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Windy 58 Zephyros

In the land of the frozen Norse, yards pride themselves on building boats that take the rough with the smooth. They have to. Per capita boat ownership in Scandinavia is the highest in the world, and boat buyers here are about the pickiest you’ll find anywhere. After all, they’ve got those long, dark winters to dream about boating and just a few short weeks to turn dreams into reality. Their boats had better be up to the job.

Given the rigors of the water and the extremities of the weather, you might imagine that a typical Swedish or Norwegian power cruiser would feature a fully enclosed wheelhouse and a nuclear-powered heating system, but it hasn’t worked out like that. Ever since American engineer Jim Wynne hooked up with Volvo Penta and Coronet 40 years ago, there’s been a stronger tradition of open-topped, deep-V sport cruisers in Scandinavia than anywhere else in Europe.

So although the Windy 58 Zephyros may not be the sort of thing you would expect to emerge from a Norwegian boatyard, the question being asked on its home turf is why it has taken so long for this builder to cross the 50-foot barrier. One of the most experienced outfits in this demanding and sophisticated market, Windy is known in Europe for its sweet handling and great seakeeping. Windys are expensive, but their reputation for quality is such that the company could start building greenhouses and the horticulturalists of Oslo would buy with confidence.

In moving up to 58 feet, though, Windy has ventured into a tougher pond with some big, mean fish in it. A reputation for quality will help, but at this end of the market quality has to be top-notch anyway—anything less, and the British and Italians will have you for breakfast. And being known as the creator of some of the best-handling sportboats in Europe might not be such a great help, either. It raises expectations that your 20-ton, 58-footer will handle like your legendary 25, no simple task.

I caught up with Hull No. 1 of the Zephyros in Lymington, England. Destined for the United States, she’d been sent to the UK dealer after the 2004 London International Boat Show for testing and final finishing. The props had already been changed once, and new, smaller rudders had been fitted. It certainly sounded like Windy was taking the handling part of the equation seriously.

As for quality, the first thing I did was open a mirrored drink locker by the main companionway, just inside the saloon. Down at the bottom, a couple of little blue-lacquered drawers looked intriguing, so I pulled one out and turned it over to have a look. A nice piece of joinery: no scuffs or wear, so obviously a good fit. No metal runners, no tacks or staples, just pure, traditional craftsmanship. I put it back—and heard a hiss as it slid back in. Not just a good fit, but perfect. Then I stooped down to lift a floor panel in the teak sole, and it came up in just one hand: foam-cored, not just for lightness but for insulation as well.

Throughout the interior I found similar evidence of such attention to detail and some neat design solutions. The slim, hidden end unit of the galley was particularly appealing, sliding out complete with its curved front panel to reveal two shelves and a couple of neat little stowage spaces. Less successful were the shower doors, hinged Plexiglas panels in both the owner’s and guest heads that need to be deployed in the right order, unnecessarily complicated.

I also wondered whether the overall layout was completely successful. It’s a three-cabin boat, but the third is an en suite twin berth aft, under the cockpit sunpad. This would be good for crew or kids, but it means that the engines are mounted somewhat farther forward than on many boats of this class. As a result neither the owner’s cabin, occupying the full beam amidships, the saloon and galley area, nor the guest cabin in the bow feels particularly spacious. Comfortable, well designed, and beautifully finished, sure, just not very big. On a 58-footer, you want people to say “wow” when they go into the master cabin. They probably won’t on the Zephyros.

But then, I reflected, if anyone is going to say “wow,” Windy would want it to be the helmsman. It was time to try this machine in its element.

Winters in Britain are usually disappointing, with none of the drama of a full-on, Norse, midnight-sun production. On this February day, the biggest disappointment was the absence of anything heavier than a mild breeze to raise a ruffle on the sea beyond the shelter of the Isle of Wight. Driving the Windy 58, you quickly realize that this hull wants to be challenged. The steering, for one thing, is extremely light and sensitive. Electronic throttles also respond instantly to fingertip inputs. The new rudders, though smaller than the first set, still seem plenty big enough, and with 1,430 hp to call upon, it soon becomes apparent that this is a real driver’s boat, sure-footed and eager. Crank on lots of helm, and she heels like one of the 58’s legendary little sisters, and although the turning circle is nothing special—the prop tunnels see to that—you can still have an indecent amount of fun chasing your tail. My boat had 715-hp Volvo Pentas the smallest engine option—with the 900-hp MANs, the 58 would be a beast.

Hull shape and weight distribution contribute to that nebulous concept we call handling, but unless the helm position is right, the designer might as well have stayed at home. The helm on the Zephyros, though, is right twice over. Windy has ensured that whatever mood you’re in and whatever the weather is doing, you can sit or stand and drive this boat the way she was designed to be driven. The wheel adjusts for rake, and the controls are mounted on a separate sloping panel under the fingers of your right hand, just where you need them. The seat is comfortable and adjustable, and visibility is great. Seated, it’s a superb helm position.

But look. Flick a switch, and a nine-inch-high teak box glides slowly out from under the helm seat. It’s for standing on. Up you go, remembering to open the sunroof first position. Lift the seat out of the way, and raise the wheel until it’s at a comfortable. Now flick another switch, and that separate sloping panel with the throttle, autopilot, and trim tab and thruster controls raises to the horizontal, placing the controls under the fingers of your right hand—just where you need them.

Out there in the light chop of the English Channel, wishing for once that it was just a little more choppy, this perfect dual-helm position made perfect sense. The Zephyros has twice the hull volume and horsepower of anything Windy has built before. In scale and complexity, this has been a quantum leap. But she’s still a Windy, and that means two things: quality and handling. At the helm, these two come together, and the result is a truly great driving experience.

World Wide Yacht
(631) 269-2628

This article originally appeared in the May 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.