Review: Bavaria Cruiser 41 Sport
The Bavaria 41S sailboat is a genuine cruiser-racer. It’s a cost effective yacht that doesn't compromise on either side of the equation.
Bavaria has lifted its game when it comes to performance sailing yachts. The Bavaria Cruiser 41 Sport has been worth waiting for. Indeed, finding differentiators in the increasingly crowded mid-size cruiser sailboat market is not easy, but under new local management at Ensign Ship Brokers, the Bavaria brand is making a resurgence.
A lot has changed since the Match days, the biggest being Farr Yacht Design’s new hulls that began with the lively 32-footer, then the flagship 55, the twin-rudder 45 and finally, the snappy 40S which particularly impressed me when I sailed it up the coast.
Having sailed all of these boats, performance was a strong factor I found, while the other benefit is Bavaria’s sharp pricing which continues with the Bavaria 41S. Forty-foot is also proving to be the sweet spot for those enjoying some regatta racing under IRC, so the Cruiser 40 that was well received here in 2011 evolved into the 2013 Cruiser 41 and with race gear fitted now comes in a new model, the 41 Sport.
The Bavaria Sport model has a low-aspect cast iron fin keel of 2.3m (compared with 2.05m standard Cruiser), a larger sailplan (96m² versus 82m² upwind) and taller performance alloy Selden tapered mast and boom with Rodkick gas-sprung alloy vang.
Distributor Ensign can also quote for a carbon rig if your pockets are deep enough. Our review boat came with top-of-the-range sails, North 3DL composites that create a flatter surface which is especially useful when close hauled. There’s an adjustable pulley backstay to tension the rig with upgraded deck fittings including ball-bearing blocks and up-sized alloy Lewmar Evo winches. For the symmetrical spinnaker there’s a carbon pole, and a Code O can be flown from the pulpit.
In the cockpit composite Carbonautica steering wheels on the slim but solid GRP pedestals set a stylish theme on the 41S, along with sturdy stainless steel grabrails. The steering uses quality Jefa linkages to the single rudder, with quadrant access through the transom lockers. These are interesting deep, moulded bins that pull out to allow even the biggest bloke to crawl in, where there are heavy-duty linkages and quadrant high up the rudder stock, so easy to get at. My only concern is emergency access if the lockers are full and you’re near a lee shore. But the rudder stock emergency steering is of course on the cockpit sole.
The navigation pack is Garmin with GPSMAP 721 plotters on each pedestal, the autopilot and power controls for the Volvo Penta saildrive on the starboard side. Also nearby is a compass on each coaming. On the main hatch bulkhead sit Garmin 4in GNX 20 wind displays; the first I’ve seen installed.
Sail controls are conventionally laid out with main track just in front of the pedestals, along with the mainsheet winch and Evo 50 primaries forward near the cabin where an Evo 45 winch on both sides and jammers control the halyards.
The protective cockpit is suited for offshore or inshore racing, being deep with high coamings and a ridge for a sprayhood. This area also works in cruise mode as well with the drop-down swimplatform and insertion of a table.
Moving around on the GRP decks is done without dramas. They are laid out in workmanlike fashion, which I like, with all halyards running through deck organisers, longitudinal grabrails for moving forward and where the outboard wire shrouds and jib tracks on the coachroof give clear passage to the foredeck. Also commendable are the sturdy lifelines with extra stanchion supports guiding you to the bow where anchoring is done with a 1000W windlass and single bowroller. Cleating is also fine, with midships ones as well, and the alloy toerail giving the foredeckie something to cling onto apart from hope alone.
Going below my eyebrows narrowed at the sight of those pesky saloon-style doors on the main hatch, but Ensign did a clever modification to attain Category 4 certification by inserting a couple of inch-square rods running vertically, allowing traditional washboards to fit. So in race mode the doors can be removed and if it’s bumpy, a washboard can be slotted in.
