go into the keel box, to keep weight as low as possible, whilst the keel also helps directional stability and protects the rudder and prop. At the same time the box is wide enough to still allow the boat to dry out upright, whilst protecting the bottom hull plating from any potential damage from unnoticed obstructions.
The hull has a fine entry, partly allowed by leading the anchor cable and its windlass aft to the base of the mast via an under deck pipe, and from there down into a box ahead of the centreboard casing. Weight has been centralised as much as possible to minimise pitching, and to improve upwind performance, which is generally one of the weaker points of this type of boat. Boreal have stayed with a single rudder, where others are moving towards twin rudders, but have augmented this with twin retractable daggerboards aft to improve balance and take loads off the autopilot.
Watertight bulkheads are standard fore and aft, an excellent safety feature. The hull has an attractive shear, and the chines blend in nicely, but as always with chines, aesthetically you either love them or hate them. The hull to deck flange is rounded through the use of a pipe at the turn of the plating. This imparts great strength at that crucial level, and it’s also far easier to keep paint attached to a rounded edge than a right angle joint. Boreal fabricate their own cleats which are sized appropriately for the job, and are welded in place. It’s all simple, clean and strong.
Great emphasis has been placed on making the boat easy to maintain. For example, access to the engine is all-round, through lifting the front of the engine casing. All skin fittings are welded with internal standpipes that rise above the waterline. Whilst some internal locker space is lost as a result of this, the pay-off is safety and ease of access to the Marelon seacocks.
As all of the Boreals are designed to go anywhere from high latitudes to the equator, insulation is standard, and with over 3’’ throughout the hull (down to the waterline) and deck the boat should be cosy in cold climates and cool in the tropics. All of the sheets of insulation have been bonded with foam where they meet each other or the plating, and so little condensation should occur. It should also keep internal noise to a minimum – why anyone would build an uninsulated aluminium boat is beyond me!
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