There are quite a few boats which had the ability to spark such a big turmoil when launched. Boats which seem to catch everybody´s imagination and polarize right from their start. The latest yacht (launched in 2012) by French Boatbuilder Structures of Brittany is such a boat and I am very pleased having found Sven Stein, owner of SY KNUBBEL, to tell me more about his #dreamyacht and answer all the questions connected to that Class 40 bolide: Let´s see if he can shine some light on the secret of these – by some sailors with awe spoken words: Pogo 12.50.
“My brother outwitted us on a Brittany Holiday to Structures.”
Sven is not the sole owner of the boat – his family as a whole did buy the yacht. Which doesn´t come as surprise, since the price tag for this yacht comes in starting at 220.000 Euros ex VAT. But that´s not the only thing about it: “We are a sailing family since I have memories. We did own some yachts prior to the Pogo, the last one was an already fast Sigma 400 which they owned for 23 years: “This was an incredible boat. We really loved the ship: Spent all our holidays on her, raced a lot of regattas here in the Netherlands and the North Sea and had thousands of wonderful miles on her.” But after so many years it was time for something new: “My elder brother some kind of tricked us into having a visit to the boatbuilder Structures near Brest during a holiday in Brittany. Here we´ve got infected by the Pogo-virus.”
Seeing the yard, speaking to the men behind Structures and finally doing a test run on a 12.50 which was in her last steps to be ready outfitted for delivery one year later was the last of a long stretch of talking, weighing pros and cons whether to buy or not to buy that boat: “During the trial run – although the boat had insufficient test-sails and was not ready 100 per cent we were baffled by the glaring performance of that ship! No, honestly, we have been left speechless when returning to the marina and leaving the boat. Now it was clear: This one or nothing!”
„We´ve never seen such a high quality manufacturing than with Structures.“
Sven and his family was lucky when one fine day they were getting a phone call from Charly Fernbach of Structures: One of the costumers did cancel his order and suddenly there was a free slot and the chance to get a Pogo 12.50 instantly. Without any further hesitations the Sigma 400 was delivered in payment and the family again travelled to Brest to have their boat specified: “Since we have our sailing-base in the Netherlands and do sail mostly here, the standard keel of the Pogo with some 3.30 meters – even with perspective of a folding one – didn´t really appeal to us so we asked Structures to fit a proper fixed keel to the boat.” Sven had the impression of Structure´s engineers having a lot of fun in complying to their wish – after some time the new 2,30 meters keel was finished and installed on the ship: SY KNUBBEL was ready to be launched.
“This was a great day for us all”, Sven says: “It was just incredible looking at the ship. We´ve had a surveyor hired to have a look at the boat and after taking his measurements he stated he would have never seen a better manufactured boat like this – never seen such a symmetric hull.” And here it was: The Pogo 12.50 has been built to meet the highest standards imaginable: “Prior manufacturing the engineers calculated the boat´s weight to come in at 6.000 kilograms. It finally weighed 6.080 – isn´t that incredible?” On the other hand, Structures wasn´t that cooperative on further changes at all: “They do have their philosophy and they won´t derive from it too much. In addition to their high manufacturing standards, only the best of the best of equipment will be let onboard – finest gear, sails (North Sails), winches and electrics. On the other hand, it was hard getting them on line to have details changed.”
Sven tells stories of friends who have bought their brand new vessels and did weigh them only to see that the weight was a ton or so heavier than stated by the yard. “Not so with Structures. Everything is incredibly well done, even the date of delivery has been kept. Not one hour late. Impressive.” But what was so fascinating about the Pogo 12.50? “She is completely different from everything I sailed with up to now. She is a whole new dimension of sailing, believe me!” When we were talking, Sven was grinning big all the time, barely holding onto his breath whilst talking, soaring words just as if he feared to talk too slow to meet the ship´s performance: “She is a hell of a ship.”
“The boat just keeps on accelerating …!”
When asking for what makes the Pogo 12.50 so special, Sven tells me this story: “A normal sailing yacht will, when the wind begins to blow or a gust will fall in, just lean over and slowly begin to transform wind pressure into drive. Not so with the Pogo: She will just go off. No lean-over. No big heel, she will just jump and go forward. Endlessly.” The best thing is planing: “You just yaw, just a bit and she will begin to glide. With such ease that it is fascinating over and over again how this boat manages to get into surf-mode. And this is, where the fun starts.” Well, gliding is the secret of Class 40 boats and in contrary to the ordinary displacing-type of boats, vessels like the Pogo – wide aft-section and flat design of the underwater-hull make it possible.
