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Sailing Airlie Beach Race Week on the X-Yachts Xp 38 showed how the modern cruiser-racer can accomplish both sides of that sought-after equation, reports Kevin Green.

airlie beach friday race

Danish builder X-Yachts’ fourth generation of performance cruisers – the 38, 44, 50 and the just-launched 55 – aims to give sailors the best of both worlds: to be equally at home around the cans, or doing a fast passage along the coast with the family. Achieving this is done in several ways but an age-old one is plenty of stability, which in turn can provide a comfortable motion.

Also high on the list of features sought in competitive cruiser-racers (rather than heated-up cruisers) is the ability to carry as much sail for as long as possible – a feature greatly helped by a high stability ratio. The Xp 38 manages this with a deep keel and lead bulb on a relatively light hull, yet there are plenty of home comforts thanks to three useable cabins.

With performance purely in mind, the rig options enhance what is already a slippery hull with a good IRC rating (a UK-based Xp 38 was given an IRC TCC of 1.092). These high-quality boats are firmly placed at the premium end of the market – which perhaps has impaired the brand’s popularity here – but this latest generation looks set to change this with several of the award-winning Xp 38s, Xp 44s and an Xp 50 already turning heads wherever they go in Australia.




The race-orientated cockpit dominates the topsides with twin wheels, open transom and sensibly-spaced Harken deck gear. Upgraded Harken Performa alloy racing winches are standard on 2013 models of the Xp 38, with three sets installed. For fast kite trimming I found the pair of cabin-top H46 Quattros to be excellent, alongside two banks of large jammers. Elsewhere, stylish Carbonautica GRP steering wheels adorn the pedestals (which have four optional layouts), but the compass was hidden below rather than on the bare binnacle. Deck instrumentation was via Raymarine Tacktick mast jumbos and a Raymarine plotter at the chart table (I’d fit one topside as well for quick reference). All proved readable even in strong sunlight.

The mainsheet track is just ahead of the pedestals and the two sets of sheet winches are spaced out along the coamings. Harken 46.2s run the mainsheet, 50.2s for the primaries and those H46 Quattros run the halyards on the cabin. The cockpit hatch is closed off by washboards – with dedicated storage – and teak comes standard here (but not elsewhere). Another option for cruising is the removable swimplatform-transom door, but having gone over the side to check the propeller on our raceboat Xpress, I found the simple ladder and transom’s moulded lip gave adequate access. Other cruising niceties fitted on our boat include a table that stores under the cockpit sole, spotlights on the boom and a spray dodger that slips neatly into its GRP recess.

On deck are minimal protrusions thanks to flush hatches, recessed halyard runs and Nomen folding cleats. Walking forward is easy thanks to inboard genoa tracks and outboard rod shrouds. With good working space our bowman Andy had no complaints, also complimenting the integrated GRP toerail and the large hatch for stashing the kite through.

In cruise mode, there is an effective anchoring setup – Quick vertical windlass with remote handset plug and deep chain locker – and the signature X-Yachts bowsprit stylishly covering the anchor.



airlie beach friday race

The Xp 38 has a three-berth layout with two symmetrical cabins aft and a vee-berth. Unlike her high-volume production competitors no other options are available, but this layout is fairly functional. Most bulkheads, and even the furniture, are composite, which is not only lighter but looks stylish throughout; although some of the larger high-gloss bulkheads could be glary when cruising.

However, the overall saloon layout should appeal to traditionalists thanks to a fairly conventional, if uninspiring, floor plan. Dinette benches either side of the large foldout table allow a full race crew to be fed, while plenty of overhead hatches work in cruising mode as well. One unconventional feature is the useful sliding navigation table starboardside, which transforms the seating into a bunk with the addition of a lee cloth. The table allows the navigator to face both fore and aft with views of the cockpit, but bulkhead space is limited for electronics.

The portside L-shaped galley is well equipped with two-burner gas oven, twin sinks and about a dozen drawers, including wooden lockers. A top-opening 130lt Isotherm fridge is incorporated into the bench top. Sensibly, the area and the entire saloon have plenty of grabrails; my only real gripe is the toughened glass splashback, which I never like in open spaces where crew can crash around.

Across the way, the bathroom is functional with a manual head, sturdy grabrail, shower sump and sufficient headroom for even tall Danes, while there is good ventilation from the opening hatch.

The forward owner’s berth has plenty of depth and height with a surrounding book shelf and two wardrobes. Natural light is adequate, although I’d prefer LED to the halogen electrics fitted. Moving aft, the beamy hull allows for two double berths, which are roomy for this category of yacht. Useable space is somewhat restricted because of the deep locker and the cockpit sole impinging on headroom but these asymmetrical cabins are functional nevertheless.

Engine access to the 29hp Yanmar saildrive is fairly standard, from the front and each side, while key service points – impeller, oil and water – are easily at hand after lifting up the companionway steps on gas-assisted struts. The saildrive was fitted with a folding twin-blade Gori propeller on our boat to minimise drag. Stored power is in two AGM 130amp/h batteries located in the fore cabin, the starting battery 55amp/h. A 220V-AC shorepower system is standard and can heat the 20lt water heater, another standard feature not usually so on other brands.



xp-38 jib hoist and kite drop

The Xp range comes with a variety of sail-plan options including a self-tacking jib that’s useful for shorthanded cruising. The standard rig has a SAD (sail area to displacement) ratio of 24.38 putting it firmly into the racer-cruiser category. Our test boat was well specified with conventional spinnaker pole and that neat composite bowsprit for flying an asymmetric and strong enough not to require a bobstay.

