This 13-metre fills a gap in the Dutch builder’s line-up with a model that everyone seems to love. Kevin Koenig discovers a boat that marries superlative engineering with a stealth wealth aesthetic...
At this point, Wajer Yachts should be a case study for Harvard Business School. The three-decade-old builder has hurdled its way up the food chain, from marketing smallish lake boats to becoming the 360-kilo gorilla in the superyacht tender market, thanks partly to a “stealth wealth” aesthetic that has become so en vogue over the past few years. There isn’t much flash to a Wajer – and yet, just as the tiny label on a Loro Piana peacoat advertises by not advertising, a Wajer tied up at the dock seems to whisper: there might be a Lürssen nearby.
The builder’s latest entry into this rarefied world is the 44. It slips sweetly in between the existing 38 and 55 models, while taking some design cues from the Wajer flagship, the 77. Company brass thinks this is their greatest launch yet.
“Just from looking at the proportions, this is the best one,” says Wajer’s director of operations Ronald van Hulst. “The width, length and freeboard height work together so well; this is our most beautiful boat.”
Van Hulst’s boss, managing director Dries Wajer, echoes his sentiments. “We take this one down the Intracoastal [waterway] and people literally chase us down everywhere, asking questions. It’s a real head turner,” he says.
I’d have to agree with the Dutchmen’s assessment; this is my favourite Wajer too and aesthetics play a large part in that. In conjunction with Sinot Yacht Architecture & Design, the builder is excelling at a waterborne form of bonsai, imbuing small things with artful design. A flared bow section flows effortlessly past a low-profile windshield and pools all its visual energy in the boat’s well-tumblehomed aft section, which looks like the hindquarters of a jaguar waiting to pounce. It’s a purposeful design choice, heightened by a knuckle line borrowed from the 77 and which, to my eye, imitates the lines of a Porsche 911. When painted in the shimmering, dark green of the test boat I see, it’s a very tough package to beat.
The 44’s appeal extends beyond its good looks and into its performance. At the wheel I see a considerable top end of 38 knots, though we spend the majority of the sea trial cruising in the 30-knot pocket where the twin Volvo Penta IPS 650s are quite happy. Steering is responsive in turns and I particularly enjoy the athletic burst the boat shows when accelerating out of tight ones. It’s at a size that is optimal for the at-the-wheel experience too. I think the gusty Mediterranean two-footers I see on test day in Cannes would have bashed the 38 around somewhat, while wheeling the 55 in those conditions would be a muted experience. The 44 offers a good medium between the two – a comfortable ride, soft and dry – that also keeps things interesting.
She is also very quiet, thanks to Wajer’s focus on sound dampening – soft engine mounts, extra insulation, double hatches and a windshield design that cocoons the helm seat in silence. I posted a video of myself driving the 44 to my Instagram and in it I am talking to the camera as if I was in my own living room, despite bopping along at 30 knots in an open boat. A simple but effective touch here is a vent in the centre of the windshield that offers air circulation without the deafening roar of wind.
The one criticism of this boat you will hear is that the interior space is limited, and that’s not without merit, even by Dries Wajer’s account. “A challenge with a design like this is to optimise space; we need to squeeze out the last centimetre,” he says. “There is so much curvature that the mould needs to be made out of several pieces just so we can get it out. With something so beautiful we simply can’t go for max volume. Design is number one for Wajer and after that it’s practical capabilities. We don’t start with a design that looks like a toilet. You buy a sports car because it looks awesome, not because you are taking it to the grocery store to load it up.”
As for the accommodation space, he has more thoughts. “You could spend two or three nights sleeping on board, but no one does. You’d have to really be in love with your wife to do that,” he says with a laugh. “If you want a 44 with beautiful sleeping arrangements, buy the 55.”
And with the 44 the experience is rather exhilarating. With few exceptions, you’d be hard-pressed to find a yacht in this class that gets so many of the little things right. With styling that shows no signs of ever looking outdated, what we may have with the Wajer 44 is the makings of a new classic.Read More/Wajer 77: On board the boat that seduced NFL legend Tom Brady
First published in the February 2024 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.