Bavaria Cruiser 41
By Sven Donaldson
Bavaria’s huge factory situated deep in the central German heartland is a world leader in ultra-efficient, production boatbuilding. As a result, Bavaria is a perennial value leader in Europe, and even out here in Western Canada it ranks among the more price-competitive brands.
The Bavaria Cruiser 41 definitely qualifies as a core model in this builder’s mainstream line. It’s immediate predecessor—the Cruiser 40—was in production from 2010 until 2014 and sold well despite rather daring—love it or loath it—styling by BMW Designworks USA. As with every Bavaria introduced since 2009, Farr Yacht Design handled the naval architecture for the 40, and clearly achieved an excellent blend of performance and comfort with this particular design. The 40 was the only model in the previous Cruiser line available in a “Sport” or racing/cruising version (equipped with taller rig, deeper keel and other assorted go-fasts). This is again the case with the current 41, now available as the 41S for sailors seeking an affordable, competitive dual-purpose boat.
Fundamentals As mentioned earlier, the 40 and 41 share the same Farr-designed hull, but the latest model boasts an entirely new deck featuring improved cockpit seating, an elongated trunk cabin for extra forward headroom, and substantially larger windows. New styling by Design Unlimited (UK) tones down the more controversial elements from Bavaria’s previous generation, substituting a softer, less-angular look, plus an extra emphasis on the ergonomic details.
Bavaria is one of the few mass builders that uses cored construction in the topsides of their hulls (rather than for decks only). To my mind, this is a worthwhile benefit because it not only saves weight above the waterline but adds a useful bit of insulation. Of course compared to the insulation in a modern house or even an RV, about a centimetre of foam might not seem like much, but it’s still enough to curb most condensation, resulting in a noticeably drier, more liveable boat.
Below the LWL, Bavaria employs a conventional bonded interior grid that backs up the outer hull laminate, and establishes a series of box beams to sustain keel and rigging loads. The deck is mated to an in-turned hull flange, secured with a combination of stainless steel screws and polysulfide adhesive, and capped by an aluminum toe rail.
The standard 41 keel is a semi-bulb iron casting with a generous lateral area, while the 41S gets a deeper but similar keel (2.20 metres draft vs. 2.05). Admittedly, a narrow T-shaped keel—the type in vogue for modern racers—should hit better numbers in the hands of experts. On the other hand, a lower aspect keel like the 41’s is decidedly more user friendly, and will likely perform as well, if not better, in the hands of a casual crew.
Bavaria uses vinylester resins in its hull layups to boost blistering resistance and Kevlar reinforcements in the forward underbody for impact protection. The excellent steering system—rudder, mechanical linkage and dual pedestals which bolt directly to the cockpit sole—are provided as a unit by Jefa in Denmark. Easily installed, they offer a significant savings in production time—always a key consideration as series builders such as Bavaria do their utmost to control costs.
Woodwork aboard the Bavaria 41 is secured to foundations established by the interior liner using adhesives and fibreglass tabbing as appropriate. Worth noting are the clever ways this builder has devised to mill wooden components so they lock together like puzzle pieces, reducing the need for mechanical fasteners.
Topsides Beginning at the back, the 41 offers a broad, swing-down transom platform that lowers to an optimal level for dinghy access. In the raised position, the top of this platform is wide enough to make a decent seat, and the whole assembly remains light enough to operate by hand. That said, the 41S performance version trims weight by omitting the hinged transom as well as the forward toilet.
The new 41 gets a streamlined, drop-leaf cockpit table that provides a rugged mount for the all-important chart plotter. Cockpit lockers are reasonably capacious, even in the three-cabin version. The broad cockpit coamings make it easy to access the side walkways, although the outboard lower shroud will sometimes make it necessary to step onto the cabin top en route to the bow.
Sail controls on the Bavaria 41 Cruiser are neatly lead along the cabin top and coamings, keeping the cabin sole and side decks free of tripping hazards. The low overlap jib is sheeted inboard to tracks on the cabin top—a simple, but serviceable arrangement.
