SAIL Magazine December 2014: Best Boats

This article was posted on SAIL Magazine November 14, 2014

Best Boats 2015: Gunboat 55

Gunboat continues to push the envelope with its new 55-footer

Gunboat has long turned heads with its luxurious, carbon fiber, global-cruising catamarans that have outperformed grand prix monohulls without subjecting their crews or owners to long spells of “rail-meat” duty. But while these exotic cats have long been the stuff of dreams, they’ve also been big enough that they typically require a professional crew to sail and maintain them, especially for globe-girdling, adventure-orientated owners. Enter the Nigel Irens-drawn Gunboat 55, an offshore-capable weapon that can be owner-operated.

While jaw-dropping aesthetics have long been a key signature of the Gunboat brand and are carried to new heights in this boat, so too is offshore safety, and the 55 is no exception. The carbon fiber and Corecell composite hulls and main deck are epoxy-infused via a vacuum-bag system that renders a massively strong hull form. Sacrificial bows and sterns, safety-glass windows, kick-up carbon-fiber rudders and centerboards (with shear pins), escape hatches, carbon-fiber spars and the speed to outrun the worst of most weather systems all add up to a boat that is as secure offshore as any: a fantastic sailing machine that more than does justice to its bigger Gunboat forbearers.

At the same time, while the new 55 shares plenty of other features with the boats comprising the Gunboat line, it also displays several major innovations, including an enclosed “working cockpit” before the centerline wheel and nav station. Here, two powered winches, backed-up by banks of jam cleats and rope clutches, tend to the boat’s running rigging, allowing a solo crew member to easily trim sails without getting wet. The helmsman has an uninterrupted 360 degree view and a sliding  moonroof overhead to aid sail trim. The 55’s advanced construction also does away with the need for a cross beam to ensure torsional rigidity in the bow sections, thus saving weight and delivering a clean-looking aesthetic. It’s hard to beat this combination of quality materials and design.

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