New Boats

Re­views of the Leop­ard 50 and Boreal 47

SAIL - - Contents - By Chris Caswell

The Leop­ard 50 is re­plac­ing the pop­u­lar Leop­ard 48, but this con­sti­tutes an en­tirely new yacht, not just an up­grade of the older boat. The new 50 is 2ft longer than the 48, and the beam has been widened from 25ft to 26ft 5in. It is also avail­able with a fly­bridge, and to min­i­mize your sus­pense, it’s won­der­ful! Note that Leop­ard makes a point of call­ing it a “lounge” rather than a fly­bridge, and the ver­sion with said lounge is there­fore called the Leop­ard 50L. There’s an­other ver­sion sans lounge called the 50P, for per­for­mance. Aside from the lounge seat­ing on the hard­top abaft the helm, the only real dif­fer­ence on the L ver­sion is that the boom has been raised a bit, so no un­wary guest gets whacked.

DE­SIGN & CON­STRUC­TION

One thing that has al­ways im­pressed me about Leop­ards is that they are built tough. The con­struc­tion is aimed for the bare­boat char­ter mar­ket, where 50 skip­pers a year with vary­ing abil­i­ties will in­evitably put the boat through the wringer be­cause, well, it isn’t their boat.

The start­ing point for the Leop­ard 50 is a vac­uum-bagged and isopthalic resin-in­fused E-glass hull with an end-grain balsa core. Ring frames of car­bon fiber add stiff­ness with­out weight gain, and the keels are filled with closed-cell poly foam to pre­vent wa­ter ingress.

Peo­ple some­times ques­tion the abil­ity of a cruis­ing cat like this in off­shore con­di­tions, but many Leop­ards are de­liv­ered on their own bot­tom from the Robertson & Caine yard in South Africa. We had the de­liv­ery cap­tain for this 50 aboard for our test sail, and he had spent 52 days cross­ing from South Africa to Brazil to Tor­tola to Florida. When the wind was up and in the right di­rec­tion, he said, he and his two-man crew were bang­ing off 17 knots on au­topi­lot for days on end.

That tough­ness ex­tends to the in­te­rior as well, with the wood-grained ve­neer having the pale look of white­washed oak, as op­posed to fin­ger­print-prone var­nish. Own­ers are go­ing to revel in this bul­let­proof fin­ish, with wipe-clean main­te­nance and no var­nish cans in the locker.

ON DECK

My fa­vorite spot on ear­lier Leop­ards was the for­ward cock­pit, reached through a door from the sa­loon. In­tro­duced on the Leop­ard 44 in 2012, it’s fun un­der­way and ideal for a sun­downer at an­chor with a pleas­ant breeze.

The aft cock­pit boasts an im­mense dinette with 9ft set­tees that can hold every­one in the an­chor­age for Thanks­giv­ing dinner or a roast pig. The aft seat­back also flips for­ward to al­low guests to con­tem­plate the wake un­der­way, and a Kenyon grill is tucked into a con­sole for char­ring burg­ers. The side decks are nice and wide and pro­tected by dou­ble life­lines. I like that the hatches are flush with deep gut­ters for runoff.

My new fa­vorite spot aboard the Leop­ard 50L—which I’ll de­stroy all nau­ti­cal lingo in call­ing “The Up­stairs Lounge”—takes up most of the fiber­glass hard­top. A set­tee wraps around on three sides with comfy back­rests on stain­less posts and a fiber­glass ta­ble is equipped with com­part­ments to cor­ral your munchies in a breeze. There’s also an over­sized sun­pad just for­ward next to the helm.

Speak­ing of the helm, this is a great of­fice for the skip­per, who can eas­ily handle just about ev­ery­thing sin­gle­handed. The deck be­tween helm and mast looks like a Harken cat­a­log, with ev­ery man­ner of turn­ing block, a trio of electric winches and a squadron of Spin­lock stop­pers for hal­yards and sheets, the tails of which drop neatly into a can­vas bin.

Vis­i­bil­ity for the skip­per is good for­ward and to star­board, but iffy to port where the house and hard­top block the view. Ei­ther dock to star­board, add a cam­era for port­side view­ing or be sure to have some crew sta­tioned there to tell you what’s up.

