It is a bright day here in Port Ginesta, not far away from the wonderful City of Barcelona with winds up to 22 knots outside, a stiff breeze still going on inside the basins, as I wonder the pontoons to head home to my hotel room after a long day out sailing with clients, as a familiar, although unexpected detail of the scenery catches my attention: An Austrian flag is waving in the wind. What a rare sight!, I think to myself and change course to have a look.
And what a nice surprise! It´s not just the fact that I love our German-speaking neighbours from so many holidays in their spectacular mountains racing my carbon bike and enjoying their delicacies of speck, ham and Alpine cheese, it turns out that the very boat mooring in this occasion is the brand new Sunbeam 46.1, the latest and so far biggest yacht of the Austrian high brand. Still, my luck keeps on growing as Gerhard Schöchl himself, owner and mastermind behind the Sunbeam-yachts pokes out his head of the companionway upon me calling the owners: “Yeah sure, come aboard!”, he instantly invites me.
So I find myself taking a seat in the cockpit with Gerhard, introducing myself and NO FRILLS SAILING.com and asking for a guided tour through this new boat which Gerhard without hesitation agrees upon. The boat had been here at Ginesta for the extensive sea trials by the European Yacht of the Year-jury for the last week. I congratulate Gerhard on this occasion, the EYOTY-award is a tough competition and a very strict regime of sorting out the very best of the best boats in many categories: Without having seen a detail yet of this boat, I do wish him and his yacht all the best. We will see in a couple of weeks.
Nice sheer line, negative transom: Meet the all-new Sunbeam 46.1
Gerhard starts his tour of the boat by jumping off of her again and walking some steps away. “Let´s have a look on the yacht from far away”, he insists: “I want to tell you something about the general concept of our new ship.” Looking at the boat he points to the sheer line.
It is slightly raised, a reminiscence of a true classic long haul-cruiser. “I don´t like the concave sheer lines of modern day boats. It may suit there, but at Sunbeam we have a classy brand and we´d like to do a real blue water oceangoing cruiser for the sailing couple.”, he explains. That´s why the classy sheer. Nevertheless, I do notice chines at her aft section and also – slight but visible – chines in her bow section, just like on the Beneteau 51.1, but not as radical as in the French boat.
There is also a negative transom, which is a detail I really appreciate. Most modern yacht-designs tend to have a straight transom or a positive transom reminiscent of the old IOR-era designs: “The negative transom has some advantages”, Gerhard says: “For example, the bathing platform doesn´t need to go up a long way and it will come down more easily as gravity pulls it.” This reminds me of the – far more radical – approach to negative stern cconfigurations of Italia Yachts.
I also notice the mainsheet arch on the Sunbeam 46.1 which perfectly blends into the dynamic, modern lines of the whole appearance of the boat. The arch´es angle of tapering is therefore much more bent aft like, again, on the Beneteau or the Grand Soleil which – in contrast to the classy approach of the hull design itself – make her look much more “speedy” and modern. Overall, I think, the Sunbeam 46.1 bears an independent design, a very sleek, modern yet “familiar” look. I can imagine that this boat will attract many, many owners.
Rigged for the long-haul sailing couple
As we step aboard we proceed to the fore deck. Gerhard goes on: “You see, most if not all of our clients are sailing couples. We sell almost every boat semi-custom like to people who are making come true the dreams of their lives. The Sunbeam 46.1 is no exception. We intended to have the best possible ocean-cruising design.” That said, the Sunbeam 46.1 features a nice fixed windshield, just as we know it from the signature of Hallberg-Rassy. The windshield in the Sunbeam is round-shaped and I would say a bit more stylish.
Mounted just in front of the windshield-window another detail catches my attention: The mainsheet rigging. Yes, it is a single mainsheet line running here from aft starboard side mainsheet winch to the boom and through some blocks running aft again to port side mainsheet winch: German System? “No, it´s not”, Gerhard explains: “As the mainsheet is not diverted all along the boom down to the gooseneck to be sent back to the cockpit again but, as you may see, is coming down to the coach roof of the cabin after roughly half of the boom, this is called the Admiral Mainsheet System.”
