Toby Hodges takes a look at all the nominees and the winner of the best family yacht category in the European Yacht of the Year Awards

There are many categories in the European Yacht of the Year awards, from the best luxury yachts to performance yachts. But some of the most hotly-anticipated options come when it is time to choose the nominees and winner in the best family yacht category.

The European Yacht of the Year awards are selected by a broad panel of expert judges from across the globe. These are people who spend their professional lives sailing and comparing yachts, so you can be certain that the yachts which stand out in this field are truly the best of the best on the market for those looking to set out with the whole family in tow.

A crop of the latest 35-45ft mainstream production yachts, including the ultra spacious Dufour 41 and the smaller sister to the award-winning Hanse 460, plus a couple of less well known yachts, made for a dynamic grouping this year when it comes to picking the best family yachts 2024.

In this, the most competitive size bracket for volume production yachts, there was plenty to like, but two models stood out: the RM and the Bavaria. The former because it’s different and fills an interesting niche that crosses fast cruising with family sailing, from coastal and shoal draught to bluewater sailing ability; the Bavaria because it masters that mix of deck and interior space, performance and handling in a well finished package.

Winner of the best family yacht 2024 – Bavaria C46

The Bavaria and Cossutti Yacht Design relationship continues to flourish and produce standout results in its second generation. The C46’s modern, full shape brings vast deck and accommodation space yet manages to do so on a hull which really performs for its size, and rewards the helmsman with direct feedback.

During my trial we had a good mix of conditions and were able to push the boat, a voluminous hull which becomes reactive once the breeze threatens double figures. We were able to press it during a rain squall, hitting 12 knots in 18 under gennaker, and maintained lengthy double digit spells during some enjoyable sporty sailing. Bear in mind this is a single-rudder boat, yet it still didn’t overpower or lose its grip. It’s impressive, especially given the exceptionally low ballast ratio (20%), which shows the reliance on form stability.

“The chine is a bit higher than the C42 and we tried to make the wetted surface as small as possible,” Maurizio Cossutti told me during our trial. The keel is also comparatively lighter, slimmer and deeper for a sporty feel.
It’s clear the German yard has really poured its engineering energy and might into this build – from design to engineering to finish quality, the perceived richness of the C46 stands out (although dressed with over €200,000 of options, this is still no mean feat in a mass production size and brand). So much so that other big yards may struggle to compete.

Dufour 41

You could argue the Dufour 41 does that to some extent, but here the emphasis is slightly more skewed towards volume, while it doesn’t quite match the Bavaria for the overall engineering and finish quality. Felci somehow managed to swell the forward sections enough to allow the Dufour to be the first 40-footer to offer four cabins, including two doubles forward. We then learned in September that Dufour had signed a new contract to supply Sunsail charter yachts, which helps explain the draw of all this extra accommodation space.

The price for this is extra weight. Although equipped with a tall rig, the 41 only becomes reactive once the breeze is up to the mid teens, where it can lean onto a chine and employ its generous form stability. But for those after volume, max deck lounging space and a bright spacious interior for multiple guests, it’s a hard model to compete with at this size (full report in YW September 2023 and online).

Hanse 410

On paper the Hanse 410 should perhaps have challenged the Bavaria more. It’s the latest in Hanse’s new collaboration with Berret-Racoupeau, follows on from the larger sister 460 which won this category in 2022, and shares that appealing modern hull shape. It showed respectable performance and figures, and proved easy to manage short-handed, thanks to the self-tacking jib and winches positioned to hand.

A halyard issue with the mainsail and a tangled sock for the kite curtailed my sail trials somewhat. We also found the cockpit quite busy, particularly the winch layout, although it is nice and deep for protecting its crew. It makes you query why you need two tables on a 40-footer – until you see them lowered to create sun beds, that is!

Stand out features from the interior were the number of stowage solutions, particularly on the two-cabin test boat. Offered as two or three cabins with one or two heads, the former provides a huge amount of stowage accessible from the cockpit or interior. There’s more in the galley and a multifunction space in the saloon, which can be a full length sofa berth, a proper chart table, or a standing desk with storage below.

Beneteau Oceanis 37.1

The Beneteau Oceanis 37.1 is also all about easy sailing and handling, and proved to be a fun, manageable sized cruiser, particularly the First Line option we tried, which increases sail area with a square-top main and flat deck furler. While certainly an accessible yacht, it perhaps comes across as a little basic. This is the last Oceanis in the new generation eight-boat range between 30ft and 60ft, so the focus is more on evolution than the revolution of its early predecessors. Hence the two- or three-cabin interior seemed a little unremarkable when viewed against the opposition.

RM 1380

The same could not be said for the RM 1380, particularly when you step down the companionway – which doesn’t really feel like going below decks on a conventional monohull as it’s so naturally bright in the raised saloon and helps you appreciate your surroundings. So much so it’s more like being on a multihull. The doorways are a little tight, but the double cabins are of good size thanks in part to the generous beam. The standard two-cabin layout has a practical utility space in place of the optional third cabin.

