- The 29 Coho is a very convincing distillation of the core qualities that set Windy apart.
- … it offers a driving experience so memorable that the provision of a cabin seems almost absurdly generous.
- It combines the imperious maturity of a high-end express cruiser with a level of handling dexterity, lightness of touch and sporting playfulness that cannot help but make you smile.
- The noise of the V8 is also a pleasurable thing, but at no point does it become intrusive.
Alex Smith drives the successor to Windy’s venerable 28 Ghibli
Notwithstanding their various superyacht-influenced ‘projects’ or their recently revived Draco line, Norwegian sports boat specialists Windy are famous for one very simple thing – fast, cabin-equipped powerboats that handle like true thoroughbreds. The popular and long-serving 28 Ghibli certainly did its part to help preserve and reinforce that reputation, so its replacement, the 29 Coho, comes into the world with plenty to do.
However, this is a very successful builder with an enviable heritage in sporting weekenders, so the new boat is not likely to begin reinventing the wheel and confounding public expectations with outlandish design departures. On the contrary, as the Coho assumes the Ghibli’s position on the second rung of the nine-strong sports cruiser fleet, its classic lines suggest that the established Windy formula remains very much intact …
There are no flabby, bulging topsides here. No attempt to crowbar cavernous internals into a modest hull length. Instead, Hans-Jørgen Johnsen’s slender, rakish deep-V hull is treated to some very spare and athletic topsides. The priorities are plainly low weight, minimal windage and a very deep centre of gravity – and those cleanly defined and clinically slick hull mouldings reaffirm the idea that this is an authentic sports boat. You know just by looking at it that it is optimised for big grip in the turn, efficient shedding of water on the straight and deft slicing of swells in potentially challenging seascapes – and while, like all Windy boats, it offers some overnighting accommodation, the supremacy of performance over puffery means that the cabin is always likely to play second fiddle.
The inboard space is dominated by the demands of al fresco entertainment. Around two-thirds of the usable boat length is dedicated to this cause – and in addition to an extended hull and bathing platform, a new cockpit layout means plenty of seating. You get a wrap-around section from the co-pilot down the port side and across the transom to the starboard walkway. You also get more seating behind the helm, plus a large aft sun pad with adjustable backrest, leaving plenty of uncluttered space to make your way fore and aft between the swim platform and the foredeck steps.
Back aft, in addition to the top-end 380hp Volvo Penta V8, the engine bay houses a couple of lateral fender nets that can be removed for access to all the primary filters. It also houses the new-generation canopy, a super-slick piece of design, which (as on the 26 Kharma and 31 Zonda) can be erected by one person at speed if the rain begins to fall and then hidden out of sight when it has served its purpose.
It is also notable here that as the deep-set cockpit ascends a couple of steps to the starboard side of the sunlounger (and the topside mouldings angle downwards toward the swim platform), the aft section of the Coho becomes very shallow by the standards of a family cruiser. However, if you want a generous arrangement of under-deck storage compartments, an accessible engine space, a low centre of gravity, sexy looks and minimal windage, you can’t really argue with that.
Head down below and a fixed double berth makes good sense as regards getting the best comfort from compact dimensions. There is also a fairly practical heads compartment with sit-down shower to starboard, plus a galley to port with a diesel cooker. That in itself is a useful bonus, as it reduces your dependency on electricity and eradicates the need for LPG. However, it’s the design of the companionway and the curved overhead section of cabin door that works particularly well. When you open it up, you get great light and full standing headroom at the galley, which is ideal for those of us who turn green when forced below decks on tea duty. Instead of feeling cooped up, you can stand at the galley without having to lose the fresh air, the bright light or the natural horizon. You are, in effect, still in that cockpit, alongside the rest of the open-air passengers.
However, while the attractively raked rhomboid windows look great underway, they do little inside for the light or the view – particularly as the use of storage boxes and a bulkhead for the heads compartment blanks out 50% of the windows’ surface area on the starboard side. The only additional light comes from a small, circular, overhead hatch, so with the access door shut, the accommodation does feel every bit as compact as it is.
Get underway and it is quickly plain that Volvo Penta’s 380hp V8 petrol unit is a fine match for the Coho. With an urgent plane, a willing leap of compliance every time you tweak the wheel or throttle and a top end in excess of 45 knots, it does a great job of loading up your right hand with quick-fire potency. The noise of the V8 is also a pleasurable thing, but at no point does it become intrusive. On the contrary, the growl is usefully muted by the solid build and substantial insulation of the engine bay, so you can still chat in speaking tones, however lively the helmsman gets.
