2023 Boat of the Year winners
Published on December 16th, 2022
Sailing World magazine revealed the Beneteau First 36 as its Boat of the Year for 2023. The 36-footer (above) emerged as the judges’ unanimous favorite after a week of reviews and sailing tests of 11 new performance sailing models in Annapolis, Maryland.
Also earning honors was the J/45 (Best Crossover – racer/cruiser), Neel 43 Trimaran (Best Multihull), Tiwal 3R (Best Dinghy), and Nacra 500 MK2 (Special Recognition), but it was the Beneteau First 36 that stood out the most.
“In the early days of Beneteau, its legendary ‘First’ range was highly regarded for its innovation and broad appeal to new and experienced sailors alike,” says Dave Reed, Sailing World editor-in-chief and Boat of the Year director.
“That lineage certainly continues with the launch of the First 36, which is an outstanding result of Beneteau’s collaboration with the builders and innovators at Seascape in Slovenia. This is a boat that will serve many masters.”
The lightweight 36-footer is a true multipurpose sailboat that’s designed for exhilarating racing and coastal cruising. During the sailing tests in October 2022, conducted in 15 to 20 knots of wind, the judges were struck by the speed of the boat, but more so by the ease of which they could sail it upwind and downwind.
“With the dual rudders, which are pretty long, the boat has more of a power-steering feel upwind, so it lets you do a lot of things,” said BOTY judge Greg Stewart, a naval architect. “There’s so much control.”
Its efficient and ergonomic cockpit design, the judges noted, is ideal for casual local racing with a crew of four, and it is perfectly configured for shorthanded coastal racing and cruising. The interior, said judges Dave Powlison and Chuck Allen, is a work of art and engineering, with components and furniture all integrated into the structure of the boat.
The First 36’s innovative, spacious and practical layout uses every square inch of the interior with purpose without adding unnecessary weight, which contributes to the boat’s overall performance and its appeal to sailors appreciate a true performance production boat.
Sailing World’s judging panel also selected the J/45 as its Best Crossover (racer/cruiser), hailing the 45-foot luxury yacht as a new flagship for J Boats and a boat that is designed and built for serious bluewater racing and cruising.
The Neel 43 Trimaran was selected as Best Multihull because of its performance under sail, sustainable-minded construction and versatility.
The Tiwal 3R earned honors as Best Dinghy. The 10-foot dinghy is the latest addition to Tiwal’s line of inflatable dinghies, which have been perennial Boat of the Year winners, and the judges all agreed the 3R is Tiwal’s best yet, as powerful and quick boat that can fit into two duffle bag for transport.
Special Recognition was given to the Nacra 500 MK2, a 14-foot entry-level beach cat, which has been redesigned with the benefit of modern construction techniques and equipment and delivered an excellent sailing experience.