Cruising World - - Contents - By Tim Mur­phy

Whether it’s time to get un­der­way or re­lax with a drink in hand, mod­ern cruis­ing cats have lay­out choices that cater to both.




t was in the mid-1990s that cruis­ing cata­ma­rans truly be­gan to pop­u­late the wa­ter­front. It’s not that cats didn’t ex­ist be­fore that; they just weren’t be­ing pro­duced in the sig­nif­i­cant num­bers we’ve seen in the past 20 years. At last fall’s An­napo­lis boat show, cata­ma­rans rep­re­sented fully half of the new mod­els in Cruis­ing World’s 2017 Boat of the Year event, and at least

Ithree builders of those cats launch hun­dreds of new boats ev­ery year.

If you’ve been watch­ing this trend, as we have, you’ll re­call that the lay­outs on ear­lier cruis­ing cats hardly var­ied at all. Gal­ley up, or gal­ley down? Af­ter that choice, most cats fol­lowed a fa­mil­iar pat­tern: helm to star­board at the coachroof bulk­head, mixed so­cial and work­ing cock­pit, in­te­rior saloon on the bridgedeck, and berths and heads — and some­times gal­leys — down in the hulls.

To­day’s gen­er­a­tion of­fers a far more sweep­ing range of lay­out choices.


You can still find tra­di­tional lay­outs among to­day’s of­fer­ings. This year’s St. Fran­cis 50 MK II, built in South Africa, is a vinylester­in­fused ver­sion of the An­gelo Lavra­nos de­sign that won Best Cruis­ing Cata­ma­ran in CW’S 2006 BOTY con­test. Like her ear­lier sib­ling, the MK II ver­sion fea­tures a mixed so­cial and work­ing cock­pit un­der a hard­top in the aft half of the bridgedeck. In keep­ing with those pre­vi­ous de­signs, the genoa winch and rope clutch you’d use on star­board tack

are mounted on the coachroof to port. This de­sign min­i­mizes sheet fric­tion but ei­ther re­quires two peo­ple for ev­ery ma­neu­ver or sin­gle­han­ders to quickly scurry from star­board to port and back — in­clud­ing two steps down from the helm seat and a big step up onto the cock­pit set­tee or side deck. Folks loung­ing at the spa­cious out­door ta­ble en­joy thor­ough pro­tec­tion from the weather but scant vis­i­bil­ity for­ward.

The Royal Cape Ma­jes­tic 530, a vac­uum-bagged bal­sacored boat built in Dur­ban, South Africa, ex­hibits a sim­i­lar lay­out but at an ex­ag­ger­ated scale, of­fer­ing the great­est head­room un­der the cock­pit’s hard dodger of any boat in the 2017 fleet. There’s a trade-off here be­tween sig­nif­i­cant weight aloft (a bad thing) and ac­cess to the full boom length when you stand on the hard­top (a good thing). As on the St. Fran­cis, the genoa sheet leads to the port side for star­board tack. Promis­ing com­fort­able cruis­ing, com­pany di­rec­tor Ken Bircher said, “I don’t pre­tend to be a high-per­for­mance builder,” and he es­ti­mates a typ­i­cal day’s run for the boat at 150 nau­ti­cal miles. This is one of the rare builders that still of­fers a gal­ley­down in­te­rior, and the only to of­fer that along with five cab­ins and five sep­a­rate heads.

The Seawind 1190 Sport ap­plies the bulk­head-mounted helm — in this case, twin helms to port and star­board — to en­tirely dif­fer­ent pur­poses. This speedy 39-footer, built in Viet­nam by an Aus­tralian com­pany, courts coastal sailors far more in­ter­ested in min­utes per mile than miles per day. With dag­ger­boards raised, rud­ders lifted from their car­tridges and twin 20 hp Honda out­board mo­tors tilted up, her lithe hulls float in 22 inches of wa­ter. Just one in­stalled head keeps weight down, and an athwartship queen berth keeps the hulls nar­row. With sail­han­dling con­trols to port and star­board, the 1190’s smaller scale sim­pli­fies ma­neu­vers for short­handed cruis­ing, and you can al­ways po­si­tion your­self to see the sails. In light air, our boat speed nearly matched the true wind speed of less than 5 knots. This Seawind earned the BOTY Judges’ Spe­cial Prize for 2017.


