At an ask over two million well-fed Aussie dollars the Buizen 52 isn’t for everyone, but its builders didn’t ever intend it to be. The Terrey Hills (Sydney) factory can produce, at most, two hand-built masterpieces per year, so a long order queue would be an embarrassment. The plus side of this rarity is the value of owning an exclusive — like having a genuine Rodin.
My intro to the brand-new Buizen 52 was at Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club in Newport, Sydney. Buizen’s director, Steve Howe, told me I wouldn’t have any trouble finding the boat and he was spot-on. Moored stern-to, with its folding swimplatform/garage door open, the new creation was eye-popping. No-one — not even the scurrying crew and skippers heading out for Wednesday afternoon gentlemen’s racing — walked past without stopping and gazing, open mouthed, at the burnt-orange Buizen. No less a yachting personage than Bob Oatley was seen admiring the glistening new craft.
The Buizen 52 may only be a metre-plus longer than the successful 48, but it’s in a different league. Where the 48 is a boat with a large pilothouse and smallish cockpit the 52 has a large pilothouse and a huge cockpit. Both boats can handle global cruising, but the 52 can also be an entertainer.
NOTHING BUT THE BEST
Ascend the standard ladder and step through one of the boarding gates onto the Buizen’s ample sidedeck and you enter a world where quality rules. Every fitting, every surface, every joint is worked to the highest standard. There are virtually no options — almost everything we saw on the fully equipped test boat is standard, including fully laid teak decking, dodger, bimini and zip-on infill panel.
The cockpit is dominated by a polished, folding teak table that disappears inside a double pedestal structure with full handrail. The table and pedestal are cruising-tough, in contrast to the flimsy folding table arrangements on many modern boats. It’s an easy walk aft to twin steering wheels and binnacles, where pushpit thwarts raise seating capacity to 10. The binnacles are carbon fibre-faced works of art, housing many duplicated functions, including power winch and engine controls.
The transom door/swimplatform lowers hydraulically, with access by a stainless ladder that doubles as a transom rail gate. Alternative access to the platform is via the garage, thorough a huge cockpit hatch.
At the forward end of the cockpit there’s a footwell, between two mouldings with teak tops that make excellent under-dodger storage or serving spaces. The companionway is sealed by a glass-panelled door, with folding glass top section and flanked by two opening windows. With the glazed doors opened there’s a two-step walkthrough between saloon and cockpit, and it’s very easy for the cook and barman to put items on the serving surfaces, without having to enter the cockpit: an ideal entertaining layout.
However, there’s inevitable compromise when a sleek coach house is set atop a high saloon floor, so head height is restricted in the walkway. The test boat had a deep ceiling beam under the mainsheet traveller, but the beam section is being slimmed in future production boats, to improve headroom.
The saloon features a U-shaped dinette with coffee table to port and a settee to starboard, but the table can be raised, opened and swivelled to convert it into a dining table, effectively connecting port and starboard seating around the table. There’s a 360-degree view from the table, thanks to the glazed cockpit connection, large saloon windows and windscreens.
Buizens are noted for pilothouse steering and the 52’s steering station is to starboard, complete with armrest chair, duplicated engine controls and instruments and chartplotter display. A large windscreen wiper blade keeps this section of the front glass water-free.
Storage cupboards and under-lounge bins are provided, but ‘blind’ cupboard door catches help preserve a smooth, uninterrupted wood finish. Naturally, a large-screen TV powers up, when required, from its cupboard home.
Two steps, with integrated storage drawers, lead from the saloon, down to a two-part galley/servery. This area occupies most of the available boat beam and is split into a starboard section, with sink, Corian benchtop and cupboards, and a port section with sink, U-shaped benchtop, full-size fridge and gimballed electric microwave/convection oven and ceramic cooktop. This area is also home to a washer-dryer and dishwasher, and natural light streams in through the coach house windscreens.
Forward of the galley is the owner’s cabin, with separate shower and toilet, behind a sliding door. The cabin has an integrated desk, with pouffe seating.
Two aft cabins, each with identical shower/head modules, are accessed via semi-spiral stairways from the saloon. The standard layout is for one to have a double bed and the other two singles, but optional configurations, including an office module instead of beds, are available.
