2026 Downwind Circumnavigation Boat Choice: Amel 50 sloop or Amel 55 ketch?


Fred Vitale
 

I'm facing a pivotal decision on whether to purchase a new Amel 50 (contract delivery already Spring 2025) or a used Amel 55 (availability very limited and unknown in current market).  The big question I have is for any members of the Amel family who have owned an Amel ketch (53/54/55) AND have also spent time aboard the Amel 50 and could attest to the difference between the ketch versus sloop rig.  Are the ketch’s universally accepted advantages of sail balance/stability and comfort a "game changer" recognizing reefing an Amel is easily achieved by push button from the protected cockpit?  Should this be a critical decision factor for our planned circumnavigation?  I have sailed a Beneteau 473 offshore many years and understand the advantages of the sloop in terms of speed and upwind performance but those are not our priorities for this trip.  Any insights to this important decision are welcome.

 


Bruno COTTE
 

It was exactly my dilemma . After test on A 50 it is more modern but I think less adapted for circumnavigation ( fridges are perpendicular to the axis  as example )it is 1/3 to 50% more expensive than a vey recent A 55. 
The A 55 is more spacious . Some items are less easy ( cleaning the bilge as example ) but is for me more confortable at sea but the interior is globally less optimised than on the A 50. 
I crossed many times the Atlantic and once the pacific . With advanced furlers no problem with a sloop ( my pacific crossing was with a sloop with 26 m mast and I was just with my wife ) 
Thé ketch seems easier to handle as with electrical winches and furlers it is less and less true ) the mizzen is however more practical to pick up an engine in the lazaret than the sloop with its extension in the boom . Moreover I prefer a rudder with a good skeg than 2 rudders on the sloop … at the end I have bought an Amel 55#63 from end 2017 with the 2 aft cabins configurations last year but definitely the Amel 50 could have been also a good choice . For me the last points which made my decision was the delivery schedule and the 50% more for the A 50 with all the options I wished ) 
Concerning sailing my conclusion is that it is as a colour choice both approaches have advantages and weakness … 

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Le 16 janv. 2022 à 17:08, Fred Vitale <fredvitale@...> a écrit :

I'm facing a pivotal decision on whether to purchase a new Amel 50 (contract delivery already Spring 2025) or a used Amel 55 (availability very limited and unknown in current market).  The big question I have is for any members of the Amel family who have owned an Amel ketch (53/54/55) AND have also spent time aboard the Amel 50 and could attest to the difference between the ketch versus sloop rig.  Are the ketch’s universally accepted advantages of sail balance/stability and comfort a "game changer" recognizing reefing an Amel is easily achieved by push button from the protected cockpit?  Should this be a critical decision factor for our planned circumnavigation?  I have sailed a Beneteau 473 offshore many years and understand the advantages of the sloop in terms of speed and upwind performance but those are not our priorities for this trip.  Any insights to this important decision are welcome.

 


Nick Newington
 

Hi Fred,

I have no experience of the Amel 50, but my biased opinion is that the ketches are more suitable for a circumnavigation.

This is not to do with the ketch rig as such but to the overall ethos of the vessels. Although I like the ketch rig. I can drop the genoa and fold it on deck alone (not very well) but it is already the maximum weight I can lift. The lower centre of effort is also great at sea….but this is not my point.


The Amel production has evolved from an ocean cruising boat, designed to withstand the rigours of long distance sailing to vessels that are more voluminous, wider with higher topsides.

In my opinion the older ketches offer better compromises  for ocean cruising including:

Sea berths V double bedrooms.

Moderate freeboard, allowing crew to climb up the topside from a dinghy or floating pontoon. Climbing up the back steps in a large sea is no fun…V the contrary

Moderate beam V very wide vessels

Extremely rugged skeg mounted rudder V twin rudders that have no skegs. 

C drive and protected location of the prop, that is deep in the water. My 54 can motor in very high seas. I suspect the new 50 would chop air in such conditions.

Tough rubbing strake that also helps climbing up from a dinghy V no rubbing strake.

The new 50 is more voluminous and certainly more lux but I suspect as with all things there has been a trade off, and for a circumnavigation I would go for an older ketch.



As I say I am a biased 54 owner and believe that the 54 is really a first class ocean cruiser

Nick 

S/Y Amelia

AMl 54-019



On 16 Jan 2022, at 16:08, Fred Vitale <fredvitale@...> wrote:

I'm facing a pivotal decision on whether to purchase a new Amel 50 (contract delivery already Spring 2025) or a used Amel 55 (availability very limited and unknown in current market).  The big question I have is for any members of the Amel family who have owned an Amel ketch (53/54/55) AND have also spent time aboard the Amel 50 and could attest to the difference between the ketch versus sloop rig.  Are the ketch’s universally accepted advantages of sail balance/stability and comfort a "game changer" recognizing reefing an Amel is easily achieved by push button from the protected cockpit?  Should this be a critical decision factor for our planned circumnavigation?  I have sailed a Beneteau 473 offshore many years and understand the advantages of the sloop in terms of speed and upwind performance but those are not our priorities for this trip.  Any insights to this important decision are welcome.

