Let´s conclude my little Scandinavian boat series (read here about the IF New, the Shogun 43 and the Linjett 39) after Hamburg ancora Yachtfestival 2024 with another walkthrough of a rather special yacht. It´s the Najad 451 cc. I must admit I am not really te “Najad-type” of sailor. Funny enough, it seems that you either like Hallberg-Rassy or Najad. Two classic brands with a long-standing tradition. Both are producing high class sailing yachts, both are situated on an island near Gothenburg in Sweden. But also: Both could not be more different to each other.

Meeting the new Najad 451 cc

Najad has a very troubled history with some insolvencies going on, last one in 2013. Since then it seems the shipyard works pretty stable. During the troublesome times in the early 2000s the new owners had done a lot investment to help Najad work on their kind of shopworn image and dated boat layouts. Their history, nevertheless, is rich – some 2.000 yachts had been built since the inception of Najad as a shipyard back in 1971. They´ve never managed to surpass Hallberg-Rassy, situated a stone-throw away on the Island of Ellös. But there was and still is a big fanbase and a loyal customer base opting for the cruising yachts with their distinctive red-stripe signature design. Here´s their latest boat, the 45-footer out of their range of 40, 50 and 57 feet yachts.

Center Cockpit Sailing Yachts: Gold Standard for long haul Cruising

First of all: I personally consider center cockpit yachts to be the perfect general approach to making a long haul cruising yacht with live-aboard-qualities. This is simply the reason why almost all renown brands specializing in couple-owned and couple-sailed circumnavigation boats go for this configuration, be it Oyster, Contest, Discovery and, of course, Hallberg-Rassy. Najad is no exception, like to be seen on this 451 cc.

Classy center cockpit

Although, maybe to be open and attractive to a wider range of customers (those “normal” sailors who won´t sail around the world for years but who seek a high-class boat for ordinary vocational cruising), the shipyard offers the 395 and 451 with a classic 3-cabin aft cockpit-version as well. To circumnavigate the world as a couple with occasional guests, the center cockpit layout offers the best ratio of comfort (if not to say: Luxury) to volume-exploitations. Something we will see later when we go down below. But let´s just remain in the center cockpit for a while and discover the advantages and downsides of this concept.

Pros and cons of a center cockpit

The first thing you notice in the picture below is a) the relatively cramped space available in the cockpit and b) the single wheel steering. Regarding the space, it is true that center cockpits usually have far less volume, seating and reclining area to offer than classic “Mediterranean” aft cockpits. On the other hand, due to the location relatively close to the boat´s pivotal center and their “higher” position with their coamings much higher above waterline, those cockpits offer a much better protection against violent motion in a foul sea state and protection against spray water coming over.

Single wheel steering

Circumnavitors appreciate these advantages very much – on a long oceanic passage you won´t have any choice but to stand through a bad weather period. A boat that is more sea kind is often preferred by those owners. Also, having just one steering wheel, just one steering panel with plotters and displays, reduces a lot of otherwise sometimes a bit ridiculous looking redundancy. For example, is it really that important to have double steering wheels in a small center cockpit, like Hallberg-Rassy for example offers?

Fixed windshield: Nice!

Another nice feature is the fixed windshield, which is a permanent protection against strong cold bitting headwinds and overcoming spray. Certainly a signature feature for Najad and Hallberg-Rassy for sure. The Oyster on the other hand has a more “nice weather” approach, skipping the fixed winshield in favor for a bigger sprayhood. Anyway, due to the center cockpit´s location relatively to the midst of the hull, secondary displays can be fitted near the entryway down to keep the space needed at the helm relatively small.

Aft mainsheet traveler

One thing I absolutely love at center cockpit yachts is the running rigging. Every winch, every clamp and everything needed to work the sails and fine tune the sails trim is close by and easy at hand. The winches are on the coamings and could be operated by just turning your body outwards. The mainsheet is – what a nice thing to see! – attached at the very boom-head, a place where it belongs. It´s so nice that the mainsheet traveler can be operated at the best possible position. Exemplary!

A modern approach by a classic brand

I´ve briefly mentioned a somewhat “dusty” image of Najad yachts, at least that´s my very personal view. Nevertheless, the shipyard had been investing heavily in the past decade to renew not just the image but also to push their boat designs up a notch. In this, they decided to employ the renown naval architects of Judel/Vrolijk in Germany to re-design the hulls and outward appearance and the designers of Rhodes/Young to upgrade the interior design.

Modern shapes meet classy forms

Still, looking from the outside, the Najad 451 cc is kind of a mix between some echoes of the “good old times” when looking at the hull and the modern cruising age, when looking at the deck and coachroof. Sleek, slim and sporty aggressive lines meet a classy sheerline and traditional positive bow with a slight overhanging stem. This may work well for prospect clients who seek exactly this combination of classy and modern.

Solar & wind-generation

Of course, the Najad 451 cc is equipped with all sorts of current day amenities more or less needed for sailing around the world with the utmost possible self-sufficiency. In this, the yacht has solar panels, a water maker, a classic Diesel-operated generator and can of course be fitted with hydro- or wind-generators. The owner couple of this particular boat, as I have been told when roaming the yacht, will start their circumnavigation right away after this boat show … fair winds!

Welcome down below!

