After an exclusive first test, sailing 200 miles over two days and nights, does this Outremer 52 prove the new benchmark for fast bluewater cruising?
They seem preternatural, our navlight giving the dolphins an oily reflection as they launch like dark green torpedoes in unison with our surfs. The fizzing noise when they clear the water helps communicate their effortless speed, while the boat hums as it accelerates into the mid teens. Subconsciously I count the surfs, 6, 7, 8… seconds; psychologically I’m wired, absolutely buzzing. But physically I notice I’m shivering, with numb fingers from being on the helm of the Outremer 52 so long, not willing to relinquish the wheel for a single minute even to don extra layers.
It’s exhilarating. Two days and nights aboard the Outremer 52 in March made for some of the most enjoyable sailing I’ve done in 20 years of testing yachts. That’s not to say this new model is faultless or that it’ll suit everyone – there are of course compromises that come with this performance. Then consider spending a seven figure sum yet still having to wait four years for one.
But there are very few production yachts I can think of that offer this amount of cruising space and comfort coupled with such engaging performance, and arguably no yards that are as successful in doing it as Outremer. Which makes me wonder, could this be my ultimate world tourer?
With its four decades of fast bluewater experience, Outremer (‘overseas’ in French), has been able to tap into the recent maelstrom of multihull demand perhaps better than any yard.
Together with design partners VPLP, Patrick Le Quément and Franck Darnet, Outremer proved with the Outremer 55 two years ago that it could produce a modern, fast catamaran with real wow factor and a particularly bright, open plan main deck layout.
The Outremer 52 is very much in that guise, yet carries the heavy task of replacing the fabled 51 – the 101 of them Outremer built have clocked over 2.3 million miles. That’s a lot of owner feedback. Where the Outremer 51 is minimalist for today’s tastes, the Outremer 52 brings that instant boat show appeal. It sports a large cockpit, which links via retracting bulkhead doors to the galley and saloon, combined with an enormous amount of glazing, but in a more manageable size and layout to the 55.
For years we discussed conducting a multi-day test that might better suit Outremer’s ocean-oriented designs and thankfully we were given just such an exclusive opportunity on this freshly launched Outremer 52. It was a long, intoxicating couple of days. I arrived at 11pm and we departed at 4am to catch the best of the breeze for our 90-mile outward south-west sail across the Gulf of Lion
Outremer 52 – the sailor’s boat
Despite the rude awakening, the cold, early start was worthwhile. Once out of La Grande Motte’s marina, which is overlooked by the burgeoning Outremer yard, the full main and genoa were hoisted under headtorch light and we were soon averaging over 9 knots in 15, reaching at 120° true. By first light, the gennaker was unfurled, upping our average speed to 11-12 knots, with heady surfs up to 17 knots.
What an introduction to helming this boat! It felt so sporty: direct, with palpable acceleration. As a gust ruffles the water you can harness it to catch a wave and really feel the Outremer 52 surge before the forward buoyancy kicks in and drives those streamlined reverse bows up and through the waves. It quickly instils confidence, while bringing real pleasure.
With the breeze dropping and backing further astern later that morning, we furled the gennaker and hoisted an A2 on a snuffer. Deep reaching in just 12 knots true we could still make a respectable 8 to 9.5 at 150°, but heat up 20-30° and it nudges into double figures and almost matches the wind.
These are such easy, pleasant passagemaking speeds. Three steps down from the helm and you’re onto the single level main deck to check on progress from the navstation, while making a brew as the crew dozes in horizontal comfort.
The owners of this first Outremer 52 opted for a versatile sail set up, choosing a genoa over the standard self-tacking jib, a removable inner staysail and the downwind furling gennaker. Upgrades to help get the most out of the boat also include Incidence DFi filament sails and a carbon Lorima mast. In the early afternoon sun I helmed for another lengthy spell under gennaker, and was again struck by how unwilling I became to leave the helm, only doing so to swap between the wheel and tiller.
Best of both?
Unlike the dual wheel setup on the 55, this has a single wheel to starboard with control lines led to it, but there is also an option for a tiller on the portside. It’s a unique combination on this size craft, but tillers are part of Outremer’s DNA, and still a draw for sailors wanting the big kid, breeze-in-the-hair experience.
Tiller sailing proved a work out, particularly as I was heating it up at the time making a steady 12-12.5 knots at 110° true in 15 knots. It needed both hands firmly on the carbon rod and is perhaps better suited to light wind sailing. To activate the tiller you have to disconnect the steering wheel or vice versa – the Jefa steering is all mechanically linked directly to the rudders hence there is good feedback.
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With the cold spring breeze blowing off the snow-capped Pyrenees, I preferred the option of swinging the pedestal right out and sitting on the leeward bench in the sun with clear views of the tell-tales. It’s a comparable feeling and position to helming a performance monohull, though distinctly more comfortable!
