New Boats

Re­views of the Foun­taine Pa­jot Saona 47, the Saffier Se 33 and the Mal­bec 18

SAIL - - Contents - By Tom Dove

Here’s a rid­dle: What is less than 50ft long, has two hulls, three big cab­ins and four decks? Answer: The Foun­taine Pa­jot Saona 47. In fact, it may even be five lev­els if you count the large en­gine rooms. This boat is a “space craft” in every sense of the word.


The Foun­taine Pa­jot Saona 47 max­i­mizes liv­ing and en­ter­tain­ing space while re­tain­ing good speed by com­bin­ing “multi-deck­ing,” a min­i­mum wet­ted sur­face and lots of flare at the chines. It’s tricky to put all that to­gether, but the design staff at Ber­ret Ra­cou­peau have suc­ceeded here, partly by ex­tend­ing the wa­ter­line to in­clude in­te­gral stern plat­forms. The lim­i­ta­tion will probably be load­ing—if the boat is car­ry­ing a lot of weight, the broader por­tions of the hulls will be sub­merged and per­for­mance is likely to suf­fer—but that’s each owner’s look­out.

Con­struc­tion is typ­i­cal of this builder, with a vinylester resin-in­fused, balsa-cored hull and deck. The in­te­rior is not fancy, but it’s func­tional, ur­ban con­tem­po­rary in design and quite at­trac­tive. The sys­tems are neatly in­stalled, and there’s good ac­cess to the bilges.

The en­gine com­part­ments in the stern of ei­ther hull are large enough to keep any diesel me­chanic happy. A bit of sound in­su­la­tion here and a few other places in the hulls would im­prove the ride com­fort, since the in­te­rior is pri­mar­ily hard, sound-re­flec­tive sur­faces.


The rig is typ­i­cal of Foun­taine Pa­jot, with a huge square-topped main­sail and an over­lap­ping jib. This is ef­fi­cient and sim­ple, and the boom is reach­able by an av­er­age-size per­son, al­though the mast steps are essen­tial for at­tach­ing the main hal­yard.

The jib is easy to man­age, but the main­sail is a beast to raise, as the long bat­tens in the top and ex­treme roach on the leech all add weight. Even with a 2:1 pur­chase on the hal­yard, the elec­tric winch worked hard to raise the sail to the peak. Un­der­way, the forces on this huge sail will be for­mi­da­ble. How­ever, the winches are sized to han­dle them.

The deck is easy to ne­go­ti­ate, al­though bet­ter grab points for­ward

would be wel­come. There are sun­bathing lounges that abound all over the main and up­per decks, while the traf­fic pat­terns in and out of the aft deck are ex­cel­lent.

The big aft area is far too large to call a cock­pit. In fact, this will be the so­cial cen­ter of the boat, with seat­ing, stand­ing and re­clin­ing space for a mul­ti­tude. A wide slid­ing door con­nects it to the sa­loon to pro­duce an open, ur­ban apart­ment-like space.


The stand­out in­te­rior fea­ture of the Saona 47 is a master suite big­ger than I’ve seen on any other cat un­der 55ft. This “owner’s ver­sion” ded­i­cates the en­tire port hull to a big dou­ble bed aft, a van­ity, ex­ten­sive stowage space amid­ships and a for­ward com­part­ment with a sur­pris­ingly long shower, big sink and an en­closed toi­let. The star­board hull houses two nice-sized sleep­ing cab­ins, each with large dou­ble berths and en suite head.

There is also a char­ter ver­sion with crew’s quar­ters and en suite ac­com­mo­da­tions for three cou­ples.

The sa­loon is ex­pan­sive, modern and bright, with large win­dows that pro­vide good vis­i­bil­ity if you are fairly tall and stand­ing, but not if you are short or seated. The over­head clear­ance will de­light sailors over 6ft, but pi­lot­ing from the inside nav sta­tion is in­hib­ited by lack of vis­i­bil­ity when the sails are up.

This big space could also use some bet­ter grab points. While it’s true that cats do not heel, they do some­times have a quick mo­tion un­der­way, and you can feel aw­fully ex­posed in a bounc­ing liv­ing room with modern fur­ni­ture all around. Sim­ply round­ing the coun­ter­top edges down­ward into a large lip un­der­neath to make a hand­hold would go a long way to­ward safety. The over­head is too high to mount grabrails there. UN­DER SAIL I sailed the Saona 47 in a shifty 6- 10 knot breeze at An­napo­lis. The test boat had not been fully de­bugged and pre­sented some rig­ging is­sues that made it dif­fi­cult to set proper ten­sions on the main­sail. Even so, it tacked, reached and ran eas­ily while de­liv­er­ing speeds of around 5- 6 knots.

The el­e­vated helm sta­tion is spa­cious and com­fort­able, but I was sur­prised to dis­cover large blind spots. The port stern, for ex­am­ple, is blocked by the up­per deck even un­der power, and the en­tire port hull and the mast­head wind vane are in­vis­i­ble un­der sail.

There was a fair amount of wave noise inside while un­der­way, and the mo­tion was more ac­tive than I ex­pected. This may set­tle down af­ter some weight comes aboard from the usual cruis­ing gear and pro­vi­sions.

UN­DER POWER The Saona 47 han­dles well un­der power, with the usual cata­ma­ran agility in close spa­ces and good speed in open wa­ter. At a com­fort­able cruise set­ting of 2,400 rpm in calm wa­ter, the boat pro­duced 8.5 knots, while wide open throt­tle at 2,800 rpm yielded 9.2 knots.

The turn­ing cir­cle was about two boatlengths at idle speed, but the boat ex­e­cuted a pirou­ette ma­neu­ver neatly, twist­ing in its own length with props turn­ing in op­po­site direc­tions. Get­ting in and out of a very tight slip space was quite man­age­able with only three of us aboard.


Foun­taine Pa­jot’s boats never make rad­i­cal jumps. Rather, they evolve from one design to the next. While not what I’d con­sider a “Mom and Pop” boat for an older cou­ple, the Saona 47 is a spa­cious, fast cat that should be per­fect for an ac­tive cruis­ing fam­ily with teenagers, or char­ter groups who wish to en­ter­tain in style. s


DESIGNER Ber­ret Ra­cou­peau BUILDER Foun­taine Pa­jot, Ai­grefeuille, France, foun­taine-pa­ PRICE $680,000 (sail­away)

Space, space and more space: the sa­loon of­fers rooom for all...

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