FOUN­TAINE-PA­JOT MY44 TEST

Pow­er­cats are on the prowl and twin-hulled craft are hav­ing a mo­ment. Does the MY44 have what it takes to be the leader of the pack?

Motorboat & Yachting - - Contents - Words Jack Haines

De­signed to be a luxury pow­er­cat, the MY44 fea­tures IPS drives and a fab­u­lous mas­ter cabin de­signed to im­press pri­vate own­ers rather than char­ter cus­tomers

Any­body who doesn’t be­lieve the pow­er­cat mar­ket (and cata­ma­ran mar­ket in gen­eral) is on the up needs to take a closer look at what is cur­rently go­ing on in the in­dus­try. Bavaria has bought the Nau­titech brand and is build­ing power and sail­ing cata­ma­rans at a fa­cil­ity in Rochefort. Just last month, Aure­lius Group (owner of Hanse, Sealine and Fjord among oth­ers) ac­quired a ma­jor­ity stake in an­other French cata­ma­ran builder, Priv­i­lege Ma­rine, to ex­pand its im­pres­sive port­fo­lio of yachts and mo­tor boats. Mean­while, Bénéteau Group’s pop­u­lar cata­ma­ran brand, La­goon, is build­ing the largest pow­er­cat it has ever made, the mon­strous Seventy 8. From stop­ping pro­duc­tion of the 43/44 a few years ago, La­goon is now pro­duc­ing two of the largest pro­duc­tion pow­er­cats on the mar­ket. How times change.

Why the surge in pop­u­lar­ity for twin­hulled craft? Cer­tainly, in the mo­tor boat arena, cus­tomers’ at­ti­tudes are chang­ing and in­te­rior vol­ume, slow-speed sta­bil­ity, ef­fi­ciency and com­fort­able sea­keep­ing are start­ing to oc­cupy the top of many peo­ple’s wish lists. Pow­er­cats tick a lot of these boxes from the start, and though their shape erects a few hur­dles for those in charge of styling, this is bring­ing them into closer fo­cus for a lot of boat buy­ers.

Start­ing from Scratch

Foun­taine-pa­jot has been build­ing sail­ing cata­ma­rans from its base in La Rochelle since 1976 so is nicely poised on the crest of this par­tic­u­lar wave. Yet the tran­si­tion to build­ing pow­er­cats has been a steep learn­ing curve for the yard and it has quickly dis­cov­ered that the tastes and needs of sailors and mo­tor boat cus­tomers are open to a vast amount of vari­a­tion. Sim­ply lop­ping off the mast of a sail­ing cat and call­ing it a power cata­ma­ran will not cut it, so when the MY44 was launched last year, Foun­taine-pa­jot made quite the fan­fare about the boat be­ing de­signed from the out­set as a pow­er­cat. Not only that, the only en­gine op­tions avail­able use IPS, which calls for a brand new hull and an un­der­wa­ter pro­file suited to pods. “We are build­ing a mo­tor yacht for per­sonal use,” says Ro­main Mot­teau, Foun­tainePa­jot’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor. “This is not a boat de­signed for char­ter fleets, hence why there is a three-cabin lay­out that fo­cuses on com­fort­able cab­ins and not sleep­ing as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble.”

The dis­tinc­tion be­tween the MY44 and some of the pre­vi­ous more char­teror­i­ented mod­els is clear and not just in the cabin con­fig­u­ra­tion. The look and feel of the in­te­rior is much im­proved from the last Foun­taine-pa­jot we tested and there’s clearly an en­hanced fo­cus on per­ceived qual­ity. There are still a few rough edges if you dig deep enough (see en­gine­room panel over­leaf) but the ob­jects that you in­ter­act with on a day-to-day ba­sis are far classier than be­fore. The dé­cor is clean, mod­ern and in­of­fen­sive. It doesn’t try too hard but it works, and is us­able and prac­ti­cal, a good ex­am­ple be­ing the teak­laid deck in the area just in­side the saloon where the gal­ley is. This means peo­ple in wet swimwear can grab a drink from the fridge or use the sink and not worry about get­ting a car­pet wet.