The swing pedestal may not be an innovation, but it’s used to triumphant effect. It’s set back from the coachroof, leaving good space for working the winches and access between side deck and cockpit. The ability to cant it 180° gives the option to stand with views of the four corners, sit out on the side deck or steer from the cockpit. This, together with a bracing perch, which includes an arm for the throttle controls, windlass and autopilot controls inboard, works brilliantly.
The winch layout is equally superb. Two starboard coachroof winches are used for the headsail sheets, mainsheet and reefing lines. However there are also inboard cockpit winches for daggerboard controls and kite sheets each side under the bimini. All lines have been designed to be cross-sheeted or led to these protected winches. A sheave by the coachroof winches allows you to lead the mainsheet or genoa sheets down to the inboard winches, for example. Couple this with the ability to swing the pedestal inboard, with views forward through the coachroof windows and of the main, and you can steer and trim while completely protected (especially with the fabric dodgers down).
Then there’s another trump feature in the large forward facing navstation, from which you can also stand a watch in inclement weather.
The social boat
Twelve hours after leaving the boat’s French home port we arrived in a tiny little cove on the Costa Brava for a photoshoot along with the 55, raising the daggerboards to anchor in 2m of clear water.
It was time to relax, launch the toys and enjoy the serious amount of real estate. That’s what the luxury side of this premium priced cruiser brings – a speed and space balance, together with easy circulation, light and surround views.
The davits can carry a proper working tender, up to 3.6m; the Outremer 55, for example, had an 3.4m aluminium hulled Highfield RIB (70kg) with 20hp outboard, which is a seaworthy people carrier-cum-recreation craft that can transform time at anchor.
The Outremer 52’s cockpit is the social heart of the boat, linking with the saloon and galley to create one zone. The crew of the 55 joined us, showing how 8-10 can sit around the table alone. The cockpit enclosure is a must-have option on this size boat to get the most out of this layout in colder climates, but removes completely to open it out.
The decor is simple but practical. The addition of lightweight removable outdoor furniture provides versatile stools, while a step box seat helps enclose the cockpit in the port quarter. A similar approach is taken with the lighting and sound system – on the test boat, for example, the addition of domestic style LED lamps and portable Bluetooth speakers avoids the need to hard wire such systems in.
Keeping furnishings minimal helps emphasise the large open living area, with the focus on natural light and the environment around.
I particularly like the forward vertical windows, which minimise glare yet provide horizon views while standing in the saloon, and their four opening sections which help provide excellent natural ventilation. The polycarbonate panels (lighter than glass) are all individually glued and then bolted so can be replaced.
The bluewater boat
With the bulkhead doors fully retracted, the galley connects seamlessly to the cockpit.
The galley’s double bin with its sweep-in top and a separate chute directly through to the sea for compostable goods/peelings are pragmatic features clearly born from liveaboard feedback, as is the space for a herb garden. That said the huge single sink wastes water, where a second or 1.5 style draining sink would be more practical. The layout of the hob is also somewhat awkward, as only one person comfortably can use this or the worksurface at the same time. A solution might be to swap the sink to that outboard position.
Galley stowage is quite spread out when you include the essential tall locker to starboard and the useful tins and dry goods storage below the saloon sole. And the extra freezer aside the 130lt fridge should perhaps be included as standard on this type of craft. But the space is all used well.
We raised anchor that evening, motoring the short distance round to Cadaques to pick up a buoy for the night, and opted for the more intimate saloon table for dinner.
Once down in the hulls it’s a similar layout to the 55, in that you can choose three or four cabins with the main decision concerning the adaptable forward port cabin. This involves five different options, the most popular being a combination of desk, folding bunk and stowage.
In terms of finish, it’s a lot of Alpi beige veneer – nice and bright, but a wipe clean look that says more volume production than seven figure pricing. This is arguably the Outremer 52’s main payoff: the accommodation is kept simple and relatively easy to reproduce in favour of keeping weight down and speed up. The effort and labour goes into the structure and foam sandwich furniture.
Despite the comparatively narrow hulls, accommodation is plenty comfortable enough to live aboard long-term and with abundant natural light. The aft berths are queen size (1.6m wide), with shelving and alcoves inboard, which I found really practical for storing books, water, and personal items. Reading lights with dual power USB ports in them proved equally useful.
Stowage is abundant, particularly below the aft berths, while space below the sole boards has been maximised and includes trays to keep items out of the bilges. Those choosing a full owner’s hull also get a bank of wardrobes, with room for a washing machine, plus a vast bathroom and shower area forward.
In a sensible use of space, the portside separate heads and shower areas are shared by the two cabins. However, the shower area is a sparse cubicle, so drying it – and towels – could be an issue. Equally there’s no sliding door on this side, so no privacy between that and the aft cabin.
