The X-Yachts X56 is built to be the marque's new flagship, designed to combine luxury, style and power with a practical and seamanlike approach for extended cruising
Large cruising yachts are enormously appealing, but it’s imperative that they’re easy to tame in deteriorating weather. Yet if this is achieved through making the boat underpowered it will be a disappointment in lighter winds. Striking the balance between the two is therefore a key factor in establishing a successful new model, as X-Yachts would clearly like the X-Yachts X56 to be.
My first sail on the X-Yachts X56 was in very light airs, with just 3-7 knots of true wind, but even this revealed important insights about how well the boat might handle challenging conditions. With the Code 0 set we made speeds that belied its near 20 tonne displacement, hovering at around 80% of the true wind speed at an apparent wind angle of 45-50°. We achieved 2.8 knots of speed in just 3.5 knots of true wind, rising to a very useful 6.2 knots in 7 knots.
At the same time, it felt like sailing a smaller, lighter and surprisingly nimble boat. We even had enough steerage to tack with only the mainsail set in just five knots of wind.
A boat that’s so easily driven allows sail to be shortened well in advance of worsening weather, without losing much speed. At the same time, this design’s very high stability, achieved through a combination of deep draught with low-slung ballast and massive form stability, means fewer sail handling operations are needed – each sail plan works over a wider range of wind strengths.
Therefore an increase in wind of a scale that might force other boats to tuck in an extra reef can often be handled simply by trimming the sails to depower a little.
For my next trial, a few days later, we had 15-17 knots, accompanied by a large and confused sea. Upwind with full sail we made around 7-7.5 knots, with a comfortable motion, despite the sea state. There was no hint of slamming – the boat simply shouldered the seas aside, providing an impressively dry ride.
Bearing off just 5° saw the X-Yachts X56’s speed jump to 8.0 knots, demonstrating an ability to make good daily runs while on passage. On bearing away further, to a true wind angle of 110°, and deploying the Code 0, we accelerated to a relaxed and effortless 9-10 knots in 17 knots of true breeze.
The test boat we were sailing is the 10th X-Yacht for this particular owner, having started with a 26ft X-79 many years ago. It’s set up for very long distance short-handed sailing – including transatlantic crossings – with the autopilot expected to be in use 99% of the time.
Because of this the X-Yachts X56 has twin parallel systems for redundancy, each with a permanently connected hydraulic ram resulting in a heavy helm without much direct feel. Even so, the boat itself was responsive at all times and was nicely balanced, with just a fraction of weather helm upwind.
X-Yachts offers a number of headsail configurations, with an 88% self-tacking jib on the main forestay as standard equipment. Our test boat, however, is set up with a more flexible arrangement, including a larger, marginally overlapping headsail, plus an inner forestay with a self-tacking furling staysail, and in-boom mainsail reefing. The latter is an option chosen by around 70% of owners buying a Pure X model from the X43 upwards.
We also had the benefit of a Reckmann electric top-down furler for the Code 0. This is mounted at the inboard end of the fixed bowsprit and makes the sail almost effortless to wrap away. Asymmetric spinnakers can also be flown from the tip of the sprit.
This means it’s easy to select the appropriate sail area for different conditions, with very little compromise on sail shape. It’s an excellent combination that should enable small teams to translate the boat’s potential into numerous easy 200-plus mile days.
Although the primary purpose of the self-tacking staysail is to avoid having to use an inefficient deep-reefed headsail in winds well over 20 knots, it also offers the enticing prospect of easy handling in confined waters.
Even in only 13-14 knots of true wind and an awkward sea state, with the staysail and full main we made around 6 knots close-hauled and, of course, were able to tack repeatedly without touching the sheets. It’s a great arrangement and illustrates how versatile it is to have a boat that will maintain speed, even when under-canvassed.
The standard rig has a keel-stepped triple spreader mast with oversized discontinuous rod rigging, while carbon spars are optional. Lines are led aft to winches on the cockpit coamings well ahead of the helm stations. In our case these were the beefy optional electric Andersen 72 units, which make for speedy sail handling and eliminate the need for powered headsail furlers.
Positioning the winches on the coamings minimises the number of deflections in each line that add friction and loads. The downside, compared to winches on a pedestal further inboard, is that they are harder to work, especially when short-handed.
I’m often critical of boats where sheets can’t easily be trimmed from the helm, but the loads of a yacht of this size make this impractical for much of the time. Once you accept that, it makes sense to position the winches where there’s ample space to work them.
Three options for the mainsheet are offered: a German system with a simple padeye in the cockpit floor, or a recessed traveller. The third option, as fitted to our test boat, is a central pedestal with an electric winch. It’s an arrangement that works well and frees up the remaining winches for other operations.
Maximum beam is carried right aft, yet the cockpit doesn’t feel as though it’s defined by the wide open spaces of many of today’s broad transom, twin rudder yachts. This helps confer a feeling of safety and security at sea, yet there’s still plenty of space. On one of my test sails we had seven people on board, with no hint of it feeling crowded.