But Gerhard says, handling of this configuration still is the same. All lines, halyards, reefing and trim lines of the sloop rigged boat are diverted aft, except for the topping lift. This line is to be belayed at the mast itself, where another winch is mounted: “I find a mast-winch very, very useful, for example to hoist the spinnaker boom. In this case, we are classic old school …”, Gerhard smiles.
Except for this, all lines are diverted aft right at the nicely carved out mast shoe and are running below the superbly Teak-covered coach roof-deck. The mast is stepped (wait for a very cool detail, coming later!) and that makes for a nice clean look of the boat´s appearance. Taking some steps back and looking at the Teak-works I do really appreciate the craftsmanship: That´s not just ready-made Teak-battens glued to the deck.
Every section of Teak on the deck of the Sunbeam 46.1 is framed neatly, which very, very much raises the appearance and the exclusiveness of the boat. On most production boats you´ll find just longitudinal battens glued to the GRP deck structure and that´s it. A sign for a much higher quality approach is the framing.
Nice details on the deck of the Sunbeam 46.1 in addition to the design are solid grab handles running much of the length of the superstructure of the cabin roof to the fore deck and a very solid and thick, raised coaming that will make for a solid step when working here even when the boat is sailing heeled or in nasty conditions.
Sunbeam 46.1 – a “being long time away”-yacht
As the new Sunbeam 46.1 is meant to be the ultimate blue water cruiser, every detail on this boat has been thoughtfully designed to make such a long journey as easy and comfortable as possible, tells me Gerhard. “Look at the anchor chain locker”, he says as he opens the hatch: “We´ve laminated the whole locker to be able to act like a crash-box just in case something happens.”
Down there is a 100 metre anchor chain driven by a flush mounted windlass that can be operated by remote control as well (60 m is standard). The length of the anchor chain is sufficient long to ensure safety even with strong winds and swell going on in faraway anchorages. Gerhard opens a second hatch which leads to the sails locker. Another big room is revealed, a hold for sails and fenders and stuff.
“The sails locker is so big and deep that we mounted a ladder.”, he says going down. There is enough volume inside to fit spare sails and stuff, but Gerhard points to the bulkhead separating sails locker from the owner´s cabin: “This is another very strong laminated crash-box so that in total the yacht has two of them for maximum safety.” Astounding.
Other things are classy, like the instruments for wind speed and wind angle mounted right over the entryway – where on classic sailing yachts, like my own one. I like this approach to mixing well known things with modern styling. Why deviate from traditional ways which are proven and well-tested? There is no point in re-inventing the wheel here and I like it. I also like the classic layout of the running rigging with the halyard and secondary winches mounted next to the companionway on the coach roof and the jib-winches aft in front of the steering wheel.
“We are doing most of the stuff we can in house”, says Gerhard, pointing out that finishing quality and the quality of the fittings is not negotiable with Sunbeam: “That has its price, of course, but we have a no compromise-approach when it comes to quality. This is something I´d like to have connected with my name and the name of our boats since it was and still is a basic value of our yard.” Schöchl Yachts makes boats for more than 50 years now in Austria.
This is also shown at some minor details, like the cockpit table, which is made from massive Teak. Where on most production boats a simple (if not to say: cheap) compass is fitted, the Sunbeam owner gets a nice precision instrument by Silva. There are more hidden details, which are far more impressive: For example, the yard states that no electric cable is running below the flooring boards and that these are mounted above the waterline. Safety, anyone?
The vertical hatch to the entryway is disappearing to the floor. I hate to have the hatch taken out and flying around down below or – even worse – to have these folding doors. The Sunbeam-solution can be closed only half way which leaves a sufficient part of the entryway open but secured against overcoming swell entering the cabin. I also fancied the large locker for ropes below the floor. Practical: No halyard bags needed.
Role model center cockpit-yacht
“Most of the classic owner yachts do have a center cockpit”, says Gerhard, referring to the classic Scandinavian brands. “I wanted to keep the aft cockpit because I fancy the sportive style of sailing an aft cockpit-boat but we tried to kind of incorporate a detail of center cockpit yachts that always fascinated me: The huge sunbathing-area behind the wheel.” And there it is: The Sunbeam 46.1 has a higher distance between wheel and transom and the transom as a whole is raised and very wide.
