The X-41 from Danish builder X-Yachts offers cruising comfort in a yacht built for a one-design circuit
You will never see an X-Yacht in the Volvo Ocean Race. Or the America’s Cup. And certainly not in the Vendee Globe. Where you will see them is in almost any week long regatta, weekend race and cruising ground – especially in Europe. This is the market which X-yachts aimed at when they started construction in 1979 and, almost 4,000 yachts later, that is where they are firmly entrenched. The first design from the yard, the X-79 sold 468 units, only eclipsed by the most recognizable and trusted of all their designs, the X-99 which sold 600 units. Although first built in 1984, the X-99 is still being built and second hand versions command prices almost double that of comparable mass produced yachts.
So it is a strong pedigree from which the X-41 arises and to find out if the latest addition to the busy racing scene in the 40’ range in Hong Kong lived up to the X-Yacht tradition, I took the recently arrived Orient Express out for sail.
It is a Monday afternoon, the sun is shining and a perfect northerly is blowing out of Sai Kung Town and straight up Shelter Cove- what a start to the working week! The flat water really helps me appreciate the subtleties of the boat and proved a perfect testing ground.
The X-41 represents the new generation of X-Yachts and launched as the bigger sister of the X-35 One Design which still sees over 200 examples racing in may corners of the world. Their almost 30 years of experience really shows through with the line between performance racer and cruising yacht being very narrow indeed.
View From The Outside
There is something about an X-Yacht which is instantly recognizable. Although the pin stripes on the waterline are a fairly quick give away I think it is more a combination of elements which add up to the X look.
When put alongside some other notable designs the X-41 will run the risk of blending in a bit as it doesn’t have any striking features which will make it stand out. But look a little longer and you will notice the slight rake to the stern which gives it full use of waterline length, you will also notice the swept back look of the coach house which gives it a stance in the water.
Move closer to the X-41 and it is now that you start to notice the smaller details which separate this boat from the ones around it. For example, the exits on all the sheets don’t run on the hull, there are chromed cross-plates mounted on the deck to stop channeling from heavily loaded sheets.
The fittings on deck were a mixed bag with Ronstan, Harken and an array of other deckware which surprised me somewhat but it also shows that thought has gone into each fitting and the correct one has been chosen. Quality has gone ahead of quantity and in the heat of racing I’m sure there are many silent thanks for it! A very pleasant surprise was the Equiplite connectors on the jib clews.
The one drawback I felt from the total look of the X-41 once it had its sails up was the use of blues, greens and reds in the logo and sail numbers. Outlandish colour schemes should be left to sportsboats and not detract from the hours spent drawing and redrawing the near perfect lines of a boat.
View From The Inside
From on deck the X-41 is much more of a racer than a cruiser and, although very well laid out and spacious in the cockpit, it does all point towards fast tacks and lots of action on spinnaker gybes. But go below and you enter a different world all together. The layout has a front cabin and two symmetrical aft cabins, each with a double berth, a functional and fully equipped galley to port and a light and spacious saloon area. In cruising mode the interior is very forgiving and entertaining is a definite possibility. When in racing mode the table top lifts off leaving the aluminium support post which can be used as a grab bar in rough seas or as a divider to stop sails from sliding across the boat and hindering access to the front hatch.
The chart table has a familiar set up with the instrument board and radio to the right of your ear with a large table in front for a laptop and chart. Some sort of swivel system on the seat would be nice but a line has to be drawn somewhere between form and function. The head gives plenty of space on either side and the designers have proved, in true Euro fashion that you don’t have to sacrifice weight or ratings to have a clean, stylish and functional interior. The X-Yacht trademark steel structural grid and fine, clean-lined interior appointments combine strength and style in an impressive package.
As with the exterior, the finer points have been addressed and however hard you look, whether in the engine compartment or behind the companionway steps, you will find no rough and unfinished edges. It is this attention to detail which makes X-Yachts the success that they are and what sets them apart from all the other mass produced builders. Fortunately this attention to details pervades in the factory as well because the finishing does not add significantly to the cost of the boat and what it does add, it seems buyers are happy to pay for.
The Feel On The Wheel
The most pleasurable part of this test sail was by far the bit where I grabbed the wheel. With a 67 inch span the carbon wheel is not hard to miss and, unlike many other race boats, was not too thick, even for my big hands. As soon as I took the wheel I could feel that a small group of men had spent many hours making sure that the mechanism down below had been perfectly balanced to give this 41 footer the feel of a boat half her size. Upwind the Jefa bearings and components gave just enough weather helm to really feel the boat and respond to the slightest adjustments- a real benefit for a racing helm who needs to concentrate on a lot of things at the same time. As soon as I bore off into a reach I felt the rudder biting nicely and although I didn’t get the chance to try, suspect that it would tell me quite early if it was going to cavitate or send the X-41 into a broach.
The view from the driving position is very good and the tell-tails can be easily seen from either windward or leeward.
Up The Mast
The X-41 comes with a Nordic carbon mast with swept back spreaders and carbon boom to accommodate the very modest sail area. The jib is only a 106% overlap but the forestay is set high which gives the jib 95% of the fore triangle. This means the jib trimmer must be very in touch with the boat and its environment but, of course, the designers had this in mind and set the controls to let the trimmer easily power-up and de-power as conditions vary. The main trimmer has everything within easy reach for accurate trimming from the weather side and, although the kite trimmer uses shared cabintop winches, there is plenty of elbow space and the pitman has less chance of being knocked unconscious at an inopportune moment. The spinnaker is just less than 150m2 and is sailed off a conventional pole- X-Yachts having eschewed the fixed prodder option which is so prevalent in many racing yachts in this range.
All in all, the X-41 is a very complete package and will definitely appeal to current owners of X-yachts, especially those looking to upgrade from some of the older designs. As this is a one design class, costs will be capped and a new owner will be able to control the budget of campaigning a boat- something which will come as a relief in light of the financial market conditions over the last few weeks! New or first time buyers will take comfort in the build quality, and know that their new boat won’t lose value as fast as many other boats built on a production line. Orient Express is moored in Shelter Cove and I’m sure the owner would be very happy to show off his new boat to anyone who wants to have a look!