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.
Stepped hulls help keep the beam but entry narrow at waterline level