The ambience below decks is homelike, rather than overtly nautical. Fit and finish is as good as it gets. American oak panelling and floorboards dominate, with skirtings and architraves highlighted by the use of contrasting African rosewood. There are obviously cheaper timber alternatives, but they were never considered!
Door catches are either ‘blind’, recessed types, or small stainless steel units that work with little effort. Practical stuff, like circuit breakers, plumbing and mechanical necessities are all concealed behind easily-opened, tight-fitting access panels that deny the entry of smells and noise into the interior. There are none of the floor and panel creaks common in production boats.
Air-conditioning via four separate, water-cooled, reverse-cycle units is standard and the air outlets and returns are beautifully integrated into the joinery, making them difficult to spot.
The Buizen 52’s interior feels isolated from the dynamics necessary to make a boat function simply because the boat is so well made: it’s heavily built to ISO 12215 standards, to absorb sailing and mechanical stress and vibration without disturbing the structure.
Hull construction employs vacuum-infused vinylester resins with multi e-glass biaxial and Kevlar laminates, and end-grain balsa coring above the waterline. Deck construction is Divinycell foam core, with handlaid multi biaxial e-glass laminates.
All Buizen 52s are finished with AwlGrip 2000 epoxy paint for a flawless finish. Standard colour is white, but the test boat was a stunning burnt orange that turned the heads of passing sailors on Pittwater. Deck and coach house finish is gelcoat and the test boat deviated from standard white, with a cream that contrasted perfectly with the hull colour.
The standard keel-stepped, triple-spreader mast and boom are aluminium extrusions, but carbon is an option. The test boat’s spars were finished in black gloss that aped carbon, but boat number two has been ordered with the carbon option. Rigging on the test boat was Dyform wire, but rod is optional. An hydraulic backstay ram is standard equipment.
Standard kit includes a NZ-made Leisure Furl mainsail furling and reefing boom, with electro-hydraulic control and manual roller backup. The test boat’s boom was formed in aluminium, but carbon is available. An LED cockpit light is integrated into the underside of the boom.
Although the mechanicals, electricals and plumbing are well muffled and hidden, there are obviously plenty of them, given the boat’s comprehensive equipment list. We started our check in the engineroom, which is accessed through two large lift-up floor hatches in the saloon.
A cabbage-sized turbocharger helps the 3.5lt Yanmar pump out 160hp — 124hp continuous — and in the Buizen 52 it runs a 140amp 24V alternator for house-battery charging and an 80amp 12V alternator for the engine and generator starting battery. (House batteries are eight 6V, delivering 400amp at 24V). Also in the engine bay is an Onan 9.5kVa generator.
The propeller shaft is easily accessible and regular service items are well laid out: the overall impression is that of a small-ship engineroom.
In another mechanical space, between the aft cabins, is room for a watermaker and access to the engine exhaust system and pong box.
The electrical system is divided among digitally-switched sub-boards throughout the boat; all accessed via blind-catch cupboards.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
A turbocharger improves diesel engine efficiency and fuel consumption, and also reduces noise. The Buizen 52’s Yanmar was almost inaudible at idle and in its normal operating range. The Max Power retractable bowthruster made its presence felt, but was not as loud as most.
The Buizen 52 comes standard with a Gori ‘overdrive’ folding propeller that effectively gives the boat a low-rev cruising mode to improve fuel economy and reduce engine noise. After manoeuvring the big craft out of its tight berth, using bowthruster and full prop ‘bite’, it was a simple transfer into overdrive, by going astern briefly, to alter prop pitch and then steaming ahead once more. We didn’t run the brand-new engine near WOT, yet saw 8.4 effortless knots on the SOG readout. More is obviously available.
Making sail was done remotely, once furling lines and halyards were loaded onto the appropriate, powered Harken winches. Buttons on the steering binnacles allowed the helmsperson to control pretty much everything remotely.
The helm feel, from either wheel station or in the pilothouse, was heavy, but stable, making the linkage ideal for cruising, where the helmsperson isn’t looking to make tiny race-adjustments all the time.
