Saffier Se 33

A drop-dead gor­geous day­sailer, as sea­wor­thy as it is good-look­ing

SAIL - - New Boats - By Peter Nielsen

If we sailors were to be dead hon­est, day­sail­ing is what we do most of the time. It there­fore makes sense to own a boat that’s de­signed and built for just that sort of use. While you’re at it, why not make it a boat that blends ex­cel­lent all-round per­for­mance with ex­treme good looks—a boat like the Saffier Se 33, per­haps.

The name may not be a fa­mil­iar one to Amer­i­can sailors, but it’s well known in Europe. Saffier Yachts pro­duces a range of day­sail­ers and week­enders rang­ing from 23 to 37ft. It’s a fam­ily busi­ness, run by brothers Den­nis and Dean Hen­nevanger, and the boats are de­signed in-house and built in IJ­muiden, on the Dutch coast. They fol­low the Euro aes­thetic of classic lines with a modern twist above the wa­ter­line, and a min­i­mum of wet­ted area be­low, with ef­fi­cient foils and bal­last slung low in bulb or tor­pedo keels.

Over the years Saffier’s de­signs have gained a rep­u­ta­tion for not just good looks and first­class build qual­ity, but for ex­cel­lent sea­keep­ing: the no­to­ri­ously rough and fickle waters of the North Sea are a tough test bed. Un­til its big sis­ter, the Se 37, was launched last year, the Se 33 was Saffier’s largest yacht, and I was de­lighted to be in­vited to sail the first ex­am­ple to be im­ported into North Amer­ica, the day af­ter it was launched in New York Har­bor.

First im­pres­sions are im­por­tant, and mine were of a finely crafted gem of a yacht, dis­tinc­tive in ap­pear­ance, mod­er­ate in pro­por­tion, sweet of line and beau­ti­fully fin­ished. The boat is set up for easy sin­gle­hand­ing, with the main­sail con­tained by lazy­jacks, the self-tack­ing furl­ing headsail con­trolled by a sin­gle sheet and the Code 0 set on a furler at the tip of a bowsprit. Sail con­trols are led aft via un­der-deck gal­leries to clutches and Harken winches by the twin helms.

Be­lowdecks, there’s crouch­ing head­room in a com­pact in­te­rior that can sleep two com­fort­ably, four if they’re re­lated or on the small side. A toi­let is tucked away be­neath the V-berth. A small gal­ley sink and an elec­tric Isotherm fridge are the only mod cons, though you can have a small stove if you wish.

That said, I don’t see this boat be­ing used for more than an oc­ca­sional night or two afloat. Its forte will be ad­min­is­ter­ing undi­luted doses of sail­ing joy to its owner, ei­ther alone or with com­pany—lots of it, since the cock­pit is huge and well laid out, with a large loung­ing area abaft the helms and benches that are more than long enough to sleep on.

With the boat’s builder and owner aboard we un­rolled the big red Code 0 and soon were slip­ping down­river at 6-7 knots in the light breeze. It was im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent that I was at the reins of a thor­ough­bred; she felt ea­ger to go, with no­tice­able ac­cel­er­a­tion in the slight puffs. In a YouTube video, you can also find footage of the boat surf­ing down­wind at nearly 20 knots. The Jefa steer­ing was light and re­spon­sive, and the boat an­swered in­stantly to course cor­rec­tions with­out the twitch­i­ness you get with some high-per­for­mance boats.

Furl­ing the Code 0 and un­rolling the self­tack­ing jib, we tacked ef­fort­lessly up­river. The cur­rent meant it wasn’t pos­si­ble to gauge tack­ing an­gles, but I am sure no one will com­plain about the Se 33’s wind­ward abil­ity. Alas, our test was cut short when we ran afoul of a shoal on a fall­ing tide, and then stuck there. No wor­ries, though, as an un­per­turbed Den­nis Hen­nevanger (no stranger to run­ning aground in the shal­low waters of the Nether­lands) seized the op­por­tu­nity to de­scribe the tough­ness of the boat; how the hull con­sists of an isoph­thalic resin-in­fused, vac­uum-bagged sand­wich of woven rov­ings and closed-cell foam, re­vert­ing to solid glass be­low the wa­ter­line, where the lam­i­nate is nearly an inch thick around the keel. Glassed-in floors brack­et­ing the keel stub add even more strength.

A cou­ple of hours later we sailed her off the shoal, with only a few scratches on the tor­pedo keel to tes­tify to our em­bar­rass­ment. It wasn’t the Se 33’s stur­di­ness, though, that I was think­ing about as I drove home later that evening; it was the silky-smooth han­dling of a boat that epit­o­mizes the day­sailer ethos. s

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