Boreal 44 Design

Chapter 3 of 8 in the Online Book A Go-Anywhere Voyaging Boat—The Boréal 44 (Free)

Juan Sa Bulan 3 at rest in Treguier

Having spent half a day going around the Boreal factory looking at the boats in build, I was looking forward to seeing the completed item. The boat that is used by the factory as their demonstrator Juan Sa Bulan 3 was built for Jean-Francois Eeman and his family with two small children, and they kindly offered to let me stay on board, which allowed me time to have a good look around and get the feel of things.

Starting from the bow, the forward cabin is large, light and airy with a proper double bunk.  This works well as a ‘bedroom’ in my view – we have a similar set-up in our OVNI and like it a lot. In most circumstances you wouldn’t want to sleep up forward on passage, so there is a good case for avoiding a compromise  and creating a really decent in-harbour sleeping area. There is a head and shower in the forward cabin on the port side aft of the double bunk, but it isn’t huge, and whilst the joinery is attractive it can be difficult to keep clean.

The main saloon is roomy and with all woodwork in light French Ash and lots of window area, feels even bigger. All of the joinery is nicely finished, and there is plenty of locker space. The main saloon table and seating area is raised to allow good views all around, and the table can also be lowered to form an additional double bunk. One thing I would have liked to see was a seat back to the central bunk, to break up what is at the moment a very open plan interior, but I have since seen a picture of a later boat that had exactly that, so it’s purely a matter of choice.

The galley is neat, well equipped and functional with all of the basics. But from experience these European style linear galleys are not to everyone’s taste – fine in port, but they take some getting used to at sea. This boat is equipped with a diesel fired Danish Refleks stove, mounted just ahead of the galley in a recess, which not only provides heat for the saloon, but also feeds radiators in all cabins, a really well thought out, reliable set-up. Combined with the substantial insulation throughout and the double-glazed cabin windows this boat should be really cosy in colder climes.

There is a second head and shower to starboard on this boat, just aft of the galley. Again, this is a little small for my taste, and with all internal joinery will be difficult to keep clean. Jean-Francois Eeman did point out that in future boats an internal GRP moulding will be used, which, although more utilitarian, will be far easier to clean and maintain and so much easier to live with.

Twin double cabins aft complete the interior, making it ideal for a family, or for people who sail with larger parties. As the boat carries her beam well aft these cabins are large, and the area between them has been usefully employed to give excellent access to the engine and stern gear, something every designer should be made to consider as a priority. The hinged engine cover also forms the steps up into the doghouse and navigation station.

This area works really well. The chart area is offset to port, and all instruments can be mounted in the coamings, so everything is to hand. This boat uses a laptop for navigation, which can be viewed from the cockpit, but a multi-function plotter could just as easily be mounted in its place. The doghouse provides first class shelter, and with its watertight door there’s far less chance of water getting below or near sensitive electronics. For the helmsman there’s a cockpit repeater mounted on the welded wheel box covering all instruments and the autopilot controls.

There are two large stowage areas accessed from the deck – a sail locker right forward accessed via a deck hatch, and a huge lazarette right aft. Between the two, most items can be easily swallowed up, avoiding one of my personal dislikes, gear on deck at sea!

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All in all it’s a well finished, functional boat from the point of view of living aboard. Jean-Francois Eeman was at pains to point out the many lessons learned from this boat, which is, after all, number one. It’s also true that this is a boat designed specifically with a young family in mind. Being at the other end of the age scale, and generally only sailing with the two of us, there are things I would change, but there is every indication that the factory can accommodate most tastes. And there are many features that are there as standard that you’d really appreciate if you want to go off the beaten track.

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{ 23 comments… add one }

  • Victor Raymond May 29, 2010, 2:33 pm

    Thank you for your excellent review (so far). I look forward to the next part. I have been in touch with Jean-Francois also. I love many aspects of this boat except the layout. My ideal would be that of the Halberg Rassy 42 or 46. I really want access to the engine, a safe galley and head near the companion way. I like a stand up chart table and dedicated shower room. The rest sorta falls in place.
    I do love the dog house on the Boreal. I think the chain locker mid ship is a great idea allowing one to use the windlass for other winching purposes. I think their new designs with a real swim step platform in the stern will road out this yacht for many sailors.
    Now if they would only accept my boat as a down payment…….

    • John May 31, 2010, 7:58 am

      Hi Victor,

      Good points. One thing about the Hallberg-Rassy layouts though. They get those great looking layouts by pushing the accommodation right out to the ends of the boat. The result is almost no deck accessable storage. In the boat I looked at you would have a hard time finding room to stow four fenders, let alone all the gear required on a boat going to remote places.