Back in 2004, La­goon pi­o­neered the fly­bridge con­cept with its 440 model. Since then, cat de­sign­ers have be­come ever more de­lib­er­ate about ei­ther mix­ing or blend­ing out­door so­cial spa­ces and work­ing spa­ces — some­times en­tirely

sep­a­rat­ing line han­dling and helm sta­tions from dinettes and set­tees, some­times clearly link­ing them. For ev­ery boat in this cat­e­gory, all sail­han­dling con­trols are brought to a sin­gle lo­ca­tion, elim­i­nat­ing the athwartship dash dur­ing short­handed ma­neu­vers but some­times adding the fric­tion of ad­di­tional sheet-lead turns.

Though we’ve seen many fly­bridge mod­els in the past dozen years, our only ex­am­ple in this year’s fleet was the Bavaria Nau­titech Fly 46. The French Nau­titech line had been build­ing boats for 20 years in La Rochelle when it was pur­chased in 2014 by Bavaria Yacht­bau, a Ger­man high-pro­duc­tion builder of mono­hulls. This fly­bridge 46-footer pro­vides a shel­tered out­door so­cial area on the aft bridgedeck that’s en­tirely sep­a­rated from the run­ning of the boat. Guests look­ing for sun and wind can move to sun pads on the fore­deck or join the ac­tion up on the fly­bridge. The higher weight and cen­ter of ef­fort of this de­sign may limit the boat’s seago­ing ap­peal, but for char­ters or par­ties it’s hard to beat.

In the mean­time, some cat builders have adopted a hy­brid lay­out that falls be­tween the tra­di­tional bulk­head-mounted helm and the fly­bridge. La­goon calls its ver­sion a Spor­top, which ac­counts for the “S” in the La­goon 450 S model name. In the case of the 450, the helm is up four steps from the sole, through a cutout in a hard­top over the aft deck. A smaller, sep­a­rate hard­top, pro­vid­ing shel­ter for two, is raised on posts over the helm. Bend­ing over, you can still make eye con­tact and speak with guests on the aft deck; there’s sep­a­ra­tion, but not as com­plete as that on a fly­bridge.

The La­goon 42, judged Best Full-size Multihull Un­der 50 Feet, also fea­tures a sport top, this one to port. What dis­tin­guishes this boat is that the rig has been moved aft sub­stan­tially, pro­vid­ing for a much larger self-tack­ing genoa whose track runs athwart the cabin top.

Last year, Foun­taine Pa­jot brought a fly­bridge model, the Ipanema 58, which won the 2016 award for Best Char­ter Boat. The year’s new­est model, the Foun­taine Pa­jot Lu­cia 40, fea­tures a sport-top helm to star­board and a well­pro­tected so­cial cock­pit un­der the hard­top aft.


Two virtues are ex­hib­ited in all the boats in the fol­low­ing group: ex­em­plary sight lines through­out the boat, and a de­lib­er­ate unit­ing of in­side and out­side spa­ces.

The Leop­ard 45, built by Robert­son and Caine in Cape Town, South Africa, fea­tures a hy­brid, or sport-top, helm sta­tion like those in the last cat­e­gory. But we in­clude it here among the “open-plan” cats be­cause it ex­em­pli­fies the type. Her creators have gone to ex­tra­or­di­nary mea­sures to cre­ate a cat that sailors can both see and walk through from stern to stem. (Naval ar­chi­tect Alex Si­mo­nis cre­ated struc­tural com­pos­ite stringers un­der­neath the bridgedeck that wrap into each hull to re­place a cross­beam that would carry rig loads un­der the mast in most cata­ma­rans.) Seated in the aft cock­pit, you can see for­ward di­rectly through ½-inch Lexan win­dows and a frame­less for­ward door to the hori­zon ahead; this is a thor­oughly dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence from a view of white

fiber­glass. The Leop­ard 45 had the most de­vel­oped for­ward cock­pit of the 2017 fleet, and a helm sta­tion very wellor­ga­nized for sin­gle­hand­ing. To­gether, they earned the cat the award for Best Char­ter Cata­ma­ran of 2017.

