Light winds don’t usually make for fast or enjoyable boat tests, but most boats tested aren’t like X-Yachts’ new X40. Graham Snook heads to Denmark to put her through her paces
The new yacht in X-Yacht’s XRange is not a 40-footer. Let’s get that out of the way now – the X40 is 37ft 8in.
She’s great fun, and has the nimble feel and speed that most 40-footers can only dream of, but don’t think she has the accommodation of a 40ft yacht; the 40 in her name is her length overall, including her bowsprit.
Her interior is stylish, practical and well put together, she’s easily handled by a couple and can take you cruising in speed and style.
With that clarified, I can start telling you all how good she is and, oh my, she is good. It’s rare I’ll find myself having a great sail in less than 10 knots of breeze.
To be fair it’s also rare to sail a 40ft, sorry, 38ft, yacht with Technora sails and a carbon fibre mast and boom and a 2.40m draught.
But sailing south from Aarøsund in Denmark in 9 knots of breeze, we were having a blast and she was romping along going to windward at over 7 knots.
X-Yachts has long been a brand of proper sailing boats, thoroughbreds born to be sailed, not just comfortable yachts with masts and sails.
Its boats are well-mannered and sail fast; with its heritage in racing, even X-Yachts’ cruising range has a good turn of speed.
X-Yachts currently build three ranges of yachts; Xc for cruising, Xp for performance, and the latest XRange.
The boats in each may be similar lengths, but each are different from the keel up. The new X40 is not just the comfortable interior of the Xc38 crammed into the sleek hull of the Xp38.
The hull design characteristics on all three ranges are different: the Xc hulls have more volume to support the extra clobber required by the extended cruising sailor; the Xp are narrower with much slimmer bow sections; and the X40’s hull has more rocker than the Xp while its broader forward sections give more space for the owner’s cabin and wider aft sections with a soft, subtle chine, giving more volume aft.
While X’s Xp yachts have gained a more cruiser-friendly interior over time, they retain weight-saving features, less joinery (although, don’t for a minute think they are stripped out racers) and a carbon-reinforced subframe.
The XRange, in contrast, carries over some of the Xp’s sporty handling while keeping features reassuring to cruising sailors: lots of useful deck stowage, good headroom and a galvanised steel sub-frame beneath the sole which spreads the loads from the keel and mast.
With the average size of yachts gradually increasing to over 40ft, it is easy to become accustomed to their way of sailing.
There’s nothing wrong with the feel but, like the freedom of an empty winding road after being stuck behind a tractor, sailing the X40 is a reminder of how good a sub-40ft yacht can feel.
She strikes a lovely balance of nimbleness and control without being twitchy. Leave the wheel and she will veer off course, but the helm is so enjoyable you won’t want to leave it.
The test boat was fitted with a B&G hydraulic autopilot ram. In the past, when manufacturers have blamed the autopilot for heaviness to the helm,
I’ve asked for it to be removed – and the autopilot wasn’t always the cause.
On this occasion, without the ram fitted the wheel had the unrestricted preciseness I have come to expect from Jeffa cable steering, and it felt instantly lighter.
THE TEST VERDICT
There is no doubt that X40 is one of my favourite production boats; everything about her just seems right.
Of course, for a boat of this quality you pay handsomely for it and this boat did have more than £100,000 of extras added.
No doubt these improved her performance, and it would have been nice to see how good she was without the carbon rig and with her standard 2.1m draught keel.
As she was, though, not many boats of her length can rival her, given the comfort and build quality that’s down below and, of course, the speed you’ll be sailing.
This two-cabin layout worked well and provided plenty of stowage.
A three-cabin layout will be available, but you’ll lose the chart table and much of the spacious heads compartment; given it’s the only heads on board, it is a compromise you’d want to weigh up carefully.
The three-cabin layout works better on the larger X43 where less compromise is needed.
Boats to rival her are few and far between, though she sits between the more expensive Faurby 396 and the Arcona 380.
While all three of these boats sail well it would be unfair to just look at the bottom line as each yacht has her own merits.
Which would I choose? That is a very tough decision and one I am loath to commit to with so few words to pontificate with.
WOULD SHE SUIT YOU AND YOUR CREW?
At 38ft, the X40 squeezes in under the 12m mark, meaning that sails, loads, berthing and costs are all kept within bounds.
The size of the yacht and her sails feel less intimidating than those on a yacht above 40ft.
If you’ve enjoyed racing in the past and still feel the need for speed, but now want a little more comfort – and you have the funds available – this boat is a good choice.
She’s a high-spec cruiser that is hugely rewarding and fun to helm, with a very comfortable, stylish interior.
It’s very rare for me to give gushing praise of a yacht.
Boats as good as this don’t come along that often, but when they do, I feel like I have the best job in the world.