      I can’t tell you the number of times I have visited cruising boats and found sails and deck gear on the bunks, or even an entire cabin given over to said gear.

  • Colin Speedie May 30, 2010, 6:53 am

    Hi Victor

    Glad you like the review, and I hope you’ll also enjoy part 3. I too like the idea of the extended version.

    As far as the other items on your wish list go, well for my money the engine access is already excellent for a boat of this size, and the aft heads are just ahead of the companionway steps. And Boreal seem to be very willing to customise an interior, so that’s between you and them for your other preferences……

    Best wishes


  • Jean-François Eeman May 31, 2010, 4:12 am

    Hi Victor,
    We are indeed very lucky to have Colin reviewing us. If you only need two cabins, instead of three, we can dedicate the starboard heads as shower and have a second toilet in the port aft cabin with a large storage room behind…And we are indeed willing to customise…

    Best regards,

    Jean-François Eeman

  • John May 31, 2010, 7:41 am

    Hi Jean-François,

    Thanks for the comment. I think that is a great idea. Would you be able to fit in a work bench with vise with that modification?

    If you have an interior plan and would like to send it to me as a PDF or Jpeg, I will publish it so readers can visualize the space allocation more accurately.

  • Victor Raymond May 31, 2010, 2:14 pm

    I totally agree with you. Two of the especially nice features of my production Jeanneau SO 45.2 are the generous sail locker aft of the chain locker and the twin helms in the cockpit. The latter allows unrestricted access from the swim steps off the stern to the companionway steps. The fact of the matter however is that once underway I generally stay at either one helm station or the other irregardless of which tack we are on.

    Jean Francois:
    Hello, I would love to see your plan for the work area. If it could be incorporated with the engine that would be most interesting to me. I hate cramped quarters when I have to do some engine work.

    Thank you both for your comments. I think we may be on to something great here.


  • Jean-François Eeman June 1, 2010, 2:46 am


    Thank you for your reaction. Yes, in that configuration we plan a work bench (where a vise could be placed). It must be specified that where we plan it, in front of the window in the hull, we won’t have enough height to stand…

    As soon as we have a plan, Jean-François Delvoye will have drawn and validated with the team and the client who asked for it, I’ll send it to you.


  • Jean-François Eeman June 1, 2010, 2:58 am

    Victor, John,

    I agree with both of you on the idea of a maximum of storage room. We (both Jean-François) know from our previous trip how much you carry… We are not afraid to say we have a lot of it. A French magazine stated that on the average 44ft sailing boat you have about 6.000 litres storage capacity. The same magazine measured all the possible storages on board and reached 11.500 litres…

    Access to the engine : you have two : you can lift the stair case and you have access through the port cabin… I’m sure Colin will agree with me that you can reach every part of the engine and shaft easily.
    Important to mention : in case of… You can still remove the engine out of the boat.
    If you want I can make some photos of it.


  • Jean-François Eeman June 1, 2010, 3:04 am

    Dear Colin,

    Seat back to the central bunk :
    in our standard version it is there. But I did not want it on Juan sa Bulan 3 because with children it is easer to get sitting without (in my opinion). And I must say that up to now half of our client want it and the other half not.

    Looking forward to Part 3

    Very best regards,


  • Carter June 6, 2010, 1:03 pm


    Thanks for the very interesting review. I would like to hear more about the design choice for the rudder. Perhaps Jean-Francois could discuss this. I prefer a skeg hung rudder but that may be more tradition than reason on my part. All and all I love the boat.

    Pacific Northwest

  • Jean-François Eeman June 7, 2010, 4:30 am

    Thank you for your inquiry about the rudder.

    It is a technical question which we try to answer in English as good as we can.
    A few elements about the rudder :
    We did not want twin rudders :
    – It does not work when going backwards
    – In areas such as Britanny or Patagonia weeds, kelp… always get stuck in them (we know from our previous experiences)
    – They cannot be protected and the chance to hit something at sea is real. With twin rudders it is always the windward rudder that seems to hit the unidentified floating objects.

    That made us opt for a single rudder :
    – Protected by the keel
    – The lowest point of the keel is lower than the rudder, so when beaching the rudder does not “support” the boat.
    – The rudder is balanced (meaning about 1 % of the rudder is in front of the shaft)
    – You don’t have to haul the boat out of the water to remove the rudder.

    A boat is always a compromise and we do not pretend to have “the” solution. We felt that if we had a skeg and the ruddershaft got forced/bent we would not be able to operate it anymore (and remove it). Without a skeg would be – according to us – easier.

