2008 November 10

A stylish cruiser with a racing pedigree

The X-382, a stylish cruiser-racer from X-Yachts, highlights some of the philosophical differences between American and European builders. With several notable exceptions, American builders seem to be making either dedicated cruisers or racers. The term "performance cruiser" is bandied about, but America's version is usually a good-sailing, easily handled boat with a comfortable, or even luxurious interior, that could also turn up for a Wednesday night race. European builders like X-Yachts of Haderslev, Denmark, disguise cruising boats in true racing hulls. The concept of the cruiser-racer is alive and well in Europe. Innovations from IMS boats quickly turn up on cruising sisterships, and go-fast features can be found on European performance cruisers.

Designer Niels Jeppesen, his brother Lars, and Birger Hansen formed X-Yachts 25 years ago and they still own and operate the company today. Their first success was the X-79, an 8-meter one-design that competed for market share with the J/24 and, at one point, became the largest class in Northern Europe. Although X-Yachts has had great success in grand prix racing, the company has recently focused on producing a line of, yep you guessed it, high-quality performance cruisers. Today X-Yachts builds 11 models ranging from 30 to 60 feet. The 382 was created as a little sister to the popular 412. In fact, Niels Jeppesen was so pleased with the look of the 382, he used its lines as the basis for the highly successful IMX 38.

I tested the 382 on a perfect Chesapeake afternoon. The winds were steady, around 12 knots, and there wasn't much chop. From the photo boat I examined the straight sheer, clean entry and sleek transom as the boat eased along under headsail alone. The 382 has a relatively long LWL of 31 feet, 9 inches, (LOA is 37 feet, 9 inches) yet the bow still has a nice bit of rake. The reverse transom cleverly accommodates what X-Yachts calls the bathing platform, a nicely proportioned swim step that doesn't protrude off the stern like a back porch. Below the waterline the 382 has a narrow forefoot and flat quarter buttocks, with a 6-foot, 6-inch keel squeezed in between. The displacement of 14,333 pounds is moderate, and 6,174 pounds of lead provides a ballast-displacement ratio of 43 percent, which helps the boat stand up in the stiff breezes common to the North Sea.

X-Yachts are constructed in accordance with the European CE certification, a new set of standards that builders all over the world are beginning to comply with more frequently. The 382's hull and deck are cored with Divinycell foam while a solid laminate is used to support the keel bolts, engine beds, propeller, rudder stuffing boxes and all through-hull fittings. A steel-reinforced, bilge girder system (or floors) provides excellent transverse hull support, makes a strong base for the keel attachment and offers a stout maststep. These floors are galvanized steel encased in fiberglass. I have been assured that rust or metal corrosion does not become a problem over time. The antimony-hardened lead keel is secured with stainless bolts. The laminated rudder blade has a solid aluminum stock, which strikes me as an improper material for the job. The hull and deck are bonded with polyester resin and through-bolted on 4-inch centers.

I climbed aboard over the starboard rail and settled into the cockpit. There were five of us aboard, but still plenty of elbow room forward of the helm and mainsheet traveler. The seat backs are angled for comfort and lower back support, and a large sail locker to port has deep drain channels and a serious overlap to keep green water out. The single-lever throttle control is recessed into the coaming to avoid accidental bumps. The steering system uses Whitlock's excellent rack-and-pinion technology, and the standard wheel has a 38-inch diameter, although peering around the optional dodger naturally reduced visibility. Nearly all sail controls are led aft to banks of rope clutches on both sides of the cabintrunk with two Lewmar 40 AST winches providing assistance. The primaries are Lewmar 46 ASTs.

The triple-spreader, tapered aluminum spar is supported by discontinuous rod rigging. Single-pod chainplates are tied into the structural grid by means of a stout tie rod. A permanent hydraulic backstay and runners are standard. The babystay has a Wichard Pelican adjuster. The genoa tracks are located well inboard, just along the trunkhouse, and provide extremely narrow sheeting angles. The genoa sheet leads can be adjusted under load from the cockpit. An aluminum toerail is used for various spinnaker leads.

The boom is set up for two reef points, and a furling headstay system is standard. Of course if you plan to race the boat seriously, a foil system on the headstay is the logical alternative. The stainless stem fitting has an undersized single anchor roller. There is, however, a sizable anchor locker forward. Double lifelines are standard and stanchion bases are attached to the toerail, a trend that makes assembly easier but not one that I like. Our test boat was outfitted with a handsome teak deck, and although it offered good traction, and the application system uses as few fasteners as possible, I might sidestep this $14,000 option, saving weight, maintenance and money.

The X-382 offers three different interior plans. I prefer the classic version that I tested. It features a forward double, conventional saloon with a drop-leaf centerline table, and an aft galley with the nav station opposite. The owner's double cabin is to starboard and a single spacious head is aft, to port. The other, "modern" versions push the galley forward along the starboard side in the saloon and include an expanded table area. The two-cabin model has a head forward and aft, while the three-cabin, charter layout has a single head and two side-by-side doubles aft.

The workmanship below is typically Scandinavian and the high-quality joinerwork creates a warm, friendly atmosphere without feeling pretentious. Bulkheads are marine plywood with teak veneers and finished with a satin varnish. There is adequate storage throughout, primarily above and behind the settees in the saloon. I would, however, prefer to see a few more access hatches in the sole. The galley in the classic version is an expanded L-shape, and is a secure place to work in a seaway. The counter tops have excellent fiddles. Two fairly shallow sinks and a three-burner gas stove are standard. A 53-gallon freshwater tank is standard, although a hot-water system is optional. The nav station is forward-facing in the classic version, with a comfortable seat and backrest. In the other versions, the nav station is athwartships with a swing-out seat and is not as comfortable a place to work. There is good ventilation throughout with eight opening portlights and two hatches. Three well-placed skylights allow a surprising amount of light below.

The standard power plant is a Yanmar saildrive, three-cylinder 30-horsepower diesel with a folding prop. The stainless steel fuel tank holds 26 gallons, providing a realistic motoring range of 250 to 300 miles for the easily driven X-382. I have mixed feelings about saildrives, although for a true performance boat they make sense. We motored briefly during our test and the boat moved smartly at 6 knots. Three 70-amp batteries with two dedicated for the house supply, are the heart of the electrical system.

I took the helm and was immediately impressed with the tight steering. Today's rack-and-pinion systems are not only bulletproof, but quite sensitive. We hardened the sheets, cranked the Banks roller-furling genoa to the tip of the spreaders and charged upwind. We were consistently topping 6 knots inside 40 degrees apparent with very little helm. I suspected the 382 might be a bit tender, but as the apparent wind hit 15 and 16 knots the boat felt firm in the water. Tacking was crisp, and we accelerated rapidly after each tack. Cracking off onto a close reach, we adjusted the headsail leads and eased past 6.5 knots as the boat found her stride. The motion was smooth, the 382 slicing through bay chop effortlessly. X-Yachts' racing background showed in the small things. The leads were all fair, particularly the halyards, which when led aft often have too much friction for smooth operation. Sail and rig adjustments were easily accomplished, including setting up the runners and dumping the traveler. Predictably the wind died as the afternoon wore on, which at least gave us an opportunity to handle the boat under power.

Twenty years ago we would have labeled the X-382 a racer-cruiser. Today, it's a performance cruiser-racer. By any name the 382 is a fine-performing boat that should live up to X-Yachts' lofty expectationsÑthat is, "to have the most comfortable, easily handled yacht possible which, in the right hands, is capable of winning regattas against the toughest competition."