So, how compare performance cruisers in a transat with medium height modern cruisers? A lot of talk about the performance of a performance cruiser loaded for a Transat to be prejudiced to the point of being so slow as medium heavy boats, and some would even believe, than heavy boats. A lot of crap. They are way faster than even bigger medium weight sailboats, as we would see.
First let me tell you that modern boats are only considered medium weight if compared with typical modern mass production boats and the difference is not that big. It is certainly much bigger if compared with what used to be medium weight boats or what used to be the weight of this type of boasts 20 or 30 years ago. An average 30 year old performance cruiser (for instance a Swan) has about the weight of a comparably sized medium weight cruiser today.
Secondly that this year the conditions, except for the ones that chose the North route, did not suit performance cruisers. The bigger difference in speed regards the difference of speed downwind with strong winds where these boats can go to semi-planing or even planing speeds and be way faster than much bigger boats. They sail also better with very light winds and even if this year the conditions were strange, with upwind sailing and not strong winds, really light winds were not so frequent (less than 8k).
And finally that the way a boat is sailed is fundamental to the performance. I assumed that among so many boats (+200) the ones of each type that have the better performance are the ones well sailed. In so many boats we should find some well sailed boats in each type and I will consider irrelevant the performance of the others. Any boat can be very slow if sailed badly or very far away from his potential.
A warning also, the boats that are not racing can use their engine and are using the engine on situations without wind or with head wind. In the end sometimes they give the number of hours each boat used the engine but that's obvious that a boat with a large tankage like the IP 485 that carries 1100L of fuel will be motoring a lot more than boats with a 150L tankage. That will be reflected in their "performance" and on the position they occupy on the map.
Regarding those that went North, they sailed faster and made a big difference to the others that choose a central course. That is the case for instance of the Marten 49 that is ahead of the first medium weight cruiser, a boat twice as big, the Oyster 865 by 30Nm and the oyster is making a very fast transat.
If we went looking for the first medium weight modern with the same approximated size of the Marten 49 we would be looking at the XC 45. I know it is smaller but they are faster than any other 49/50ft medium weight boat (it is just a great cruising boat). There are a difference of about 700nm between the two boats. That means they are about 4 days away.
Curiously and as I have been saying the performance of XC 45, even if not a performance cruiser is similar to top performance cruisers from 30 years ago. We can see that a Swan 51, a swan 46MKII or a Swan 53 are in the same performance range being all at more or less the same distance from the finish (+- 100nm).
The Marten 49 is an exceptional and very expensive performance cruiser. Let's see if difference to more "normal" production performance cruisers is also a big one:
There next performance cruiser is a 50ft boat, a X50. The distance for the first medium weight 50ft cruiser (again the XC 45) is of about 500nm (about 4 days). Another performance cruiser doing a good passage is a GrandSoleil 56 that has a an advance of 117 to 120nm regarding a Gunfleet 58, a Discover 55 and a Jeanneau 57.
The difference will be way bigger if we look at the 40ft cruisers. The faster performance cruiser is a Pogo 12.50. The first medium displacement boat is a Oyster 406 and is at 622nm, a Moody 425 is at 694nm, that means at about 4 days away.
Regarding the distance of the Pogo to modern mass production cruisers the distance is smaller. He have a Dufour 385 at 344Nm, another Dufour 375 at 431nm and a Bavaria 40 at about 500nm. The diference of the first 40ft light modern production boat (the Dufour 385) to the first medium weight 40ft is of about 280nm, almost 2 days.
It is true that the Pogo 12.50 is probably the faster 40ft performance cruiser in a Transat since it is a boat maximized for downwind sailing. If we look at the fastest of the more conventional 40 performance cruisers, a First 40.7, that is at about a day from the Pogo, those numbers will be diminished by 180nm. The First would be at 442nm of distance regarding the first medium weight cruiser, the Oyster 406, even so more than 3 days.
If we look at 36ft boats the first is a First 36.7. The first medium weight 36ft cruiser is a Halberg Rassy 36 at 521nm (about 4 days) and the best modern 36ft cruiser is a Hunter 36 at 267Nm (almost 2 days).
Regarding performance cruisers with around 30ft, the first is a Sun Fast 3200, the second a Pogo 30 and the third a Pogo 8.50. The difference from the first to the last is of 188Nm and the 3200 is way faster. The difference between the two Pogos is only 61nm. The distance from the Sunfast to the first medium weight cruiser, a Forgus 31 is of 729nm (about 5 days) and to the Pogo 30 599nm, about 4 days.
World Cruising Club - Fleet Viewer
We can conclude that in all sizes the difference in performance on a Transat, with the boat loaded with the needed provisions and tankage, between a performance cruiser and a medium weight cruiser is a big one and increases in proportion with the size of the boat. On really big boats, with over 50ft that difference is not as big, maybe because in those sizes the big LWL is a more determinant factor.
We can also see that the performance of a mass produced modern cruiser is better than the one of an medium weight cruiser by about the same margin that separates this one from a performance cruiser.
If we considered heavy boats the diference would even be more substantial. There are some in this rally but as they are not many the best performance between just a few would not necessarily be a good one. They are on the tail of the transat anyway.
Finally we can see that the crew is an huge factor regarding the speed of a boat and if a slower boat cannot go faster than a certain limit, even with the best possible crew, a faster boat can go much slower than his potential with a bad crew. We can see similar boats separated by many days. That has nothing to do with the boat but with the crew.
Just an example: The Belgian Dufour 40 Heckogecko (same model) is at 674nm (about 6 days)
from the Portuguese Dufour 40 Conquilha III.
Only two Portuguese boats but both doing well. One is this Dufour the other that First 36.7 that is by far the fastest of the 36ft boats.