During Airlie Beach Race Week we used both types of kite, the last day’s course favouring the asymmetric on some runs as we climbed high on the course around Pioneer Bay. The standard fractional rig is a Danish-made John Mast alloy spar with discontinuous rod rigging, a deep boom with hard vang and a hydraulic backstay adjuster.

On Xpress a carbon rig – a Southern Spars keel-stepped mast – had been fitted with double spreaders. Usefully the outboard shrouds’ bottlescrews come with an etched adjustment scale for easy tuning while the genoa furler can be neatly fixed underdeck. Other options fitted included the deeper T-keel and all the blocks and running rigging needed for the two types of spinnakers.

X-Yachts uses distinctly different hull profiles across its performance range, with a more slippery U-shaped hull for better performance on the Xp and a deeper V-hull for the cruising range. Designed to be fully optimised for IRC and ORC rating systems, the hull has a fine plumb bow running out to flared topsides and plenty of beam aft to create buoyancy and space. The wide stern section meant hull trim benefited from crew well forward on the rail to reduce the large wetted area aft.

Increasing stability on a racing yacht is often about moving weight around and removing it from non-key areas, so the new family of performance X-Yachts come with a lead T-keel instead of a fin as previously done. The steel grid, traditionally glassed-in for rigidity, is now carbon composite to reduce weight in the hull. Continuing the efficient power-to-weight theme, hulls are vacuum-infused in epoxy with a foam SP Systems core.

Cleverly, storage bulkheads are glassed-in to increase what is already a rigid hull thanks to solid laminate, carbon-tipped crossbeams. Other quality build areas includes a single, strong keel point for hoisting the hull (especially useful for handicap weigh-ins) and heavily-built steering linkages including quadrants, while the finish both inside and out is excellent.




Light airs are one of the best tests for a racing yacht, so the week of mild conditions was a good trial for the six-week-old Xp 38, which had minimum tuning time. Things also became tougher when the cruiser-racing division migrated into the top IRC division where honed crews run well-campaigned boats, so our remit on Xpress, with skipper Mike West attempting his first major regatta, was to avoid coming last and to do some ‘damage’ among the high-calibre fleet. This was duly accomplished during the seven days of close racing, where daunting start-line tussles with the TP52s, a Cookson 50 and sharp crews on the Beneteau Firsts tested our mettle.

Twilight sailor Mike decided to "move up" to the Xp 38 after several years campaigning a Bavaria cruiser. "I wasn’t really sure if I could get the best out of an X-Yachts but dealer Andrew Parkes persuaded me," laughed Mike.

The Harken H50s controlled the North Sails carbon headsail well, with barber haulers running from the jammers on the saloon and halyards running through gutters easily managed by the pit crew. Kite trimming is also well-controlled thanks to the Quattro winches second large diameter drum. My only gripe was that the mainsail trimmer faces a bit of a squeeze, as he has to wedge himself into a tight gap just ahead of the binnacles. That said, all controls are to hand and you are in close proximity to talk trim with the steerer.

Behind the twin wheels skipper Mike found the setup fuss-free when manoeuvring – moving between the helms while flipping up the footplates to maintain a comfortable position. Having sailed another Xp 38 I also found the helm position comfortable, with clear views forward to the telltales on both tacks and enough feel from the rudder to tell you when to adjust things.

During the week we pointed as high as our close competitors – the First 40 and Sydney 36 – with our boat-speed matching the wind speed up to about 6kts. On the runs we found that running too square slowed the Xp 38 so hardening up slightly was our preference.

"I was really happy to hit 10kts boat-speed," said Mike on the last day of racing when the breeze reached 15kts for a short time during a tight asymmetric course. Double digits and a happy owner – what more can I say about this impressive Xp 38?



Airlie Beach Race Week 2013 Shirley Wodson

These high-quality boats are firmly placed at the premium end of the market, which perhaps has impaired the brand’s popularity here but this latest generation looks set to change this with several of the award winning Xp 38s, Xp 44s and the Xp 50 already in Australia.


› Functional racing deck

› Practical interior for racing and cruising

› Quality finish and fixtures throughout


› Slightly cramped mainsail trim position

› Glass galley splashback a possible hazard






MATERIAL Vacuum-infused in epoxy with foam core

TYPE Keelboat

LENGTH 11.58m (hull); 10.36m (waterline)

BEAM 3.7m

DRAFT 2.1m (standard); 2.4m (deep)

WEIGHT 6775kg (light ship); 2760kg (ballast)


WATER 260lt

FUEL 150lt


MAKE/TYPE Yanmar saildrive



MAINSAIL 46.2m² (alloy rig); 48m² (carbon rig)

GENOA 39.5m² (106%)



X-Yachts Australia,

64A The Quayside,

Birkenhead Point,

Drummoyne, NSW, 2047

Contact: Andrew Parkes, phone (02) 9719 9411

Website: www.x-yachts.net.au


Originally published in Trade-a-Boat #444, September 2013.

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