AC­COM­MO­DA­TIONS

A lit­tle added length and beam makes a sur­pris­ing dif­fer­ence, and you can or­der a Leop­ard 50 with up to five state­rooms with­out cramp­ing any of them. The size of this new Leop­ard al­lows for a ca­pa­cious stan­dard master state­room aft to star­board with a dress­ing area that leads to an en­suite head. The dress­ing area has a built-in bureau out­board, a desk/vanity in­board and the berth falls some­where be­tween a king and a queen. That 17in of added beam also makes for a no­tice­able dif­fer­ence in the guest state­rooms, which now have walk-arounds on each side of the berths, so you don’t have to squirm in­el­e­gantly into bed.

The stan­dard ar­range­ment puts a VIP state­room for­ward in the star­board hull with the same berth size as the master state­room aft, again with a pri­vate en­try and en­suite head with molded shower stall. In the port hull are two more cab­ins, each with pri­vate heads and show­ers. The for­ward cabin has a slightly smaller berth and can be fit­ted out as a work­shop with a stacked washer/dryer. The five-cabin lay­out elim­i­nates the dress­ing area in the owner’s cabin and re­duces the size of the head, cre­at­ing a mid­ships cabin with an athwartships berth and en­suite head. Last, you can opt for a mini-cabin (Crew? Teenager? In-laws?) for­ward in the port bow with a sin­gle berth and head. If you can’t keep this straight, just know the Leop­ard 50 can be or­dered with up to six cab­ins and six pri­vate heads to fit ev­ery­thing from live­aboard com­fort to bare­boat char­ter ef­fi­ciency.

The gal­ley on the Leop­ard 50 con­sists of a counter to star­board, with a Miele four-burner cook­top over a Force 10 oven and a pair of Vitrifrigo fridge draw­ers just aft. For­ward is an L-shaped counter with sink and an­other fridge drawer un­der the counter. It’s a con­ve­nient ar­range­ment, with ev­ery­thing just a step away and out of the traf­fic. Com­plet­ing the sa­loon is a nav sta­tion to port, with chart stowage and a dash­board for elec­tronic re­peaters from the bridge.

UN­DER SAIL Ah, you’re prob­a­bly say­ing, the boat’s go­ing to be a bow-wow: raised rig, added weight, more windage. Au con­traire! Our boat had a square­topped main from Ull­man Sails and was op­tioned with a short bowsprit to carry a Code 0 for reach­ing, plus an asym­met­ric spin­naker. The re­sult was plenty of power for this 50-footer.

I had great fun work­ing the Leop­ard 50 up­wind in 17-plus knots of wind in a lumpy Gulf Stream. The steer­ing was also as light and sen­si­tive as a round-the-buoys racer.

The Leop­ard, like many cats, isn’t as close-winded as a mono­hull, or more ac­cu­rately, it isn’t happy jammed up to 45 de­grees ap­par­ent, where we dropped to 7 knots. But cracked off a bit to around 60 de­grees, I saw steady 9s and oc­ca­sional 10s on the gauge, which will get you to Bi­mini or Catalina in fine style.

UN­DER POWER Stan­dard power for the Leop­ard 50 is a pair of Yanmar 57hp diesel saildrives, and for once, you don’t have to lift a berth to ser­vice the en­gines, with twin cock­pit hatches pro­vid­ing easy access. The North­ern Lights 9kW genset is tucked for­ward in an equally ac­ces­si­ble deck locker.

Our test boat had a pair of the op­tional 80hp Yan­mars, and we topped out at nearly 9 knots at 2,500 rpm. Having twin en­gines so widely spaced in each hull gives you spec­tac­u­lar con­trol when turn­ing in a nar­row chan­nel, and you can work the boat side­ways into tight docks.

Of note on our re­view boat was the hy­draulic tran­som plat­form that can carry up to a 10ft ten­der and also serve as a “beach” when fully low­ered.

CON­CLU­SION

All told, I loved the Leop­ard 50, and I think you will, too. Fun to sail, well built and de­signed, and then there’s that Up­stairs Lounge. Nice! s

The sa­loon is light, airy and easy to move around in

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