Test Sail On A Boreal 44

Chapter 5 of 5 in the Online Book A Go-Anywhere Voyaging Boat—The Boréal 44 (Free)

The Boreal 44 is crisp to windward

After a good nights 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.


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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.

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{ 28 comments… add one }

  • Victor Raymond June 12, 2010, 6:07 am

    Colin,
    I can’t thank you enough for the review. I was convinced a while back that my next boat was either an Ovni or Garcia. Now Jean-Francois has convinced my to take a good look at his product. Your review has helped me over the hump of trying a new boat. I will just have to get over the interior design hurdle.
    I hope you get a chance for some real Biscay weather to test the Boreal especially reefing single handed while the crew is sleeping below.
    There is no doubt I would elect the larger sugar scoop model and although I would keep two heads, one would be all business and the one forward would be for calm or in port use with a sit down shower/tub combo.
    I would also sacrifice one of the aft staterooms for a storage/work area for all the things a long cruise necessitates.
    I found it interesting that the Boreal has no traveler. Although I suppose if one wanted one it could be mounted on the dog house roof. I did not notice if a topping lift was supplied or if that was felt unnecessary due to the rigid boom vang?
    Finally although I like the dual function of the heating system, I find a Webasto or other hot air furnace a great aid to keeping the boat dry inside. Perhaps both would be the best bet.
    Sometime I would be interested in hearing about things you would change if you were ordering a new boat.
    Again thank you taking the time.
    Victor

    Reply
  • richard June 12, 2010, 10:33 am

    Interesting that you seemingly put the emphasis on the aesthetics of the boat by covering these at length in the first two posts leaving the most important aspects (sea worthiness) to a single (and the last) post, and I see this same approach consistently in boat reviews as I do when I observe prospective buyers considering a purchase…They eagerly go over the creature comforts first and at great length leaving the sea worthiness aspects for usually only a few cursory glances, and I am guilty of this myself although I am making efforts to turn this around once I realized what I was doing…Excellent creature comforts are quickly compromised by even the slightest flaw(s) in seaworthiness, while excellent seaworthiness will greatly enhance even the most spartan of creature comforts…So I prefer the latter over the former without exception…Similarly, we have an extension to this with the universally true axiom to the effect that harbors rot ships and crews…meaning minimize your time spent in harbors, which, although totally true, is easier said than done…Once settled into the harbor the task of preparing the then-domesticated vessel for sea becomes more daunting every day regardless of the crew’s bent for passaging…Richard in Tampa Bay, aka Cavu’s skipper, now reluctantly on the look out for evidence of Deep Water Horizon’s crude oil, although so far we are spared the scourge

    Reply
  • Colin Speedie June 12, 2010, 8:50 am

    Hi Victor

    I’m sure that any of the three builders would provide you with a very capable boat – it might come down more to where you plan to take her.

    I’d agree with most of your thoughts re the interior, which isn’t dissimilar to our OVNI. Personally, I’d prefer the diesel heater system as it’s so simple and reliable, although we have a Webasto blown air system which has (so far) worked very well.

    The Boreal doesn’t have a traveller, but the way the double ended mainsheet is rigged works OK. And the boat I sailed doesn’t have a topping lift, but I’m sure that’s only a matter of asking for one. We have one on our boat (although we don’t strictly need it), and it can always be used as an emergency main halyard.

    And I hope to produce a posting on what we got wrong with our boat some time in the future!

    Glad you’ve found the review useful, and thanks for the kind words.

    Colin

    Reply
  • Victor Raymond June 12, 2010, 1:09 pm

    Richard
    I could not agree more. Looking at the Boreal the sea kindliness was (is) assumed but perhaps we should examine it in light of the sea state that Abby Sunderland was experiencing a few days ago in the southern ocean.

    Colin,
    It is my understanding – and please correct me if I’m wrong – that any of the larger boats from Ovni, Garcia and Boreal would do well in the higher latitudes. The obvious advantage of the Boreal is the dog house. And in reality for most of us a trip to Antarctica requires a passage through the tropics.

    Regards

    Victor

    Reply
  • Jean-François Eeman June 13, 2010, 8:52 am

    Thank you very much for all those comments… There is very much to say and I’ll try to be as complete and factual as possible.