“But construction is one thing”, Sven goes on: “But the gliding-effect is only achieved when the ship is light. And she is light, definitely.” The standard Pogo 12.50 weights 5.5 tons, SY KNUBBEL due to some changes like bow and stern thrusters (Netherland´s marinas are very narrow) has some 500 kilograms more. But still: Compared to other 40 feet-boats this is still some 3.000 kilograms less weight to be accelerated: “That´s the real secret of that ship: Being lighter than anything. Sven knows the predecessor of the 12.50 well, the Pogo 40 is, when glimpsed at, very similar to her sccessor, but he states that she sails “ distinctly different from the 12.50, not comparable.”
“Most fascinating? The almost impalpable transition into planing.”
When underway, it´s as easy as nothing to sail her, as Sven mentions: “I would say that without problems any reasonably skilled sailor would be able to control the Pogo 12.50 and more than that without being a pro you can easily trigger 85 per cent of her sailing potential. She is manageable with ease and can be sailed shorthanded without any problem, even singlehanded sailing is a no brainer for a skilled skipper.” What is striking about the boat? The almost impalpable transition of the ship from ordinary displacing-mode of sailing to planing: “You won´t notice it at all. That literally freaks me out.”
Sven describes the very moment of the boat starting to glide as quiet and gentle. “It´s inconceivable, almost. Just a schschschschhhh and away she goes, on the waves – not within them.” What´s most noticeable is her sturdy behavior in the seas as well: “Where other boats, let´s say our old Sigma 400, showed a dynamic behavior when in a swell, the Pogo is just holding her course. Yu have no feeling at all on the steering, she just keeps going, no movements, no feedback which is a bit odd at first, but you get used to this kind of sailing very well.” He says, sailing on the Pogo 12.50 is a whole new dimension: Top Speed was 18 knots so far, but he is confident being able to push her to even higher speeds. “But was is much more fascinating than speed: She will hold to those double-digit speeds for hours. She just keeps on going. She is able to sail with high average speeds. Can you imagine your 63 year old mother at the helm of your yacht whilst going at 14 knots?” Tested for you – on a Pogo 12.50.
“I wouldn´t agree to the Upwind-Slashers.”
I have read so much about Class 40 boats, derived from their smaller MiniTransat sisters (of which I had the pleasure to talk to Lizzy Foreman who completed her first Transat this year on a Pogo 2). There you might read of them being not very compliant to be sailed close-hauled and in upwind-conditions. Made solely to sail downwind, something for the trades. What is Sven´s impression of the Pogo 12.50 or Class 40 boats in general? “I wouldn´t agree to the critics of these boats. Her upwind capabilities are far from being catastrophic, as some did state.”
Sure, he mentions, that every ship has it´s pros and cons: The Class 40 and Pogo 12.50 especially are made for downwind-sailing indeed, but they do perform well in upwind. “She is sailing astonishingly well. Her bow hits the waves hard, that is right, and gives the ship quite a ride. Sometimes the bow will cut under but will surface with mere force, hammering the boat forward.” It´s getting loud down below deck and surely that´s no place to be when underway, but on the other hand, the boat has it´s specialties: “Downwind she´s unbeatable. One time during the Flevo Race we were sailing hard against a very fast X43. To make that clear: Going upwind. Yet besides her downsides of having a special character when sailed close-hauled we were able to sail up to 4 degrees closer to the wind having 0.3 knots more on the log. Ain´t that cool?”
The Pogo 12.50 is “fast as hell” when tacking whilst losing some time during a jibe: Due to the fact that her complete hull will have to be moved through the water. But her high speed does compensate for that. Sven has, when speaking of her downsides, some points to mention but that´s not due to her imperfections but rather to her crew´s shortcomings: “Below 10 knots of wind we do not perform perfect at this time but be adjusted her sails and I think we´ll get better and better over time.”
“Down below she feels like a 45 feet Yacht.”
Take me through your boat, I do ask for a thorough walkthrough and Sven is proud showing me the ship from stern to bow: “The first impression is – this ship is huge!” Being 40 feet of length she has a beam of 4.50 meters in maximum which creates volume and indefinite space below deck: “You buy a 40 feet cruiser – you get a 45 feet ship. That´s great, isn´t it?” Going down the entryway from the huge and clean cockpit the big saloon opens up: “It´s not beautiful in a sense of being lush or luxurious, this boat doesn´t feature an inner shell nor excessive wooden panels or stuff”, Sven says. “Nevertheless, I like the practical solutions and personally think it´s still beautiful in its own way.”
