The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Boréal Sailboats–An Introduction

Over here in Europe many people choose an aluminum yacht for the excellent strength to weight ratio and the sheer robustness of construction. As a result they are more and more the choice of long distance sailors, especially those heading for higher latitudes.

Many of them are cruisers from well-known French yards—OVNIs and Garcias probably being the best represented, and they’ve really made some notable journeys. But these are boats that would be as comfortable going up an African river as up a fjord; capable, comfortable family cruising yachts that with few modifications can (and have) covered much of the globe from pole to pole.

But the French have also designed and built some pretty specialized craft for real polar work, such as Eric Brossiers’ Vagabond which has spent five years overwintering at Spitsbergen as a research base, and Northabout, the first yacht to make an east-west circumnavigation of the arctic sailed by Jarlath Cunnane and his redoubtable Irish crew. Both of these are not of excessive size (around 15m) and both come from the drawing board of Gilbert Caroff. Great boats, but hardly your average cruising yachts.

A new boat launched recently on the French market that incorporates a good deal of sound thinking has recently been reviewed in many of the sailing magazines here and has gained rave reviews. The Boréal 44 is the second in a range (the first is a 50) designed and built by Jean-Francois Delvoye and his team at Treguier on the North Brittany coast.

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Doug Gray

How do these aluminium lifting keel boats handle heavy weather.

Colin Speedie

Hi Doug

Pretty well, judging by their track record across the globe. Ovnis Garcias, Boreals and some of the other boats I mentioned above have all proven they can go anywhere other heavy displacement boats can go. In fact, for many high latitude voyagers they are the weapon of choice, not just for heavy weather capability, but also for the versatility that such shoal draft confers.

We’ve not had ours out in anything beyond F8 (apart from gusts), but she was steady and very capable. Being well insulated she is also very quiet down below.

Upwind, much the same as any other boat (i.e. with the centreplate down), downwind with it up, although some Ovni owners claim that leaving a small amount of plate down helps tracking. We’ve never tried that, but will at some stage in the future. But with the plate fully housed, the boat has seemed to track just fine, and with minimal effort from either a helmsman or autopilot.

All the owners I’ve ever met have claimed to be very happy with their boats and the way they handle in bad weather.

Best wishes


Dennis Fechner

When Evan Starzenger (spelling) wrote about heavy weather tactics he made an interesting statement: from all he knew from talking to owners of lifting keel mono hull boats they were able to sail directly down wind with no drogue in survival storms with no problems. Pretty amazing if you have the sea room. I guess no keel to assist in rolling the boat over. Boat design is fascinating.

Neil McCubbin

We have sailed our Passoa 47 centreboarder byGarcia about 25000 miles
She goesVERY well downwind with the board all the way up
We have steered by finger and thumb with 40 knots over the deck sailing at 12 to 14 knots
She is very broach resistant (I will never say broach proof) since her bow skids off to leeward when a broach seems imminent

Seems to me that a drogue would be good when going so fast that digging into the wave ahead seems likely, but we have no such experience.

To me, shoal draft is a secondary advantage relative to her sea kindly motion and security when in heavy weather

Colin Speedie

Hi Neil

Good to hear your experience with the Passoa 47, a great boat in my view.

Our Ovni 435 is very similar in many ways, and I’d wholeheartedly agree with you on all the points you mention, especially the downwind performance and comfortable motion.

Best wishes


Victor Raymond

I have only sailed 5,000 plus miles on our Meta Dalu 47 (Joubert design built by the Meta yard in Tarrare, France in their proprietary Strongall method).
Sailing from Aruba to San Blas islands we saw SOG of 14 kts in 25 kts of wind gusting to 35. Seas, at times to 15 ft., were rough but the deck dry. At no point did the boat seem uncomfortable or over canvassed with just genoa and no mainsail. We did trail the keel just a bit to help with tracking but I don’t have enough experience to know if even that was necessary.


Boreal have won Yacht of the year for 2015 for the 52. Fantastic news that this builder has been recognised for the great yachts that they build, and their design philosophy. Well deserved.

Colin Speedie

Hi David

this is a well deserved accolade. I’ve been aboard the first 52 and it’s a terrific boat at a great price. And I’m working with experienced owners on the first 55 which is going to be even better!

As you know from the above piece we’ve championed Boreal for several years, and this award shows why.
Best wishes