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The X-34, available in the Northern Hemisphere for some time, is now making waves Down Under. ALLAN WHITING finds a performance-optimised cruiser-racer with X factor

X-Yachts X-34

When the X-34 was rumoured, we expected the new boat to be a cruisier fitout of the X-35 One Design racing hull with a smaller rig, but that's not the way X-Yachts went with the new boat.

The X-34 has a 9/10th sail plan that's almost identical to the successful X-35's and comes with keel-stepped, tapered mast, Spectra halyards, discontinuous rod rigging and go-fast headsail barber haulers, but the X-34's arrangement stands above a more voluminous hull, in deference to its performance-cruising vocation. Also, the X-34 can be ordered with a below-deck headsail furling drum and an electric anchor windlass.

The X-34 has a taller coach house, more beam and more rocker in the hull shape, to improve cabin-sole width and interior headroom. Draft is reduced by 250mm and lead ballast goes up from 1200kg to 2200kg, so that the X-34 can remain stiff without the need for big bums on the rail in a blow.

The X-34 also has a relatively wider waterline beam than the X-35 One Design, to increase the hull stability and to locate the centre of buoyancy farther aft. This floatation is necessary to accommodate heavy cruising-oriented gear, which often is stowed in the aft lockers.

Below decks, the two Xs are quite different, with the only common factor being a walkthrough dinette area, with drop-side centre table. Where the X-35's race orientation dictates an open-plan layout, with only one cabin bulkhead, separating the dinette from the head and forward vee-berth, the X-34 has a second cabin bulkhead, making the stern cabin private.

At first sight, the single-wheel, six-winch cockpits of the X-35 and the X-34 look identical, but there are subtle differences. Both boats have a German mainsheet system leading to aft winches, but the winches on the X-35 are farther forward, inviting the mainsheet hand to hike on the coamings, aft of the winches.

On the X-34, the winches are closer to the wheel, allowing either the helmsperson or the sheet hand to use them. A nice touch is a 16:1 adjustable backstay tackle that emerges through a cam cleat in front of the steering pedestal. The pedestal has a 'crash bar' option that can shroud an optional chartplotter, protecting it from a gybing mainsheet.

As with the X-35 there's easy-launch liferaft stowage under the cockpit floor, behind the helmsman.

Club racers will be pleased to note that the X-34 is expected to have an IRC TCC around 1.00 to 1.003, depending on individual boat sailplans.




All X-Yachts are built to comply with the strength requirements of European CE Certification 'A' (ocean) that specifies suitability for waves up to seven metres in height and wind strength up to Beaufort 10. They look and feel solid.

If you hop aboard any X-Yacht and look at the cabin-roof lining you'll notice a small removable panel just in front of the companionway hatch opening. Immediately below that, under the cabin sole, is a lifting pad. With the appropriate crane you can lift any X-Yacht, using that point, without fear of distorting the hull structure, where most yachts need to be slung from two straps.

This single-lift point is possible because of the hot-galvanised steel reinforcing frame X-Yachts laminates into every boat's solid FRP hull liner. The steel frame distributes keel, mast and rig loads and also spreads the single-point lift loads through the steel/FRP structure.

The hull is formed from handlaid, biaxial E-glass fabric and DCPD polyester resin, cored with 20-25mm Airex. The deck is made up of isolatic polyester resin and biaxial E-glass fabric, with 10-20mm Airex core material, while high-stress areas have additional biaxial fabric reinforcement.

Hull and deck are bonded together with polymer adhesive and mechanically fastened in high-stress areas.

The keel is cast iron, with an antimony-hardened lead bulb 'shoe' that sweeps backwards. A central bilge is incorporated in the keel design, forming a low-point for bilge water, and is fitted with manual and electric pump intakes.

A solid aluminium bar is used for the rudder stock that turns in roller and self-aligning needle bearings, with a chain and cable steering system. The rudder blade is biaxial FRP and Airex.
Batteries and tanks are aligned centrally, to preserve boat balance.

Many production boats need considerable fairing to make them slipperier, but X-Yachts leave the factory with recessed hull fittings and well-finished rudders and FRP-coated keels.




Light-coloured, horizontal-grain mahogany panels line the saloon and the double cabins fore and aft, with white melamine and FRP surfaces. The cabin sole is wood-look melamine-faced marine ply in traditional mahogany/ash colouring, with a high-grip finish.

The Yanmar engine and Saildrive tuck neatly under a lifting companionway, with additional access from the aft cabin.
All roof hatches and cabin ports are opening designs, so the already light and airy impression is heightened by much better fresh-air ventilation than a hatch-only cabin provides. The cabin ports have blinds, and the roof hatches are fitted with blinds and screens.

There's an L-shaped galley to port, with two-burner, gimballed gas cooktop and oven, single-bowl sink and 115lt chest fridge. A forward-facing navigation station is opposite, with a drop-down, 12V and 230V electrical control panel above it. Tinned cable ends are evident.

The dinette features a drop-leaf, centre-line table with central bottle storage area. Two 1.9m settees - covered in cream leather on the test boat - have backs that hinge up to convert into wider sea berths. There's ample cupboard, drawer and shelf space in the saloon.

The head/shower cabin is located aft of the nav station and is spacious and well ventilated. Shower and sink are pressure-fed hot and cold water, and the hot water system has an auxiliary 230V immersion heater.

