Caroline Strainig checks out the Imexus 28, a new European-built powersailer.
Take a concept that is proving popular in the US, add a dash of European style and a few quality touches, and what do you get? If you’re talking about boats at the lower end of the production boat market price-wise, the answer could well be the European-built Imexus 28, the first of which was imported into Australia earlier this year.
The concept I’m referring to is the “powersailer,” a cross between a powerboat and a sailboat. It has been around for a while and Australia has not been backward in embracing it. First to our shores came the US-built Macgregor 26, then the Aussie-built Mach 28 bigger version of the Macgregor 26 and then the US-built Edge by Hunter. Some sailing purists decry them as not a “real” sailboat, but others applaud them, recognising that they are introducing people to sailing who would otherwise never try it. The option to be able to zoom out to the reef or home when the weather turns nasty at up to 23 knots also has undeniable pluses!
As is the case with so many overseas boats, the Imexus reached Australia because a boating enthusiast, in this case Clive Calder, couldn’t find what he wanted in Australia and looked elsewhere. So impressed was he with the Imexus that he signed up to be the Australian distributor and enlisted the aid of Jason Gribble of the Church Point Brokerage on Pittwater just north of Sydney to market the boats.
“Yes, it is more expensive than the Macgregors — about one-third, we calculate,” Calder said. “But it’s also two feet bigger with more volume and the value is really there.”
“It feels like a proper yacht of substance,” Gribble added. “And it is very well finished. You still have massive power — up to 130hp with the inboard diesel — but it’s more of a yacht. From the front and side it has good sailing lines.
“You also have side decks with stanchions and safety lines so you can go for’ard without climbing over the cabin top and the spars are decent sections and look integral to the yacht rather than just an add-on. The finish is quality, and there are many options available to semi-customise the boat to your individual requirements.
“Last but by no means least, the ballast-to-weight ratio is an impressive 45 percent with the 60kg steel swing keel and optional extra fixed ballast of 165kg!”
Gribble said the Imexus was well proven in Europe, with 300 sold since 2007 and 2,000 of the earlier model Odin 27.
Okay, enough of the sales pitch. How does this European-built challenger really stack up?
Yes, at first glance viewed from the bow and sides the lines are quite yacht-like, and below it did feel like more of a production sailing boat than powerboat, with a quality light-brown oak fitout and chocolate-brown upholstery contrasting pleasantly with the white gelcoat-covered fibreglass furniture. It is only really the stern view that gives it away, with a wide, scooped-out stern and 90hp Evinrude signalling in no uncertain terms that this isn’t your average sailboat.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at what you get for the base price of $80,000 or optioned-up on-trailer price of $108,000.
The stern features twin lift-up rudders, a fold-up stainless-steel swimming ladder, a cold fresh-water shower, and, of course, whatever outboard you decide upon, which can be anything between five horsepower and 115hp. Gas bottles would also be housed in a locker in the transom if you opt for a gas stove or gas barbecue.
A lift-up section of coaming gives easy access to the cockpit, which would easily seat six. Features here are a central pedestal with a small powerboat-style wheel and engine controls and basic instruments. A chartplotter and tri-data are optional extras. Two lazarettes cater for odds-and-ends stowage. Seats are fairly narrow, but still wide enough to lie down on, with some back support.
The mast is aluminium with swept-back spreaders and made in-house by Imexus. Sails are by a Polish company, Wawer, and looked to be a Dacron composite.
The test boat had the standard main with partial battens and a rope boomvang, but optional lazyjacks and a boom bag and dodger had been added, and the jib had also been optioned up to a genoa on furler.
Just about everything is easily accessible from the cockpit, which is obviously a plus in safety terms.
Halyards, headsail sheets, boomvang, keel control line and in-line reefing (one reef standard and two optional) come back to clutches of three jammers and an Anderson 10 winch on the cabin top each side of the companionway. If you opt for a headsail furler it too is led aft here. Other options are a bimini and infill between the dodger and bimini.
The boom is reasonably high-set and ends mid-cockpit, with the mainsheet attaching to a block on the pedestal.
Another plus is that — unlike some powersailers — the Imexus has side decks, albeit fairly narrow ones, so you don’t have to clamber over the cabin top when you to go for’ard. At the pointy end you will find a good-sized, gentle-cambered foredeck with a hatch and anchor locker set into it and a split pulpit with a teak-covered bowsprit-cum boarding platform and bow rollers. An ordinary split pulpit is standard. Anchor and chain are not included.
White gelcoat proliferates everywhere you look and while at first glance I felt the surface might not be as “grippy” as some, I did not slip once on my outing.
