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Top Yachts 2020: Olympic Sailor Picks 15 Race Boats from 30-50 Feet

8th October 2019
Read Mark Mansfield's pick of the top race yachts on the market next season below Read Mark Mansfield's pick of the top race yachts on the market next season below

Olympian and Sailing Coach Mark Mansfield runs through the options available for an owner looking to buy a new boat for racing in the 30 to 50-foot range and picks his top 15 from the market

Having sailed in numerous regattas over the last few years, there are clear designs that feature well on the IRC rating system used in Ireland, the UK, France and many other European countries. Some of the 15 that I have selected below are more offshore orientated, some are true cruiser-racers, with nice interiors, and only one is a full-on racing boat.

There are, of course, numerous other designs that are no longer in production, or one-off boats. However, these 15 are yachts that could be purchased now, and in most cases be sailing and racing in Irish waters by the middle of the summer next year.

I have selected the 30 to 50-foot range as that is where the majority of new boats purchased now come from. So here goes, in size order, largest first. The pricing mentioned are the basic prices without Instruments, sails or safety gear.

1: X Yachts Xp 50

XP50 2005XP50 - a proper cruiser-racer with a luxurious interior Photo: Afloat

One of these is already gracefully sailing and racing in Ireland—Freya, owned by Conor Doyle of Kinsale. She has had some flashes of speed so far. Internationally there are a number of them doing well on IRC. A proper cruiser-racer with a very luxurious interior. Takes a bit of handling those large sails though.

Pricing—From €636,000 plus VAT. Available mid-July 2020

2: Grand Soleil 48

Grand Soleil 48 PerformanceGrand Soleil 48 Performance

A new design in 2018. A model designed for both Comfort but also speed. Nearly all Grand Soleil designs perform very well on Irc. The Grand Soleil 43 was an exceptional design, and it is suspected that the 48 will follow along these lines. Very well built yachts, but also with lovely interiors.

Pricing from €459,000 plus VAT. Available mid-July 2020

3: X Yachts Xp 44 

XP44 WOWXP44 - Sovereign's Cup class winner WOW (above) Photo: Bob Bateman

The X Yachts XP 44 has been around for a few years, but in those years, it has acquitted itself very well on the race courses around Europe on IRC. In Dublin, George Sisk's new Wow is an XP 44 and they have already won their class at Sovereign's week. A true dual-purpose yacht with a lovely interior.

Pricing from €358,000 plus VAT. Available mid-July 2020

4: J122e

J122e El Gran Senor 2511J122e - Clyde based El Gran Senor (above) combines comfort and speed Photo: Afloat

The J122e is a development of the very successful J122 design. Technically the e-versions from J Yachts are supposed to relate to cruising comforts, but all three designs with this 'e' designation appear to be extremely competitive and very good on IRC. Jonathan Anderson from the Clyde has been very successful with His J122e—El Gran Senor. A very good 40-footer combining comfort with speed.

Pricing from €296,000 plus VAT. Available Spring 2020 

5: Italia Yachts 11.98

Italia Yachts 11.98Italia Yachts 11.98 - launched in 2019

The brand New Italia Yachts 11.98 was only launched early this season but already has finished very well in some ORC and IRC regattas in the Mediterranean. The smaller sister, Italia Yachts 9.98 finished a close second at the 2018 IRC worlds. These boats would be very able performers on IRC and still have a decent interior.

Pricing from €210,000 plus VAT. Available Spring 2020

6: JPK 11.80

JPK 11.80JPK 11.80 - Cowes Week class winner

The JPK 11.80 is the big sister of the all-conquering JPK 10.80. Built to the same high standards, they are primarily a racing boat but actually have very good levels of comfort below deck. One of these has already won its class over the last two years at Cowes Week

Pricing from €209,000 plus VAT. Available June 2020

7: Melges IC37

IC37IC37 - The latest one design for New York Yacht Club where Royal Cork (above) sailed to podium success in September Photo: Daniel Forster

Designed by County Wicklow yacht designer Mark Mills. This design has become the latest one-design for the New York Yacht Club. Not big on creature comforts, it has however shown itself to be a potent IRC performer and while only recently launched, won its class in Cowes Week this year with a string of firsts.

Pricing from €265,000 plus VAT. Available Spring 2020

8: J112e

J LanceJ112e - IRC Worlds and IRC Europeans winner

The J112e has become one of the most successful IRC boats ever. In 2018, one of these won both the IRC Worlds and IRC Europeans. Built-in France, these designs offer a true compromise between racing and cruising. In Ireland, there are already three of these racing and I would expect more.

