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Boat test: Shogun 50

Is it a cruiser? Is it a racer? Sam Jefferson tests the new all carbon Shogun 50 to find out

Pantaenius logoThis article is brought to you in association with Pantaenius Sail & Motor Yacht Insurance

Having been obsessed with yachts from an early age, many early notebooks of mine are filled with sketches of dream boats. Being a child and unfettered by the constraints of practicality and common sense, these drawings were often pretty alarming to look at; towering masts raked at wild angles and supporting clouds of sail. Hulls that looked like they were designed for re-entry from outer space.

Observing them with the wisdom of age, they look kind of fun but also are quite clearly impractical. Imagine therefore my surprise to be confronted with one of my boyhood sketches sitting at the end of a pontoon in the Stockholm archipelago. I blinked, rubbed my eyes yet there it was, the Shogun 50; a boat every bit as wild as any childhood daydreams and looking as at home amidst a sea of staid Swedish cruising yachts as a visitor from Tralfamadore would at a parish council meeting. The boat looks alien and otherworldly and, from the sharply raked dreadnought bow with dramatic wave deflectors, through to the massive rig placed a long, long way aft. The lines are so aggressive that this isn’t so much a yacht as a sabre designed to slash through the water.

This is the Shogun 50; a boat so un-Swedish I was left gasping for air at first viewing and opening and closing my mouth like a landed fish. The boat is the brain child of Mats Bergryd, a racing sailor and businessman who previously owned a ClubSwan 50. He was dissatisfied with certain elements of that boat and therefore decided to create his own vision of the ideal racer-cruiser.

Pantaenius logoHe therefore teamed up with Linjett Yachts, the oldest and arguably most respected and conservative yacht manufacturer in Sweden, to produce an all-carbon speed monster that you could also take cruising – just as long as you don’t mind sailing fast.

The boat is designed by the hugely experienced team of Oscar and Håkan Södergren and actually first hit the water in 2019 but covid has rather limited the opportunities to test it. Before kicking off in earnest, it’s important to note that this isn’t simply a clone of a ClubSwan 50. Granted it’s the same length, they are both full carbon and they both share a certain wildness in their looks. Yet, after that, the two boats start to diverge. But lets start with the similarities; both have a truly dramatic dreadnought bow. In the Shogun this is raked even more than the Swan and follows the angle of the forestay. There are two spray deflectors at the bow which also work as steps for the bowman, a short fixed bowsprit for the Code 0 and a retractable pole for the gennaker. The bow sections are reasonably broad at deck level but fine at the waterline. By modern standards the Shogun is actually surprisingly narrow aft – 3.8m compared to 4.2m for the Swan.

Displacement is also lower than the Swan, with the boat weighing in at 7,900kg against 8,500kg. This is an impressive achievement given the additional weight of a lift keel mechanism. Maximum beam is achieved about ¾ down the length of the hull and is carried all the way aft with no taper. By modern standards she is slender and that adds to the knife-like appearance of the boat. The bilges are slack and there is no chine. The sheerline is inverted and freeboard has been kept low.

The other really notable thing is that the keel stepped rig is placed a long way aft – abaft the keel in fact a la Comanche, allowing for a huge fore triangle. The full carbon rig supports a fat headed mainsail requiring running backstays. There is a retractable pole for the gennaker and a massive hydraulic system for tensioning the rig via the running backstays. There is the option of using a 100% self tacking jib or going for a 110% overlapping headsail.

Beneath the water the boat has deep-ish twin rudders with carbon foils and a deep T shaped carbon keel with a lead bulb that actually accounts for 45% of the boat’s overall weight. The keel can be partially lifted on a hydraulic ram to make the boat more practical for navigating in tight waters, with the draft going from 3.3m to 2m.

