Though out of production since 1987, this French cruiser receives high marks from owners who appreciate high quality construction, comfortable accommodations belowdecks, and a seakindly motion. It stands in stark contrast to the rounded, modern designs and flashy interiors currently produced by French manufacturers.
Chantier Henri Wauquiez, of Lille, France, was formed and commenced producing boats in the 1960’s, when Henry Wauquiez became so enamored with the sailing characteristics of his personal sailboat, the Holman and Pye-designed Elizabethan 29, that he received a license to produce the boat in France.
Within a year, the boat became popular in France and established the firm’s reputation as a builder of solid, fast cruising boats. In ensuing years, Wauquiez commissioned Holman-Pye to design the Victorian 28, which competed successfully in the quarter ton world championships, and several cruising sloops ranging in size from 32-47 feet, including the Pretorien 35, built between 1979 and 1986. Other designs included the Chance 37, which dominated the European production boat racing circuit from 1972-75, and the Wauquiez Hood 38, which was designed by Ted Hood. That boat was later produced in the United States as the Ted Hood Little Harbor 38 (Hood’s personal boat Robin) and the Bristol 38; American versions typically had the same underbody but different deck configurations. Others included the 33′ Gladiateur and 43′ Amphitrite.
Like many yards of this vintage, Wauquiez experienced financial difficulties tied to foreign exchange rates, national politics that affected the French economy, and competition from lower-priced competitors. The company thrived from 1965-1982, when it went into receivership. It emerged from bankruptcy in 1983 and produced 200 boats from 1982-87, many of which were sold in the US. When the dollar plummeted in 1988 the US market evaporated, and the company refocused its efforts on domestic production and sales to charter fleets in the Mediterranean.
Wauquiez brought in Olivier Prouvost as a financial partner in 1987, but the union was not a happy one. Wauquiez eventually left the company. Prouvost operated the company until 1997, when he sold it to Beneteau. With favorable foreign exchange rates again a reality, the company has made a renewed commitment to selling new boats in the United States. At this writing, Discovery Yachts of Seattle holds the only dealership in the US. The market for used Pretoriens has remained strong throughout the uncertain economic times.
The profile of the Pretorien 35, like most of the company’s designs, is similar to that seen in Baltic, Swan and Sweden yachts. We think the boat is stylishly traditional. The fine entry is not as radical as the current Farr designs, for example, but its flush decks and flowing sheerline present a fine shape, and the interior is brightened by light colored woods, ports and hatches.
Yacht designer Mark Mills, a specialist in the design of performance yachts, comments that, “The boat shares characteristics of many early-80’s designs when IOR design dominated the cruiser/racer market, as represented by the somewhat pinched stern section and large-foretriangle masthead rig. The external keel contains a reassuring volume of lead, and the 46% ballast ratio will produce a stiffer, more seakindly ride. Though not overly heavy, the D/L (displacement/length) ratio of 225 fits the displacement profile of a traditional cruiser perfectly and promises significant interior volume. It is a well-built, solid cruiser with undemanding ways.”
Wauquiez constructs solid fiberglass hulls, laid up by hand, that consist of several layers of bi-directional fiberglass. Six longitudinal stiffeners that run the entire length of the boat are glassed in and integrated to fiberglass beams running athwartships that provide additional structural integrity. Bulkheads are bonded to the hull and deck. The bonds are reinforced by a technique not often seen on other boats: Holes are drilled in the bulkhead to allow additional fiberglass strips to run from the hull through the holes to the hull on the opposite side of the bulkhead. (Shannon is another company that uses this method.)
The Pretorien was built prior to the use of vinylester resins (proven superior to polyester for preventing blistering) for the outer laminations, and one owner reported minor blistering problems. As with any older used boat, we suggest a thorough bottom evaluation.
The modified fin keel—6,000 lbs. of lead—is fitted to a keel stub, and bolted to the hull with 3/4″ stainless bolts and two nuts on each. The rudder is attached to a skeg running aft from the keel, and mounted on a stainless steel bearing assembly. Because the rudder is well aft, and deep, it provides solid steering power in heavy seas and winds.
The deck is balsa cored, which was unusual for European boats of this vintage, except in areas where hardware is to be attached, where it is solid fiberglass. The hull/deck joint is a flanged arrangement that is glassed over and reinforced by stainless steel fasteners. The toe rail and stanchion bases are also fastened through this joint.
The engine compartment is well insulated from the sounds of the 23-hp. or 28-hp. Volvo diesels that were original equipment. One owner commented that the 23-hp. engine moves the boat at 6 knots in calm waters, but slows dramatically in wind or current, so the larger engine may be the preferred powerplant.
The boat is designed to be equipped with a saildrive, and several owners described problems with electrolysis of the aluminum underwater unit. One owner told us that his engine was improperly bonded to the ground system. Another said the AC electrical system was bonded to the ground. Any such installation should be examined thoroughly to avoid potential problems. Many owners change the zinc at six-month intervals, or have divers inspect the unit every 90 days.