“This makes it possible to have a new reclining area here where on most yachts there is nothing”, says Gerhard and opens the large hatch to the aft lazarette: Besides the fact that this huge room makes it possible to easily access the steering mechanism, autopilot and rudder shaft, it is also a great place to stow away fenders and stuff: “Even those bicycles many circumnavigators have do fit in here.”
And here we are again, with the great attention to details on the Sunbeam: I admired the nice, solid and stable handles to open and close the lockers. You remember those tiny, flimsy and mostly jamming little bastards which are normally used to close lockers? Not so on this Austrian beauty. Finally Gerhard lets down the bathing platform which is driven electrically – but can be worked manually if something fails with ease due to the negative transom.
“There is the classic place for the life raft here”, says Gerhard pointing to the transom: “And we have a specialty of this boat here …” He opens another lid and folds out the ladder: “We put a patent on this one because it is not just coming out nicely but if fully deployed there are grab handles that will ensure a safe, fast and effortless climbing back aboard – something that I really hate on standard ladders!”
Superb woodworks down below: The Sunbeam 46.1 interiors
As we enter down the salon I am amazed by the choice of colours and wooden grain. The interior of this boat has been done in African Teak but it kept the light and fresh bright colour. Together with the blue satin-like cushion a homey atmosphere is created: Inviting, comfy and reassuring.
The yacht´s salon features large side windows to either side in the hull as well as large windows in the coach roof. There are also two large and very nice skylights which enhance the suffusion with natural light in the salon. The configuration with a large L-shaped settee around a nice big dinner table with another 3-seater vis-à-vis is classy. As the Sunbeam 46.1 can come in various layouts, “my” version would certainly have the club or captain´s chairs for sure!
As the boat is made for the “sailing couple” with occasional friends and guests visiting aboard the available seating space is sufficient. The table is made of massive wood, as well as most of the rest of the wooden interior, as Gerhard points out: “We try to utilize as much massive wood where ever we can. We also use only real marine plywood. I do not like artificial stuff or all these “fake”-veneers.” Surely this adds to the price tag but will undoubtedly raise the perceived quality and value of the boat´s interior. And there is even more to it in the otherwise unseen corners, as Gerhard points out by opening some of the flooring boards.
The Sunbeam 46.1 is constructed in a very solid and rigid way. Both inner and outer hull are massive and hand-laminated. I am astonished to see that stringers and the vertical frames are done in a dense manner, just like the massive cages seen in X-Yachts. The keel with a large recess is bolted and glued directly to this rigid frame as well as the shrouds which are lead to the frame to ensure maximum safety. “There comes a nice touch with it naturally”, says Gerhard: “We get these nice and convenient stowage lockers where cans and bottles fit perfectly.”
I recognize the massive hand rails which blend in very nicely to the overall design of the boat, but I as an owner would certainly fit another handrail to the roof. My attention is drawn to the galley which on every boat is a center point of board life, even more so on an ocean going cruiser that is taking its crew on a long haul journey.
The galley is position where it belongs, to port side, and has a huge front with a nice big worktop. There is sufficient amount of fridge- and freezing-space available as well as a gimbaled 2 flame stove (which I personally would upgrade to three flames). I guess the capsule coffee maker is just an accessory as this is definitely something I would have banned on my own boat (as well in my whole life for sure), but apart from this the galley is a role model.
The ship´s cook will surely find it attractive to have tasty meals prepared here. Even in rough seas the galley offers enough handles and places to wedge oneself safely into to resume work even when it´s rough outside. Just on the opposite site of the galley the nav station of the Sunbeam 46.1 is situated. And it has been placed just where it belongs: Starboard side, just upon coming down from the entryway.