As prac­ti­cal as the gal­ley is in some ar­eas, such as the floor­ing, gen­er­ous counter space, plen­ti­ful stor­age and a full-size fridge and freezer, it frus­trates in oth­ers. The eye-level lock­ers, which will be pop­ping open all the time for peo­ple to grab mugs and plates, don’t have fid­dles on their edges so it’s all too easy for ob­jects to fall out if they’ve moved at sea and the same goes for the gal­ley top, which has no re­tain­ing lip to stop plates slid­ing off.

A small step leads up to the saloon where, un­like some pow­er­cats I have tested, you ac­tu­ally feel the ben­e­fit of that 21.7ft (6.61m) beam. There’s heaps of space to move about, and a so­cia­ble seat­ing lay­out with op­pos­ing so­fas and a cosy arm­chair fac­ing aft ad­ja­cent to the helm. One slight odd­ity is that the man­ual slid­ing win­dows

set within the saloon glaz­ing are in­stalled in the sec­tions aft of the helm. Surely mov­ing them to be in line with the helm would be more use­ful, so the skip­per gets the ben­e­fit of their ven­ti­la­tion and can use them to talk to the crew? That said, it’s great to see blinds over the win­dows – in­clud­ing the wind­screen – for in­creased pri­vacy and to pre­vent harm­ful UV rays from fad­ing the in­te­rior.

A pri­mary ben­e­fit of the MY44 be­ing a pow­er­cat is the amount of cabin space for a boat of 44ft (13.4m) and the pri­vacy it af­fords. Yes, your guests share one of the hulls but they get their own bath­rooms and the owner, well, good luck to any mono­hull of this length try­ing to match the space and luxury of this boat’s port­side owner’s cabin. Walk­ing for­ward from the stair­case, which en­ters the cabin just for­ward of the cock­pit doors, the owner’s suite gets more im­pres­sive the fur­ther to­wards the bow you get. There’s a ded­i­cated space for a wash­ing ma­chine to star­board (shut off from the rest of the cabin to keep noise down) and the first of five hang­ing lock­ers. The gen­er­ous is­land berth is aligned athwartships to make the most of the space and en­sure that nat­u­ral light from the win­dow op­po­site pours over the bed. For­ward of that is a small walk-in dress­ing area flanked by hang­ing lock­ers and then, right for­ward when you’re won­der­ing how there could be any­thing more squeezed in, there is a spa­cious bath­room com­plete with a sep­a­rate shower. It’s a se­ri­ously im­pres­sive cabin and one that to­tally jus­ti­fies the de­ci­sion to opt for a three-cabin lay­out as the sole op­tion.

In the star­board hull, the for­ward guest cabin is a typ­i­cal cata­ma­ran-style af­fair, with a dou­ble berth that can be split into two sin­gles tucked into the point of the bow. Though it’s not en­suite, this cabin has easy ac­cess to the day heads and at night, there’s no need to share with the aft guest cabin as this gets its own en­suite. This is a crack­ing cabin, al­most a mini ver­sion of the mas­ter in fact, with a sideon dou­ble berth and plush en­suite. For­ward, be­tween the two hulls, there is the op­tion to have yet an­other cabin, al­beit a very cosy one best suited as a snug for kids to use. The bed, how­ever, is a de­cent size and would be com­fort­able enough for part-time crew to use oc­ca­sion­ally. Or you can leave this area as stor­age and save your­self nearly € 16,000.

CON­TROL­LING THE CAT

This is the first pow­er­cat I have tested with IPS and it in­ter­ested me to see how the sys­tem would work, es­pe­cially at slow speed, shift­ing a pair of hulls through the wa­ter. Shaft­drive cata­ma­rans are gen­er­ally very easy to ma­noeu­vre at slow speeds so would joy­stick con­trol be lost in trans­la­tion from a sin­gle hull to twins?

