After a good night’s sleep aboard I was rested and looking forward to a short sail aboard the Boreal 44. But as Jean-Francois Eeman arrived with breakfast, things didn’t look promising as we looked out through the drizzle onto a flat calm river. Eventually though we agreed to go out and look for some wind out in the bay.And it was as well that we did, as we were rewarded with a light breeze outside that at least enabled us to put her through her paces a little.
The cutter rig is simple and hefty, with fore and aft lowers, parallel spreaders and running backstays, a bulletproof cruising rig. All reefing is handled at the mast on this boat, and there are substantial granny bars for security when at that task. All deck gear – granny bars, stanchions, pulpit and pushpit are in alloy to keep weight down at deck level, and to minimise contact between dissimilar metals. There are plenty of welded grab rails for safety when moving around on deck, and the painted non-slip surface provided good grip, although I like to see it on the coachroof sides as well, despite the dubious aesthetics of doing so. The side decks are clear and moving around on deck is easy.
And she sailed very nicely, considering the light conditions, and was easily driven and well balanced. The helm was light and positive, and she was a pleasure to steer with the big wheel from the side coamings. All of the deck gear was well positioned and of the right size, important for a short handed crew. She pointed well in the light conditions, and I’d be hopeful that this solid performance would also be born out in stronger winds when the daggerboards could be brought into action. With just the two of us aboard we were able to make light work of short tacking back up the river chasing the shifts in the wind. Even from such a brief acquaintance it would seem that all of the effort put into centring the weight and making the underwater sections slippery has paid off.
So is she similar to other similar aluminium lifting keel boats of the same size from French yards? All of them are good boats with their own attributes and a strong track record. But the Boreal is different, in my view, in so far as she is clearly designed with higher latitudes in mind. I’ve no doubt that she would be just as happy in the Caribbean or the Med, but really, for me, she is more of an expedition boat. Jean-Francois Delvoye told me that she was the product of seventeen notebooks of sketches and ideas he recorded during his six years living aboard his previous boat with his family, including two years in Patagonia, and it shows. There is a lack of compromise in the boat that shows that she was designed after much thought, and has been built with a determination to do things the right way for long distance voyaging.
If you were planning to build a boat for some serious high latitude cruising, then this boat has a multitude of standard features – the doghouse, insulation, underwater sections, to name but a few – that would be very attractive. Couple that with no-compromise aluminium construction, and a yard flexible enough to work with you to achieve your goals, and without too much effort you’d have a boat worth putting at the top of your wish list. She won the French Sailing Boat of the Year award in 2010 against some pretty stiff opposition, and it’s not hard to see why.
If the 44 seems a little small, there is a 47 (a 44 with an extended scoop stern), a 50/53 in the same vein, and there is a 62 in the design stage. Myself, I’d go for a 47, do away with one of the heads and an aft cabin, and, if possible, have a more conventional island galley. The 44 is a ‘big’ boat for her size, and the 50 must be huge. A 53 or 62 would make a great charter boat for high latitudes, or a simple version would be ideal as an expedition or research boat .
A Lot of Boat for the Price
These are semi custom boats, and each one is built very much with an owners needs in mind. There is a considerable list of options, but a standard Boreal 44 currently starts at 299,331 Euros + French VAT for a European buyer. Add another 50,000 Euros for some essential options (heater, additional sails, etc.) plus electronics, and you’d have an awful lot of boat for your money.
About This Review:
I would like to thank the two partners at Boreal Yachts, Jean-Francois Delvoye and Jean-Francois Eeman for their warm welcome to the yard and for answering my multitude of questions–as did the build team.
They were kind enough to take me out for an informal supper during my visit, but otherwise the visit was entirely self-funded.