Pricing from €199,000 plus VAT. Available Dec 2019

9: JPK 10.80

JPK10.80 2222JPK 10.80 - Paul O'Higgins' Rockabill VI (above) has won the last two Dun Laoghaire to Dingle races Photo: Afloat

The JPK 10.80 is well known in Irish waters, as Paul O'Higgins Rockabill VI has won the last two Dun Laoghaire to Dingle races, and has also been crowned ISORA Champion for 2019. This design has won the Fastnet Race overall and, though a few years old, it is still winning on the world stage. Pretty well-appointed down below, it excels in a breeze, particularly downwind.

Pricing from €142,000 plus VAT. Available Spring 2020

10: Grand Soleil 34

Grand Soleil 34 0846Grand Soleil 34 - Justtina (above) sails on Dublin Bay Photo: Afloat

All Grand Soleil yachts are built very well, and the 34 is no exception. There is one in Dublin, Justina, and it is clear even from looking at her on the dock that she is a class act. She has shown flashes of brilliance since arriving and clearly there is more potential to be had. Very nicely fitted out down below.

Pricing from €149,000 plus VAT Available Spring 2020

11: J99

J99 2732J99 - excels off the wind Juggerknot 2 (above sailing on Dublin Bay in her 2019 debut season Photo: Afloat

The J99 is the new kid on the J Yachts portfolio. Designed to be able to be crewed by fewer people, there is one in Dublin already, Juggerknot 2 skippered by Andrew Algeo. The jury is out on whether it is going to be as successful as the j109, but there is still more speed to be found in this design. She excels off the wind where her lighter displacement and planing hull show off her abilities. Very well built, like all J boats and very much a premium, high-class product.

Pricing from €114, 000 plus VAT. Available Feb 2020

12: JPK 10.30

JPK 10.30JPK 10.30 - Fastnet class winner

The JPK is a new design from early 2019. It has won its class of 85 entries in the 2019 Fastnet race. It replaces the JPK 10.10. Very much in the mould of all the Other JPK boats, they perform very well offshore and were designed to be crewed shorthanded. However, that is not to say that they cannot be crewed inshore with a full crew. Interior would be simple, but very usable for racing. Expect to see a few of these in the next few years in Ireland.

Pricing from €114,000 Plus VAT. Available Spring 2020

13: Jeanneau Sunfast 3300

Jeanneau Sunfast 3300Jeanneau Sunfast 3300 - water ballast removes the need for a large crew

The Jeanneau Sunfast 3300 is very much along the lines of the JPK 10.30. Similar in size and rating, the two designs have been having a great Battle this year. The Sunfast bested the JPK in the opening event, Spi Ouest, whereas the JPK won her class(with the Sunfast 3300 second) in the Fastnet. Both boats are relatively light allowing them to plane easily and so are very suited for downwind sailing. Rumour is that there is an order being finalised on a Sunfast 3300 as we speak, and it will be sailed very competitively by an experienced owner. The Sunfast 3300 allows water ballast, thus removing the need for a very large crew.

Pricing from €104,000 plus VAT. Available March 2020

14: Italia 9.98

Italia 9.98Italia 9.98 - second in class at the 2018 IRC Worlds

Italian Built, and a wonderful pedigree. None in Ireland yet, and I don’t know why. This design came second in her class in the 2018 IRC Worlds, and was quite close to the excellently well-sailed J112e, j lance. Since then the Italia 9.98 has added a new IRC orientated Keel to make her even a better IRC boat. Very potent all-round boat and well built.

Pricing from €119,000 plus VAT. Available Spring 2020

15: J97E

J97EJ97E - features well under IRC

Like her larger sisters, the J97e comes from a fine pedigree of boats designed to be potent race boats but also having a well fitted out interior. So far none have arrived into Ireland yet but there are a few of the older J97 models around and they feature well under IRC. 

Pricing from €130,000 plus VAT. Available December 2019

So, that is the 15 yachts I have chosen. Should any prospective owner want further details or would like to discuss why I like these models, feel free to contact me below

Useful Irish race boat sales links

Irish Jeanneau agent

Irish X Yachts agent

Irish Beneteau agent

Mark Mansfield

About The Author

Mark Mansfield

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Four-time Olympian Mark Mansfield is a Professional Sailor. More on Mark here

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