The Bali 4.0 Lounge, built by Catana in France and des­tined for Dream Yachts char­ter fleets, de­vel­ops an in­door/out­door idea Bali in­tro­duced last year. In this case, the en­tire bridgedeck is a sin­gle space con­tain­ing the gal­ley, dinette and nav sta­tion. A garage-door-style en­clo­sure ei­ther opens the en­tire aft end to the weather or closes it off. Non­skid in the bridgedeck tele­graphs its out­door in­ten­tions. A fly­bridge helm and a full for­ward cock­pit pro­vide sec­ond and third out­door so­cial spa­ces.

BOTY judges deemed the Bal­ance 526, built by Nexus Yachts in South Africa, the most suc­cess­ful cat in the fleet — and gave it the over­all prize for Best Im­port Boat of the Year. Her open plan pro­vides ex­em­plary sight lines through tem­pered-glass win­dows from the aft deck as well as the saloon. The de­signer put this vis­i­bil­ity to prac­ti­cal use with the boat’s Ver­sa­helm, a wheel on an ar­tic­u­lat­ing pedestal that al­lows the op­er­a­tor to steer from the sole level, fully pro­tected from the weather, or from a raised po­si­tion above the cabin top, pro­vid­ing un­clut­tered views of the sails as well as all four cor­ners of the cat. The top-qual­ity vac­uum-bagged epoxy struc­ture, fea­tur­ing Core­cell foam and E-glass with car­bon re­in­force­ments, is stiff and light. With slen­der hulls, clean lines and an am­ple sail plan, this Bal­ance looks poised to tick off 250-mile days in com­fort.


Two boats stood out for their in­no­va­tion. The U.s.-built Maine Cat 38 uses a heatand-pres­sure method called ther­mo­form­ing to shape the sand­wich lam­i­nate into com­plex curves with­out re­quir­ing cuts, or kerfs, that fill with resin and add weight. Cre­ator Dick Ver­meulen’s def­i­ni­tion of suc­cess? “It has to be the fastest cruis­ing cat on the wa­ter,” he said. While we haven’t had the chance to sail the boat, its in­tegrity of pur­pose was clear at the dock. All ac­com­mo­da­tions — gal­ley, head, berths — are down in the hulls. The bridgedeck is a sin­gle space un­der a hard­top, with the in­side helm in­stalled on cen­ter­line and nearly all sail­han­dling con­trols brought to a cen­tral space.

And fi­nally, alone among all the cats we saw this year, the 37-foot, U.s.-built Gemini Freestyle of­fers no overnight ac­com­mo­da­tions what­so­ever. Tar­geted at re­sorts — the first buyer is in Can­cun — the Freestyle is in­tended as a great party plat­form for day trips, with sun pro­tec­tion un­der a hard­top and full ex­po­sure be­fore the mast. The hull comes with the op­tion to in­stall ei­ther one or two heads.

Af­ter years of see­ing cookie-cut­ter con­sen­sus among the creators of cruis­ing cats, it was re­fresh­ing in 2017 to see such a wide world of choices.

Tim Mur­phy is a CW ed­i­tor-at­large and a long­time Boat of the Year judge.

Re­gard­ing helm sta­tions, the La­goon 42 fea­tures a sport top to star­board (above). The Bal­ance has an ar­tic­u­lat­ing wheel that can be low­ered, as pic­tured, or raised so the helms­man can see over the cabin top (top right). The Seawind 1190 Sport em­ploys twin helms to ei­ther side of the saloon en­trance (above right).

Foun­taine Pa­jot’s Lu­cia 40 has a more tra­di­tional cat ac­com­mo­da­tion plan, with a gen­er­ous ta­ble and set­tee in the saloon (above left). The Royal Cape Ma­jes­tic 530 had the most spa­cious cock­pit and head­room in the 2017 BOTY fleet (above right).

The un­usual saloon on the Leop­ard 45 has a for­ward cock­pit ac­ces­si­ble through a ded­i­cated door (above left). Un­like the Leop­ard, the Bali 4.0 Lounge uses that same area for a spa­cious gal­ley to port and a nav sta­tion to star­board (above right).

The Bavaria Nau­titech Fly46 is a se­ri­ous party plat­form. The fly­bridge fea­tures gen­er­ous set­tees, sun beds and lounges on the up­per deck (top). With a few prop­erly placed cush­ions, the for­ward tram­po­lines can be con­verted into comfy spots to kick back (above).

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