While many prefer the looks and potential speed of some of the faster cats, in reality the majority of sailors do not actually want to cruise particularly fast. This is the wind-down time they’ve looked forward to – why rush it? Space is king. These production cats rely on a formula of maximum deck and accommodation space for the length and money, and, in terms of a holiday platform or for all-round family cruising contentment, are seriously hard to beat.
The market is dominated by Lagoon, Fountaine Pajot and Leopard, who have order books that read like cricket scores. But companies like Bali and Bavaria/Nautitech are also becoming increasingly popular as they bring a more open and exterior focused layout. If you are still on the fence.
Just launched: Leopard 50
In its guise as the ‘own brand’ catamaran of Sunsail and the Moorings, Leopard has been extraordinarily successful. The Cape Town yard of Robertson and Caine has turned out over 1,500 catamarans
and almost all of them have been sailed to their new homes around the globe – a phenomenal calling card, when you think about all those South Atlantic miles.
The new 50 replaces the popular 48, updating it with a host of features that have proved popular in the smaller models. From the outside, the boat has been restyled rather than redesigned. The topsides have been jazzed up with a stripe of smoked glass that conceals bigger portlights. The coachroof is more angular and square. This has the advantage of increasing the window area in the saloon, including a full-length skylight.
Leopard makes a point of putting the table and seating at the back of the saloon and the galley at the front. The logic is to connect indoor and outdoor social spaces – something that is enhanced by the sliding door and windows at the aft end. This leaves enough space for another unique feature among its series catamarans: a weathertight door out of the front of the saloon into the forward cockpit.
But the real ace in the Leopard 50’s feature list is the option of having a true flybridge on the hardtop over the cockpit. This comes complete with a lounge area, table and sunbed plus further choices for speakers and a shade awning. This adds weight high up and raises the boom, so for those in search of better sailing performance, there is also a classic hardtop version, the 50P. The ‘lounge’ version can still manage 40° off the true wind, and the polars predict a top speed of just over 12 knots. The key difference for the market over the 48 is its ability to offer five cabins with crew quarters, allowing four cabins to be sold.
The other key changes have taken place “under the bonnet”, as naval architect Alexander Simonis of Simonis Voogd puts it. Carbon-infused ring frames have been used to make the boat stiffer in key areas, making the more open-plan layout possible without adding too much weight. It is a technique that was successfully pioneered on larger racing cats.
The European press launch for the Leopard 50 hinted at the phenomenal space this new model offers. At one time I counted 31 people on the aft deck, most sitting comfortably!
And it was the space that continued to amaze me as I walked through the boat. Not so much the colossal volume in the hulls – that’s almost expected in today’s family/charter cats – but more the amount of social space there is on deck and the separation between these areas. There is room enough for one family to chill in the forward cockpit, for example, another on the flybridge, one in the saloon and a fourth in the aft cockpit!
At the same time, I appreciate how Simonis Voogd has retained the stepped hulls to keep a narrow entry but beam above the waterline. Launched into the unforgiving waters off Cape Town, these cats are still expected to sail to weather. Visibility from the single helm station will be an issue – indeed forward-and aft-facing cameras are fitted to aid berthing manoeuvres.
The standard level of fit-out and finish also looked good. Some 17 boats were sold in first three days of the Miami Boat Show, half of which are destined for The Moorings charter fleets.
At a glance…
LOA: 50ft 6in (15.39m)
Beam: 26ft 5in (8.05m)
Draught: 5ft 3in (1.60m)
Displacement: 20.6 tonnes
Contact: Leopard Catamarans
Just launched: Fountaine Pajot Astréa 42
Born of racing stock in 1975, Fountaine Pajot has since evolved into building seaworthy cruising catamarans.
It has just launched the Astréa 42, a replacement for the Lipari 41 and one that completes its line-up from 40ft to 67ft. She shares the design DNA of her sisters, namely a trademark positive sheer, slightly inverted bow, bulkhead helm station and ease of handling.
The Astréa is all about comfort. She features a good-sized cockpit, with armchair-style seating along the aft crossbeam. Between the skirts at deck level, there’s an optional ‘beach club’ – a teak slatted platform, to you and me. This can be lowered 25cm below the water or raised with the dinghy on it. There’s another social area in front of the coachroof by the trampoline.
Although she measures just 42ft overall, FP and designer Berret Racoupeau have put much thought into the area around the helm. To keep the boom lower, they’ve stuck with their favoured bulkhead helming position, with all control lines running back to a double seat there. On the hard-top to port there is a sunpad and aft of the mainsheet track, optional solar panels.
The interior has also been designed for optimum communication: sliding doors connect the saloon and the cockpit into one big space. Configuration is highly modular, but there are plenty of options, including 12 shower/heads layouts and either three or four cabins. The show boat had a clever central shower area that is accessible from either forward or aft.
This is the little sister to the Saona 47 that launched last year, and shares much of the styling.
FP sold 120 Saonas in a year. Now consider that it had already sold 130 of this new 42 before the first boat was launched. Such sales figures are driven by a market demanding as much space and comfort as possible in a smartly designed and easy-to-manage package.