I’ve long appreciated the plywood epoxy technique RM uses for its hulls, together with the powerful form stability Lombard’s design brings. This comes with the choice of keels, including the shoal draught options of a lifting centreboard or efficient twin keels. We tried the latter and the result on the water is in keeping with the sporty looks: it’s an enjoyable mid-displacement cruiser to sail from the aft quarters. Then there’s the superb winch layout, which sees the primaries positioned inboard for use standing under the protection of the coachoof and sprayhood. For offshore sailing the open transom can be closed off with a platform. It’s not perfect, but the RM is intriguing and versatile.

Elan Impression 43

Another memorable interior is to be found on the Elan Impression 43. The rustic knotted oak finish is unique, the only option Elan offers and something the Slovenian yard wanted style gurus Pininfarina to maintain to identify it from the sportier ranges. Personally, I like the strong focus on timber as it helps showcase Elan’s heritage, but appreciate it won’t suit all tastes.

These mid size Impressions are the mainstay of Elan’s sailing range, the family and charter staples for the Med. This Humphreys-designed update has a modernised shape, but retains the older style and the hull rocker to keep a soft, smooth sailing experience. It’s rigged with a genoa or self tacker and two to four winches. Although somewhat unremarkable in terms of sailing performance, it fits its purpose, while the increased aft beam allows for larger aft cabins and a service tunnel between them.

Maxus 35

In an age where we need to focus on making things last, my preconceptions of the Maxus 35 revolved around questioning the need for a lower budget Polish build. Why not just buy a proven second-hand yacht? That said, the Northman shipyard has done a respectable job on this, the largest Maxus yet, in terms of the build and finish for the price. It feels solid throughout, the interior is light and inviting and it is worth consideration as an entry level yacht with reasonable accommodation.

I can also see some appeal of the centreboard design for lake sailing. However there was little to take home with regards to the design or sailing experience, so my conclusions mirror my first thoughts.Best family yacht 2023

Best family yacht 2023

Best family yacht winner – Linjett 39

This is quite possibly the best boat you haven’t heard of. The 39 offers easy, fast family cruising and occasional racing in luxurious comfort and proves that classic needn’t be old fashioned.

Linjett exudes Scandi heritage: a third generation 50-year-old brand, it’s run by three brothers and has built 900 yachts from its Rosättra yard in Sweden, which dates from to the 19th Century. Its business model is based on long production runs – think evergreen rather than trendy. Linjett not only designs, engineers and builds its own boats, but services and maintains them too, with 220 in winter storage. It also now produces the high performance Shogun Yachts in carbon epoxy, which hints at the skill levels of its infusion techniques.

A telling result at sea is how quiet the yacht is. Sturdy and stable, it instils instant confidence and proved a delight to sail. We had some very pleasant upwind beats, pointing high, and some lively reaching, hitting double figures a few times while pushing it under 150m2 gennaker in waves. The Linjett is set up to easily short-hand it too, with two winches and a bank of clutches each side positioned aft in reach of the helm.

The interior is offered with two or three cabins and the latter we saw had an excellent layout, including separate shower/wet hanging compartment aft. Joiner work is first class, with traditional mahogany used as standard, or the more contemporary European Oak on the test boat.

This is a premium yacht, but you get what you pay for. It will surprise most and ensure everyone steps ashore smiling. See our full review next month.

Dufour 37

The Dufour 37 may be shorter than the old 360, but Dufour was reluctant to brand this 37 as smaller because its modern, broadened hull shape has resulted in an enlarged deck space, cockpit and owner’s cabin. Felci has designed a clever hull that sails well with good performance for its (34ft) size. The aft quarters behind the helms feel compact to maximise cockpit size, but proved comfortable enough to sail from. The primaries are in reach of the helm and we liked the lightweight, low friction jib sheet adjusters.

The 37 is offered in Easy (two winch), Ocean (cruising), or Performance versions and with a two- or three- cabin layout. The test boat was the most popular Ocean model, although it had €100,000 worth of optional extras including sails, engine and bow thruster, resulting in an expensive yacht for its length.

Bente 28

For those who recognise the Bente name, we previously featured it in detail in 2015 when it burst onto the scene with an innovative and affordable new 24-footer (around 150 of which have been built in Poland). We then tested its 39 in 2019, a year before the yard then filed for bankruptcy. But it’s now back under new ownership with this really impressive and more refined Bente 28, again by Judel/Vrolijk.

It’s a fun yacht to sail, easy to short-hand, with sprightly performance, especially when reaching. The coachroof is part of the deck structure and proves crucial in providing light, space and headroom below in an ergonomic interior that has been very well thought out.

All in all it’s a great compact, entry-level cruiser, with a practical, well protected cockpit.

If you enjoyed this….

Yachting World is the world’s leading magazine for bluewater cruisers and offshore sailors. Every month we have inspirational adventures and practical features to help you realise your sailing dreams.
Build your knowledge with a subscription delivered to your door. See our latest offers and save at least 30% off the cover price.