BOAT TEST: BAVARIA CRUISER 32
A fresh breeze is blowing through the enormous Bavaria Yachtbau production facility in Germany, propelling a brand-new lineup of boats that clearly overtake the old models. ALLAN WHITING sailed the new Cruiser 32 and came away impressed
The Cruiser 32 is the first of the new-generation Bavaria yacht range and was launched in Europe late last year. This boat and the newly-announced Cruiser 45 are clean-sheet-of-paper designs, penned by Farr Yacht Design, in conjunction with BMW Group DesignworksUSA and Bavaria's own design team. Coming soon are the new Cruiser 36 and 40 models.
When we first heard of BMW DesignworksUSA's involvement in the new Bavarias we feared the worst, given the BMW brand's now-terminated 16-year involvement with Chris Bangle: one of the most vilified automotive designers of all time. The 1990s 7-Series BMW's rear end became derisively known as the Bangle Butt.
Thankfully, there's no Bangle Butt syndrome evident in the new Cruiser 32; in fact, this boat has probably the best looking, most functional rear end in the small cruising-yacht class. A teak-capped transom hinges down to form a teak-topped swimming platform that would do a 50-footer justice.
As befits a new-concept boat, there's no carry-over design legacy from the previous, somewhat outdated Bavaria range. The Farr boys have neatly sidestepped the old Cruiser/Match pairing, with a balanced hull and rig that aims to suit cruisers and club racers alike.
Straight up, one of my priorities was to assess the keel area. A deep, strong-looking lattice sub-frame hides under the cabin sole of the Farr-designed Cruiser 32 and the keel bolts pass through large plates.
At first sight, the 32 looks decidedly cruising oriented, having a mainsheet single anchor-point with no traveller and only two sheet winches. The test boat was fitted with a bagged main and lazy-jacks, but Selden in-mast furling is optional. End-boom sheeting provides low-effort mainsail control, doing away with the need for fine-coarse tackle, or the complication and cost of a German main control system.
The most obvious clue to the 32's dual cruiser-racer role is the absence of an increasingly fashionable self-tacking headsail. A self-tacker is optional, but not ideal, according to the importers, North South Yachting. The slightly overlapping, furling jib is sheeted via coachroof-mounted cars on inboard tracks, with the leech pulling up just short of the spreaders. A shortish J-length is effectively increased by long, swept-back spreaders. The 32 has a wide shroud base, with chainplates on the hull.
The cockpit coamings have Code 0 or spinnaker winch pads already inbuilt. There are also two foredeck pads that can mount a removable bowsprit, from which an asymmetric spinnaker can be flown.
The fact that there's no traveller has been seen by some overseas testers as proof that the Bavaria 32 is a dedicated cruising boat, but that's not necessarily the case. The Bavaria Yachts Australia package includes a rod vang that attaches to the boom at about a third of its length, providing powerful boom-height control when the mainsheet is eased.
Rig is almost masthead, but with sufficient clearance above the jib head for spinnaker halyards to emerge without the risk of tangling with the jib furler. Our test boat was also fitted with a tackle-adjustable backstay.
From the huge swimplatform it's a small step into the teak-faced cockpit. You can step up onto the cockpit seat to get around the wheel rim, or opt for a folding wheel, as supplied on the test boat. Side gates in the lifelines are optional.
The binnacle mounts instruments, engine controls and an optional plotter and serves as the aft mount for a drop-side cockpit table.
Because the mainsheet has no traveller the cockpit is uncluttered and high coamings make lounging around or race crewing safe and relaxing. Another advantage of having no coach house roof traveller is that the companionway hatch can be quite long for a 32-foot boat, making cabin access as generous as those on boats twice the Cruiser 32's size.
A spray dodger moulding is part of the coach house roof and the dodger is optional, as is a bimini that covers the helm position.
Saloon doors part to reveal broad companionway steps that feature turned-up ends and inset rubber grip strips. The doors clip to the cockpit sole when open, doing away with the problem of where to stow a slide-in door.
The steps lift to reveal more of the 18hp Volvo Penta engine than most companionway hatches do and there's an additional access door in the aft cabin.
High freeboard ensures full headroom throughout the Cruiser 32 and the saloon space is comfortable for six people. As with most modern yachts the portside chart table lidded space has shrunk to laptop dimensions, but the L-shaped galley is well-sized and boasts a deep sink with Corian infill panel and a two-burner, gimballed stove with oven. The fridge-freezer is a top-opener with Corian lid.
In lieu of traditional fiddles the bench top has a stainless rail that doubles as a handhold. Clever.
Where the flawless FRP showed in the interior, it's either shiny, or moulded with strake-like grooves that mimic a painted wood-lined interior. LEDs are used throughout and there's a cabin-top solar panel to keep the batteries trickle-charged.
