European Yacht of the Year

The highlight of the first weekend at the world’s largest boat show, overcrowded with both special events and more people than in recent years, was the awards ceremony for the European Yacht of the Year. The winners in the ten categories, 5 for power boats and 5 for sailing yachts, are decided by a jury made up of journalists from 11 European boating magazines.

Having been invited to the ceremony as part of the Garcia Yachting team, builders of my own Aventura, a Garcia Exploration 45, we were keenly waiting for the results of only one category, that of the Bluewater-Cruiser. As this is considered the top award, it was announced at the very end of the long and rather tedious proceedings, conducted only in German, which was rather surprising, as over half the audience were foreign boat builders, exhibitors, designers or journalists.

The Bluewater-Cruiser category was a new addition to the list of awards, and had five nominees: one catamaran – the Broadblue Rapier 550, and four monohulls: Boreal 52, Ovni 52 Evolution, Southerly 535, and the Exploration 45. To our profound disappointment, Boreal was declared the winner, and, as we found out later, it had been a close call as six of the jury members had cast their votes for the Boreal, and four in favour of the Exploration 45.

Jimmy Cornell with the creators of the Exploration 45 at her launch in Cherbourg: Benoit Lebizay, general manager of Garcia Yachting, naval architect Olivier Racoupeau, and Stephan Constance, president Le Grand Large Yachting.
Photo: Jon Amtrup/

On what criteria the judges managed to compare a 52 to a 45 footer is difficult to gauge, but having sailed during the last seven months over 10,000 miles on Aventura’s maiden voyage that took us from the Arctic to the Bahamas, I strongly believe that this was an unfair decision. Besides the fact that the Exploration 45 has more innovative features than any of the other nominees, it is also the absolutely safest cruising boat built at the moment.

This may sound like sour grapes, and I am not denying that I am disappointed by the result. However, this is not for any personal reasons, but for witnessing the chagrin of my friends – the designer and builders of this outstanding yacht, who felt robbed of the recognition they fully deserve for having created a true boat for all seas and all seasons. At least they have the consolation of the Exploration 45 having won the two top US awards: the Cruising World Boat of the Year, and the Best Boat 2015 awarded by SAIL magazine. I can only presume that in their assessment the American judges may have been more discerning and attentive to detail than their European counterparts.

Exploration 45 exhibited at Boot Düsseldorf, Hall 15, Stand A26

Jimmy Cornell
Düsseldorf, 18 January 2015

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