Although for me personally this nav station is a bit too small, nevertheless, standard paper chart will fit on the chart table as well as laptops or pads. What I really loved – again – had been some details in the salon, like the veneered mast stand. It´s the same wood and grain as the wood used on the bulkheads and furniture and when I ask Gerhard how they´ve managed to fit the veneer to the steel stand he says: “I would have to kill you if I´d told you this secret.” He smiles. But I refrain from asking further …
Speaking of details: Looking at the fittings for all these little lockers and shelves I as well notice a superior quality over the standard fittings in most production boats. Gerhard tells me: “We though carefully about such a thing like opening a locker. So we came to the conclusion to have these cut-outs places right in the middle of the lids. One naturally grabs the middle of each lid and there we placed the fitting.” Apart from this, it´s a nice unique touch to the whole furniture design of the boat as well.
Other things are not so quite visible but are adding sufficiently to the comfort of this yacht. Such as the thick and very nicely done thermal and noise insulation of the engine room. This ensures a low level of sound entering the salon when engine and generator are in use. The Sunbeam 46.1 comes with a 75 horsepower VOLVO PENTA that drives its fuel from a 300 litre stainless steel tank.
And, ah!, the cabins! As Gerhard was sailing the yacht here the aft cabins had been occupied by his sailing mates and as I didn´t want to cause any inconvenience, I just let him clean away the stuff in the owner´s cabin – but believe me, the aft cabins (if ordered in the 3-cabin-variant) are nice, big and well-lid by a hull window and multiple portholes. But the owner´s cabin was real eye-candy.
Again, hats off to the owner´s taste for colours and fabrics, as I really fancied the combination as shown here. The Sunbeam 46.1 is available Oak or African Teak, though I guess most owners will prefer the brighter wood. Notice the nicely bent front of the large island bed and cushioned panels to the forward bulkhead (the second crash box), which are very nice.
A true highlight on the Sunbeam 46.1: The Heads!
Something I rarely talk about or show in my articles is the head of the yacht. On most boats these are the least attractive rooms aboard due to the least attractive nature of their functions. But not so on this Sunbeam 46.1 as I found the bathrooms aboard both appealing and very attractive. First of all the quality of internal fittings.
Both bathrooms feature a lot of wooden stuff and again the level of craftsmanship is very much like that of the rest of the boat. One instantly feels welcome and is not made want to leave the room as fast as possible. The Sunbeam 46.1 has two bathrooms of which the forward one is the biggest. “I thank the women of Schöchl Yachts”, says Gerhard, “for choosing the Brazilian rain shower head, which is amazing!”
And right so! This shower head will not just create a very special sensation of feeling under the water but also comes with an integrated LED-light that will surely provide for a special showering-sensation. I wonder if one could program this light to change colours …
The aft bathroom is of similar fitting quality although not equipped with the Brazilian rain shower head, it offers a convenient function as the “day heads” as it is reachable very fast coming down below for the crew. All in all, the Sunbeam 46.1 can also be fitted as a 4-cabin version although I would guess that most owners prefer the 2 or 3 cabins for the big voyage.
Let´s cast off!
And so my private tour of the new Sunbeam 46.1 with Gerhard Schöchl ends as we climb up to sit down in the cockpit to have a nice chat. Gerhard offers an ice-cold beer and we resume our talk about the perfect sailing yacht and the approach to offer his interpretation of such a boat. Certainly, the Sunbeam 46.1 is a very interesting choice in the upper-price level and might be a very attractive alternative to consider when it comes to acquiring a boat for the long trip.
Schöchl Yachts takes pride in being able to directly communicate with the owners: “All of our owners have my phone number and can send me whatsapp-messages or give me a call.”, Gerhard says. But for Schöchl the perfect boat isn´t just the boat itself: “One year after the boat has been purchased, a Schöchl-crew will come aboard and thoroughly inspect the yacht from keel to mast top. We will listen to the owner and – if needed – repair, maintain or change stuff if needed.” That´s exemplary!
As I say Goodbye to Gerhard and thank him for taking his time to showing me around, I ask the final question: What is it about the signature design element, those three marks at either side of the windows? Gerhard smiles: “That is something from the past, and I fear, slightly inappropriate in modern times. But back in the days, my company used to advertise the boats with three tickmarks, saying in German: “Schnell! Siegreich! Schöchl!” – meaning “fast, victorious, Schöchl!” What remains is the stylized tickmarks.” I smile and wave goodbye: What a great boat this is!
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