Bavaria has relaunched its brand with the much-acclaimed Bavaria 55, a cruiser featuring a striking new design and architecture by racing specialists Farr and BMW Designworks
For production sailboat builders, the bread and butter length was somewhere between 35 and 45 feet. Those days are gone, and now builders are looking at building boats that are up to 20 feet longer as the bonanza. Until last year, production giant Bavaria hadn’t built over 51 feet. Indeed, fellow German yard Hanse took the plunge with their 54 and 63 foot models – opening peoples’ eyes to what an affordable production boat could offer. Meanwhile, Groupe Beneteau has launched flagships such as the Oceanis 58 and a Jeanneau 57.
To their credit, Bavaria didn’t just rush out a bigger version of an older boat. They went the braver, costlier route and turned to world-renowned Farr Yacht Design to draw the hull lines and advise on construction, and BMW Group DesignworksUSA for the exterior design details. These are two big powerhouses in the design department, as well as being of global repute. If you’re going to invest heavily in a new design, making sure it hits the headlines is a smart move to be sure.
The results are tangible – both a well-needed cosmetic transformation and a design thrust into modernity (Bavaria may be able to roll-out more yachts than anyone, but looks had become a bit stagnant). The satin-coloured hull that greeted us, combined with flush hatches, and angular windows / ports (there’s an angled theme throughout) give the 55 a sharper look with distinctly more aesthetic appeal.
Of immediate impact on approach is her hearty freeboard height (and beam), throwing an alarming amount of shade over an adjacent Bavaria 47. The height and width equal significant volume, thus these topsides cloak a large interior, not to mention notable dinghy storage, while keeping the coachroof sleek. This, combined with a large, walk-through cockpit with low coamings denotes she’s a boat destined for calmer and warmer waters than those of northern Europe and the Baltics.
Clean and clever
Farr say that one of their conceptual goals was to be able to create “real dinghy storage” –enough to engulf a 3.2-metre RIB, that could launch and stow with the outboard mounted. This is no mean feat on a 55-footer, and goes some way to explain the height of the topsides. The transom door lowers electronically, revealing a large swim platform and garage access, while a deck hatch above makes this a practical locker when under way.
The clean aesthetics of the decks are the business card of BMW Group. Everything is hidden and led aft, while they’ve developed a feast of both practical and clever ideas around the cockpit to help achieve this.
For instance, the bench-cum-sun lounger spans the 4.5-metre aft beam and can swing outboard to double as a gangplank, or slide forward to join the table (once wheels are removed) for alfresco cockpit dining for up to ten guests. In keeping with the modern trend, the sprayhood recesses completely beneath a cover, and the washboard drops down into a recess. The foot panels behind each wheel raise to provide good bracing, while hiding fuel and water inlets below. Engine controls and throttle stow under a deck hatch, the chartplotter recesses into the cockpit table – even the coachroof winches are sunken to keep the flush look!
Other than the garage and small lockers under each cockpit bench (still large enough for a liferaft), stowage is provided through a hearty sail locker in the bow, with its own steps, shelves, rails and access to the large chain locker. As the showboat, she was decked out with €90,000 of optional extras, most of which made practical sense.
The knowledge of who penned her wet bits is always going to be in your conscience when sailing the 55. But combine this with the fact that she’s a cruising Bavaria, and one’s bound to ask whether the result is a happy synergy or a mismatch.
Force three, flat-water conditions greeted us on the test, and it seemed ideal conditions for her intended purpose. The test boat had the standard 2.35-metre keel, but had upgraded on the furling genoa and in-mast vertically-battened main sails to polyester laminate as opposed to Dacron. This sail set-up worked well, as the 106-percent foresail is both a more powerful and versatile option than a ST jib, driving her in the lighter airs without being too much of a handful thanks to (optional) electric winches. For those after more performance however, a Sports package is also offered, with taller mast and a larger, fully-battened main.
While she seemed sprightly enough, managing 6.5 knots close hauled in light breeze, pointing quickly became an issue (50 degrees true – 30 degrees apparent) was a struggle. The need to keep clean deck aesthetics can have its drawbacks: the genoa tracks had been mounted too low. No doubt Bavaria will have it sussed by now (a shorter track on the coachroof was mooted), but by in-hauling the clew we could create a better slot and point over five degrees higher.
Whilst sliding pleasurably along at around seven knots (and over once freed below 50ºT), it was once we were further offshore and the breeze filled to a steady force four that she let her hair down a bit. Eight knots converted from 13 knots close-hauled, and in textbook reaching conditions she produced credible passage making speeds of 9 – 9.5 in 16 knots. But with no asymmetric aboard it was a pity we couldn’t see the potential of those broad aft sections downwind.