“It´s just 3 steps down, very flat and big entryway. To the left you´ll find the pantry: Fully equipped with a 2-flame stove and huge fridge and so much stowage.” What strikes most is that you have full standing height – within the whole ship from bow to stern cabins. You´ll find a cupboard here, a rack there – it´s stowage nearly everywhere: The Pogo 12.50 is sold as a cruiser. Handrails – again to be found almost everywhere – will provide grip in rough seas or when sailing with heel. “I really love the aft cabins. Despite a bit dark due to only small portholes the bunks are just huge. In fact, they are wider than at home.” Going to the stern, vis-à-vis the pantry is the bi navigator´s place. Spacious and welcoming to do the chart work and logbook stuff (here´s an article on my own plans in creating the perfect navigator´s place in my own yacht).
The saloon is dominated by a huge table which normally houses the folding keel. Given that SY KNUBBEL has a fixed keel, this housing is empty providing for even more stowage. The fore cabin is – again – huge. Here too the bunks are gigantic and besides there is no trunk, again, this cabin features a load of stowage. “Three people will find a good night´s sleep here without thwarting somebody. SY KNUBBEL has her lavatory in the bow, another special thing not to be found on the standard Pogo 12.50: “We don´t wanted the 30 meters of chain but needed the weight so moving the WC was the perfect solution.” The ship is not very calm, Sven admits. Bulkheads and every other fitting not contributing to structural integrity is reduced to the minimum. Despite, there is no damping against sound. “Anyway, the best place to be is on deck. Given the fact that the steering is moved slightly forward one can place oneself behind the traveler – that´s my favorite part of the ship.”
“The French Concept of Cruising is … a bit different from you perception.”
Speaking of concepts: The Pogo 12.50 is advertised as a full cruising capable ship. Could that be true? “Yes of course! You can absolutely go around the world on that boat. With your family as well – no problem.”, says Sven without hesitation.“ Anyway, the French Concept of cruising might be a bit different from our German approach since you are going to need earplugs at night and have to get used to that rather Spartan interior finish. “But you know what? When we were talking with Pascal, the boss of Structures, about the color of the cushion, he couldn´t quite understand what the heck we were meaning. For him cruising means sailing. Not mooring or relaxing. That´s different from our view.”
“Everything on that boat is made double-safe. The Pogo 12.50 has a rather disporportional margin of safety built in. She is very stable, very, very sturdy and thus seaworthy. I wouldn´t hesitate to go around the world in this boat. You cannot imagine how safe and protected you feel when on board.” That´s the interesting thing with a boat like the Pogo 12.50: Here in Germany we are used to sail 40 feet with 9 tons of weight and are happy when going faster than 9 knots – in our perception a boat like SY KNUBBEL is a bare racing machine made for fast regattas or, in a wider sense, for single-handed adventures of crazy people. In France this boat is … just a kind of cruising. Isn´t that nice? So much for different sailing philosophies.
“It´s the Volvo Ocean Race-Feeling – with a Cruiser.”
In the end I am as fascinated as Sven is. Not so much about the Pogo 12.50 – in this manor our interview and the quick walkaround was confirming my initial research. The Pogo 12.50 is a whole new class and it is not possible to compare that boat to anything currently on the market. Is a boat like this the future of sailing – I am asking Sven. “Well, 2 years ago the whole sailing world was talking of beamy wide aft-sections and planing. There have been some boats incorporating this feature, like the Hanse 415. But rather than creating space – to get a glider you have to make the ships light. And that´s what was done only by Structures.”
So it didn´t have had the breakthrough then? “Maybe yes, maybe no. I guess, boats like the Pogo 12.50 will remain products for a rather small group of people. It´s an extreme boat in many aspects and it is in the best meaning a crazy machine. It´s Volvo Ocean Race feeling on a full capable cruiser. I think it´s the perfect boat for me, for us. It truly is a dream yacht.” We will see what time will bring – can ships like these maintain a share on the boat market or does the majority of the sailing community want comfort over sailing capability? An exciting question.
Nevertheless I am able to find some beauty in her lines. Find respect for her strength and ability. And look so much forward to board a Pogo for myself in April when I will cast off from Bremerhaven to have a heavy weather-class onboard a Class 40 during a 4 day-cruise to Helgoland and back.
Thanks to Sven for showing me around on his fantastic sailing yacht.
The Pogo 12.50 KNUBBEL is stationed on the Netherlands where she is racing multiple regattas during the season and serves as the family´s floating speed-summer house. You may recognize her by the big “Videmi”-Print on her mainsail, the communication agency which is her sponsor. Here´s the link to Structures, the builder of the Pogo 12.50.
Pictures (c) by SY KNUBBEL/Sven Stein and Structures