Although the transom is open, helm stations are forward of the stern rail and there’s a central two-person bench seat aft that incorporates liferaft stowage. The back of the boat therefore doesn’t feel unduly exposed. Particularly wide side decks, secure deep bulwarks and a low profile coachroof all help to make it easy to move around when going forward.
The optional low-profile sprayhood gives an aerodynamic shape and has obvious appeal to anyone with a racing background, but the sleek shape means there’s not full standing headroom beneath, so many owners are likely to opt for the full-height standard version. Both stow neatly beneath teak faced deck panels when not in use.
External stowage includes a large tender garage that will accommodate a 3.0m RIB, with a crane for launch, recovery and stowage. There are lockers under each of the cockpit benches, while the sail locker forward has enough room to be fitted out as a skipper’s cabin if required.
The cockpit table is a conventional central unit with two folding leaves and space for a drinks fridge. This means there’s no central walkway from the transom to the companionway but it doesn’t seem to matter, as the table is large enough for several people to sit on one side, keeping the other side clear other than at meal times.
Pace with space
For a performance yacht with a hull length of just under 55ft there’s an impressive amount of internal volume, and with the X-Yachts X56 the yard has aimed to lift the style and level of interior finish to a notch above the existing models in this range. As standard the joinery is in a very attractive Nordic oak, with teak as an option. There’s a wide choice of soft furnishings and X-Yachts is happy to work with owners to create a style to suit their tastes.
Delving around the details of a new yacht’s interior can reveal much about how well it’s set up for long distance passagemaking and living on board for extended periods. X-Yachts has clearly spent a lot of time and budget to get this aspect of the X56 right, although the standard tankage is on the small side for anyone contemplating long periods of autonomy.
Two choices are offered for the galley layout, with the test boat having a conventional U-shaped arrangement. The other option is a more open layout with a central island unit, but less worktop and stowage space.
Both should work well at sea, while allowing space for the cook to have assistance when in port. Stowage is very well organised in both cases and there’s provision for a huge amount of refrigeration, including a double-size top and front-loading unit, a drinks fridge and a further unit at the aft end of the central section of the galley. Our test boat also has a small dishwasher.
The full-width saloon has separate dining and lounging areas to port and starboard respectively. The latter has a deep domestic style settee with thick cushions, which helps make this a lovely space in which to relax, yet it’s a very practical arrangement for a serious sea-going yacht. There’s also a proper forward-facing navstation, although this is too far forward for easy communication with the cockpit.
The owner’s cabin is well lit thanks to a pair of hull windows, two opening overhead hatches and forward facing coachroof windows. There’s stowage to starboard in a big cabinet, under the aft end of the bed and in four useful eye-level lockers each side. Nevertheless, the total stowage volume is not overly generous for those who plan to sail in cooler climates and there’s no dressing table or desk area. On the plus side, the en-suite is nicely appointed, a good size, and with a separate shower stall.
As standard a large single heads compartment aft, with separate shower, serves both the aft cabins and day time use. There’s also an option for a third heads, at the expense of some galley space and aft cabin stowage.
Both aft cabins are impressively large and don’t feel as though they are tucked away under the cockpit. They are wide enough for twin berths that convert easily to large doubles. There’s also provision for a washer/dryer in part of the port cabin’s big hanging locker.
Any yacht of this size is a complex entity that has potential to be difficult to look after, especially in far-flung parts of the globe. X-Yachts therefore steers clients towards a standard list of options. These are well proven products that engineers more or less anywhere in the world are likely to have encountered already and have established supply chains for spares. It’s a commendable policy that ought to reassure owners. In extremis, if neither a local engineer, nor the local X-Yachts dealer, is able to solve a problem, the yard can fly a staff member out to a boat anywhere in the world.
On a more detailed level, time and effort have obviously been expended on ensuring deck gear is easy to look after. For example, fastenings for turning blocks and other fittings are accessible via access panels in the deckhead, which facilitates maintenance.
The construction of X-Yachts is also worthy of note. Since 2018 this has been of epoxy infusion, with hulls baked at 70˚C for 24 hours. It’s much more expensive than using conventional polyester resins, but results in more reliable laminates, as well as a lighter vessel that’s both stronger and stiffer.
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Overall the concept behind this design and its general set up is very impressive. The X56 is a real sailor’s boat, but one that also offers enormous comfort and style. It’s bang up to date, yet the execution is extremely seamanlike and well thought through, making it one of the most appealing yachts of its size that I’ve sailed for a long time. A slippery hull shape combined with powerful rig will minimise the amount of time spent under power, yet the massive stability will be enormously reassuring in heavy weather. The sail plan of our test boat suits this design perfectly, providing plenty of power when necessary, while allowing the boat to be safely snugged down well ahead of challenging weather.