For much of my sailing life I have been trying to find out if there was such a thing as an ideal cruising boat. With this in mind, I conducted several surveys among cruising sailors, I spoke to designers and boat builders, but the more I tried, the farther my target appeared to be unattainable.
Everything changed when I decided to make an attempt to transit of the Northwest Passage. Initially I considered buying an existing production boat but having looked around at all that was available, I decided that I had an unmissable opportunity to come up with a concept that may get close to that elusive ideal cruising boat. I was extremely fortunate in being able to infect with my enthusiasm Stephan Constance, the manager of Garcia Yachting and Allures Yachting, in my view the best aluminium yacht builders in the world, and also Olivier Racoupeau, one of France’s top yacht designers.
My requirements were very clear: a strong, fast, comfortable, functional and easily handled boat perfectly suited for both high latitude and tropical sailing. All of the best features of my previous boat were to be incorporated into the new one: an unpainted aluminium hull, collision bulkheads fore and aft, integral centreboard, shallow draft, cutter rig, at least two comfortable all-weather bunks on each tack.
What was new was my insistence on a deck salon that would ensure almost all-round visibility. This was something that had never been tried before on an integral centreboard yacht, primarily because the added height might affect its stability. By settling for a low profile, Olivier Racoupeau produced what I believe to be the perfect solution: a comfortable and spacious deck salon with 270° vision without compromising either the stability of the yacht or its looks.
Much thought has gone into ensuring a high level of self-sufficiency, which also means being able to handle and sail the boat single-handed. All essential lines lead back to the cockpit to two electric and two primary winches. As an extra safety precaution, each of the two electric winches is provided with an easily accessible emergency cut-off switch.
Being of the old brigade persuasion of the traditional propeller shaft, I refused to have a saildrive on this type of boat, and insisted on the classic propeller shaft arrangement.
Opting for a two-rudder configuration was the logical solution on this shallow draft centreboard boat, as the leeward rudder would ensure finger-tip steering as I experienced when I tested the Allures 45, with which the Exploration 45 shares many underwater characteristics.
The two aluminium rudder blades are supported by short skeg but as added protection the upper section of the rudder blades incorporates a crumple area. Should the rudder be pushed upwards in a collision, this sacrificial area made of light composite material would crumple and compress without causing any damage to the hull itself.
Each wheel and rudder is provided with an independent steering mechanism. In an emergency the connecting bar between the two steering mechanisms can be disconnected and the rudders can be used independently of each other. This system also allows that either wheel can steer either rudders.
Aventura is equipped with two entirely autonomous autopilots, either of which can steer the boat with both or either rudder.
To keep Aventura’s carbon footprint as low as possible, she does not have a diesel generator and most of her energy need are generated from renewable sources: D400 wind generator, Sail-Gen hydro-generator and 140 watts solar panel.
As on both my previous boats, Aventura has a 40 litres day tank about one metre higher than the engine so that the fuel is gravity fed to the engine. The tank is topped up every four or five hours by manually activating a fuel transfer pump.
I have deliberately avoided having an automatic filling system so that the person who fills the tank needs to actually look at what is happening. The switch is placed in such a position that one can see a glass filter and water separator while doing it thus making sure that the fuel that enters the day tank is always clean. Apart from this pre-filter, there are two more fuel filters before the fuel reaches the injection pump.
To keep the bows light, the chain locker and anchor winch are at the foot of the mast so as to keep the weight centred. To handle docking lines, etc., there is an electric capstan mounted at the bows.
For a stern anchor, there is a permanently installed anchor reel with 50 meters of leaded anchoring line in a locker accessible from the stern platform. The same reel also holds 50 metres of mooring line.
As an important safety feature, the 8-man liferaft can be easily launched by the weakest crewmember by being stowed in a special compartment at the stern, from where it can be dragged across the stern platform.
There are many other features that make Aventura comfortable and enjoyable to sail, such as the composite coachroof extending over the forward part of the cockpit to provide a protected corner for the on-watch crew with immediate access to instruments and aids to navigation.