The ultimate upshot is a very light, stiff boat with a low wetted surface area. To what end I hear you ask? Well, you have a yacht optimised for sailing the Stockholm archipelago for one. That narrow hull is going to be very easily driven and will accelerate harder than the ClubSwan 50 even if it lacks top end power. Light air performance will also be better and the lift keel adds valuable versatility. I suppose the big question is, do we have a practical cruiser-racer? What, in fact, do we have here? Well, first off, a boat so Un-Swedish in its ostentatiousness that it both confuses and delights. This is the bright yellow Ferrari that roars past you on a B road making you tut angrily yet enviously. This is the V sign being flicked at Sven Goran Ericsson not to mention centuries of Swedish sanity. The fact it is produced by the hugely respected Linjett yard makes the whole project even more deliciously bonkers. This is a mid life crisis expressed in the most glorious and exuberant manner.

The aim though seems to be to provide a very fast yacht that can be raced but can also be handled easily short handed for those who enjoy a bit of fast cruising. It’s a fair concept; Baltic’s 68’ all carbon café racer would perhaps be the ultimate expression of that form of this concept but Saffier Yachts has also done a fine job with its selection of smaller daysailers. Yet the Shogun is more than that in a way; it wants it all – it wants to be taken seriously as a racer and its extreme lightness makes that a possibility. At the same time, electric winches and developments in sail controls mean that handling a high powered boat like this two-up is just about a possibility. So why not go cruising for a week or two? It’s more than weekender. Yet it’s all wildly ambitious – as the boat itself is.

On deck

So the first question is how manageable is the boat? I was approaching the test as a cruising sailor who enjoys sailing fast so I was probably in a good position to assess things. Having also come from spending a summer singlehanding a heavy, gaff rigged boat that pointed very poorly, I was ready for a change. First signs were good. This is evidently a sophisticated racing machine but the deck layout was relatively simple, with the mass of ropes that can intimidate a cruising sailor not on show. The set-up comprises of eight winches in total; a pair of Harkens on the coachroof which handle the running rigging via two banks of jammers, then three pairs of Antal winches to handle the mainsheet and headsails with the pair furthest aft for tensioning the running backstays; each has its own load meter so you can constantly monitor things. There are a couple of padeyes forward for the headsails which can also be hydraulically tensioned. The mainsheet traveller is set aft of the twin helms and can be adjusted electrically which makes tweaking the mainsail absolutely effortless.

The cockpit is extremely open and spacious despite the relative slenderness of the lines. The helmsman can steer from in front of the wheel where he has good access to the winches and a nice foot bar to brace against – or behind where he has foot chocks. The binnacle is a sea of buttons to control everything from the forestay tension to the traveller and everything in between. There is no bow thruster and the throttle lever is tucked behind underneath the helmsman’s seat. Aft of this are a selection of relatively shallow but large lockers where you can stow a good deal – even a deflated dinghy should you wish. Forward of the helm is a nice spacious area for lounging. Out on the side decks the first big surprise is that they are teak – and beautifully laid teak at that. The craftsmen at Linjett are noted for their superlative skill and it is very much to the fore here. The teak turns out to be the finest of veneers to keep weight to a minimum. It’s a nice touch. The carbon rod rigging is set outboard and the decks are uncluttered while the well rounded toe rail is stylish and also offers a comfortable perch for crew sitting out on the rail – conversely its curvature makes stepping aboard a bit trickier. Up forward is a simply huge locker for all your sails and any other paraphernalia. It’s a very practical space that would be invaluable to any racer – or cruiser come to think of it.

Down below

I’m loath to call interiors ‘masculine’ or manly but, by God, it’s tricky with this boat. I’m sure there are women who like spartan spaces with a lot of hard contrasts but, well, it felt a bit blokey. By contrast I quite like things to be more homely. I mean I’ve had a flick through of the Danish Book of Hygge and it made me want to vomit but, even so, I just like things to be kept a bit soft so I suppose I don’t have very manly tastes. Anyway, this is all black carbon fibre contrasting hard with the light oak finish. The saloon feels strangely back to front and that’s because it is; the galley area is right forward with the seating area curved around following roughly the contour of the bow. The galley is a linear affair that runs to starboard and, although very butch, it does allow for a cooker with an oven. The fridge/freezer and a small worktop area is to port aft of the dining/seating area which may sound peculiar but it sort of works.

