|Smallest Sister Sails To Brand Expectations|
FOR THE baby of the family it is always either a tougher life or a spoiled existence. So as the smallest in the range of the Swedish built Arcona yachts, does the 340 match up to the high expectations prompted by exceptional bigger siblings and, indeed, will it hold its own in the wider marketplace, asks YL racing editor Andi Robertson.
As a rule of thumb bigger boats mean bigger margins for builders and, as costs are trimmed to hit a marketplace price point, it is quite often the case that the smallest boat in a range can suffer in comparison. That is usually in finish, fittings and layout, but also there are plenty of yacht manufacturers who adapt a look and a set of proportions to a smaller scale and end up with something which is nowhere near as appealing as the bigger, sleeker sisters.
The test was a tough one for our afternoon with the 340, because the morning had been spent with a graceful, stunning, long legged 430, Yacht of the Year no less, and in perfectly sparkling conditions on the Solent.
However in general terms the 340 returned an excellent verdict. It is a lovely looking boat which benefits well from the mix of more traditional styling on a modern, efficient hull shape. From some angles it can look a little chunky, foreshortened a little by the wrap round sprayhood coaming, but from other angles you would scarcely notice it is there.
The craftsmanship on the 340 seems to be up to the same high standards for sure. And this, in no small way, is down to the passion and dedication of the companyís owner.
The 340 is constructed in the same way as the bigger boats in the range, around an immensely strong galvanised steel chassis which accepts the keel and rig loads. The hull is vacuum infusion built with a 20mm Divinycell foam core in the main areas, augmented by solid laminate around the keel, rudder and the through hull fittings.
The powerful rig, easily driven hull and fin and bulb keel ensure that this is a performance oriented cruiser racer. The hull shape has the same genes as the 430, but with slightly straighter topsides and a more squared, blunt transom.
The mast is proportionately taller and main proportionately bigger which ensures that the boat moves smartly in the lightest of breezes.
The deck layout too, as well as the excellent working spaces and proportions, define the 340 as a boat which can be successfully raced at club and IRC levels, but we also found the 340 to be stiff and easily sailed short-handed or with a family crew for extended cruising in genuine comfort.
The sparkling conditions prevailed through the afternoon and the 340 shone. It proved an agile performer which tacks easily and is quick upwind. With the small 108% jib, main trim is important but it was easy to set the boat in balance and get her trucking nicely upwind.
The helm needed little attention, the foils working nicely to keep the boat on track, proving close winded and making it easy to maintain a good balance when overpowered. The rudder seemed to maintain good traction if pressed hard.
Tracking the main down the track a little and easing a few centimetres on the sheet, the 340 picked up to just over 7kts. But this is probably not her best angle unless necessary, rather reach off a little more, or stay high on the wind, was my feeling in the short Solent chop kicked up by the sluicing tide.
With the kite up she really moved well, in an even speed hump, predictable but quick with none of the finicky, race boat dottiness. And the boat tracked beautifully leaving an even wake. With two on board the Arcona 340 was always perfectly under control.
The cockpit is well proportioned with plenty of teak for good looks and practicality. The helmís position is excellent with good forward vision and security. Working positions were perfect offering a good compromise set up for short-handed sailing as well as crewed racing.
Itís a small thing, but there is nothing more annoying than having to go towards the back of the cockpit to grind a primary winch, sited for the convenience of the helm.
For me on the 340, this is an insight into the no-compromise traditional layout Arcona build into sailing boats for discerning owners who know what they like.
Down below the boat makes a virtue of simplicity, which accentuates the warmth, ambience and the craftsmanship. Up front there is an excellent double forepeak berth with good headroom, excellent warmth and natural light.
The main saloon embodies this simplicity of thought, a simple parallel sided two settees set up with a table in the middle, no wraparound sofas squeezed into too small a space.
There is good, solid storage spaces which are beautifully crafted and will last, maintenance free, for the lifetime of the boat.
The galley and the nav station are both generously proportioned with a good chart table and good stowage.
Overall the 340 was a delight to sail and a beautifully finished sailboat. The overall package will appeal to the discerning owner who knows a quality investment. It is little wonder that this brand is doing so well in the UK and Europe with number 30 currently in build in Sweden. Four 340s have been sold in Britain through Hamble based Arcona Yachts UK.