Neel 51

SAIL - - Best Boats -

Six years af­ter win­ning SAIL’s Best Boat cruis­ing mul­ti­hull cat­e­gory with the break­through Neel 45, vet­eran racer/boat­builder Eric Bruneel has re­turned to Amer­ica with an­other stun­ner, the Neel 51. De­spite the ob­vi­ous sim­i­lar­i­ties—not the least of which is its three hulls—the 51 is a very dif­fer­ent an­i­mal, a big tri­maran with vast in­te­rior space that can carry six peo­ple across an ocean rapidly in real com­fort. Most of that space looks out through a set of large win­dows in all di­rec­tions, and the en­tire ves­sel is neatly built and nicely fin­ished, fea­tur­ing a decor and de­sign with a con­tem­po­rary French flair. Like the 45, the gal­ley, nav­i­ga­tion, so­cial spa­ces and master ac­com­mo­da­tions are all up on the main bridgedeck. How­ever, in con­trast to the 45, the amas of this boat are large enough to hold two more owner-size cab­ins, com­pa­ra­ble to those of a cata­ma­ran. Aft, large slid­ing doors let the sa­loon blend seem­lessly with the af­ter­deck, while belowdecks, me­chan­ics, re­joice: the in­te­rior of the cen­tral hull in­cludes a big standup “base­ment” de­voted to all the me­chan­i­cal and propul­sion sys­tems, in­clud­ing a walk-around en­gine room and easy ac­cess to the gen­er­a­tor, bat­ter­ies, air con­di­tion­ing, tanks, wa­ter­maker and what­ever else an owner might want to in­clude. (As an added ben­e­fit, this place­ment also keeps the heav­i­est parts of the boat low and cen­trally lo­cated.)

The rig is sim­ple and ef­fi­cient, the decks are easy to tra­verse, and the raised helm sta­tion pro­vides ex­cel­lent vis­i­bil­ity and is a cen­tral gath­er­ing point for the con­trol lines. In bad weather, the skip­per can also sit in­side near the smoothest-rid­ing part of the boat at a nav desk re­sem­bling a drone con­trol sta­tion and steer with the au­topi­lot. Oh, and there’s a panoramic view of the out­side world from there, too. Bot­tom line: the Neel 51 is a fast, sea­wor­thy voy­ag­ing yacht with an in­te­rior larger than cata­ma­rans 10 feet longer, mak­ing it the judges’ easy choice as the Best Flag­ship Mul­ti­hull for 2019. neel-tri­marans.com

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