  All the worktops are, of course in carbon though, disappointingly, the cooker is, well, just a cooker and the only thing about it that could be potentially carbon is what comes out of it. The basic reasoning behind this back to front arrangement is to create a comfortable living space forward and more of a ‘working’ space amidships. This means that nothing gets damp forward and there is a lot of space aft for sail handling etc.

Further aft things are dominated by the case for the lifting keel which is actually set forward of the keel stepped mast. There is a truly generous heads/shower booth to port which is sort of right at the heart of the boat. Aft of this is the chart table which has a pleasing feeling of being the nerve centre of the yacht. To starboard is a long bench seat with comfortable cushions. Titanium – yes titanium – grab rails abound. The point is that this central section of the boat is left open so you can shove a lot of sails down here in a hurry if needs be. Aft are twin double berths that are identical and are arguably a touch on the dark side as there is no portlight facing out – but perhaps that is missing the essential point of this boat – or perhaps not.

Everything is carbon by the way – down to the toilet seat. Everything you lift up is feather light and you discover that it’s cored with carbon – cupboard doors, sinks, you name it. The quality of the finish is also excellent. I wasn’t sure about the layout though, as the U-shaped settee forward felt a bit penned in and the split galley with worktop to port and cooker to starboard wasn’t ideal for cooking at sea. I’m looking at this as a cruising sailor. That said, the company stress that this is very much a custom boat. There is already the option of a more standard layout available and the boatbuilders will work with owners to ensure that an interior is tailored to individual tastes.

Under sail

Everyone was itching to go sailing and, with a 12-15kn breeze ruffling the flat waters around the Linjett boatyard, it was time to get going.

   The boat does not have a bow thruster but is handy enough with its big rudders and relatively narrow beam. The relatively small 40hp Volvo saves a bit of weight and also had ample power to push such a light boat along. We headed off downwind with full main and the Code 0. As soon as the main was up you could feel the boat champing at the bit, tugging at the reins. Code 0 unfurled and we were immediately flying and I was struggling to get to grips with the concept of a monohull that generated so much apparent wind and accelerated with such force. I am used to sailing boats where everything happens quite slowly – a shoreline takes hours to sail to – the Shogun gave us no time at all in the confined waters. The boat had masses of grip – seemingly limitless – and inspired confidence. My instinct was therefore to sail high and overpress but the vicious acceleration meant that every time I did this, the shore was upon us before we could take off. It was joyous but also wildly frustrating.

 The boat quite simply needed a whole lot more space but with evening already creeping in, we didn’t have enough time to get right out to sea so the boat continued to career around like a racehorse in an undersized paddock. The boat heels easily being so narrow and in the gusts she was sailing under only one rudder with the windward foil flying.

   Despite this, you felt completely in control and you didn’t feel there was much of a limit on how hard you could press the boat. In race mode you’d sail this 10-12 up. I sailed the boat with three excellent sailors who spent all their time tweaking the rig – an anathema to a cruiser like me – they evidently enjoyed the adjustable backstays but for someone like me, they were just a pain. In actual fact the rig doesn’t really need them up to 12kn or so of wind but I still think that in pure cruising mode, an option of a single backstay with a standard cut main might be needed.

   By contrast the Code 0 was no hassle at all and, although we didn’t opt for the self tacker, this would have still been enough to get us going and further eased handling. The electrically adjustable traveller also simplified things hugely. Dropping the Code 0 and beating back toward home we continued to fly upwind and the boat demonstrated how incredibly sensitive she was to every gust and minor switch of the breeze which, by the way, was shifty and unpredictable in these sheltered waters lined with trees. The boat was essentially a joy and in no way intimidating or demanding. In fact, it was more forgiving than many more staid yachts while also rewarding you with bursts of wild acceleration. My only regret – and it was a deep one – was that we did not have the space to unleash this beast with perhaps 20kn of breeze. Nevertheless, the boat gave you no choice but to smile.

Visit Shogun Yachts

This article first appeared in the February 2021 issue of Sailing Today with Yachts & Yachting magazine.

The post Boat test: Shogun 50 appeared first on Sailing Today.

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