    Victor and Colin,

    There is a topping lift, which is the same size as the halyard so it can be used as a second halyard. With the rigid boom vang it is not really essential so I remove it from the end of the boom to avoid it ragging unnecessarily along the main…

    Heater : You can combine the advantages of both systems using the same circuit of pipes and radiators. I don’t know for other brands but Eberspächer does it…

    Interior : Have a look at my previous comments and you’ll see we propose a version as Victor suggests.

    Traveler: The “window” of angles in which a traveler on the doghouse would be effective is very narrow…Our webbing system with blocks at different places on the beam compensates for the lack of a traveler…Moreover on boats which are not racing boats, the delta in performances and angles which cannot be compensated by the use of your vang are – according to us- really not very significant.

    Victor,
    There are examples of Ovni’s and Garcia’s who went everywhere around the globe! I even spent a lot of time with a Swiss family who went to Antarctica and back in very nasty conditions with an Ovni 345. Just like Ovni, Garcia has had new owners. It is important to see what the approach of the new owners are for the future.

    Richard,
    I do agree with you that when you read about a boat, what we really want to know is her seaworthiness. At the same time, I really do appreciate the fact that Colin only wrote about things he was able to see or experiment… That is an objective approach.
    I will try to be as objective and factual as he is, not “praising” qualities which obviously need a reality check.

    Speaking about reality checks :
    Last Autumn, Belgian journalists traveled to Brittany to test the boat in storm conditions. As they went out, the real wind was peaking at 54 knots… They felt totally safe and were enthusiastic… Article can be seen (but maybe not so easily understand) on our site http://www.voiliers-boreal.com (press review- article in dutch from Varen). The movie is/was on You Tube. I’ll try to see where…
    Anyhow: according to them it was the first time ever a yard accepted to have their boat tested in those conditions. (In the same spirit last spring, we accepted two journalists of Voiliers & Voiliers to be on board for the first sail ever with the Boréal 44… )

    At Boréal the managing partners, the two Jean-François, were sailors before being boatbuilders. We met in Ushuaia where we both lived for two years on board our boats. Jean-François Delvoye designed the very first Boréal 50 to take his family and himself to places he could/dare not to go with his previous boat… So initially, not for commercial purposes.

    I’ll be happy to answer any remarks you might have on the subject.

    Jean-François

    Reply
    • John June 13, 2010, 9:14 am

      A very big thank you to Colin for a really excellent review. I wonder, if the Boreal 47 had existed before we commenced what turned out to be a three year refit on Morgan’s Cloud, what we would have done…

      Also, a special thank you to Jean-François(s) for their very open attitude, even when their brain child was criticized, and the clear way in which they have answered all of our questions.

      Reply
  • Carter June 13, 2010, 11:26 am

    Jean-Francios
    Thanks for your clear and concise explanations. The YouTube video does show a very well behaved boat with a relaxed helmsman and crew in obviously quite strong winds. One more question. Are the daggerboards and rudder post behind the aft waterproof bulkhead?

    Colin
    Thanks for going to all the trouble to write this review. I also appreciated that your opinion was based on personal observation.

    Reply
  • Victor Raymond June 13, 2010, 11:40 am

    John/Colin/Jean-Francois
    A big thank you to all three of you for hosting, reviewing and all the good comments. My last question of course is how soon can I get one?

    Thanks again

    Victor

    Reply
  • Jean-François Eeman June 14, 2010, 2:46 am

    Carter,
    Yes, the casings for the daggerboards and the rudder post are behind the bulkhead.

    Victor,
    We would be happy to build a boat for you! And the dollar rate is in your favour. Once we have agreed on a precise configuration it would take us 18 month to launch your boat.

    Many thanks to all who in one way or another contributed to the success of this overview.

    Jean-François

    Reply
  • Colin Speedie June 14, 2010, 12:23 pm

    Hi Victor

    There are those who suggest that centreboarders are not suitable for high latitude travel, but as Jean-Francois has pointed out the track record of boats from OVNI and Garcia would suggest otherwise. What I think the Boreal does very well is to identify suitable features you would want for such sailing from the design stage, whereas you might have to upspec one of the others from the start. And I saw nothing about the Boreal that would have made it unsuitable for the tropics, either.

    Best wishes

    Colin

    Reply
  • Tom June 16, 2010, 10:44 am

    To Victor,
    From my information, Garcia has been sold by the initial creators of the brand some years ago…The new owners started the range ‘Salt’. There are mixed echos about those boats. Lately things did not go very well and the yard was saved in extremis from bankruptcy. It’s now Allures who owns the brand.

