When I first saw the Essence 33 advertised in a magazine I was immediately drawn by its classic lines which resemble so much my classic gaff cutter designed in 1896 by Scottish designer G.L. Watson. The plumb bow and counter stern combined with a low coach roof have a never ending beauty and are lines which never seem to look dated.
I had been looking for a number of years for a fast easy to handle classic day sailing yacht and looked at the Morris Yachts M36, the Saffier yachts SC 10, Eagle 36, Rustler and others but it was the lines described above combined with superb sailing ability and build quality that got me signing on the dotted line with Essence Yachts.
My boat is hull number four, I was fortunate to test sail hull number two during Les Voiles in Saint Tropez in October 2014 then hull number three in Holland shortly thereafter. Having sailed on these two boats it was an easy decision to confirm my order and having just taken delivery of my boat, hull number four, I can say I am more than satisfied with that decision.
The Essence 33 is exactly what I was looking for, fast but safe sailing, very easy single handed but also great with friends and family. The space on board both above and below deck is impressive, two people can lie down on the cushions aft of the helm over the counter stern and the cockpit seats are huge, this is what you get when you sacrifice space below normally used up with galleys and stern cabins. Having said that the space below is equally impressive made even more so by the very clean modern interior design and finish. There is the basic necessity of a toilet, wash basin and storage with the V berth forward and two excellent single berths port and starboard which make great seating with full headroom. For day sailing and the occasional few nights away it is ideal.
The best thing though about the Essence 33 is the sailing, if the sails are not under the covers it takes five minutes or less to get going, I don’t think the engine will get much use. Just with the jib she sails incredibly fast and is so maneuverable you gain confidence very quickly. Hoisting and setting the main is a piece of cake and in 25 knots true wind with full main she is a safe boat gently turning into the wind when overpowered and I am sure with the main reefed she would feel even more well behaved. Before buying the boat I was a little concerned she would be too much of a race / competition type boat but I know now she can be both, racy and sedate.
The ergonomics on board are so well thought out, everything is where is should be like winches on the inside so you are not leaning over the edge the whole time and the hydraulics for the back stay, main vang and outhaul is beautifully designed and simple to use.
During the weekend I took delivery of hull number four we were fortunate to have wonderful conditions, sunshine and all levels of wind. In light air she is a dream hardly needing more than a whisper of wind to move her elegantly along, in moderate winds she is an absolute joy to play with the trim settings and in strong wind she feels superbly solid and well balanced, you never feel in danger.
Helming the boat is a joy, very precise and well balanced. My old classic gaff cutter is tiller steering and I asked Michel if he would build a tiller version for me instead of the wheel and he wisely told me to try the wheel version first and I have no regrets. Tiller steering has always been my preference however you would lose a lot of space in the main cockpit and for me that was not something I wanted to compromise on.
The boat is so well built you don’t hear a single creak under the stresses and strains of hard sailing and she is a surprisingly dry boat, the coach house roof remained dry even in the 25 knot wind. For the first time on the water we were anticipating a few things might need adjusting but right out of the box she was perfect, the only things we discussed changing or improving were cosmetic like where to put the Bose music player, a cooler box and choice of cushions etc.
Because I prefer classic yachts to pure modern racing yachts I went for a colour scheme which reflects that preference. I had an idea on the colour before talking to Michel but he took me to see a boat in a marina close to the Essence yard and told me I was going to like what he was going to show me. He was right; the Castle Ten colour is both classic and modern at the same time and brings out the modern and classic lines of the Essence 33 just perfectly giving the boat the modern classic look I was looking to achieve.
I was also adamant the sails and all ropes had to match the colour scheme and am pleased that the Quantum sails with the Taffeta finish blend so well with the overall colour scheme. I was struggling to find the right cushions but then I spotted them on the swing chair on the dock outside Michels house so I quietly snatched them and placed them on the cockpit seats, I am hoping Michels dear wife Brigitte is going to let me keep them!
The varnished cap rails is a personal thing, hull numbers two and three look just as nice left unvarnished but they have more modern colour schemes and styling. Hull number one is a traditional white hull and looks great with the varnish and for me I think the varnish on mine just finishes off the classic look.
My family has always been into boats, in the fleet right now is a Drascombe Lugger on which I learned to sail many years ago and she is still going strong today, my classic gaff cutter mentioned at the beginning and my Father has a 70ft Sweden Yacht ketch which is for sale now as he treated himself to a retirement gift last year a Swan 115ft. In between these boats many others have come and gone and I can honestly say that sailing the Essence 33 is the most fun I have had thus far.
The Essence is not a cheap boat but you really get what you pay for in terms of quality build and superb sailing ability. You also get a team of extremely knowledgeable people in the Essence factory and Michel Hof and his family are some of the nicest people you will ever meet making the whole experience even more fun.
The boat is so aptly named because she really comprises the “Essence of Sailing”.
Thanks to all the team at Essence Yachts and I hope you sell many more.