On the whole, us Brits are a hardy lot.
On the whole, us Brits are a hardy lot. The weather is such a part of our national psyche that we feel the need to experience it as much as is humanly possible. How else do you explain the fact that we are the biggest buyers of convertible cars in Europe, even though the sun only shines on this Sceptr’d Isle once every other year? However, when it comes to our boats, it seems we have finally seen the light (or at least blocked it out). Take this month’s group test of sportscruisers (p40). Three years ago, the only yards fitting hardtops to their sportscruisers were mega-money custom builders and the occasional quirky Scandinavian outfit. Now everyone from Sealine to Sunseeker is fitting them as standard to boats as small as 29ft.
To give you some idea of just how significant this development is, I did a little spontaneous research. The three boats in our test, from Bavaria, Elan and Jeanneau, are all available in both hardtop and open guises, yet according to the UK sales figures you wonder why they bother. Elan have sold ten hardtop 35s and not a single open boat, Jeanneau reckon the mix is nearer nine hardtops to every one open 34, and even Bavaria say the mix for their brand-new 35 is around 2:1 in favour of the fixed-roof model. They are not alone: a quick call to Fairline confirmed that every single order placed for the new Targa 47 and 52 over the next two years has been for the hardtop models. Are we growing soft or have we simply had enough of wrapping up in 17 layers of thermals and pretending we’re still enjoying it? Neither – we’ve just got fed up of wrestling with bloody-minded zips, poppers and covers that are always half a size too small. Design us a boat with a canvas canopy as cheap, simple and effective as that on a Mazda MX5 or Porsche Boxster and we’ll happily bare our cockpits again. On second thoughts, scrap the canvas altogether and ask Mercedes to design an SL-style folding hardtop for a Windy Mirage 25. You can sign me up for one straight away.