Opposite the head is a double-bunk cabin that has a port opening into the cockpit. An optional canvas pipe cot can be fitted in this cabin as well.

Up forward is the expected double vee-berth, with twin cupboards and under-bed storage, but clever design makes this storage area useful when racing. The bed base is formed of two plywood panels - Swiss-cheese-holed for mattress ventilation - that hinge out of the way, opening the bin for a quick sail-drop through the deck hatch.

There's additional large-volume storage under the starboard cockpit locker and in two aft cockpit lockers, while the anchor box holds up to 50m of chain and anchor warp.




We jumped aboard the brand-new X-34 in Sydney's Darling Harbour and motored out into a 15-knot nor'easter in the main harbour. Getting aboard via the short swimplatform and open transom was easy, and teak deck and cockpit seat facings made the leap inviting.

X-Yachts' Andrew Parkes has setup this first Aussie-market X-34 unashamedly as a club cruiser/racer, kitting it out with a set of performance-oriented Evolution Kevlar-carbon sails that hung off the spars like spun gold.

This test, with a total of five onboard, gave me the opportunity to check the X-34's performance and ease of handling on all points of sail. Unfortunately, the instruments had yet to be calibrated, so I couldn't check the claimed wind angles.

The large-diameter wheel teamed well with a sensitive steering system, allowing tiller-speed response to puffs and waves. I found the best position for steering upwind was on the windward coaming, with the wheel rim in easy reach and a clear view of the jib tufts.

When we bore away it was simple for the crew to drop backstay tension, via the cleverly positioned purchase and cleat arrangement, and to ease the outhaul to put more camber into the main.

The pole kicker, boom vang and main outhaul are repeated on six swivel cleats, on the port and starboard cabin top sides.
Aft location and the power of the mainsheet winches made it very easy for the helmsperson to trim the main, without the need for winch handles, while the others busied themselves with spinnaker gear.

The twin brace and sheet kite layout proved well-planned, with sheets running cleanly from turning blocks to cabin top winches and braces to sheet winches, and the shortish pole was easy to handle. Broad sidedecks and a clean foredeck made it easy for the bowman to move around.

Racing experience shows in the way X-Yachts puts its wind speed and direction inputs on a masthead rod that keeps them clear of a wayward spinnaker top or a bunched snuffer. A cut above.



Three years of X-Yacht experience


When we're not sailing on our Beneteau First 21.7 my better half, Keryn, and I race on our mate's X-43 Firefly. Over the past three years this boat has picked up a club series pointscore championship and won the Spinnaker Cruising Division at the 2009 Hamilton Island Race Week.

On delivery, the X-43 was a revelation to the Firefly crew, because our background was in 33 to 38-footers. We'd never raced with a German mainsheet system or twin-brace and sheet spinnakers, but the quality and the layout of the X-43 sail-handling equipment soon had us familiar with the boat.
Firefly regularly competes in inshore and ocean races, has done the long haul to Hamo and back, and cruises Pittwater and the coast north of Sydney.

After a wash, the X-43 looks almost as good as when it was delivered. The gelcoat and stainless steel bits are still bright and the teak has greyed without surface decay.

Despite sails being worked in and out of the hatches and the companionway, the interior is as good as new, with the only protection being vinyl covers taped over the cream leather dinette cushions.

There were some minor warranty issues, plus relocation of the masthead wind gauge and replacement of a gas bottle fitting. Otherwise, the boat has been virtually faultless.








The boat steered and manoeuvred well under power and clipped along at 6 to 7kts without much noise or vibration. There's an engine upgrade to 30hp available, but you'd need it only for extended cruising.
Some barber-hauling, outhauling and backstay tensioning soon saw the No.2 headsail and main working in harmony as we tacked our way to Middle Head. From there, we took off on a broad reach, before squaring away and setting the spinnaker. We gybed the kite at Shark Island and ran it shy for a few hundred metres, until the breeze went aft once more, allowing us to run square to the Harbour Bridge.








Racing Pack (deck pad eyes and blocks, spinnaker pole and control lines) $6,380; Harken Foil $1460; additional forestay $1520; Raymarine ST60 instrument package $4800; and Kevlar racing sails (main, No.2 jib, No.4 jib, spinnaker) $16,550




$320,000 fully commissioned and compliant




MATERIAL: FRP hulls and decks - handlaid E-glass fabric and DCPD polyester resin, cored with 20-25mm Airex
TYPE: Monohull
BEAM: 3.4m
DRAFT: 1.9m; 1.65m (option)
WEIGHT: 5300kg
BALLAST: 2200kg (iron/lead keel)




BERTHS: 2 doubles, 2 singles (settee berths), plus optional aft cabin pipe cot
FUEL: 80lt
WATER: 200lt




MAINSAIL: 40.3m²
HEADSAIL: 27.6m² (24.6m² furling)




MAKE/MODEL: Yanmar 3YM20C (3YM30C option)
TYPE: Diesel
RATED HP: 22; 30 (option)
PROP: Saildrive with two-blade folding prop




X-Yachts Australia,
64A The Quayside,
Roseby Street,
Birkenhead Point,
Drummoyne, NSW, 2047
Phone: (02)9719 9411




The X-34 is one of the sweetest handling and best laid-out performance cruisers we've tested. Accommodation is fine for a cruising family, without unduly compromising its club-racing credentials. Top-quality hardware is evident throughout.


Find X-Yacht boats for sale.


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