Room (Lots of It) with a View

Cruising World - - Contents - By Mark Pills­bury

The Leop­ard 50 proves adept at cruis­ing and chartering.

The LEOP­ARD 50 from Robert­son and Caine is spa­cious, modern-look­ing and equally suited for cruis­ing or va­ca­tion­ing.

Sit­ting at the wheel and tweak­ing the sails of the new Leop­ard 50 on a breezy af­ter­noon off the coast of Fort Laud­erdale, Florida, last win­ter was pretty darned en­joy­able. But then again, so was loung­ing around on the fly­bridge a few steps re­moved from the helm sta­tion, watch­ing some­one else do all the work.

In fact, strolling about the boat and tak­ing in the ex­pan­sive views from nu­mer­ous van­tage points, I quickly con­cluded there are any num­ber of ways to en­joy the new­est cata­ma­ran from Robert­son and Caine. And that’s the whole idea, since the South African builder sells all of its boats into the Moor­ings and Sun­sail charter fleets, and to pri­vate own­ers un­der the Leop­ard Cata­ma­ran brand. To be suc­cess­ful, a boat like the 50 has to have a lit­tle some­thing for ev­ery­one, as they say.

Robert­son and Caine first in­tro­duced the idea of a for­ward cock­pit and wa­ter­tight door in the front of the sa­loon with the Mor­relli & Melvin-de­signed Leop­ard 44, which was named CW’S Best Mul­ti­hull and Im­port Boat of the Year in 2012. Alex Si­mo­nis and Si­mo­nis Voogd Yacht De­sign then took over at the draft­ing ta­ble, and the con­cept evolved over the course of three more mod­els, in­clud­ing the award-win­ning Leop­ard 48, which the 50 re­places. It will be sold for charter as the Moor­ings 5000.

With each it­er­a­tion, the meld­ing of in­side and out­side space has in­creased, in­te­rior de­sign has been re­fined and ex­te­rior styling has been sharp­ened. On the 50, the great out­doors lit­er­ally pours into the sa­loon and sleep­ing cab­ins thanks to hull ports and over­head hatches and large win­dows around the house, and a fly­bridge op­tion has been added to give sailors yet one more place to gather or get away from it all.

The 50 is also of­fered with a num­ber of dif­fer­ent lay­outs (more on those in a minute), and breaks the cab­ins-ofe­qual-size tra­di­tion when it comes to the charter mar­ket. The boat in­tro­duced at the Mi­ami In­ter­na­tional Boat Show last win­ter was the four-cabin ver­sion — of­ten the most pop­u­lar for va­ca­tion­ers — but with a twist. Three cou­ples get spa­cious en-suite ac­com­mo­da­tions, while one gets treated like true own­ers, with a mas­ter suite that takes up nearly two-thirds of the star­board hull and has its own com­pan­ion­way just in­side the slid­ing door to the sa­loon. For­ward, in that hull, the berth is athwartships, with a head and shower in the fore­peak.

Other pos­si­bil­i­ties in­clude a sin­gle cabin to port with stor­age or a work­shop for­ward, or three en-suite cab­ins to star­board, bring­ing the to­tal num­ber of cab­ins to five. In any of the ver­sions, crew ac­com­mo­da­tions are avail­able far for­ward in the port hull.

Ex­te­rior op­tions in­clude ei­ther a large lift­ing swim/dinghy plat­form or tra­di­tional davits. The 50P (for per­for­mance) model fea­tures a raised helm sta­tion and over­head solid Bi­mini. The 50L (for lounge) sports a sim­i­lar helm ar­range­ment, but adds a fly­bridge with a U-shaped couch, ta­ble and tan­ning beds lo­cated atop the cock­pit Bi­mini. It is reached via stairs from the star­board side deck. I mea­sured head clear­ance un­der the boom at 6 feet 8 inches, which, in most cases, would be more than ad­e­quate to avoid ac­ci­dents un­der way. The fly­bridge on the 50L is the place to be un­der way (right). Open space abounds through­out the in­te­rior.

What is truly stun­ning about the 50 is the sense of open­ness, whether seated in the cock­pit look­ing for­ward through the house, or in the sa­loon it­self, where you’re sur­rounded by walls of glass and an over­head sky­light that spans nearly the length of the room.

De­signer Si­mo­nis said with each new model, the de­sign brief calls for more

vis­i­bil­ity, which means fewer solid struc­tural el­e­ments. To achieve that goal on the 50, both in the sa­loon and in the cab­ins be­low, car­bon-in­fused ring frames were used in place of solid wood or com­pos­ite bulk­heads. Even the frame around the wa­ter­tight for­ward door seem­ingly dis­ap­pears in the de­sign.

The aft end of the sa­loon opens wide, with slid­ing doors. In the cock­pit, there’s a large ta­ble and U-shaped couch to port, and a cush­ioned set­tee op­po­site be­neath the helm sta­tion.

A sec­ond for­ward-fac­ing din­ing area is just in­side the sa­loon to port. The ta­ble folds and can be low­ered for cock­tails, or it can open wide to ac­com­mo­date a din­ner crowd. A nav­i­ga­tion desk is for­ward to port, just ahead of the com­pan­ion­way lead­ing to the cab­ins be­low. Stain­less handrails by the stairs have a clean look, and the dark non­skid steps have stain­less nos­ing, which makes them quite vis­i­ble.

The gal­ley takes up much of the star­board side of the bridgedeck. A U-shaped counter and sink, with re­frig­er­a­tion un­der, look out onto the for­ward cock­pit, cush­ioned loung­ing area and tram­po­lines be­tween the hulls. Just aft of the for­ward star­board com­pan­ion­way sits a sec­ond counter area with stove and oven, and two more draw­ers of re­frig­er­a­tion/freezer space.

A boat fit out like hull num­ber one, which we sailed fol­low­ing the Mi­ami show, sells for right around $1 mil­lion; the base price of the 50, de­liv­ered to the East Coast of the U.S., is $850,000 (the Moor­ings charter ver­sion, at $899,000, comes fully equipped for rental).

The Leop­ard in Mi­ami sported a square-top main (a con­ven­tional main­sail is also of­fered) and an over­lap­ping genoa. Com­bined, they pro­vided plenty of power to push us through choppy off­shore seas. On a beam reach in 15 or so knots of wind, the GPS showed us lop­ing along at a steady 9 knots; 10.4 knots in one puff was my per­sonal best for the day. Off the wind, I’d ex­pect most own­ers would take ad­van­tage of the sprit op­tion and fly a code zero or some other down­wind sail.

Sail­han­dling was made sim­ple by hav­ing all con­trol lines led to three beefy winches close at hand to the wheel — some­thing that will be ap­pre­ci­ated by char­ter­ers and cruis­ing cou­ples alike. Still, there was am­ple room for a sec­ond crew to stand by and lend a hand.

In Leop­ard mode, the new 50 would be a com­fort­able home, ca­pa­ble of tick­ing off a good day’s run. As the Moor­ings 5000, well, let the par­ties be­gin.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.