Three lift-out washboards with a sliding top hatch and removable ladder-type stairs give access to the spacious interior, which has a lovely welcoming ambience, due to the aforementioned oak trim and chocolate-brown upholstery and white gelcoat.
Aft under the cockpit is a king-sized berth — this reduces to a double if you decide on an optional 130hp in-board diesel engine. To starboard is the enclosed head, which has a small sink with a stowage compartment under, an opening porthole and a portable toilet. A “proper” toilet is available as an option. To port is the galley, for which there is an extensive list of options. The test boat had the base-level sink, single-burner metho stove and front-opening WAECO fridge.
For’ard is a V-berth and midships two quarter berths-cum settees.
A drop-leaf table with an in-built bottle/wine compartment holds pride of place mid-saloon and the base disguises the lift-keel casing.
Stowage is well catered for, with big compartments under the settees, three lockers to port and starboard mid-ships and shelving adjacent to the V-berth. The galley also has a locker for pots and pans and cup/plate rack overhead.
Headroom is 1.85 in the galley/entry area but less mid-ships and for’ard due to a small step up in level. The optional extra ballast stows under the higher level.
Ventilation and lighting is good courtesy of halogen lights and multiple Lewmar opening ports.
You get one lead-acid 70AH 12-volt battery as standard, with a house battery and isolator switch an optional extra. A radio is another option.
Launching, retrieving and trailering
The test boat was living in a marina and pulling it out of the water and de-rigging/rigging and launching it from a trailer was not an option when I visited. The distributor assured me any couple could rig or de-rig in an hour and an A-frame took the back break out of raising the mast. The dual-axle galvanised trailer meets Australian standards and boat and trailer combined weigh in at 2,200kg.
The hull and deck are hand-laminated GRP. Below the waterline is a solid laminate with double skin and osmosis-resistant gelcoat and above the waterline solid GRP with GRP-covered plywood bulkheads. Additional stiffening is achieved through a built-in internal GRP ballast tank. Decks are of GRP and sandwich construction. Imexus offers a two-year factory warranty on the hull, deck, mast and furniture. Manufacturers’ warranties apply to fitted items.
We had gusty winds up to about 28 knots on the day of the sail test. Most distributors will not let their demonstration boats go out in these conditions because they belong to private owners, but in this case the distributor, Clive Calder, owned the boat and was prepared to do so, although I must admit a couple of times during the outing I wished we’d waited for better conditions, especially while trying to get some photos of the boat under full sail. Even in the lee of the hill we headed to for some shelter we were getting hit by bullets and the Imexus did a couple of spectacular round-ups. However, the impressive 45-percent ballast ratio made itself felt and even in those round-ups I at no time had that “Oh dear, what the heck is going to happen next?!” feeling. When we took a reef in the main and partially furled the genoa things were much more comfortable and more so again when conditions abated. We had an issue when a split pin gave way on one of the rudder arms, but this was quickly fixed, and the pin had already been on the distributor’s list of things that needed beefing up to suit the newly fitted optional hydraulic steering.
Powering along at the 14 knots we restricted ourselves to in the windy conditions was a thrill for someone used to going a more sedate six knots. I’m sure the top speed with the 90hp of 18 knots would be more thrilling again. Filling up with the 730 litres of water ballast took only a couple of minutes and a tilt-control on the pedestal made it easy to lift the outboard up when it was time to set sail.
On the wind the optional GPS recorded just over four knots and on a beam reach up to six in the stronger winds.
The hydraulic steering felt reasonably direct, although being a powerboat-style wheel, it took some getting used to. Foot-bracing for the helmsman was excellent.
I felt the Imexus acquitted herself reasonably in the trying conditions, given that it is a trailerable boat without a fixed keel and a compromise between a powerboat and sailboat. Powersailers have to have planing hulls and in sailing mode would have a lower hull speed than their straight trailer-sailer equivalents. “This means they would make a bit more than average leeway, so round-the-buoys racing would not be on the agenda for most owners, except in a one-of-a-kind regatta,” the technical person I asked explained.
Overall, I was impressed with the boat. No, it won’t win you a Sydney-Hobart, but who cares. It’s a great boat for doing exactly what it is designed for: trail anywhere, launch at any boat ramp, motor rapidly to your destination area, then get into some quiet pottering about under sail. And dash rapidly under power for home (the trailer) if the weather turns bad. SPECIFICATIONS
Weight with fixed ballast and
Towing weight (incl 500kg trailer)2,150kg
Motor sizeup to 115hp outboard or 130hp inboard diesel