As regards Windy’s fabled handling acumen, the grip in the turn is delightfully settled and unflinching, and the handling vigour is way better than you might expect from a cabin-equipped boat. Even with 30mph beam winds, the tabs need only mild tweaks to keep the boat running flat and fast – and if the sporting performance is first rate, the ease and gentility of a sedate cruise is equally striking. At anything from 20 to 30 knots, you get a range in excess of 200 nautical miles, alongside a ride of remarkable softness, dryness and refinement. Of course, if you were to spec a less aggressive engine, you could get much closer to Windy’s quoted range of 294 nautical miles, but given the excellence of this high-powered petrol set-up, it’s tough to recommend any other option.
As you would expect, the fixed helm seat is also of high calibre, but for me, with the small of my back jammed reassuringly into the lumbar support, the wheel and throttle do feel a touch distant. Similarly, the co-pilot seat is set a long way from the console moulding in order to help free up deck space for entry to the cabin, without compromising either the teak-lined bow steps or the compact fridge beneath the cockpit sole. That means the navigator position inevitably lacks a foot brace – but with a sturdy wall-mounted cup ring that doubles as a grabbing point, plus a remarkably soft and predictable ride, the Coho does a great deal to mitigate the impact of these seating imperfections.
A Globalisation Gripe
A couple of years ago, Windy shifted production from their native Norway to new facilities in Poland and Sweden. They are certainly not the only Nordic builders to have made such a move, and with escalating costs at home and increasing efficiencies abroad, you can see why it was done. But if I’m expected to pay a premium price for a premium product with a reputation based on decades of design, development and construction by a Norwegian workforce in Norway, that’s exactly what I want. Of course, the standard of work from the Polish facility seems very sound, but that’s not the point. If it were, then Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini could all shift production to Japan or Germany, thereby ironing out their reliability issues – or to China, thereby mitigating their costs. But they don’t, because they know that in order to feel truly special, their cars need an intimate and rupture-free symbiosis with the cultural contexts that spawned their designs and forged their reputations. However good the latest fleet might be (and however efficient the production process has become), ownership of an outsourced Windy will simply never feel quite as special to me.
The 29 Coho is a very convincing distillation of the core qualities that set Windy apart. In addition to being a very sound sea boat, it offers a driving experience so memorable that the provision of a cabin seems almost absurdly generous. It combines the imperious maturity of a high-end express cruiser with a level of handling dexterity, lightness of touch and sporting playfulness that cannot help but make you smile. True, the price is steep, the cabin is small and the outsourcing of production is a shame, but the 29 Coho remains the kind of driving machine that everyone ought to try – if not as a precursor to a purchase, then as a yardstick against which to gauge the dynamic inadequacies of the competition.
- Fine looks
- Quiet, refined and comfortable helm
- Remarkable handling agility
- Softness of ride
- Very dry and cosseting cockpit
- Great balance and composure
- Sound build
- Shallow aft deck
- Imperfect co-pilot position
- Outsourcing of the Nordic heritage
- Big price
- LOA: 8.85m
- Beam: 2.7m
- Weight: 3250kg
- Fuel: 400 litres
- Water: 80 litres
- Engine: Volvo Penta V8 380
Notable Standard Features
- Fixed VHF/DSC radio
- Trim tabs with indicators
- Volvo EVC power trim assistance and trip computer
- Lines, fenders, socks, stainless ensign pole
- Comprehensive handover
- Steel bow roller
- Teak deck and swim platform
- Hot-water tank
- Anchor winch
- USB-equipped radio
- Shore power/charger
- Electric pump-out heads
- RPM Speed Fuel flow Range
- 1000 4.4 4.5 352.0
- 1500 7.1 7.9 323.5
- 2000 8.7 13.3 235.5
- 2500 10.9 22.1 177.6
- 3000 15.9 32.0 178.9
- 3500 22.9 38.0 216.9
- 4000 27.0 47.5 204.6
- 4500 32.1 59.0 195.9
- 5000 36.0 77.0 154.3
- 5500 39.5 96.0 148.1
- 6000 45.6 122.0 134.6
Price (with V8 380): From £164,000
Price as tested: £197,000