The double-ended mainsheet—pretty much de rigour nowadays—can be easily adjusted from the helm, while a powerful solid vang controls leech tension. Not surprisingly, the 41S performance version gets a cockpit-mounted mainsheet traveller and adjustable backstay for faster trimming, but most sailors will have few complaints about the standard set up.
Systems Standard power for the Cruiser 41 is a 38-horsepower Volvo Penta diesel sail drive, but the test boat was fitted with an upgrade to 53 horsepower. The extra ponies won’t add much to the top end, but they do provide the ability to maintain speed while powering into big seas should this be necessary. Even with the bigger diesel, there is ample space in the voluminous engine compartment and removable panels on all sides provide outstanding maintenance access.
With the D2-55 turning at 2,000 rpm, the boat slipped along at 6.8 knots with the sound level measuring only 68 dBA. At 2,600 rpm and 7.8 knots, this increased modestly to 72 dBA; while wide open throttle yielded 8.3 knots at 3,000 rpm, but still only 76 dBA. This is a nice, quiet boat.
Even the smallest auxiliary diesels from Volvo Penta come with a husky 115-amp alternator, which feeds a standard house bank of three AGM batteries. Some owners may still wish to upgrade the primary electrics but it won’t be necessary for most, thanks to low-draw LED lighting and an efficient, front-loading fridge.
Straightforward and accessible plumbing and wiring arrangements are the norm for Bavaria products—no great surprise considering the large numbers of these boats sold into charter fleets.
Below Decks With eight overhead hatches and eight opening ports (in most cases set into larger fixed windows) there’s no shortage of natural light or fair weather ventilation on the Cruiser 41. Getting fresh air when battened down tight could be a different matter. There are just a couple all-weather vents, and several more would surely be welcome.
As for ambiance, the new interior styling by Design Unlimited hits a very positive note. The aggressively square-cornered look of the previous generation Bavarias has been rounded off just enough to feel more welcoming. But at the same time, some Bavaria standbys like the grid-style overhead moldings and long banks of hinge-front storage cabinets remain more or less unchanged. There’s plenty of woodwork (standard mahogany with teak or oak as options), and a long list of upholstery materials available.
The two cabin Cruiser 41 gets a large U-shaped aft galley and, of course, a much larger cockpit locker to starboard. However, it lacks the spacious, dedicated nav station offered in the three-cabin layout. The port-side linear galley in the three-cabin version offers a little less counter space, but if anything, a bit more stowage. Of course, there are pros and cons with either, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of buyers chose the three-cabin for it’s extra versatility.
Under Sail English Bay failed to deliver much wind for our test sail, but even in a spotty breeze that averaged five knots and gusted to around eight, the Bavaria 41 displayed some very nice sailing characteristics. Sailing close-hauled we typically slowed to 3.5 knots boatspeed in the lulls, but accelerated with surprising alacrity into the low fives each time some extra pressure came through. The test boat had a folding prop—a major boon to light air performance. However, this is still a wide, substantial cruising boat displacing close to 10 tons, so it seems the famous Bruce Farr design team is living up to their reputation.
Helming is comfortable from either the windward or leeward sides, in part thanks to the compact Jefa pedestals, which allow ample space for the driver’s feet. Single handing won’t be a problem with all primary controls lead aft to the helm station and a small overlap jib that sheets quickly with only minimal winch work.
Concluding Remarks Although the new Bavaria Cruiser 41 won’t be the absolute price leader for it’s size range, it’s a definite contender for “best value” once build quality, standard equipment and sailing characteristics have entered the equation. And if purchased in the 41S version and equipped with some decent racing sails, there’s no doubt that this modern Farr design is capable of bringing home hardware under either IRC or PHRF.
At time of writing the three-cabin Cruiser 40 with factory-standard equipment is selling in Vancouver for $285,000. Bavaria Yachts favours building to order, so dealer stock boats are comparatively rare. On the other hand, that efficient German plant wastes no time once an order comes in, and finished boats are typically out the door within two weeks.