    Regards Tom ( Holland)

    Reply
  • Victor Raymond June 16, 2010, 5:26 pm

    Tom,
    thanks for the information re: Garcia. I had a feeling things had changed there.

    Colin, I never had any doubt the french aluminum centerboarders are up to the task. I am interested to hear what you would change on your Ovni when you have the chance to put it down. I, for one, have not found a single boat that has all the things I feel are important. There are compromises everywhere. I think the Boreal comes closest to my idea of a production expedition boat.

    Reply
  • Colin Speedie June 18, 2010, 2:57 pm

    Tom, thanks for that. I had no idea that Garcia had been taken over. Our original idea had been to buy a hull and deck from Garcia (Passoa 43) to finish ourselves, but the price we were quoted was so extraordinary, we soon dropped that idea! The new boats do seem to have moved away from the original ethos, so maybe the change of ownership explains things a little.

    Victor, it took me 20 years to decide on the boat I wanted, picking people’s brains and playing the magpie around boatyards, as well as coming up with a few ideas myself. And at the end of the day, I still got things wrong, and then there were simply things that weren’t options available with our OVNI. So, you’re right, things are always a compromise, and there will always be things you will kick yourself for having neglected to specify.

    So I’m working up my thoughts on what we would have done differently, were we at the same stage once again – watch out for it soon.

    And thanks to everybody who has contributed so many interesting and pertinent comments throughout this series – which has made it all the more worthwhile for all of us.

    Best wishes
    Colin

    Reply
  • Patrick Flockhart April 1, 2012, 8:21 am

    Hi Colin,

    Just wondering on how your thoughts are going on what you would have done differently? We have been pleased with our Ovni 435, but we are currently looking at a new boat and it is still really tough to decide which way to go! French, If so which yard in France? Dutch and the same questions etc etc (rhetorical questions).

    Best regards,

    Patrick Flockhart

    Reply
    • John April 1, 2012, 12:02 pm

      Hi Patrick,

      While I’m sure Colin would be happy to answer some questions.

      You may wish to consider Colin’s consulting services. He is currently acting as owners representative for two Boreals in build and the owners are very happy with the value he has been able to add to the process. Scroll down on the linked post for a couple of comments that talk about Colin’s services in glowing terms.

      Note that this is a completely separate company from Attainable Adventure Cruising and that I have no axe to grind here.

      Reply
    • Colin April 2, 2012, 10:04 am

      Hi Patrick

      I have to work on my thoughts regarding how we’d do things differently, were we to go down this route again, but certainly a doghouse, a different heating system and better engine access would figure in it.

      As far as the choice of boat is concerned, size, cost and destination would be the main pointers for any further decision. The Dutch yards build some interesting boats, but the prices are high, and the choice of French builders would be dictated to some degree by my above parameters.

      Best wishes

      Colin

      Reply
  • Patrick Flockhart April 2, 2012, 12:36 pm

    Hi Colin,

    Funnily enough the heating and doghouse are right up on our agenda too. Re the engine access that has been ok, but we did have a really hassle changing throttle and gear cables after the gear cable snapped. Thank heavens it did so whilst we were close to civilization.

    Best regards,

    Patrick

    Reply
  • Patrick Flockhart April 2, 2012, 12:37 pm

    NB I should have said we are the guys who own Tintin also an Ovni 435.

    Reply
  • Victor Raymond April 2, 2012, 12:55 pm

    Colin,

    Are you not using diesel hot air for your heat? I am curious the difficulties as we were planning something similar for the “new” boat which only has a Taylor diesel heater at this time.

    Hope all else is going well. I am very envious of your position supervising the build of two Boreal’s. They are certainly a fine boat and I enjoyed every moment of my visit there with the two Jean-François.

    Enjoy

    Reply
    • Colin April 2, 2012, 1:40 pm

      Hi Patrick

      I knew the name but couldn’t remember the name of your boat! Thanks for reminding me.

      Best wishes

      Colin

      Reply
    • Colin April 2, 2012, 1:43 pm

      Hi Vistor

      Yes, we are, and so far it has worked OK, but I’d rather not have to deal with something with an ECU – there’s too much to go wrong.

      The Refleks heater is simple and reliable, and you can run radiators off it – not cheap, and it takes up a lot of space – but -it makes the heart of a boat….