The access to systems for maintenance or diagnosis is a discernible improvement over the 55. The batteries and solar controllers are below the forward saloon settee, for example, while plumbing is neatly installed with intelligible manifolds colour-coded.
Outremer’s sister company Gunboat helped it to add stiffness, using full carbon bulkheads below the mast, sliding doors, and traveller bench aft. The weight savings gained help allow for all the additional glazing on the Outremer 52. It’s the same in the hulls, where modern structures allow for much less inhibitive bulkheads and therefore a more open feel compared to Outremers of yesteryear.
Weight is key to sound insulation of course, so when you strip as much as possible you have to accept the acoustic penalty. In the silence of a night time anchorage for instance the noise of a water pump activating sounded like a chainsaw in the aft cabin (mounted on the bulkhead directly behind the headboard of the aft berth), and you certainly know about it when the heads flush or there is anyone on deck above. I also found the creaking noises of the vast hull window in the aft cabin of the test boat disconcerting.
Despite these irritations, however, I still felt highly confident in the boat’s structure – to perform to this high ability you know it’s been built strongly in the areas that really matter. These are proven catamarans built to circle the globe for decades.
After a late lunch stop in Cala Culip cove, we departed Spain for the return leg. With no wind inshore we elected to motor out to the east for over 20 miles to try to hook into the forecasted southerlies, preferring the use of one engine (for less wear and tear) at 2,000rpm for 7.4 knots.
The test boat had an optional 2,050W of solar panel power feeding a battery capacity beefed up to 2 x 6,000W of lithium ion. Veteran Outremer sales manager Matthieu Rougevin-Baville feels that this, together with high power alternators and a short period of occasional engine use to keep the batteries topped up, is still the most prudent power generation method for bluewater cruisers.
Remember that Outremer has already built a fully electric 45 for Jimmy Cornell and a 5X made from 50% flax fibre for Roland Jourdain, so its eco skillset is there.But it deems its focus on making its production yachts as efficient as possible, thereby minimising the need for engine use (the largest cause of C02 emissions), as still the most sensible for ocean cruising.
Just when I feared a long motor back the wind showed up right on cue, increasing from 5 to 17 knots in a couple of minutes and bringing with it a nice following swell (and the accompanying dolphins). The gennaker was unleashed and we were straight into full-bore deep reaching for the next eight hours straight.
‘This is what it’s all about!’ I noted after helming for hours in 16-20 knots breeze from our aft quarter. When you connect a gust with a wave, you feel the acceleration, then the rudders bite and give you that control as you bear away and the apparent wind shoots forward. You play the wave, watching with anticipation as the speedo rises.
Most good waves saw the log rise from 11 or 12 to the late teens. Our top speed was 20.5 knots, a record we chased well into the darkness of that night.
Even at 3am with less than a mile to run to the marina, I was still revelling in the last small surfs, selfishly clinging onto the wheel. It’s addictive sailing alright.
Size or price?
The Outremer 52 costs over €1.5m with options. That’s premium pricing, but something Outremer can do thanks to insatiable demand. It has already sold 69 boats, so you can’t currently get one till the end of 2027! Is this model a victim of its own success already? And despite opening a new facility just for the Outremer 52 production line, will it be able to maintain quality at this volume?
A friend commented that for the price of the Outremer 52, why not go for the 55? The logic being if you have that money maybe you can afford the larger version (from €1.6m).
Sailing alongside us for part of our test sail, the 55 was consistently a notch quicker on passage and offers that bit more entertaining space and payload carrying potential. But for me, the crucial difference between these new models is that the Outremer 52 is just that bit more manageable – less weight, less loads, less sail area, winch sizes etc. And it’s set up for easier short-handing.
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I’ve spent a lot of time looking at cars recently, searching for something small enough to zip into town, large enough for load and people carrying, sporty to drive yet economic to run. My conclusion? There’s no such thing. Nor is there with boats – except this comes pretty close to offering all the values I’d want. The Outremer can delight on the helm and tick off ocean miles easily at high average/double digit speeds – speeds that could help you avoid weather systems. Then it can tuck into the shallows. While you may be able to tell I revelled in sailing this cat, that’s not to say it would suit everyone. Were money no object, perhaps this might be my ultimate bluewater boat, but in all honesty, I’d probably choose something smaller... the 45 (or next version of it) perhaps! Niggles include the galley layout which could potentially be improved, as could the finish and noise insulation. Nevertheless, this has the space, speed, and style to bluewater cruise for years. Coupled with the sail handling layout, living area and emphasis on natural light and ventilation, the Outremer 52 offers reaching fun and the ability to enjoy single-figure windspeed sailing. In short, it sets a new bar for bluewater cruising.