Some boats were imported with a conventional drive shaft. However, this reportedly resulted in dramatically angled propeller shafts, which aren’t very efficient. The saildrive, by comparison, provides perfectly horizontal thrust.
We don’t like the position of the batteries, which are located beneath the port quarterberth, because they take up handy storage space and are located too far aft. However, owners told us that the additional weight to port was offset by gear stored in the starboard lazarette.
Each boat produced in the Wauquiez factory undergoes a water test prior to shipment. Boats are launched in a pond and undergo 24 hours of continuous spraying by water hoses to assure they are leakproof.
The cockpit measures 85″ long and 62″ wide at the narrowest point in the stern. Seats are 18″ wide and provide good leg support, but the footwell is narrow at 18″ wide.
One owner told us that the forward location of the Lewmar 46 self-tailing primary winches near the companionway prevented easy sheeting following the installation of a dodger. (This is a commonproblem when a dodger is added.) He moved the winches aft 12″. This also made them more accessible from the steering station
Boats were equipped with wheel steering and a destroyer-style wheel and pedestal with room for a basic instrument package—wind speed, boat speed and depth.
The top of the rudder post is located atop the stern coaming, which facilitates easy attachment of an emergency tiller, which is secured to the hull in a lazarette.
Lazarettes, which are all vented to prevent odors and mildew, are to starboard and in the aft end of the cockpit. The three lazarettes to starboard can be combined to create a space large enough for a life raft. One section is separated by a partial bulkhead that one owner extended vertically to provide a mounting area for a heater. Interestingly, the lazarettes all have the same fine surfaces as the rest of the boat, and have been coated with an epoxy-like material.
The propane tank is in the aft compartment and should be carefully inspected, because boats came from the factory with copper tubing that should be replaced with USCG-approved hoses. Access to the steering quadrant, a beefy stainless steel unit, is via the aft compartment. The fuel tank is below the pedestal.
Wide decks allow easy movement forward, and double lifelines with gates on both sides of the boat are standard equipment. However, the coachroof is so low that it’s a stretch to reach handrails. On the boat we examined, we were impressed that the stainless steel stanchions and other fittings, some more than 13 years old, showed no sign of rust.
Standard equipment included Lewmar 8, 16, and 24 two-speed winches on the mast for the main, jib and spinnaker halyards, and reefing lines. All of the running rigging is inside the mast and booms. Standing rigging includes four pair of shrouds to support the double-spreader mast, a baby stay, and running backstays. One owner said he needed the baby stay to keep the mast from pumping in a breeze.
The anchor locker at the bow is adequate for the storage of 25′ of 5/8″ chain and 500′ of nylon rode. Most boats are equipped with 30- to 35-lb. anchors. Two owners extended the cheeks on the bow roller to prevent their plow anchors from banging against the hull.
Everyone with whom we spoke commented favorably on the boat’s space, quality joinery and finish, and light belowdecks. After inspecting the boat, we agree.
The boat has 6′ 3″ of standing headroom in the saloon, and 6′ 2″ in the forepeak.
All of the wooden surfaces are cherry, which is lighter to the eye than teak or mahogany. With three windows on each side of the cabin, and a 24″ hatch amidships, the space was well-lit on the gray, midwinter morning we did our inspection. Two East Coast owners commented on the need for additional fresh air ventilation and improved circulation. They installed electric fans.
The overhead liner provides an air gap. Wooden covers screwed into the overhead allow access to wiring runs. One owner commented that these covers may need occasional re-fastening because they are prone to dislodging.
As with most aft-cockpit boats, the engine is mounted below the companionway steps, and is easily accessible from the front. Additional access to starboard is via the starboard lazarette, or through a small opening in the port stateroom.
The aft stateroom, which has a hard door, has a wood ceiling and is ventilated by a portlight in the cockpit footwell. A double berth measuring 76″ x 50″ provides space for two average-sized adults. There is a hanging locker, which in some boats also is equipped with a small sink. The space may prove cozy for two adults on an extended passage, but will certainly meet the needs of most casual cruisers, especially those traveling with children.
The nav station is to port, opposite the galley, and the subject of one owner complaint. The table is about 42″ wide and 26″ deep with a shallow storage area, a bit smallish for plotting tools on full-sized charts. There are two shelves for logs and books, and room for instruments on the station’s bulkhead. Finding room for a large CRT or LCD monitor without reorganizing the space would be challenging. There is additional storage below the nav seat and in drawers below the chart table.
Opposite the nav station is the galley, which, like the nav station, comes under criticism for its lack of handholds. The entire space belowdecks is wide open and the only handholds are rails mounted on the overhead. Movement fore and aft might be a bit dicey in rough weather.
The galley is U-shaped, 56″ deep by 46″ wide, the counter of which is accented by ceramic tiles, a Wauquiez trademark. It is equipped with a double stainless steel sink, a gimbaled two burner stove, a 20″ deep dry locker and ice box.