 



Bob Grey
 

Hi Fred, I have been sailing an A55 for 7 years, and am currently planning my delayed circumnavigation, had to make do with around Australia during Covid. 


I am struggling to see any benefit in the 50 and 60 for RTW, although if you were not running downwind and wanting to be like 5% of sailors and circumnavigate eastwards not westwards it would make sense with a boat that looks like it’s made for beating to windward.

I personally am of the view that retired gentlemen don’t go there if it’s not blowing there. The Amel ketch designs really do perform off the wind, greater than 60 deg apparent which usually means 80 deg true. The 55 probably point to windward better than any previous Amel but it’s not enjoyable in anything above 15-18 knots.

Bob Grey
Amel 55 #25
Renaissance III


Fred Vitale
 

Dear Bob, Nick, Bruno and Justin,

 

Many thanks to each of you for sharing insights!  Because ROW is the purpose of this boat I am more inclined towards the 54 or 55.  The decision is not yet final but you have each helped clarify the choice.

Fred


Joerg Esdorn
 

Fred, I've owned my 55 since 2016 and covered some 14000 miles in the Med and the North Atlantic.  I've also test sailed the 50 in very light airs.  I will try to give you my unbiased opinion.  I like the 50 - the cockpit is great, better than on any of the prior Amels, including the 55.  The salon is more comfortable and livable at anchor and in harbor than on the 55 and any of the prior Amels.  At sea, you likely miss the sea berth of the 55, the better chart table and the linear galley and open layout of the 50 are less advantageous.  However, 95% of a circumnavigation is spent at anchor and owners of Oysters - which have a similar layout - don't complain about being uncomfortable at sea.  You will also miss the extra storage of the 55 both on and below deck.

From a sailing perspective, I think the 50 will be a bit faster upwind but about the same speed on most other angles of sail as the 55.  The 55 is deceptively fast on a reach even in very light airs.  The sloop rig is easier to handle than the ketch rig of the 55 – every tack and jibe I have to deal with the mizzen in addition to the main and jib.  Downwind on the 55 the mizzen blankets the main if you’re sailing very deep (160 degrees TWA or more) so you will want to take it down or take down the main, for example if you have the Parasailor or asymmetric spinnaker up.  On the 50, in those cases you will take down the main so I’m not sure it’s a big difference.  I personally like to play with the sails and there’s more to play with on the 55!  


There are other differences that are important.  The Amel drive of the 55 is quite a bit quieter than the standard prop on the 50 - the prop does its thing much removed from the hull.  When I tested the 50, the difference was quite noticeable, particularly in the aft cabin where you will sleep on the 50.  On the other hand, it’s a pain in the neck having to service the Amel drive every 800 hours.  The skeg of the 55 makes for a very solid rudder although orcas have also managed to eat up the skegged rudder of a Super Maramu.  On the positive side, the double rudders of the 50 should improve control under autopilot downwind or on a reach in heavy air.  

 

I hope this is helpful.  I’d be happy to discuss more on the phone if you’d like.

Joerg Esdorn
A55 #53 Kincsem
Currently in La Rochelle


Justin Maguire
 

You’re very welcome Fred! It’s a big decision - love that you’re really doing your homework. :-)


On Jan 17, 2022, at 09:46, Fred Vitale <fredvitale@...> wrote:



Dear Bob, Nick, Bruno and Justin,

 

Many thanks to each of you for sharing insights!  Because ROW is the purpose of this boat I am more inclined towards the 54 or 55.  The decision is not yet final but you have each helped clarify the choice.

Fred


Bruno COTTE
 

In terms of global practicality and easy maintenance it is very easy :
The A50 is better than the 55 which is better than the 54
In terms of pure equipment quality after the big problems with the A 54 furlers from Bamar Amel decided to take the best with Reckman for A 55…. But they are very very expensive ! Consequently they took Facnor for the A 50 … Honestly I am not fan . 
In terms of engine the VW of the A 54 I don’t like , Yanmar is the best Volvo is ok …on the A55 some exotic engines choices make them quite difficult to maintain as the worldwide network for these engines is quite poor … Volvo again is not the best but good in any domain . For the rest You have all the thoughts of us … 
Good choice ….

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Le 17 janv. 2022 à 18:46, Fred Vitale <fredvitale@...> a écrit :



Dear Bob, Nick, Bruno and Justin,

 

Many thanks to each of you for sharing insights!  Because ROW is the purpose of this boat I am more inclined towards the 54 or 55.  The decision is not yet final but you have each helped clarify the choice.

Fred