By Michael Good
Bavaria Cruiser 33: Heavy-Air Test, Flying Colors
Fresh appearance, better performance, more comfort: Bavaria Yachtbau is setting the bar high with this new entry-level model.
Admittedly, the rationale for hoisting a gennaker on a boat like the Bavaria Cruiser 33 in 30 knots of breeze might merit some discussion. But fact is, it works, and surprisingly easily, too. Surfing down the waves full-speed at close to 12 knots is new to Bavaria product manager Daniel Kohl, who called it “record-breaking.” Sometimes wind and weather don’t fully cooperate with tests, but true sailors take it as it comes.
With the Cruiser 33 Bavaria Yachtbau presents not merely a new boat, but also determines the direction for the complete overhaul of the current touring models in the coming years. The entry-level model was first in line, followed by the flagship Cruiser 56. The folks in Giebelstadt are following the script from three years ago when they kicked off the current touring line with the Cruiser 32. That boat turned heads with numerous and daring innovations, but especially with its unique and somewhat polarizing design.
The new and radically overhauled styling comes from Design Unlimited, the Brits who provided the characteristic look for Bavaria’s new Vision line. Again they used accentuated curvy lines and shunned corners and edges, which is a good fit for the small Cruiser 33. Her predecessor’s notably small and strictly angular windows were replaced by larger and rounded ones. The cabintop of the 33 has a long dark visor disguising the windows. This goes well with the lines and is a big asset, not just visually.
More space, better positions
From the Cruiser 32 Bavaria adopted only the hull shape and the swim platform, which set a new standard in this class three years ago. In the meantime the competitors, notably the Dufour 335 Grand’Large and the Hanse 345 followed suit with large stern platforms of their own. On the Bavaria the mechanism is supported by an unobtrusive gas compression spring, so opening and closing don’t take a lot of muscle. Everything else is new, starting with the deck. Compared to the predecessor the cockpit coaming was shortened considerably; this also resulted in a much more commodious helm station. The thwarts bend around aft of the wheel and connect flush to the side deck. The helmsperson now can take up a better, more comfortable and stable position that offers better visibility under sail. On the Cruiser 32 only the steering position on the cockpit benches offered decent comfort, and it was necessary to climb over the thwarts to get from the stern to the cockpit. Boarding the new boat is less laborious.
The helm pedestal was redesigned, and now is more massive. The steering mechanism and the autopilot no longer live in a fiberglass box under the cockpit table, but are integrated in the console. Crew sitting on the thwarts enjoy more comfort and legroom, too.
Simple handling, less power
After an rousing, fun-filled, but safe surfing safari under gennaker, the Bavaria Cruiser 33 had to go hard on the breeze for the long slog back. Initially, the boat felt a bit restive under reefed main in the high and steep waves. This was a function of the short length, not of the hull shape. The closer to shore, the smaller the waves, the faster and stiffer the little Bavaria sailed.
In winds that exceeded 20 knots at times, the boat sailed to weather at a consistent speed of 6.5 knots (GPS verified) at a true wind angle of 42 degrees. That’s very respectable for a yacht this size and a tad better than the polars of the VPP diagram. Farr Design moved the keel and the rig a couple of inches forward to help the boat’s balance under sail. The rudder’s size and position and the water flow across the blade are impeccable. The helmsman enjoys control and pleasant feedback on all courses.
The cockpit’s layout is conservative, but tried and tested: The halyards are near the companionway, while genoa and gennaker sheets are led to the winches on the coamings. Only the mainsheet system is different. The block attaches to a steel bar that is integrated into the cockpit table. It creates a good sheeting angle, but that only partially compensates for the absence of a traveler. The sheet is easy to handle and within reach of the helmsperson. Exemplary is Bavaria’s decision to include a tensioner to trim the backstay with the standard rigging package. However, on the test boat the block of the bridle was too low, which interfered with steering.
Because the chainplates are attached to the outside of the hull, the genoa’s overlap is limited to 106 percent. Meanwhile, the cars for the adjustable jib leads moved from the side deck to the cabintop. This system was new on the Cruiser 32, which helped start a trend in this class. The short sheeting distances are advantageous, because tacking in a breeze does not require a whole lot more grinding on the winches. Also the side decks are unobstructed and the cabintop can be a bit wider, which helps the interior volume. Sailors with sporty ambitions can add a gennaker or code zero, either as a single item or as part of one of the many options packages offered by Bavaria for all kinds of wants and needs.
At the conclusion of the test, the standard Volvo 19-hp diesel pushed the boat back to the marina. With a two-blade fixed prop, maneuverability is excellent. The boat accelerates forward and backward in a straight line with a barely noticeable wheel effect. The 33 also immediately responds to engine and rudder commands. The sound insulation, however should be addressed by the yard. The noise level of 77 dB in the aft cabin measured at cruising speed is excessive.
More light, better living
Belowdecks the general layout remains unchanged. Compared to more voluminous models of the competition (Hanse, Dufour) the lines of the Bavaria could be called modest, almost conservative. A three-cabin version like on the Hanse 345 is out of the question, hence Bavaria sticks to two cabins and one lavatory. However, upon scrutiny and re-measuring, the perceived parallels to the previous interior must be put into perspective, because of the many details that were modified in response to customer input. This includes the small forward berth, which was criticized in the Cruiser 32. It is much larger now and satisfies the comfort requirements of two adults.
Consequently, Bavaria moved the main and the aft bulkheads 10 centimeters farther aft. The height restrictions in the aft cabin under the cockpit floor were mitigated as well, measuring 43 instead of 25 centimeters. This was achieved with a new floor liner that is flatter overall, but also wider. It moves the floorboards lower and adds interior height compared to the 32.
Outside and in, Bavaria is resorting to rounder and smoother shapes. The handholds are no longer steel but made from massive wood. The cabinetry doesn’t have as many edges and isn’t forced into rectangular shapes. It creates a pretty and yachty impression, especially on the test boat, which was finished in teak. Other available alternatives are mahogany and oak veneers, along with numerous options for upholstery.
The base price of 74,850 euros for the Bavaria Cruiser 33 is approximately 8,000 euros higher than that of the predecessor, the Cruiser 32. The manufacturers cite higher development costs, a better base package, better quality, and higher material cost for GRP construction as reasons for the price increase. But compared to the competition, the Bavaria still remains very attractively priced.
With the new Cruiser 33 Bavaria successfully eliminated the last lingering issues of their entry-level model and now offers an attractive package. Only the increased cost can temper the delight a bit. But after comparing, this increase seems acceptable.
Watch this video of the Bavaria Cruiser 33 in action:
|LOA (hull)||9.75 m|
|Draft (std./shoal)||1.95/1.50 m|
|Mainsail||28.3 sq. m|
|Genoa (106%)||22.3 sq. m|