Performance comparison Saphire 27 CRUISE vs. SPORT

29 Aug 15:40

People keep asking me about the sailing performance of the CRUISE version compared to the SPORT version. So much upfront: she is fast, very fast! After extensive test sailing and different comparisons I am ready to deliver the requested information in this report.

So as to interprete this comparison in a better way, I will give you an overview of the two boats first, knowing that the hull of both boats is the same:

Saphire SPORT

Deck and hull sandwich laminated under vacuum infusion with PVC foam and postcured in the oven for 24 hours. Weldox performance keel, carbon mast and square top membrane mainsail in aramid (29m2) as well as a membrane jib 15m2 and an allround gennaker 70m2. The weight of the boat according to ORC is 1340kg out of which 500kg are keel weight. Design category C.

Saphire CRUISE

Deck and hull sandwich hand laminated with PVC foam. Aluminium rig and polyestre laminate pin head mainsail 22m2 with a laminate jib 14m2 as well as a reacher/gennaker 50m2. For this comparison we have used the Weldox performance keel. The weight according to ORC measurement rules is 1495kg, design category B.

Upwind sailing performance

The CRUISE version has 8m2 less sail area upwind which makes one think that she is slower. Wrong! In certain conditions she points even higher than the SPORT version! Even for me, the results of this comparison have been very interesting since they also showed the limits of the square top sails.

In light and medium wind conditions the SPORT version with the square top mainsail sails a little bit faster and points slightly higher. At 12 knots of wind speed with 3 crew members on board, the picture changes. The CRUISE version firstly points the same angle and from 18 knots and more she points higher! There are different reasons for this: The big square top mainsail is very big...:-) You still can handle it in 18 to 20 knots of wind without a reef but one needs to understand how and to invert the top battens to achieve a righting moment (S-shape). This is a special technic which is used with this sail by opening the vang, tightening the cunningham and keeping the boom in the middle of the boat so that the sail can twist a lot. The sail is designed for performance and according to my experience you should have 350 to 400kg crew weight in stronger conditions to really use the sail well. A small family will prefer to put a reef in 16 to 18 knots of wind speed.

Very different with the CRUISE version: Up to 20 knots of wind speed one can sail the pin-head mainsail without a reef even with a small crew. Thanks to the smaller surface of the mainsail, the CRUISE version easily reaches design category B for the open sea. Both boats can be sailed with two fingers on the tiller in 16 to 18 knots of wind speed, whereas the SPORT version needs to be helmed much more accurately. Mistaks can be noted quickly while the CRUISE version forgives them.

The square top mainsail has per definition an open leach which means you cannot really close it, while the pin head mainsail has a round and closed leach to reach a good profile. The square top allowes in light wind conditions to really pull the sheet and to move the lateral point upward where usually the wind is stronger. On the picture below you can see the two profiles of the different mainsails. More of it you can read in the next German YACHT magazine.

Video comparison upwind in roughly 10 knots of wind speed

Thereafter you will find a first video clip between the two boats upwind in medium conditions with small crews. The SPORT version still has some advantage but a few more knots of wind and the CRUISE reaches the same performance.

Downwind sailing performance comparison

The real strenght of the SPORT is shown downwind! Evidentially, the hughe square top mainsail helps a lot pushing the boat. Furher, the SPORT version is equipped with a roughly 20m2 bigger allround gennaker. In all wind conditions the SPORT version was slightly faster downwind and she sails lower (VMG). Further, thanks to slightly less weight combined with the bigger sail area she planes earlier.

And still: The CRUISE version with her flat reacher of 50m2 was easier to handle and on close reaching courses she sailed faster again! Not really astonishing since the flat reacher is designed for this kind of course. Furher, a flat sail generates more apparent wind than a round sail which has more resistance. This means in fact, that the CRUISE is not slower in light winds and sometimes faster on reaching courses, depending on the amount of wind and angle sailed. Myself, I have used this reacher on the SPORT version for years in light wind conditions.

Also, the CRUISE version can be equipped with a top gennaker halyard and carry a gennaker up to 80m2. In this case, both boats should sail almost with identical speed.

Saphire 27 SPORT downwind sailing on Urnersee

Aluminium Rig with square top mainsail

The new aluminium rig has been constructed in a way to be able to carry also the square top mainsail. In this case, no aftstay is used since the spreaders are angled 30°. I took care of the fact that the aluminium has almost the same specifications and stiffness than the carbon mast. The aluminium rig weights only 12kg more than the carbon mast. To achieve this, we use a realtively big profile (139) with thin walls to achieve the desired stiffness and weights. The tests have shown that the CRUISE version with the square top mainsail sails the same speed upwind than the SPORT version even though she is roughly 150kg heavier with the outboard engine than the SPORT version. This seems obvious since upwind the theoretical hull speed is reached quickly.


CRUISE or SPORT: both boats will find their lovers (and haters...) and both boats stand for "pure sailing"! The one who likes the ultimative fun will decide for the SPORT version while the one who sails more with a small crew and does some races a year will rather like the CRUISE version. And what is also important: the one who sails races under different rating systems should in any case use the pin head mainsail with the 50m2 reacher - regardless of the boat's type. I will soon publish a report on different rating systems since I have sailed in many countries over the last three years getting in touch with all kind of rating systems.