By Sailing Today
The Najad 380 Aphrodite is a modern yacht with classic appeal. Miles Kendall wanted to see if her sailing ability matched her impressive looks.
Retro styling is a dangerous game. Masking modern design in the look of yesteryear can seem contrived and a little bit naff or, as in the case of the Aphrodite range from Najad, it can work very well indeed. The varnished mahogany that wraps around the coachroof is simply stunning – add a teak top to the coachroof and polished stainless steel dorades and this feels more like a post-war passagemaker than a boat built in 2010.
Why don’t we see more gleaming woodwork around the moorings and marinas? A shortage of time and elbow grease is the main reason. Few owners want to spend their weekends with sandpaper in one hand and varnish in the other and who can blame them? Najad gets around the problem of high maintenance by vacuum infusing mahogany veneer with epoxy resin and fixing this to the GRP structure of the coachroof. Two layers of see through strand matting are epoxied over the veneer for added protection, then two coats of varnish are applied to ensure a high gloss finish and protect the wood from UV rays. The varnish will need a rub down and new coat every few years, but the pride you’ll feel looking at your ‘wooden’ boat will make up for that.
The interior styling is traditional too, though it is possible to combine any elements of the Aphrodite with the standard 380. This mix-and-matching is possible because beneath the veneer the Aphrodite is a conventional 380: a design that has been built since 2004 and has been Najad’s best selling boat for six years. The 380 succeeds because she meets Najad’s own design brief so well: “To produce ocean going yachts that can be handled by two people.” The Aphrodite styling, which is also available for the Najad 460 and 511, does not come cheap, adding some £15,000 to the cost. It’s a high price for beauty, but just imagine the song in your heart as you row away with the mahogany glowing in the evening sun.
The use of white moulded planking for the forward bulkhead creates a modern Scandinavian feel that is balanced by the unstained mahogany joinery. The beautifully made table has a single drop leaf. To port is a full length berth. Stowage is in a series of lockers and on shelves, while headroom is truly fantastic at over 196cm (6ft 5in).
The companionway steps protrude into the saloon, creating more of a staircase than a ladder, and obstructing access to the galley. A wealth of stowage is provided in four double lockers as well as a variety of shelves and drawers. There’s a 94ltr fridge, a double sink and wooden brackets to hold saucepans at sea. A remote electronic shutoff valve for the gas is useful too.
The fiddle on the chart table is deeper along the inboard edge than facing the navigator: it’s a small detail that is testament to practical design. The table itself is 93cm x 48cm with plenty of room for charts. There is further stowage in a useful bin though no shelf for books. The switch panel is first rate with all wires clearly labelled. The chart table light is mounted on a flexible arm and fitted with a dimmer switch: another nice touch.
There’s full standing headroom and an abundance of wood in the heads. Stowage is much better than on most yachts of this length with lockers behind and below the sink. These are useful spaces and not full of the usual stopcocks and seacocks. There is a ventilated hanging locker that drains into the deep bilge.
There’s the almost inevitable stoop as you pass through the galley to enter the large aft cabin. Once inside, headroom is 180cm (5ft 11in), but lie down and you can luxuriate in a massive double berth that is 200cm (6ft 7in) long. Most of the area beneath the berth is taken up with steering gear and a water heater. Stowage elsewhere is in two pairs of outboard lockers and a large hanging locker. The sides are panelled with a white upholstered vinyl that gives the impression of wooden planking and looks much better than it sounds.
Stowage in the forecabin is excellent, with plenty of space beneath the V-berth. The balustrades that enclose the bed are topped with round finials: a nice extra touch or an unnecessary and impractical addition, depending on your view. Headroom is good and a large hatch lets in plenty of light.
A fixed windscreen and sprayhood protect the crew, while a cockpit tent adds an extra room in port and there’s even a vent from the heating system to warm it. Varnished wooden panels that top the cockpit coamings and surround the companionway look great and are protected from spray. The centre cockpit arrangement allows for the mainsheet to be led to a track just aft of the helmsman. It’s double ended, so can always been tended from the windward side and can be led to one of the Andersen 40 winches. The genoa sheets are handled by Andersen 46s. The helmsman’s seat is raised to provide a better view forward. The teak cup holder on the steering pedestal is an optional extra that can be customised to fit your favourite glass or mug. There is a large cockpit locker and there are two useful lazarette lockers in the aft deck.
