A general observation
: 2011 looks to be a very good year for sailboat design. We owe at least this to the recent year’s financial circus. The large manufacturers have had to take their eye off boats rolling out the door and instead turn to development, and the marginal and also-rans have either been bought or gone down. You can probably count more new genuinely new models now than in the previous several years.
Another factor is that most have completed their transition to new production techniques and new materials that only began to mature ten years ago. The same goes for equipment all the way from engines and sails – will we see diesel-electrics? - to electronics. The product cycle is noticeably shorter. The big remaining question will be whether the buying public will be equally adventurous. Sailors are a conservative bunch.
Hard chines. Centerboards/Lifting keels, and twin keels – a surprising number of builders have added these to their range. Canting keels, yes – though I’d personally want these tested in numbers for at least 5-10 years before I rely on one. More glass. More light. Twin rudders. Better speed – motorsailors are gone from most markets, replaced by the less loaded term “Decksaloon”, and these must increasingly improve speed to stay competitive.
Finally – and this may be too early to call: more boats adapted to families and individuals? The charter market has always been responsible for soaking up large numbers of beamy, roomy and under-rigged floating palaces with far too many cabins for private owners' needs. This market also drove the equipment market towards mass production of “average” quality – and a company like Lewmar almost went under when the bottom fell out of the market. Lately, Lewmar has rediscovered the after-market and new products. Judging by where innovation seems to occur now, we may be seeing more “real” sailboats – one hopes
I am a bit of an optimist. Perhaps that is why is see the 2011 market as closer to the 1970s when sailing interest peaked and great boats were made? There has been development in between, but now we see a mature crop where almost no boat is truly bad, and new materials and designs have lifted interiors a whole level across the board.
A quick retort to Paulo:
Nah! That's an interesting concept...but ugly boat in my opinion. Why such big "windows" on the interior? It's the "DS" of the sport boats?
Well, there’s no accounting for taste
The greater glass areas in new boats owes much to new materials – an extreme example being the Sirius 35DS in this thread, with hull ports in bulletproof polycarbonate almost three times the thickness of German Army bulletproof staff cars. The tiny pigs’ eye round ports of the 1960’s boats had to do with adapting to leaking frames, the imperfect strength and price of glass, and hull materials not permitting large glass areas to be stable or secure. Personally, I see many reasons to have large glass areas and almost none favoring the opposite, if we disregard sailing in Polar Regions. A big plus comes for single-hand sailors: you don’t want to go below and lose all connection to the business end outside.
I’ll follow up with a brief summary of more boats – they do proliferate!