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?
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.
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
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