    If someone has a different point of view on this we would be happy to read it.


  • Victor Raymond June 7, 2010, 6:58 am

    I must admit also that the rudder is always a large compromise. I have a spade rudder, which racers love, but I must agree with Colin, has no place on a blue water cruiser. I have one on my boat now and it is always getting itself into trouble (with my help of course).
    I have wondered how the Ovni extending rudder has worked. It certainly is more complicated but there have been enough Ovnis built that if it was not tenable they would have designed something else by now.

  • Jean-François Eeman June 7, 2010, 10:57 am

    I’m sure their system works when we speak about the way it is extended BUT it is two flat plates…
    (By the way : on the new models they don’t use that system anymore)
    At Boréal we tried to do a lot of research on hydrodynamics and we are convinced that having it profiled (NACA-profile) makes a huge difference on its efficiency.


    • John June 8, 2010, 5:56 am

      An interesting debate on rudders. I have always believed in skeg hung rudders, like our own Morgan’s Cloud for offshore boats, but I can also see Jean-François’ points.

      Also, as an old 505 dinghy sailor, I can attest to huge performance benefits of really well designed foils.

  • Richard June 8, 2010, 11:35 am

    Come on Colin, we are eagerly awaiting part three..

  • Victor Raymond June 8, 2010, 12:31 pm

    I am sure a NACA foil would have a big impact on performance. On the other hand a flat rudder is easier to maintain and repair. Also I am not sure they would “stall” as foil does. The spade rudder on my Jeanneau can stall with excessive input and it is usually at the wrong time.
    The Garcia Passoa on some single rudder models had what looks like a lifting skeg or dagger board directly in front and in line with the rudder. I like this idea and maybe similar to
    your daggerboards? Are they port and starboard or like the Garcias? or just one in line with the rudder?

  • Colin Speedie June 9, 2010, 3:17 pm

    Hi Victor (and others)

    Sorry I have been unable to answer your queries, but have just crossed Biscay to cruise the coast of northern Spain – and it’s raining worse than Scotland!

    Re rudders – the OVNI lifting system works very well, and is supported by a full skeg to the hinge point, which gives it massive strength and protects the prop. Like every system it’s a compromise, but for us, so far so good.

    The older Garcias (Maracuja, Nouanni, earlier Passoas) all have the single daggerboard ahead of the rudder (which is very shallow). I haven’t sailed one, but owners like them and I’ve only heard good reports. The Boreal set-up is very different, and there are twin (angled) daggerboards. The rudder was impressively strong to my eyes and is well protected by the skeg, although the skeg isn’t attached to the heel of the rudder. Both daggerboard systems are reckoned to be great for balancing the boat.

    Richard – glad you’re enjoying the series – the 3rd part will be along very soon.

    Best wishes


  • Victor Raymond June 9, 2010, 7:07 pm

    Sorry about the rain. Has been a long wet spring in Wyoming also but wet weather is often easier to take in a house than on a boat crossing the seas.
    Thanks for the update and clarification. I have seen dual daggerboards on newer Passoas perhaps like the newer Salt design.
    Jean Francois was mentioning that the newer Ovni’s have a new rudder system. Is that what you have on your boat or is this something very new?

  • Colin Speedie June 10, 2010, 5:18 am


    You’re right about bad weather on a boat, but in this case it’s ‘better to be in here wishing you were out there, than out there wishing you were in here’.

    As far as I am aware, all Garcia yachts now have angled twin rudders, with no daggerboards. Alubat seem to be going down the same route for the OVNI’s, for example, the 445 (that replaced our older 435) has twin rudders, but unusually they are vertically aligned.

    You can see an image of the older OVNI rudder system that we have on our 435 in Part I of the Aluminium boats ‘In depth” section on this site. For my money it’s a strong, dependable system that has a lot going for it.
    Best wishes

  • Jean-François Eeman June 10, 2010, 10:14 am

    Dear Colin,
    Dear Victor,

    Thank you for your comments…
    And Colin’s explanations do sound so much more English than mine.

    A few items :
    – Gracia : According to me Colin is right…
    – Ovni 445 : Colin is right : two vertical rudders pretty close to each other…
    – Boréal : I’ll send a picture of the rudders/daggerboards to John and Colin; They might be able to add it to the site.
    Going to windward : as soon as you have more than 10-12 knots of wind you start lowering the downwind daggerboard. When a puff arrives the boat goes to windward and the boat heels more, immersing more of the daggerboard and bringing the boat back on its initial course… The system works : when the boat is well trimmed she can goes windward for minutes (read sometimes 30 min) without you having to touch the rudder. And in rough conditions you can see its impact on easing the work of the pilot by checking the ampere meter.
    Going downwind: in windy conditions you lift pretty much the keel, moving backwards the anti-drift center. And you lower the two daggerboards… The boat is like on rails.

