One of the slickest, best-performing boats we've ever sailed in our years with Boat of the Year is the Archambault A35, and the judges collectively described it as one of the best-built, best laid-out boats they've sailed. The design firm, Joubert/Nivelt, certainly knows its stuff, as does this boat's French builder, which recently celebrated 50 years in business.
"When we talked to the builders you could tell the pride they take in the boat and how well they knew their product," said Allen.
Delivering a successful modern crossover is no easy task, given racing and cruising attributes are always at odds when it comes to performance, but the A35 nails the balance with a fast hull shape and layout perfectly suited for crewed windward/leeward and distance racing.
Inside, the feel is very spacious. One of the most appealing elements of an already comfortable interior is its aft cabins, which have standard bunks and optional pipe berths above. There are two settees. Just forward of the small but comfortable nav station and the simple galley is a table with drop-down leaves. The open layout belies the boat's overall length, thanks to the main bulkhead being 3'6" feet forward of the mast. With such a generous amount of volume and a plethora of bunks, the A35 could easily be cruised by a small family, or a few couples.
When it came to sailing the boat, the judges raved about its balanced feel. The wheel steering was smooth and tight, with one revolution lock-to-lock. "The steering was phenomenal," says Stewart. "The bearings, the quadrants, the alignment; everything helps keep the friction down."
His praise carried over to the overall quality of the boat. "It's outstanding, especially when compared to similarly sized [production] boats I've sailed," said Stewart. "It's night and day."
Allen agreed. "When we were steering and maneuvering the A35, it felt like a boat that a good driver can really take advantage of, especially in waves," he said. "One slight movement from the wheel and the boat moves, and it would be even be better with the [standard] tiller."
One of the outstanding features of the A35 is it's versatility. It's available with a single or twin-rudder configuration, and either a symmetric or asymmetric spinnaker system. With the A-sail layout, there's a cutout pre-built into the bow on centerline, which is sealed for buyers preferring a symmetric spinnaker setup.
The A35's cored decks are resin injected and there's no interior headliner, which means a stronger, lighter deck and a lower profile. Not to mention a boat that's a lot easier to clean after a long-distance race. The hand-laid hull is vacuum bagged and is foam cored from the waterline up. There's solid glass below the waterline.
The deck layout, even with the symmetric spinnaker setup-although the judges agreed that the sprit version would be easier to sail-is ergonomically perfect. The cockpit is comfortable and roomy, even packed with a full crew. The boat also looks great, with a low-profile deckhouse, which still provides excellent headroom below because there's no headliner). There's enough headroom for a 6'3" sailor such as myself.
The judges see this boat as an excellent crossover design, with the ability to be raced both inshore and well offshore, or cruised with the family. Its superb overall quality, ease of handling, performance, and pricing make the A35 a superior boat in its size. Go ahead and look around, there's not much that can match this package right now.
Pros: Who would've thought a boat could sail so sweetly? Now we know. The finish is something rarely seen outside custom boatbuilding.
Cons: It took three years for this beauty to reach the United States.
Designer's mission accomplished?
Joubert/Nivelt was aiming to hit a sweet spot in the IRC rule and hit this one in the bull's-eye. The A35 comes with a proven record and more than 136 boats sailing in Europe.
Archambault A35 Specs
DSPL: 9,810 lbs.
SA (u/d): 726 sq.ft./1,292 sq.ft.
Access SW's 2009 New Boat Showcase , including reviews and photos for Boat of the Year winners and dozens of new boats.