For a 35-footer, the galley has excellent stowage. The area below the sink is large enough for two waste baskets plus cleaning supplies. There’s a plastic tray below the stove that is adequate for some cookery as well as enclosed stowage for dishware behind the stove. A fourth compartment is below the icebox. The icebox measures 43″ by 11″ and is 33″ deep. Insulation is just 2″-3″ thick and may suffer from its close proximity to the engine compartment. One owner covers stores with a thermostatic pad to reduce melting and another removed the box and replaced it with a more substantially insulated smaller unit.
One of the most interesting touches is an opening in the bulkhead behind the icebox that leads to the starboard lazarette. Designed as additional space for foul weather gear, the space has a fresh air vent, or could be warmed by engine heat. This seems a good idea, though the down side is that the gear must be dragged across the icebox.
The saloon has two comfortable places to relax, eat, or sleep. The starboard settee is U-Shaped and houses a double leaf table that provides seating for four to six adults. Additional seating to port is on a second settee 60″ long, which incorporates a 16″ footwell under the nav station for sleeping. The cushion is 25″ wide at its narrowest point and is equipped with a lee cloth.
Several owners complained that the dining table intrudes into the fore and aft passageway, and extends over the settee cushions, requiring some acrobatics to reach the outboard seats. One went so far as to replace the original table with a narrower table. The starboard settee converts to a double berth 78″ long and 48″ wide. There is stowage behind the settees.
Two 33-gallon water tanks are beneath the settees, a plus that puts weight low and amidships.
Both sides of the hull are lined with shelving and stowage areas, one with a wine locker with a wicker door.
The head is to starboard, with doors to both the saloon and forward stateroom. It has hot and cold pressure water faucets, a built-in handheld shower head and Par toilet, all in a compartment marginally large enough for one adult. Stowage is in a large, two door medicine cabinet, and below the sink in an area filled with pipes, hoses and seacocks.
Forward of the saloon is a hanging locker to port and the master stateroom enclosed by a solid wood door. The V-berth, which is 81″ wide and 80″ long, takes up most of the space, though there are shelves and reading lights are on both sides. A hatch provides fresh air ventilation. Overnight cruisers described the space as being comfortable.
Wiring and Plumbing
Except for the exceptions noted above, we like the mechanical systems on this boat. We did, however, find a wiring run in a loom cut through a bulkhead hole that had chafed. We were impressed with the finish of all hidden spaces.
All hoses were double clamped, and bronze seacocks and manifolds are used on all through-hulls.
In an attempt to determine the sailing characteristics, we talked with several present and former owners of Pretorien 35’s and were surprised that their comments fell within a very narrow range. Depending on the sail inventory, the boat needs 6-8 knots of breeze to sail quickly. This is not surprising considering its 15.6 sail area/displacement ratio.
One racer told us that his inventory included only a 135% genoa and that in less than 10-12 knots of wind, performance was dismal. A second owner who participates in Wednesday night fleet racing said that the boat sails to its handicap with 8 knots of breeze and a 150% genoa. In all cases, sailors were using traditional Dacron fabrics; we’d bet that light air performance could be enhanced by lighter, finely tuned laminate sails.
On the other hand, skippers said the boat is dry going to weather in 30 knots of wind. All agreed that the boat points higher than similar 35-foot cruisers. One racer said he sails to within 40° of true wind direction.
Sam Stitt, who cruises his boat in the Northwest, said that the boat is easily balanced on all points of sail, but mentioned that an Autohelm 4000 was inadequate for sailing wing and wing in more than 20 knots of wind because of its slow response time. He purchased the Pretorien after considering a J-36 and Express 37, primarily because it is fast enough for his needs, and more comfortable.
“The boat steers better, with less effort, and more predictably, than any comparably sized boat I have driven. I think that this is one of its most important features, beyond all of the obvious quality and finish attributes,” Stitt said.
A similar sentiment was expressed by Fred Hess, who raced his boat in the single-handed TransPac in 1996. He replaced the Autohelm with a sturdier Alpha autopilot, which he said responded more quickly.
During his 2,000 mile, 14-day passage from San Francisco to Hawaii, Hess said he spent most of his time in the cockpit sunbathing and reading cheap novels while the autopilot and Monitor windvane steered. He described the boat’s motion as ‘seakindly,’ and said that in 12- to 35-knot winds the boat was a sleigh. Sailing with tri-radial and asymmetrical spinnakers, he experienced neither spinouts or round downs. During a race from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, he sailed comfortably with the tri-radial in 45-knot winds.
So, why aren’t more Wauquiez boats plying American waters?
“It’s a matter of economics,” said John Carson of Seattle, who was the leading dealer in the world during the mid-1980’s. “When the dollar plummeted, the price of the boats increased so dramatically they became unaffordable compared to American production boats, or we would still be selling them. I’d go anywhere in one of Henri Wauquiez’ boats.”
We agree with Carson’s assessment. Though BUC Used Boat Price Guide lists prices between about $65,000 and $75,000, the two we found for sale on the West Coast were asking close to $90,000, and one on the East Coast was asking $77,000. Though pricey for a used 35-footer, we think the boat has a lot to recommend it, especially if the bottom survives a careful survey, and if outfitted with new generation electronics and a good sail inventory.