Rupert Holmes previews some of the latest new boats under 40ft that made an appearance at the La Rochelle boat show

Over recent years La Rochelle’s Grand Pavois, held in late September or early October, has become one of my favourite boat shows, often showing new boats under 40ft that don’t make it to the UK.

The town is the largest boatbuilding hub on the Atlantic coast, south of Nantes, and the show is held in Les Minimes marina, one of the largest in Europe, with almost 5,000 berths.

Typically there are 750 boats on show, with a little under half of them afloat. Visitor numbers are generally in the 70-80,000 bracket, making it a little smaller than Southampton.

Traditionally, La Grand Pavois has been mostly sail-oriented, although power-driven craft are growing in importance.

Boats moored along a pontoon

Grand Pavois showcases around 750 boats each year. Credit: Rupert Holmes

Whatever your inclination, you’ll find the big names and a myriad of smaller brands that are a refreshing change to the mainstream but often don’t have resources to exhibit elsewhere.

Visitors can expect to see the latest offerings from yards such as RM Yachts and Pogo, including the latter’s ultra-efficient 32ft motor boat.

It’s here that I also discovered the lovely little Mojito, 650, an extremely capable 21ft pocket cruiser that’s based on the hull of a phenomenally successful Mini Transat design.

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For anyone seeking quirky designs, there are also small-scale creators of very innovative vessels, such as the Erik Lerouge-designed foil-assisted Libertist trimarans that may never sell in large numbers, but help push forward the boundaries of yacht design.

Equally, fans of traditional craft won’t be disappointed by the in-water display of the local maritime museum which this year included Bernard Moitessier’s newly refitted 39ft steel ketch Joshua, and the 33ft sloop Damien in which Gérard Janichon and Jérôme Poncet completed a circumnavigation from 1969-73, visiting the Arctic and Antarctic, as well as exploring the river Amazon.

New boats under 40ft: Beneteau Oceanis 37.1

A new boat under 40ft - the Beneteau Oceanis 37.1

The Oceanis 37.1 is no light airs slouch, thanks to fuller forward sections (below) which keep drag low. Credit: Rupert Holmes

With big boatbuilding firms seemingly pursuing ever larger designs, they now have few new launches of yachts under 40ft and sadly none of the three pre-production versions of the 37.1 were available for a UK show.

This Marc Lombard design is a key model in the range and a replacement for the 38.1, around 850 of which were sold over nine years of production.

The new boat also completes the line-up of seventh-generation Oceanis models, which launched with the 51.1 in 2017.

The big challenge was to create a boat with more volume, that would be easy to sail and maintain, and perform better than its predecessor.

The latter is achieved in part through a new hull shape, with fuller forward sections with a marked flare and chine above the waterline.

The bow of a boat

The fuller forward section of the Beneteau Oceanis 37.1. Credit: Rupert Holmes

This keeps drag low in light airs, but helps stability build quickly as the boat heels, with the immersed sections maintaining a more balanced shape.

A self-tacking jib is standard and in-mast furling is an option. However, there’s no backstay so owners can also specify a much larger square top mainsail, along with a marginally overlapping jib that will markedly improve performance, especially in light airs.

Space both on deck and below is close to that of the Oceanis 40.1 in some respects.

Eliminating the backstay allowed the wheels to be moved as far aft as possible to create a larger area around the table – the place owners often spend a huge amount of time when on board.

The fold-down bathing platform, which effectively forms an extension of the cockpit, is also much larger – it’s almost the same size as that of the 51.1.

Below decks, the emphasis is on easy circulation for up to six people, with settees pushed out to the hull sides and a dining table the same size as that of the 40.1.

Layout options are for two or three cabin arrangements with one or two heads, while the broad hull shape forward means the shoulders of the double forward berth are 7-10cm wider than on the previous model.

Beneteau Oceanis 37.1
Price: £227,863 ex VAT
LOA: 11.93m/39ft 2in
Hull length: 10.99m/36ft 1in
Beam: 3.92m/12ft 10in
Draught: 2.10m or 1.62m/6ft 11in or 5ft 4in
Displacement: 6,864kg/15,128lb

New boats under 40ft: Flow 25

A red boat moored alongside a pontoon

Two versions of the Flow 25 are available; both of them are light enough to be towed. Credit: Rupert Holmes

This lightweight plywood and epoxy 25ft four-berth fast cruiser was created by local Rochefort-based builder and naval architect Atelier Interface.

Weighing only 850kg it’s definitely at the performance end of the spectrum, but this means it can be towed by many medium size cars.

Two versions are offered, including one with a larger coachroof (made of an eco-friendly bamboo/recycled PET biocomposite) that provides headroom of 1.7m, and there’s a choice of centreboard or 1.8m draught bulb keel.

There’s also a daysailer option with flush foredeck and therefore restricted headroom inside, but still space to sleep four people for occasional nights on board.

Glass and carbon reinforcements provide extra stiffening, without adding weight that would sap performance and make the boat heavier to tow.

Flow 25
Price: TBA
LOA: 7.50m/24ft 7in
Beam: 2.55m/8ft 4in
Draught: (centreboard version) 0.20m/0ft 8in
Draught: (fin keel) 1.80m/5ft 11in
Displacement: 850kg/1,875lb
Upwind sail area: 40.50m2/436ft2
Asymmetric spinnaker: 60m2/645ft2

New boats under 40ft: Bestevaer 36

A boat alongside with black fenders

The Bestevaer 36 cruiser can take the ground, with a draught of 0.7m. Credit: Rupert Holmes

This distinctive Dutch design is the latest and smallest in a long-running line of rugged pilot house cruisers, most of which were created with high latitude cruising in mind.

However, the Bestevaer 36 is primarily intended for a different purpose – a retirement yacht for renowned yacht designer Gerard Dijkstra that combines as many of the attributes of the existing models as possible with shallow draught and the ability to dry out confidently on the boat’s substantial bottom plating.

The aft section of a aluminium boat

Like all Bestevaer boats, the 36 has a rugged design. Credit: Rupert Holmes

It’s being set up for small-scale semi-custom building, but sadly this style of boat will never compete even remotely closely with the prices of mass-market glassfibre boats.

Bestevaer 36
Base price: €546,000 ex VAT
LOA: 10.95m/35ft 11in
Beam: 3.80m/12ft 6in
Draught: 0.7-2.4m/2ft 4in-7ft 11in
Displacement: 7,800kg/17,200lb

JPK Nomad 40

A motorboat planing at sea

The slender hull means JPK’s Nomad 40 will not slam in a head sea

Builders of performance sailing yachts are increasingly adding very efficient motorboats that can handle challenging conditions to their ranges.

Danish builder X-Yachts for instance launched a 33-footer a few years ago and Breton yard Pogo is enjoying success with a 32ft model.

JPK, one of the most successful recent builders of offshore racing yachts, including 33ft JPK1010s that won the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race and the 2022 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland race, is the latest to join the trend with this 40-footer.

A motor boat moving through the water

The Nomad 40 has a max speed of 18 knots

Yards with a strong history of performance sailing yachts tend to view the world of motorboats from a completely different angle than established brands.

For the Nomad 40, this means a relatively slender hull with a shape that won’t slam heavily in a head sea, along with a maximum size saloon with a great all-round view, plus two smaller cabins forward.

A measure of the boat’s efficiency is that a 110-150hp motor is sufficient for cruising at 12 knots and a maximum speed of 18 knots.

JPK Nomad 40
Price: TBA
LOA: 11.98m/39ft 4in
Beam: 3.70m/12ft 1in
Draught: 0.70m/2ft 4in
Displacement: 5,500kg/12,130lb

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