Once inside, the scene cheered me up, as it’s well laid out to my eye – starboard navigation station beside the companionway steps with U-shaped lounge ahead and opposite the longitudinal galley. The open galley has the advantage of allowing several crew to prepare food which is ideal when moored, while at sea the U-shaped design lends more support.
Other notable features are smoothly rounded mahogany joinery throughout, ceiling handrails and hardwearing upholstery that could survive a dousing from a wet spinnaker. The skipper should be happy at the sizeable navigation table with portlight views, but the lack of bulkhead space for a plotter is my only complaint. However, my host for the day, Ian Sherwood, tells me it can be rearranged for one. Opposite, the bathroom is handily placed to be a dayhead and is again finished in dark wood with manual head and deep sink. The layout is the work of British engineer and cruising sailor Mark Tucker at Design Unlimited, so does have that classic English feel to it.
HANDLING AND PERFORMANCE
Sydney’s unpredictable spring weather gave us a day of sunshine but 30-knot winds, so as I bent on the middle-heavy jib I glanced at the North 3DL mainsail to check a reefing line was in the first cringle or a least, could be run without too much effort.
Motoring out onto the waters of Middle Harbour I cranked the Volvo up to maximum revs (2300), the Gori three-blade folding prop pushing us to 8.9kts and no vibration felt on the composite wheels. With mastman Andrew Withers (Ensign’s Pittwater dealer) on the halyard, the 3DL mainsail hoisted easily followed by the medium jib and we were on our way – but after a quick glance at the nudist beach before a big gust regained our attention to matters at hand.
Perched on the helm I trimmed the mainsail while also grabbing a handful of backstay tension as we bounded round Middle Head. Hardening up, we mixed in with the Wednesday arvo race fleet while the westerly gusts had all three of us working. Ian sat on the coaming with the main track at his foot and this was eased as the wind gusted from 22 to 28kts while Andrew trimmed the jib. There was plenty of working room for both of them while I got used to the 41S’s helm.
The slide-on GRP footplate held me firmly against the teak-clad coaming and there was plenty of space to move when we tacked, done without dramas despite the big gusts. There was, in fact, little getting used to as the balanced rudder and helm did most of the work itself, while in the gusts a safe amount of weather-helm was apparent. Arguably we were a wee bit over-canvased as we hadn’t run in the first reefing line, so leeway and heeling angle were too much but nevertheless, we moved through some of the other raceboats, with 8.7kts SOG at 50 degrees to the true wind.
Gybing also went without fuss as the tapered boom was well controlled by the vang and aft-mounted mainsheet. Easing sheets proved a favourite point of sail for the 41S, as she surged to nearly 10kts at 80 degrees true wind angle. With all lines running to two sets of jammers, tweaking was easily done as I asked for less outhaul tension, and rounding the head we easily adjusted the cabin-top Lewmar jib cars to close the slot with the mainsail. By then the regular 30-knot gusts had blown away hopes of hoisting the spinnaker on its carbon pole, but we all had a very enjoyable sail on a boat that really does fit both sides of the cruiser-racer equation.
A new version of the Bavaria 40S – that impressed this reviewer – has arrived. It’s a very user-friendly package that makes the new Bavaria 41S a true cruiser-racer, with both sides of that equation taken care of in a cost-effective yacht.
See the full version of this review in Trade-A-Boat #458, October / November 2014. Why not subscribe today?
• Very practical layout above and below decks
• Cockpit ideally suited to both shorthanded and family cruising
• Handles and sails well
• Saloon doors on main hatch
• No plotter housing at navigation table (as standard)
BAVARIA 41S SPECIFICATIONS
Bavaria 41S price: $375,000 w/ Elvstrom High-Tech sails
Hydro-generator, watermaker, davits with solar panels, bimini, washing machine, freezer and gennaker
LENGTH 12.35m overall; 11.99m hull; 10.75m waterline
MAKE/MODEL Volvo Penta D1-30 saildrive
RATED HP 30; 50 (optional)
ENSIGN SHIP BROKERS
Want the latest stories delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for the free TradeBoats e-newsletter.