The Buizen 52 comes standard with a Hood self-tacking jib and fully-battened mainsail. Mid-boom sheeting with mainsheet led under the deck to aft winches keeps rope tails out of the cockpit and on the test boat they were due to be further tidied by a pair of rope bags.
With only 130m² of easily-handled sail area and a displacement around 21 tonnes the Buizen 52 is never going to be an around-the-cans flyer, nor is it intended to be. However, in 10 to 12kts of easterly breeze it hovered around the 5.5- to 6-knot mark when on the wind and climbed over 6kts with sheets eased. A reaching sail with snuffer would be a good investment for passagemakers, we think.
Shortening or furling sails could hardly have been easier and the roller-boom system worked much better in all respects than in-mast furling. It also meant that the main had a decent shape, without the bed-sheet flatness necessary to make in-mast furling work well.
The only jarring note in the vessel’s stately progress was the noise from the autopilot servos. The system worked accurately, but the sound intruded.
As we said at the outset, it doesn’t get any better than this. The Buizen 52 proves that Australian design, construction and craftsmanship can match anything available around the globe. It’s a product of which this nation can be proud.
AT THE HELM
The Buizen 52 has a solid helm feel and holds direction under power or sail. Remote power control of anchor windlass and thruster makes mooring and manoeuvring easy.
Most sail handling can be done remotely from the helm, and power winches with remote binnacle-mounted buttons allow one-person control of most functions.
Vision through the pilothouse screen of from the twin cockpit wheels, through the dodger clears, is excellent.
Buizen yachts have established an enviable reputation for quality and cruising ability, and this situation can only be enhanced by the arrival of the new 52 model. The 48’s cruising credentials haven’t been compromised, but the 52’s larger pilothouse and cockpit expands the marque’s appeal to those who simply want the best.
The design team speaks out
“The new Buizen 52 reflects modern thinking, having good freeboard, upright stem to increase waterline length and a broad transom for spaciousness both above and below,” says Will Hardcastle from Peter Lowe Design, naval architects.
“Particular attention has been paid to keeping the sailing lines well balanced, producing a boat that is a delight to steer both upwind and down.
“Buizen has taken advantage of the latest construction techniques and the result is a hull that is stronger, lighter and stiffer.
“Extensive use of a newly-installed computer-controlled router table has enabled a magnificent interior and optimised many ‘behind the scenes’ components.
“We would like to congratulate Steve and his team at Buizen for producing a striking, world class yacht. Few boats can stand inspection so closely as does the new 52,” said Hardcastle.
“Given the reputation and pedigree of Buizen Yachts, the brief to design the deck, superstructure and interior of the new 52 was an exciting project,” said Anthony Starr Design.
“We had to create a modern, world-class cruising yacht that would be easily recognisable as a Buizen; retain the raised pilothouse design of the famous 48; maintain the structural integrity, functionality and sea-kindliness synonymous with a Buizen; and to have a modern, stylish interior that retained classic, bespoke, handmade appeal.
“I think our input, coupled with the legendary craftsmanship and attention to detail for which Buizen Yachts are famous, has produced a truly world-class, Australian-made yacht that offers its owners all the comfort and luxury expected by today’s discerning cruising yacht-people,” said the design firm.
PRICE AS TESTED
4kW Raymarine radar and sat dome TV reception
MATERIAL: Vinylester balsa sandwich hull and Divinycell-cored deck. Hull below waterline solid laminate.
LENGTH OVERALL: 15.85m
WATERLINE LENGTH: 14.2m
BALLAST: 6000kg (lead bulb)
BERTHS: Three doubles (other aft-cabin layouts optional)
FUEL: 1380lt (two tanks)
WATER: 785lt (two tanks plus standard water-maker)
WATER HEATER: 40lt
HEADSAIL: 53.6m² (self-tacking)
MAKE/MODEL: Yanmar 4LHA
RATED HP: 160
PROP: Folding three-blade ‘overdrive’ pitch
Buizen Pilot House Yachts,
Mastercraft Marine Pty Ltd,
57 Myoora Road,
Terrey Hills, NSW, 2084
Phone: (02) 9450 2170
From Trade-a-Boat Issue 426, Apr-May, 2012. Photos by Allan Whiting; Andrea Francolini.