2a and 2b Decks
Lines are led aft to jammers on the outside of the cockpit coaming. It keeps the companionway dry and uncluttered, but means you have to scrabble outside the cockpit (and to leeward 50 per cent of the time) to reef. The side decks and the coachroof are teak with the dorade vents and encapsulated mahogany sides adding real class. The sidedecks are wide, although they are obstructed by the stays, but these are often more useful to hold on to than grabrails or guard wires. The foredeck is large and clear with a very deep watertight anchor locker that also houses two gas bottles.
Rig and sails
This a solid cruising rig with twin spreaders and Selden spars. The backstay is adjustable and there is slight rake to the mast. Najad builds boats to last and to survive the extremes of offshore sailing and this is a set up you can trust with your life. So what then if the shrouds do obstruct the side decks – at least the mast won’t fall down. Najad has upgraded the sails offered with a tri-radial, fully battened DC Mylar mainsail and 105 per cent headsail on a Furlex drum. Our test boat had Halsey UK sails, including an in-mast main with vertical battens.
A stiff breeze of 16-25kn from the frozen north is what you get for boat testing in the winter, but the sprayhood kept us snug until we put it down to make her look prettier. Under full main, the 380 kept sailing with weather helm building gradually as the wind increased, at which point we decided to reef. With a few feet of canvas wound in, she was even better balanced and responded to the squalls by heeling a little and accelerating a lot. She didn’t like being pinched, but made 6.7kn at 45° and 7.2kn at 50°.
With the wind coming from the quarter, the 380 really found her groove and was soon making more than 8kn while remaining light on the wheel throughout. Her relatively long keel and deep forefoot meant that she tacked steadily though she soon picked up speed.
The headsail set poorly when running and the leech began to pant slightly. A tweak of the backstay and some more tension on the genoa halyard (so often needed) sorted this out and she ran before the wind at 5.7kn. A spinnaker pole is fixed to the mast and you could easily imagine the boat gobbling up the miles while enjoying some trade wind sailing.
The 54hp Yanmar is a big engine for a 38ft yacht, though it fits with the Najad philosophy of over specification. The test yacht was delivered from the Swedish yard with 40kn on the nose and a deadline to meet. Those are the sort of conditions when a powerful engine can help you motorsail to a safe haven while others struggle to make headway. In flat water she made 6.5kn at 2,000rpm and 7.9kn at 3,000rpm. Her weight stops her being blown about in marinas, while a bow thruster and plenty of engine torque make her straightforward, if not nimble, to manoeuvre. Engine access is fantastic with real forethought given to the practicalities of maintenance.
The 380 has been around for long enough to prove herself a wonderfully capable offshore cruiser. The centre cockpit arrangement with a long, thin galley and poor headroom in the aft cabin will not be to everyone’s taste and some will be put off by the lack of a second heads or third cabin. Headroom elsewhere is excellent however and this is a boat for a couple or a family cruising, not mass market chartering. Build quality is excellent, from the thickness of the hull to the craftsmanship of the joinery. The Aphrodite design features are a complete success and make this a yacht to turn heads wherever she sails – and that could be anywhere in the world.
LOA: 11.55m 38ft
LWL: 9.9m 32ft 6in
Beam: 3.65m 12ft
Draught (std, lead): 1.95m 6ft
Displacement: 9,100kg 20,062lb
Ballast: 3,100kg 6,834lb
Sail area (main + jib): 65.3m² 810ft²
Fuel: 1,325ltr 71gal
Water: 400ltr 88gal
Engine: 54hp Yanmar 4JH4-E
RCD: category A-Ocean
Builder: Najadvarvet, Henan, Sweden
UK main agent: Najad Yachts UK
Tel: 023 8045 5555
Fully Equipped For
Fast, safe offshore cruising
Excellent standard specification
Semi-bespoke buildFully Equipped
Maintenance of varnished finishes
Headroom in aft cabin and galley