The volume of the cabins is almost on a par with the Helia 44. It even boasts an island berth in the owner’s cabin. My chief concern is how such volume in the hulls and the low bridgedeck might affect her performance, particularly in waves. If you do opt for one, be wise that the 40- 50ft family cruiser cat market is truly booming, so you’d better be patient if you want a new boat.
At a glance…
LOA: 41ft 4in (12.58m)
Beam: 23ft 8in (7.20m)
Draught: 4ft 1in (1.25m)
Displacement: 11.5 tonnes
Price: from €345,000
Contact: Fountaine Pajot
Coming up: Neel 47
One of the few cruising trimaran builders out there, Neel is really making its mark at the moment. The company is doubling in size this year, thanks to the success of the 51 last year. It has just re-skinned its popular 45 into the faster 45 Evolution and the La Rochelle-based yard has now announced a new 47, fitting snugly between the 45 and 51. Unlike its sisters, this is designed by French veteran Marc Lombard, best known for his Figaro II designs and work with Jeanneau.
The 47 borrows from the larger 51 with the strangely copyrighted ‘Cockloon’ concept, marrying cockpit and saloon living spaces through fully opening rear doors. The master cabin is carved out of the starboard corner of the saloon, to offer the benefit of views from the main deck. Up to four further doubles are available in the outrigger hulls.
Where the three-hull design really comes into its own is in performance terms. You get more righting moment from the broader beam, a much stiffer rig because the mast and stays are all fixed to the same monolithic centre hull, and consequently sharper performance to windward. Comfortable, fast and with styling that is guaranteed to turn heads when she hits the water in early 2019.
Price: from €398,000
Contact: Neel Trimarans
Best of the rest
Privilege Serie 5
Craftsmanship and semi-custom build are the calling cards of French brand Privilege Marine. The yard may have increased its efficiency under the ownership of the Hanse Group, but don’t expect anonymous production line boats. The team will incorporate whatever finish and features you desire.
First out of the shed under Hanse’s watch is the Serie 5 – the brand’s entry-level cat. She offers a big hull with plenty of volume, but with lines by racing veteran Marc Lombard she won’t be slow. The accent is on stability for a rounded bluewater performance.
The bulkhead helm station helps keep the weight lower and is well-connected to the social space of the cockpit. The distinguishing feature is the ‘nacelle’ structure between the bows, which creates a huge volume entirely devoted to the master cabin.
Price: from €995,000
Contact: Privilege Marine
The latest in Bali’s range picks up on many of the attributes that made a success of the smaller Bali 4.0. Cruising comfort remains the key characteristic of this catamaran, with lots of social space and comfortable cabins.
Bali, owned by the Catana Group, is unique in the cat market for connecting its two hulls fore and aft with a rigid deck, rather than dropping a deck on top of deck beams. The skirts of the two transoms are bridged by a solid piece of GRP, and the area where the trampoline would usually be is half turned over to a foredeck lounging and eating area.
There are no centreboards to worry about – the boat relies on stub keels to keep her sliding forwards rather than sideways. This means less performance to windward, but easier handling. A forgiving package, offered with either three or four en-suite cabins.
Price: from €294,800
Contact: Bali Catamarans
Unveiled in 2017, the Lagoon 50 plugs the gap between the 52 and the 450. It has been given a new look on deck, with a slight bevel to the top of each hull, huge portlights and even more glass around the saloon. There’s an easier-to-handle rig with shorter boom, high-aspect main, self-tacking jib, and all lines lead back to the flybridge helm station. Designer VPLP has also moved the mast a little aft to reduce pitching.
As with all Lagoons, comfort, simplicity and ease are the keywords. The flybridge features comprehensive lounging space, and there’s a large cockpit with modular dining options. Another seating area exists between the saloon windows and the foredeck trampoline.
The saloon is on two levels, with a retractable windscreen, and the hulls can be configured with anything from three to six double cabins.
Price: from €550,800
Is it a catamaran or a monohull? Meet Futura 49
Buy a catamaran, but pay the berthing costs of a monohull. This is the idea behind the variable width Futura 49, launched a few months ago at La Grande Motte. But between the theory and the practice is a huge gulf, and it has taken designers Uli Bullmer and Gerhard Euchenhofer more than four years to bridge that.
The result of their labours with naval architects at Judel Vrolijk is a craft with a beam of 7.98m in sailing mode, shrinking to 4.93m in ‘parking’ mode. The key to the system is the twin carbon cross beams that provide the stability for the electric motors to pull the two hulls together.
It has something of the true catamaran to it: the two hulls serve solely as floats, with no accommodation inside, while all the living is done on the platform that connects them. The Polynesians would have approved. Removing the living space from the hulls has allowed them to be more hydrodynamic.
Futura has created a large superstructure that runs much further forward than it does on fixed cats. The dark wraparound windows contain a space that is divided up to form cabins at the forward end, with a galley and dining space at the stern opening onto the aft deck. The helm station is set into the coachroof, to starboard, with the winches mounted between seats, plus a big sunpad.
Anything from one to four cabins are optional. Note that the chart table is just a fold-down surface in the saloon, with no forward view and very limited side visibility. If the 49 proves successful – there is already a charter unit available in Croatia with Pitter Yachting – Futura plans to expand the range.
Price: from €629,000
Contact: Futura Yacht Systems