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M52 yacht provides a high-tech daysail in San Francisco

Compass

The best way I can compliment the Morris M52 yacht, for all her aesthetic and functional assets, is probably this: I was able to operate her with ease, and I’d never steered a sailboat in my life.

No, the 52-foot beauty wasn’t mine to keep – I’m still saving up the $1.3 million required to buy one. But last week, the second M52 ever built took a sail around San Francisco Bay for her christening, and Morris invited me aboard. I was rewarded with the nautical equivalent of a weekend ride in a Mercedes S-Class. I’m told that sailing is usually more difficult than this.

Like a luxury sedan, the M52 is designed for comfort and easy handling – easy enough for a crew of one to do the work and entertain passengers. She looks vintage on the outside, but she’s all high tech on the inside, with a self-tacking jib, electric winches to set or stow the sail, and hydraulic-assisted furling. The helm is all the way aft and all control lines lead from below deck to arm’s reach. Short of sailing with T-Pain, I can’t imagine another boat this baller.

Even on the choppy San Francisco waters, which were a little calmer this day, our group of eight mostly lounged around the cockpit and deck without feeling a thing. I was relieved to get a good splash near the end. For serious sailing or racing, you’d probably still want help, but for our purposes, one person at the helm was plenty – even when I took it for 10 minutes. All I had to do was steer, but I had an easier time sailing toward Alcatraz than I’ve had looking for parking in Russian Hill.

This kind of setup might turn off old-school sailors who want the challenges of hands-on sailing or racing, but that’s not the target audience for the M52 or her M Series sisters. She’s designed for smooth weekend sailing, making other yachters jealous and working on your tan.

Visually, the M52 (this one was christened the Audacity) stood out like a supermodel among the other boats docked at the yacht club. Her long lines and overhang can be admired from far away, but up close I was sucked in by the sunlit glow of the teak deck. I’m told the yacht took 10 months to build, and I can see how.

There was one eerie postscript to my ride. I was stoked to sail within shouting distance of boats driven by the Oracle and Artemis teams, who were training for the America’s Cup. Two days later, Team Artemis’ other boat, a high-tech catamaran, capsized near Treasure Island, resulting in the death of an Olympic-champion sailor. For a novice like me, it was an eerie warning of what can happen on the water, no matter the experience level.

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