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X55, European Yacht of the Year, Reviewed by Galgani

by Vanni Galgani, Italy /Sail-World on 31 Jan 2007
X55 European Yacht of the Year SW
The X55 from X-Yachts has just won the European Yacht of the Year 2006-7, for yachts above 15 metres. Journalist Vanni Galgani test sailed the X-55 for the Italian magazine Fare Vela, and with permission a shortened version of his article is reprinted here . (For the full article, go to the Fare Vela Magazine.)

Despite the best attempts of many imitators, there’s no doubt that X-Yachts still retains its long-held reputation as undisputed leader of the cruiser-racer segment. Each new model remains faithful to the company’s well-established principles but somehow manages to add a little extra to the pleasure of sailing.

The new 55 is now the top end of X-Yachts’ production range. Beyond that length, the Xs are built as semi-customs, tailored to meet their owners’ specifications, as were the imposing X-73 and the recent new generation Mediterranean cruiser the IMX 70. However, in terms of philosophy, aesthetics and design, the 55 is an X-Yacht through and through. In fact, it’s one of the best models in the entire range.

The Proportions

X-55 really does take the yard’s achievement to new heights. The hull is very nicely proportioned, the deckhouse, which stops at the mast, has a strong, sporty look to it: the end result is a beautifully struck balance between a light racer and a powerful cruiser, mixed in with the exclusive styling and sophisticated details that have characterised the latest X models.

The fact that the X-55 really delivers on performance can’t come as too much of a surprise after all that. What is amazing however, is it’sability to bear the extra blue water cruiser-type loads. The version we tested was kitted out to spend several years sailing round the world and so really did have it all, including a washing machine and dishwasher. Nonetheless, the trim wasn’t affected in the least.

Deck Plan

The deck plan is striking: the proportions of the various areas, the design of the deckhouse, lots of excellent gangways with a wide toe rail and a completely clean and uncluttered bow make the X-55 look and feel like a much larger boat, creating a mini-maxi effect.

The cockpit is unusually deep and well-sheltered for such a sporty craft – guaranteeing both safety and comfort. The sail controls are superbly organised: the skipper has comfortable seating along the sides and foot-spars with access to the main, traveller and sheet controls; The benches are comfortable enough when cruising and yet never feel bulky or clumsy when racing.

Construction Technologies

Since its very earliest days, X-Yachts has remained faithful to its construction technologies without feeling the need to change either the materials or techniques it uses. One essential characteristic of the yard’s models is the hot-dipped galvanised steel mesh structure laminated to the hull which bears the brunt of the main loads such as the mast feet and chain plates.

Interior Layout

Although not much is new with this model in terms of materials, its dimensions and consequent volumes mean that all of the weight is kept low. Both the batteries and tanks are positioned amidships below floor level. This, together with the hull’s significant rigidity, really pays off as we will see later on in the sea trial section.

Internally, the X-55 benefits from the new styling developed for the IMX 70: finely crafted teak with horizontal grains, panelled bulkheads, etc. An elegant, sophisticated design that sets the 55 very clearly apart from her smaller sisters, putting her right up there with the very best of the international competition.

X-55 Classic 3-cabin
Main cabin with sofa at starboard
Forpeak with centre berth and sail cabin with bunk berth

In terms of layout, as always with X-Yachts, the saloon, which is the area where occupants spend most of their time, takes the lion’s share of the space to slight detriment of the cabins. However, the effect is striking indeed, making the X-55 feel like a larger craft, particularly considering that this is actually a sporty cruiser.

Welcome Aboard

As ever, once you actually get sailing in them, Xs always make up for any slightly less than perfect features they may have. And to be fair, they are designed and honed for sailing, sailing, sailing. Although there may be certain compromises, the priority with Xs is always the sailing and everything else just has to get in line.

The minute you take the wheel you feel very clearly that you have the boat in hand. It’s a whole lot of different factors: the way the weight has been concentrated, the compact hull, the good balance in the steering set up means that you will feel every change in the wind, every movement of the sea as if you were on a small, light dinghy. This means of course that you can react instantly and we really do mean instantly. All of this you get, however, on a boat of almost 17 tonnes with 6,600 kg of ballast and over three metres below the waterline: so it’s soft, stable, safe and moves very pleasantly indeed. On the one hand, you can steer with two fingers while on the other you really do feel like you’re on a maxi.

It’s incredible how easy it is to get up to eight knots, in fact: we can only image that the averages this fast cruiser is capable of in a steady wind. Despite the extra load, the trim remains light with the extremities always high over the water, cutting the wetted surface in light winds. The helmsman has an ergonomic position with good seats on the sides and foot-spars on the floor.

The helm responds instantly thanks in part to the big wheels and just a few degrees are enough for the boat to follow any command. We were also very impressed with how it behaved in very light gusts of wind: it comes alive, becomes responsive and controllable the second things get moving. There is no problem with manoeuvrability either under engine power and speeds vary between nine knots at full throttle and 8.4 at just 2,000 rpm. The sound-damping is good and semi-submerged exhaust.

Dedicated to ...
X-Yachts boats are much loved and part of their success, in our opinion, is due to the fact that they are honestly designed and built. Everything you’ll find aboard has been carefully thought out, selected and fitted because someone at the yard had decided that it is necessary and is the best.

The new X-55 gave us a taste of the magic of experiencing two worlds simultaneously: the world of a fast, responsive, agile, sporty cruiser and the world of a safe, secure blue water cruiser.

Editor's Note: To learn more about X-Yachts, go to their Website

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