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Sabre 452

2008 November 10

Like a Mercedes on water

The Sabre 452 is a refined, powerful cruising yacht aimed at affluent sailors with extensive experience and ambitious sailing plans. The Sabre design team and Jim Taylor Yacht Design worked closely with some of Sabre's 2,000 owners in developing the plans and specifications for the boat. The result is a serious, go-fast cruising yacht that could cruise anywhere in the world at a moment's notice. I must admit that I have always had a yen for Sabres. Fast, beautifully built and pleasing to the eye, they epitomize American yacht design at its best.

This is no ordinary cruising boat. Sabre's bold decision to put a virtual cloud of sail on a masthead rig has made the 452 a true sailor's boat-meant for sailors who like to sail fast and are at ease with sail handling.

"Our philosophy for offshore sailing is that reducing sail is something anyone can do, but you need the sail area to make long passages quickly," said Bentley Collins, Sabre's marketing director. "You don't want to be stuck to the water on a day sail on Long Island Sound either.

" With a 525-square-foot mainsail with a luff dimension just under 60 feet on a boom more than 19 feet long, this Sabre has lots of power for light-air days. Collins and the folks at Sabre had asked designer Jim Taylor to design the fastest 45-foot boat that could still fit under the 65-foot-high bridges of the Intracoastal. So the mast was made a little shorter and the boom a little longer to give the 452 its powerful main. Add that to a big foretriangle (17-foot, 7-inch J dimension) and you have a go-fast cruiser. Sabres aren't just fast, they are good-looking too. The test boat was the second 452 out of the factory. With a flag-blue hull, long sheer and step transom, she exuded speed and efficiency, while losing nothing in looks along the way-a hard combination to achieve.

Below the waterline, the 452 has a fin keel (a bulb/wing configuration is optional) and ingenious spade rudder with carbon fiber stock and a sacrificial bottom 40 percent that allows you to steer the boat even if you lose most of your rudder in a grounding or by hitting a submerged object at sea. The hull is balsa-cored, hand-laminated fiberglass, the deck a single balsa-core unit with plywood in high-stress areas.

Attention to detail shows on deck. A wooden toerail, slightly higher than usual, provides sure footing in a seaway. Ample nonskid and wide side decks allow you to move forward in a hurry, with cabinroof handrails within easy reach. There are stout mooring cleats at all four corners of the boat and amidships, with fairleads for spring lines. The boat comes with 10 hatches that pour cool air below in an almost endless set of combinations-into the heads, the galley and all the cabins.

The foredeck is well-laid-out with a Simpson Lawrence electric anchor winch and a deep anchor locker, combined with two bow rollers. All halyards and sail controls are led aft through Lewmar stoppers, with Lewmar winches on either side of the companionway. A stainless steel handrail surrounds the main hatch opening, with a small Plexiglas locker to starboard for winch handles, sail ties and other easy-to-lose items-a nice touch.

The T-shaped cockpit is enormous, with a rounded rear seat behind the standard leather-padded 48-inch wheel that allows ample visibility under sail or power. (The test boat had a 52-inch wheel.) The engine controls are close to the helm. The instruments can be set above the main hatchway or placed on the pedestal guard. Lewmar 64 and 48 self-tailing winches provide the muscle power for the jib and spinnaker trim. There is plenty of storage in aft cockpit lockers and a deep compartment for fenders and dock lines to port, with a pocket in the lid for short lines and ties and a conveniently placed shelf for stowing the hatch boards. The cockpit seats are contoured at the right angle. When the boat heels, you slide down gently and rest your feet on the other seat. An Edson cockpit table fits the boat nicely.

Down below
You step down the main companionway into an elegant saloon, lined with beautifully finished cherry wood. The level of craftsmanship makes it hard to believe you are on a production yacht. An ivory roof liner and seven windows, three of them opening, give a nice feeling of airiness. A U-shaped galley-with icebox refrigerator, deep double sinks and a three-burner stove with oven-lies to port. The galley also includes a microwave located just aft of the stove, a stainless steel protective bar, foot pumps and ample counter and storage space.