      Best wishes

      Colin

      Reply
    • Colin April 5, 2012, 1:10 pm

      Hi Patrick

      I thought I’d add these two posts from 2010 in which I put down my thoughts on what we like (and don’t like) about our 435, both in terms of under way and in harbour. If you hadn’t seen them, them may be these would answer your question in more depth. It would be interesting to hear how our views chime (or not) with your own. Jim Patek (one circumnavigation to NZ – now half way through number 2 in Panama) who wrote several very interesting comments in reply is one of the most experienced 435 owners I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, so his comments are well worth considering.

      By all means come back to me with any comments – I’m always interested to hear others thoughts.

      We’ll be back up in Scotland this summer for a couple of weeks doing some shark research work, so maybe we’ll meet up this time – send me a PM and I can tell you when we’ll be around.

      Kindest regards

      Colin

      Reply
  • Chris White March 14, 2014, 10:42 pm

    Hi everyone,
    Firstly thanks for the informative article on the Boreal yachts.
    I really like the concept and design of the Boreal 44, it seems like a really well thought out and constructed boat.
    Does anyone have a current price and list of standard inclusions / options for the 44?
    Are there any Boreal owners that can provide some real world comment on the yachts as it is nearly 4 years since the original article.
    Regards
    Chris.

    Reply
    • John March 15, 2014, 10:04 am

      Hi Chris,

      Funny you should ask. Over the next few months we will have quite a bit of follow up content on the Boreal boats. Colin, AAC European Correspondent and author of the original series on the Boreal, has now supervised the build of two Boreals that are out sailing with several more in the pipe line.

      And Phyllis and I are planning to stop by and see the Guys at Boreal in the late spring, as part of our trip to Europe to teach the High Latitude course. So stay tuned.

      Reply
    • Jean-François March 16, 2014, 7:39 pm

      Hi Chris,
      Thank you for your enthusiam for Boréal. If you send me a little email I’ll reply with a detailled technical description and price of the Boréal 44. You’ll find my email adress on our site.

      When Colin visited us, I took him out for a sail. Unfortunately there was not much wind. Some weeks ago, he had the chance to sail on RC Louise in 25 knots of wind. I’m sure Colin will give his feedback on his expériences…

      As for the others : we are in close and regular contacts with (almost) all our clients… Most rather sail than talk about sail… But they give us feedback which we use to continuously improve the boats we build.

      Of course one might say I’m not impartial but :
      We still own the very first Boréal 44, we sail her intensively… And we sail our clients’ boats.
      In December, Jean-François Delvoye took “Juan sa Bulan 3″ with his family to South Georgia out from the Falklands. It is – we believe – a pretty good (extreme) test… This year only one (other) non-charter boat went to there…
      It was Simon, Jean-François’ son and who has been part of our design team as hydrodynamic engine who sailed JSB3 all the way South.
      I sailed this year with my family several Boréals in Cabo Verde, from Stockholm to Oslo and several boatshows…
      So we know how sailing and living aboard a Boréal is…

      Feel free to ask any additional question or remark you might have.

      Jean-François

      Reply
  • Per April 3, 2014, 9:49 pm

    Hi, I come from Greenland, Nuuk and I’ve only recently come interested in sailboats(thinking out of the box) and was just about to drop the idea about having sailboat in Greenland. Until I found this sailboat. PERFECT sailboat for Greenland :) even though my very limited knowledge about sailboats, it seems to me all the right choices where made. Doghouse. Insulation. The heating. Strong hull. What’s not to like?! For me the 44 is love at first sight. Now, to learn more about sailboats, weather, navigation ect. Regards Per

    Reply
    • John April 5, 2014, 8:13 am

      Hi Per,

      Welcome here. Greenland is one of our favourite places in the world, so it’s great to someone from there visiting us at AAC.

      Yes, I think you are right, a Boreal would be perfect for Greenland. As well as the features you list, the lifting keel and keel box will make the boat very easy to haul on the marine railways that are common in Greenland.

      Reply
    • Jean-François Eeman April 18, 2014, 3:01 pm

      Hey Per,
      Thank you for your enthusiasm for Boréal…
      “Boréalp” owned by guys from the French Alpes, went two times to Greenland.
      In fact since she left Tréguier she was alwas up in North wintering in Iceland, Norway (Tromsö and Lofoten).
      Patience ! I’m sure you’ll some appearing in your waters “shortly”.
      Best regards,

      JF

      Reply

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