Strictly Sail Chicago: 2013 Edition

Visiting the Strictly Sail show in Chicago has quickly become one of Erin and I's favorite mid-winter traditions. While looking at a sailboat inside of a big convention center in January isn't nearly as fulfilling as feeling the boat heel in a fresh July breeze, we still enjoy the opportunity to browse the new selection of production craft from the big manufacturers and see what innovations show up at the exhibitor booths.

Below are some of my quick impressions and photos from the 2013 show.

Best In Show: Com-Pac 23 Pilothouse
Sure, there were plenty of big boats that were more predictable winners like the Blue Jacket 40, Beneteau Oceanis 45, or Delphia 47, but the Com-Pac 23 offers an amazing accommodation plan in an affordable, trailerable package that's downright shippy! This little yacht was introduced earlier in 2012, but this was my first chance to take a look. She would make a perfect little pocket cruiser for a couple.

There's a lot of live-ability in there for just 23 feet!
(Com-Pac 23 Pilothouse)

New Boat World Debut: Blue Jacket 40
I previously shared an interview with BJ40 design partners Bob Johnson and Tim Jacket, but I hadn't actually been aboard the boat yet at the time. Now that I've had the chance to walk around on the deck and check out the cabin, I can make a better assessment of the new joint venture built by Island Packet. This is a nice boat, but maybe not quite as nice as I expected given the IP influence and hype. The boat looked nice enough, but I was a bit surprised at a few details such as very noticeable imperfections in the gelcoat coloring/boot stripe and little details like ports full of fiberglass dust from the factory. I realize the particular BJ40 I was aboard is probably the only one in existence at this time and is still a bit in "prototype" mode, but I figured she would be spotless. In any case, the cabin does feel like an Island Packet and the hardware and finish work does indeed show promise. Still, it's not really my flavor for a cruising boat. I'll take an IP Estero or 370 over the BJ40 and save some coin doing so.

The Blue Jacket 40 makes her world debut

Notable Boat of Interest: Gemini Legacy
I've always liked the Gemini 105Mc as an affordable but capable cruising catamaran even though my daughters lament the lack of a trampoline like those found on bigger cats. And there's something to be said about a catamaran that maintains a beam narrow enough to still fit into most marina slips. The new Legacy adds nearly 2 feet of length and does away with the centerboards and funky Sonic drive-leg in favor of twin diesel straight-shaft inboards. Her cockpit is massive for a 35-footer and the natural light flooding the cabin is very inviting. Hey Bay Breeze Yacht Charters, if you're reading this, I still want to take a Gemini out for a test sail! Get a hold of me, please!

The new Gemini Legacy catamaran, big brother to the 105Mc

Best "Gee Whiz" Feature:
I really liked the removable and adjustable back supports in the forward cabin of the Beneteau Oceanis 34/37. Instead of having to stack pillows that slide out and don't prop me up properly for evening reading, Beneteau added this simple but useful feature.

Grab a good book and kick back!

Other random observations:
Hard chines seem to be all the rage with Jeanneau and Beneteau
The twin rudders on the Beneteau First 20/25 are an
interesting performance flair on these little sport boats
Delphia makes a nice cruising boat

And one final thought: The competition in the exhibitor booths for items made from old sails is getting more and more intense. We saw no less than 3 separate booths offering everything from baby bibs to sundresses made out of used sails. I've always thought smooshed spiders leave nasty stains on sailcloth so I can only imagine what sweet potatoes burped from the mouth of my 11 month old would do to those bibs.


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