Wannabe Sailing Bum
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: SF Bay Area
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I can only speak to my 2002 473, which is very similar to the 49. As has been noted, this is not a boat to take around Cape Horn. Since you've noted that isn't in the plans, this boat should definitely be on your short list. My 473 was designed by Groupe Finot, who are world renowned for building 'round the world' go fast racing yachts. You should do a little research on Berret/Racoupeau to get a feel for their success and reputation.
I've been very happy with how strong and fast they are. For example; 20 knots of wind with full main and 110% and she sails along extremely well balanced. So much so that you can literally let go of the helm. In good size seas, even as a medium displacement boat, her LOA makes for a solid and comfortable ride. Banging off waves doesn't make her vibrate like some boats I've sailed on. It has that solid feel that builds confidence in what's under the hood (so to speak).
A couple of things I'd personally steer clear of. The shoal draft keel and furling main will greatly hamper performance. I also think the shorter keel is a safety factor, as that will have an affect on the boats righting moment. The furling main has become very popular, but since I'm a racer gone (performance) cruiser, I prefer the full main for the extra sail area, and infinitely more tuning options. I also don't like the thought of the extra gear inside the mast, which adds weight aloft. All lead to performance degradation.
As for comfort, my wife and 3 (small) kids use the boat for long summer weekends, so she becomes a condo. So far we've been very comfortable with no complaints. The cockpit is fantastic with the split helms and tons of room to sail with 7 or 8 on board. The 49 has an even better cockpit layout.
I would prefer to have more access to the engine compartment. Also would prefer a larger lazarette, but opting for the 3 cabin layout blew that up. I've since added radar and cockpit mounted display, which wasn't cheap. If you buy the boat new, save yourself the time, money and hassle and have it delivered with the boat.
Good luck and good sailing. Feel free to PM me with any specific questions.