There’s currently a flourishing market for ultra-luxurious blue-water cruisers of around 55-60ft. It’s easy to see the attraction. Who wouldn’t want to cross an ocean on their own mini-superyacht then cruise in style in some of the world’s most beautiful sailing spots?
The ideal boat for such an adventure will be solidly built for safety, with race-inspired lines for speed, and superior finish for pleasure of ownership. If you have a upwards of a million pounds to spend then the new Gunfleet 58 is a premium example of the genre that should be on your shortlist.
Gunfleet is still a relatively new company, started in 2010 by Richard Matthews after selling Oyster, the dominant brand in the blue-water cruising market. His concept for Gunfleet is yachts with their own unmistakable sharp, modern exterior profile, hand laid-up and fitted out for bullet-proof strength and superyacht finish, with a key feature - variable draft. The two current Gunfleet models (43 and 58 - see Gunfleet 43: Cruising in Luxury) and the forthcoming 74 share a designer in Tony Castro. All the boats are built entirely on one site on the UK’s east coast.
Gunfleet takes particular pride in its joinery, and there is much beautifully finished American oak in hull number one. An airy deck saloon offers good views to the outside world and a dining area for eight. Those eight are accommodated in four cabins, of which the master suite, aft, is the 58‘s piece de resistance. Flooded with light from windows in the hull and deckhead and with over 6ft headroom, it features a king-size bed, sofa, desk and deluxe ensuite heads/shower.
The forecabin is equally sumptuous, with private access to the day heads/shower.
Four bunks in two further cabins are for children or extra guests. These bunks are good sea-berths allowing a crew of eight on passage to operate a four-on, four-off watch system.
The Gunfleet 58's galley is state-of-the-art and sited to port, while the nav station with half-size chart table is to starboard.
One deck and performance
Boarding at the stern you’ll pad across expanses of teak till you arrive at the twin helm stations (see Innovations below) in their own cockpit which offers a measure of protection from the elements. Electric sheet winches are operated from here, leaving the larger guest cockpit, forward, free for eight people to dine alfresco in comfort. At the stern is an enormous lazarette, and at the bow a draining sail locker.
The Solent rig on the first Gunfleet 58 consists of hydraulic in-mast full-roach furling mainsail, two roller-furling headsails: a 100 per cent blade jib rigged just aft of a 135 per cent genoa, and an optional asymmetric spinnaker flown from an integral bowsprit.
The hull’s long waterline length, powerful stern sections and twin rudders combined with a generous rig promise speed and stability for the first boat's inaugural transatlantic passage.
Equipment and innovations
A fixed iron keel with lead bulb gives the boat a draft of just 1.75m yet a reassuring measure of ballast. With the touch of a button at the helm, a 500kg cast-iron centreboard swings down to give a maximum draft of 3.6m. The housing does not intrude into the saloon as it fits within the keel and bilge.
Gunfleet is a pioneer of the C-Zone single-bus digital switching system: all the boat’s services are monitored and controlled with touch-screens both inside and at the helm. The helm consoles are really special, shaped to house those large chartplotter/displays. Designed by Gunfleet/Castro/Lewmar, and trademarked Flightdeck, they allow you to touch the screen without trapping fingers in spokes thanks to a dish-shaped wheel set on the forward face of the console and curving aft towards your hands.
The raised saloon sole allows the prodigious amount of tankage and battery capacity required on a large long-distance cruiser to be sited low-down in the centre of the boat which is the optimum place for stability and performance, and an impressive walk-in engineroom houses the 150hp Volvo Penta, generator, aircon, watermaker and battery chargers.
What the Gunfleet 58 does best
Designed to stand out from the crowd, the 58 is more than just another long-distance cruiser aimed at the transatlantic-Caribbean market. Promising to get owners across the pond with better-than-most speed and comfort, once you’ve arrived the 58‘s variable draught is your passport to beaches and bays in places like Florida and the Bahamas that deep-keeled yachts can’t reach. Easy handling by just two people means owners can cruise without being dependent on crew, while having the facilities to welcome family and friends for holidays aboard in five-star style.
A boat with this much hull volume and all the machinery, tankage and joinery to keep its occupants in opulence will obviously take longer to get going in gentle breezes than a lighter, slimmer-hulled yacht, no matter how clever the naval architect.
One compromise that many owners make when choosing a lift-keel boat is pointing ability, however the Gunfleet 58 is claimed to point better, and suffer less leeway than comparable fixed keel models, as the centreboard provides lift.
The Gunfleet 58’s rivals at around £1 million include the Discovery 57 (see Discovery 57: Long Distance Quality Cruiser), Oyster 575 and Hallberg Rassy 55. For around half that amount most of the production builders have a flagship model of 55ft-plus offering great value, perhaps, but not to be compared with the superyacht-quality and individual service offered by the top-end marques.
Gunfleet 58 specifications
Draft min: 1.75m
Draft max: 3.60m
Sail area (100 per cent foretriangle): 165.2sq m
Engine: Volvo Penta D3 150hp
Designer: Tony Castro
Price (ex VAT at time of publication): £1.25million