Another nice BMW DesignworksUSA touch is the compression post: not the traditional shape, but a highly-polished, small, square section that reflects its surroundings and so becomes far less intrusive.
The forward vee-berth won't suit a basketballer, but the cabin does have two wardrobes and under-bed drawers. The aft cabin is vast and doesn't need to be used for sail bag stowage, because the portside cockpit locker can swallow a full suit and then some: it's so big it has a tether rail at the top, so bags can be tied off for easy retrieval.
Yacht heads are often squeezy, but the Cruiser 32's bathroom is big enough to have an inward-opening door, a hanging wet locker for foulies and arm-swinging room under the shower.
The saloon and forward cabin deck hatches are fitted with insect mesh and blinds that really darken the interior, and have anti-slip strips on their topsides. Side ventilation comes from four opening ports in the saloon, two in the aft cabin and one in the bathroom.
Fit and finish was very good for a boat in this budget-cruising yacht class.
With its fixed-prop saildrive gripping well the Cruiser 32 manoeuvred easily out of its Quays Marina, Pittwater berth and managed a GPS-indicated 6kts without much in the way of noise or vibration. After our test sail it proved just as easy to steer accurately in reverse.
The deck and coachouse are dotted with moulded anti-slip pimples that are rounded, in the interests of barefoot comfort, but not as effective as sharper, pyramid-shaped nodules. Sticky-soled shoes should be the order of the day. Ditto the saloon flooring, which is slipperier than I'd like.
Boom height on the Cruiser 32 proved ideal for sail bag opening and closing and the standard lazyjacks guided the sail raising and lowering accurately. There's cabin roof space for additional rope clutches if required.
Halyard load was light, so tensioning the luff via the halyard winch was simple. We also found the outhaul and vang adjustments easy to perform, thanks to North South Yachting's inclusion of a second halyard winch in the Australian market package. NSY also add a UV-resistant strip to the furling genoa, in grey cloth that matches the mainsail bag.
The jib has only 107 per cent overlap, but points well and powers the boat better than a smaller self-tacker will off the wind. Mounted on a furler, it can be rolled up quickly to clear decks for an asymmetric or poled spinnaker hoist.
I was keen to see how the centre-point main sheeting would work when puffs hit the sail while the sheet was eased to a tight reach: would the vang let the boom rise and see the resulting twist dump air out of the top of the sail? We scored only a couple of puffs over 10kts, but there was no discernible movement from the boom and no disturbance of the tufts. At 15 to 20kts it might be a different story, but a little automatic twist might then be welcome.
It's easy for the helmsperson to handle the main if required and this could be made even easier if there was a cam cleat on the binnacle.
Bavaria yachts and the GFC
After the GFC and subsequent shakeout, Oaktree Capital Management and Anchorage Advisors are the new owners of Bavaria Yachtbau. They have appointed Dr Jens Ludmann as CEO. Formerly Ford's European global chief engineer, Dr Ludmann is said to have demonstrated the ability to segment markets and understand customers' needs. He has world-class management experience gained in large automotive OEM, which has many similarities with a mass-production shipyard. Already we're seeing great signs and designs from the new regime by way of a reinvigorated product lineup. Happy days for the jolly German again.
FACTS & FIGURES
BAVARIA CRUISER 32
With both sails drawing in light 5 to 10kt fluky breezes the Cruiser 32 made better than half true-wind speed on and off the wind, so with a set of carbons, a folding prop and a keen crew it shouldn't disgrace itself in club-racing company. We enjoyed our test sail very much and we're sure quite a few customers will as well.
PRICE AS TESTED
NSY Pack ($22,000 introductory price) consisting of epoxy bottom paint and antifoul, shower with sump pump, hot-water system, VHF cables, rod boom vang, electric windlass, starboardside boarding gate, 12kg anchor and 50m of chain, second halyard winch, teak cockpit floor, boom sail bag with lazy jacks, UV strip on jib, safety kit, mooring lines and fenders, companionway door varnish and cover, and gas bottle. Test boat additional options: 45W solar panel ($2200) and controller, iCom VHF ($499), bimini ($4100) and adjustable backstay ($1836).
MATERIAL: Cored laminate hull and deck with solid FRP below the water line and Kevlar-reinforced bow section
LENGTH OVERALL: 9.99m
WATERLINE LENGTH: 8.85m
DRAFT: 1.95m (standard); 1.5m (optional) iron keel
MAST HEIGHT: 14.8m
BERTHS: Double forward and queen aft, plus two settee berths
MAKE/MODEL: Volvo D1-20
RATED HP: 18
MAIN: 28.3m² (furling main 26.3m²)
Cruising, weekending, family fun, and club racing should all be the province of the new Cruiser 32. Two couples, or a family with up to three kids can spend time aboard without bumping into each other all the time and the boat's performance won't disappoint those who want to indulge in some light-duty racing. Value-for-money is excellent.
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