In prac­tice it doesn’t seem so; in fact, the joy­stick makes light work of one of the more tricky moves on a cat, which is to get it to move side­ways off a pon­toon or quay. With shafts this would usu­ally re­quire the use of a spring line but with IPS, you sim­ply push the joy­stick the way you want to go and the boat obeys. Our test boat had the largest IPS600 units fit­ted and turns and side­ways shifts seemed to take slightly longer than they do on mono­hulls, but the ef­fect is just as im­pres­sive. There are two smaller IPS en­gine op­tions (IPS350/400) but the 600s pro­vide a great bal­ance of per­for­mance and range with a top speed in the mid-20s and a range of around 1,500nm at 6 knots.

The pods work well at speed, too. With­out even a hint of a hump, the MY44 slices its way up to a top speed of 25 knots, where it feels re­fined and con­fi­dent. We had calm wa­ter for our sea trial but, where some pow­er­cats with higher top speeds can feel skit­tish, the MY44 set­tles down well and re­acts tidily to the nicely weighted helm. Turns are as flat and un­ex­cit­ing as you would ex­pect but, to use a worn but apt phrase, the boat goes about as if it were on rails.

A short head sea is when the boat feels most con­fi­dent, though some fel­low jour­nal­ists who were out in rougher con­di­tions later in the day said that they took some spray on board – even on the fly­bridge – at times. There were oc­ca­sions too when at rest, the amount of rock­ing we ex­pe­ri­enced from a small amount of wash was sur­pris­ing. Sta­bilis­ers for mono­hulls have come so far in the last few years that cata­ma­rans no longer hold all the cards when it comes to sta­tion­ary sta­bil­ity, even if their nat­u­ral sure­foot­ed­ness is still su­pe­rior.

VER­DICT

The cata­ma­ran mar­ket may will be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a boost but choos­ing a cat will still feel like a leap of faith for some.

A pri­mary ben­e­fit of the MY44 be­ing a pow­er­cat is the amount of cabin space

The looks, the sheer width, and con­cerns of han­dling them at close quar­ters will all play on the mind, even if you are get­ting an in­cred­i­ble amount of liv­ing space. All told, the MY44 we tested is a € 1 mil­lion boat, a lot for a 44-footer but very rea­son­able for a 60-footer, which is a bet­ter com­par­i­son given the deck and liv­ing space that is on of­fer.

Qual­ity is much im­proved but there are still a few ar­eas where it feels as if cor­ners are be­ing cut un­nec­es­sar­ily, such as the lack of gas rams to hold open lock­ers and the en­gine­room fin­ish­ing. These may be small de­tails, but those com­par­ing the MY44 with 50-60ft mono­hulls from high-end yards will ex­pect a cer­tain level of fi­nesse. Us­ing IPS was a gam­ble but it works bril­liantly, pro­vid­ing am­ple per­for­mance and re­mov­ing some of the fear fac­tor from trick­ier slow-speed ma­noeu­vres that can be dif­fi­cult on a cata­ma­ran. The own­er­fo­cused lay­out may alien­ate buy­ers who want sheer sleep­ing space or a boat to char­ter, but the ben­e­fits are enor­mous for the owner op­er­a­tor who gets to en­joy that mag­nif­i­cent mas­ter suite.

There are a few small creases that could do with iron­ing out but we still rate this as the best pow­er­cat Foun­taine-pa­jot has ever made and the best of the cur­rent sub-45ft cruis­ing cats we’ve tested to date. Con­tact Mi­cats. Tel: +44 (0)1489 573059. Web: www.foun­taine-pa­jot.com

Us­ing IPS could have been con­sid­ered a gam­ble but it works bril­liantly

Pic­tures Richard Lang­don

The slen­der pair of hulls cleave through a head sea with con­sum­mate ease

The driv­ing po­si­tion is good at the fly­bridge helm and the op­tional 22in Garmin MFDS are su­perb, if pricy

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