The navigation station to starboard has its own softly upholstered bench seat with hinged chart table and electrical panel and electronic displays outboard. Battery switches for selection of the AC source and the inverter are close to hand. A bookshelf for cruising guides, pilots and tide tables above the chart table would have been a good idea, but there is one below the seat.

The saloon has a U-shaped dining area to port with comfortable cushions upholstered in a dark blue, which converts into a double berth. A single berth to starboard makes a good passagemaking sleeping place. Louvered lockers, small bookshelves and drawers lie outboard with a ledged shelf for small items above the seats. A bottle locker and countertop forward on the starboard side act as a bar.

There are two cabins, one at each end of the boat. The aft cabin with a head is to starboard and features a smallish double berth that would make a good sea berth. An opening hatch provides ventilation and a way to talk to the crew on watch. A set of drawers, a small closet, a bench seat and a countertop that opens to provide side access to the engine provide creature comforts. There is even a mirror behind the cabin door.

The forward cabin has a V-berth with standing room for the average adult and boasts a comfortable seat to starboard and ample drawer and closet space. The main head has a separate shower compartment. Both heads are beautifully finished with easily wiped countertops and surfaces. The main head even has a laundry hamper.

Everywhere you turn, the passion for detail shows. Clearly labeled sea cocks, the keel-stepped mast masked with a hinged closet that reduces noise and can be snapped open in seconds, a floor pan for dust collection, fire extinguisher stowage under the chart table, easy access to bilge pumps and really well-laid-out deckhead lighting are just a few of the 452's nice touches.

Under sail
The test boat was berthed at Point Richmond, in the San Francisco Bay area. We motored out of the Richmond estuary with the Yanmar 76 purring easily below our feet. Under power, the 452 makes about 7 knots at 2,600 rpm, an effortless cruising speed for serious passagemaking. With tankage of 100 gallons, she has a range of at least 400 miles at this cruising speed. There is fingertip control under power, especially astern, the real test of a boat's handling abilities. Even with a cross wind, I was able to put the stern exactly where I wanted it as we backed into the slip.

A typical San Francisco spring day with 15 to 20 knots blowing under the Golden Gate as the fog hung close offshore made a perfect playground. We hoisted the full-batten, loose-footed main in short order (a stainless steel step on the mast would be a good addition; we used the mast winch to step up to attach the main halyard), and then we unrolled the jib.

The owner of the test boat had asked Quantum Sail Design Group to build his sails in Spectra cloth. Under full main and 110-percent jib, the standard cruising setup for the bay, the boat heeled to the strengthening 12-knot breeze, then steadied and accelerated effortlessly to an estimated 6 or 7 knots (the electronics were not yet hooked up on the test boat). Little spray came aboard from the usual bay chop. I had the impression of a very dry, fast boat. I sat to leeward and reveled in the perfect balance at the helm.

I slipped below and propped myself into the navigation station. Classical music played over the stereo. The serenity was as if I was on the freeway at 65 mph in a Lexus or Mercedes. That's what good joinery and solid hull scantlings do for you. We came about, spinning easily onto a new tack and reaching full speed almost at once. Once again I enjoyed the sensation of effortless power. As the wind faltered under the lee of Treasure Island, I was impressed how the 452 carried her way in the fluky air. I would have not the slightest hesitation in sailing this boat up to her slip among moorings and other hazards where good tracking ability is essential.

We cracked off on a broad reach and headed up the Richmond Estuary. The boat was steady as a rock in the gusty wind, the central-boom mainsheet control easy to use. We rolled up the jib and headed up the narrows, lowering the main in a rush as we glided upstream.

Though we didn't have the opportunity to sail the 452 under spinnaker, there is little doubt that with either a conventionally rigged spinnaker or an asymmetric flown from the stem, the boat would make this boat fly off the wind.

The test boat was rigged with the optional inner forestay, which can fly a storm sail or a staysail when the wind pipes up. The strength of the Sabre 452 is that it is a true sailing boat, with a powerful yet flexible sailplan to satisfy even the most demanding skipper. The 452 has a big stride-the ability to cover the miles effortlessly. At about half a million dollars fully equipped, the Sabre 452 is not cheap. But if you have the means, the experience and ambitious cruising or club-racing plans, this 45-footer would be a good fit. The 452 is one of the finest boats I have ever tested-period.