Having a center cockpit yacht – and thus the special design of the cockpit – of course immediately influences the volume and distribution of volume down below. First and foremost a center cockpit yacht will have a unique owner´s cabin that can utilize all of the hull´s volume in the stern section. For me, this is the highest form of cabin luxury you can get: Just look at this picture below …

The owner´s refuge …

As an owner, back here, the cabin size, bed size, standing height and even the luxury of empty space, just unused volume kept free to instigate a feeling of lushness, is one-of-a-kind and in this form only available to sailors of a center cockpit boat. Remember, we are on a mid-sized 45-footer yacht – this is a cabin size a classic aft cockpit yacht won´t offer even on a 70 or 80-footer!

Light suffused

You know that I am an absolute Oyster-fanboy and fancy their aft cabins because of the signature seascape windows. Well, Najad apparently has something similar. The aft cabin is light suffused thanks to a large overhead skylight that at the same time works as an emergency exit, some hull windows and two large aft windows right above the bathing platform. Same goes for the forward guest cabin, which is also nicely sized.

The large front VIP-cabin

I guess those windows will make for a a nice play of light, colors and reflections of light when sailing or at anchor. Although, like it is the case in so many yachts, the windows are too high to be “used” when in bed. This is a bit frustrating I can guess as you will “only” have the nice light and reflections, but not the breathtaking view. “Our” Oceanis 46.1 and, for example, those great seascape windows in Oyster make a better job at this: As for the Oceanis owners, the windows are positioned so well that you can take a look outside at the view when having your head placed on the cozy pillow right away.

Life on board the Najad 451 cc

But those are minor details, I guess. A boat is made for sailing and cabins usually only used for sleeping. In this, you are unconscious anyways and if you may look outside or not doesn´t have any influence whatsoever. Let´s check the areas where life takes place onboard, starting with the Najad 451 cc salon.

Welcome to Najad´s salon

This is the place where most of the time is spent when the crew is down below. Upon ordering, there is literally a ton of individual choices to be made regarding wood, colors, cushions and other materials, so it is a bit hard to talk objectively. This very boat comes with a classic “dark” wooden interior, light blue marine cushions and a carpet. Colorful contrasts are set by the white panels at the wall.

Cozy, compact, at home.

It is a cozy “at home” atmosphere indeed, the windowns and skylights make for a nice light suffused ambient. For a 45-footer the salon appears relatively compact. Which is good indeed – those kind of “empty” ballroom-sized salons may look very nice when at display on a boat show or in a brochure, but the dancefloors can be a risk when underway. Not so in the Najad 450 cc – there´s always a solid grab at hand. I especially loved the simple yet thick and rich cushions: Every place is your favorite place to recline …

The nav station

The nav-station is at her classic position to starboard. I´d have loved if this place would had been a bit raised, one step up so to say, that would add to the special significance of this place. The chart table is well-sized, main switch board, secondary daughter displays and a dedicated chart plotter already mounted. Vis-à-vis, such as it is tradition on boats, the galley.

Large all-electric galley

I do not particularly like longitudinal galleys – but on classic 3-cabin layouts aft cockpit boats. It´s a different thing on center cockpit yachts. Here the galley is kind of out of sight from the salon, I hate having to permanently look at the dishes and cooking stuff. With center cockpit yachts, the galley is also placed near the pivotal center thus providing the ship´s cook with a favorable location with the least motion even in rougher sea state.

Maximum exploitation of available volume

In this, the Naja 451 cc is a room wonder indeed. It feels like if the guys back at the design bureau as well as in the shipyard have really done everything not only to exploit even the last available space and volume to fit stuff but also to make it appear as is there were nothing at all. The engine room is a nice example for this:

Exemplary …

By opening a large entrance door from the galley, you can reach all machinery with ease: Be it the Diesel engine, gen-set, water maker, filters, cardan power train of the steering or the fuses. Exemplary. In many other boats especially those “hidden” places where usually the owners don´t go but some mechanics or shore crew are a bit neglected, not so here: I really liked the engine room.

Forward bathroom

Same in the bathrooms: Both the forward bathroom (which in this boat is equipped with a washing machine) and the owner´s bathroom are utilizing the available volume nicely. I liked the fact that the owners went for a one-color all-white design, no wooden extravaganza but practical solutions. Of course, on a boat with a purpose like this, there is no pumping WC but all-electric toilets as well as some other amenities.

Najad´s owners bathroom

The Najad 451 cc has a lot of stowage, the obvious cupboards, shelves and lockers as well as the spaces underneath the settees. Of course, a bat that size cannot have a dinghy garage – a solution with davits is needed – nor can it have a big aft lazarette or cockpit lockers. Nevertheless, I love this relatively compact size of 45-50 feet which I consider a nicely manageable boat size, both in terms of budget, maintenance cost and of course handling.

Are you a Najad-type of skipper?

That´s the question here. I am honest, I am not the Najad-type but this is purely for my own personal taste. I on the other hand know many people who´d fancy the red-striped Najad over the blue-striped Hallberg-Rassy. The old rivalry, the old question. Apart from those purely optical and thus superficial things, this boat in sum quite has it all you´d need to enjoy your long cruising adventures.

45-footer for your long trip?

I´d say that the Najad 451 cc is one of the big contenders to consider if you seek a yacht in the mid-sized range. The first Oyster is a 50-footer, Hallberg-Rassy offers a 40-footer center cockpit and their (nicely done!) 44 center cockpit, their last with a single steering wheel. Not an easy decision and this beautiful Najad is certainly a serious applicant to winning your affections.


Other articles related to that topic, which may be of interest for your:

The Oyster 495 – role model mid-sized circumnavigation cruiser

The Mediterranean alternative: Oceanis 46.1

Aboard the Hallberg-Rassy 57: Cruising in style