    Best regards,


  • Matt June 22, 2010, 8:39 am

    Hi All

    Just want to thank everyone for contributing to this post – it’s been very interesting.

    Unlike others here, my limited experience leads me to probably prefer a single rudder protected by the keel than dual rudders. The last time I sailed offshore was during the Sydney-Hobart yacht race a few years back. Unbelievable to me was the amount of things we hit as we raced south (including a sun fish which stopped us dead in our tracks; and some other unidentified thing). When we got to Hobart and pulled the boat out of the water the lead keel was full of dinks, scrapes and gouges (all of them new!).

    My conclusion? Thank god the keel took the force of these small-ish collisions. Surely an unprotected twin rudder would have been disabled by either of these hits.

    As has been noted above, a single rudder is a compromise (especially when you’re scooting downhill in 30 knots!) but it’s one that I’d be willing to make.



  • Steve Wrye June 10, 2011, 7:38 pm

    Dear Colin,
    I visited Boreal in March and was so impressed with the workmanship, both Jean-Francois’s and the Boreal 44 I have ordered one which will be completed in June 2013. I have three questions for you and maybe you can tell me what you think of them. My wife and I would really like a self steering system besides the autopilot. I am thinking of the Windpilot because it folds up so that the swim step could still be used. Both Jean-Francois’s and I had a long discussion on it over dinner one night. They thought with the dagger boards and how true the Boreal44 tracked it really would not be needed. But I love self steering, we had it on our Mason 44 and think it would work very well indeed on the Boreal. What are your thoughts on self steering on a design like the Boreal? We are also thinking of a chart table where the aft head is as we like a place to sit, talk on the ssb, go over charts and store our many charts. We don’t mind walking forward to the head and we are tropical sailors and use deck shower most of the time. The dog house is a great watch station, one reason why we ordered the Boreal, but we would like a bigger work station so we do not have to have our eating area always cluttered with paper work. The last thing is a removable screen door for the dog house. We like to travel in areas where Malaria is a factor and where it is very warm. At anchor I think that a screen door that could be taken off for passages, folded in half and stowed in the stern locker, would be the answer for good air flow, hearing what is going on above while down below and helping keep insects out.
    Looking forward to your thoughts on these 3 ideas.

  • Colin Speedie June 11, 2011, 7:33 am

    Hi Steve

    I’m glad that the qualities of the Boreal (and the team) were so impressive, and wish you well with your 44.

    The question of self-steering is one of those ones that run and run, but to me it’s not a question of either/or, more that both have their benefits. I’m sure that the Boreal is well balanced, and the ability to trim the boat with the two daggerboards is a valuable asset that will take the loads off the autopilot, but surely that’s equally true with a self-steering system? To me the major question is one of reliability, and I have to say that my experience with autopilots is far from a happy one. The current generation seem to have a multitude of functions (that I don’t need) and are no more reliable than the older generation. And I’d swop all of the gizmo’s in the world for an AP that was simple, robust and reliable. And for that reason alone, I’d always want a self-steering system for offshore work.

    The Windpilot is a great piece of kit – we have one, and it matches our boat very well. Equally, the Hydrovane comes highly recommended by other Ovni owners, and, operating via a different principle, has less string to clutter up the stern. We’re currently planning to convert our Windpilot to work with a small autopilot, having heard good things from others who have gone down this route.

    In simple terms, if you’re intending to sail short-handed, you need the best that both systems can offer – in my view.

    I can appreciate your point re the chart table, but personally I’m not entirely a fan of a heads forward. We altered the spec of the standard Ovni to do away with the forward head and shower (right in the bows), largely because we wanted the space for other things, and we don’t like becoming airborne from the heads when under way! But as the forward heads in the Boreal is installed further aft, then maybe this could be a viable option.

    The screen door sounds like a good idea. Our boat is very much dual purpose, and we’re still sorting out the final changes to make her more suitable for the tropics – we know she’s good in the cold. Ventilation is critical, and keeping a through flow of air seems to be the ultimate goal. As Boreal fabricate the door, I’m sure they will be able to come up with a good working solution along your line of thought.

    Best of luck with the build, and keep us posted as to how you get on.

    Best wishes



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