The following article on the vast range of catamaran options in today’s market complements Part 1 of the Yacht Style cover story published on Luxuo.com on June 3, 2019:
Multihulls are built across many parts of Southeast Asia and China. Among yards in Thailand, Stealth Cats brought out its first carbon-hulled catamaran last year, while Bakri Cono builds Heliotrope powercats, delivering a 48 to a corporate client in Hong Kong in February.
Among the prominent Chinese builders are Aquila, HH Catamarans (part of the Hudson Yacht Group) and McConaghy in Pingsha, west of Macau, which is developing a sleek power version of the MC60 that debuted at Cannes last September.
Named 59P, it’s an ultra-light boat with the same loft-style layout of the sailing version, with a top speed of 26 knots from twin 370hps. This is another creation from the pen of young English designer Jason Kerr, better known for his race boats.
In Xiamen, HH Catamarans continues to create elegant performance boats to rival the Gunboats made in Europe. At this year’s International Multihull Boat Show at La Grande Motte in southern France, I met with company spokesperson Tin Lan Huang to discuss the yard’s upcoming sailing catamaran, the HH50, which has outboard helm stations for a sporty feel, while curved daggerboards create lift and enhanced windward capabilities.
Interestingly, both carbon and e-glass GRP is available for the build. A new 56 powercat concept is also on the drawing board, penned by Gino Morrelli and Pete Melvin of US-based Morrelli and Melvin.
China’s Aquila had impressed me when I did a sea trial on its 44 powercat, which sported pioneering bulbed bows and a quality finished interior. The model is now also available in a four-cabin version, a design first developed for a customer in Europe last year.
Aquila powercats are built in Hangzhou at the Sino Eagle Shipyard, which has experience of building Leopard catamarans and the Sunsail 38 models. US-based MarineMax approached the yard in 2011 to build the Aquila range of power catamarans, which also includes 48 and 36 models.
Launched at the Miami International Boat Show in February, Aquila’s latest model is the versatile 32, a semi-open design with a forward double cabin and a swim platform that wraps around the outboard engines, with a hydraulic lifting version available. Ideal for water sports, the 32 reflects a growing trend for the simpler power of outboard engines, which are more cost-effective and easily maintained and replaced.
Vietnam’s Seawind, based in Ho Chi Minh City, has launched several new models recently including the stylish Reichel Pugh- designed 1600. This is a powerful performance-cruiser with a high level of detailed finish, as I found during a recent sail test.
Seawind’s other recent models include the 1260 blue-water cruiser and the yard’s first daggerboard model, the 1190. Daggerboards allow catamarans to have much more windward abilities, a key weakness of most cruising models that have stubby little mini keels integrated into each hull.
Also in Vietnam, Triac Composites has sought to solve the width problem of multihulls with its new Rapido 50 trimaran. Trimarans are the world’s fastest yachts, but the downside is inside space and berthing, so new approaches to both of these areas are welcome.
Triac boss Paul Koch, the renowned trimaran specialist who co-founded the company, engaged Morrelli and Melvin to create this oceangoing sailing yacht that has folding amas (floats).
It’s a smaller version of the conventional R60, yet the R50 can narrow to half of its beam (10.38m down to 5.5m) to drastically reduce marina berthing costs. A similar design to the Danish-made Dragonfly, these boats offer performance with four comfortable berths.
“We beat a TP52 to windward during Hamilton Island Race Week last year, which shows the capabilities of our trimarans,” said Koch, who has been based in the region for over a decade and whose yard recently delivered a cat to a Hong Kong resident.
Production cruising boats in the 40-50ft range is the bulk of the catamaran market, with buyers flocking from monohulls and gas- guzzling powerboats.
Lagoon remains the market leader and it showed its 46 sailing catamaran at La Grande Motte, three months after its world debut indoors at Boot Dusseldorf, where it marked the first new model from the company for 16 months. It’s likely to prove very popular, especially as it’s an upgrade of the iconic 450, one of Lagoon’s best-selling models.
The Bali catamarans from the Catana shipyard in France are also leading contenders in this market. Among them is the flagship 5.4, a 55ft sailing cat with strong performance. For 2019, the 4.3 MY power catamaran gives more of the same – three huge living areas and frugal consumption while reaching double-digit speeds on comfortable double hulls.
Nautitech is another prolific French company with a long history in catamarans, so it was good to meet new boss Gildas Le Masson, a former Beneteau manager, who is determined to shake up the Rochefort builder. “My main priority this year is revamping our Nautitech 46 to launch at Cannes and increasing production from 75 to 100 boats,” he told me.
Another excellent boat I enjoyed sailing was Fountaine Pajot’s Astrea 42, while the Dufour 48 is an surprising new contender as it’s from traditional monohull builder Dufour, recently bought by Fountaine Pajot.
I walked through this spacious Dufour 48 and the key attributes include a large flybridge for navigation, allowing the open-plan saloon to be devoted to relaxation, while an extensive sailplan includes a Code 0 and a self-tacking jib for easy sailing. The owner’s version uses the entire port hull with two guest cabins, while a four-cabin layout is also available.
Michael Dufour, founder of the La Rochelle-based builder, created the new catamaran, which is aimed at the premium end of the market and will be built in relatively small numbers. Dufour could even prove a complementary ‘premium marque’ to Fountaine Pajot’s production- orientated range.
Another quality French builder is Privilege Marine, which recently launched a 45ft powercat that has the sun protection combined with performance that’s ideal for Asian waters. The boat I went aboard showed excellent workmanship and upgraded 320hp engines that powered it to a top speed of 22 knots, with a cruising speed of 15 knots, which should give a range of 250nm. Accommodation comprises four cabins, while the large flybridge is for relaxation and navigation.
Meanwhile, La Grande Motte hosted the world premiere of the Serie 5 hybrid catamaran powered by twin 50kw Torqueedo Deep Blue Hybrid electric motors, which store energy in BMW lithium-ion batteries.
Leopard has certainly not sat still as it bids to retain its number three status, behind Lagoon and Fountaine Pajot. These South African-built boats ooze practicalities as many are destined for the charter market so have to be resilient. The 43 PC powercat is an ideal entry boat that can plane and impressed me during sea trails last year, given its semi-displacement performance (23-knot top speed) and vast flybridge.
Equally, the larger 51 PC that I also motored last year is a grander version with vast relaxing space, yet not beyond the capability of a husband-and-wife team, given the inherent handling abilities of these boats. Engines far apart on each hull give great manoeuvrability in the confines of marinas.
A sturdily built boat, reflecting the fact many are used for charter, the 51 PC is a semi-displacement hull, allowing fast passage making with double-digit speeds. Unlike equivalent monohulls, they don’t require huge engines. This Leopard can do about 24 knots and cruise at 20 knots while burning around 120lph. At 6-8 knots, the 1,500-litre fuel tank gives her a range over 1,000nm.
After the world premiere of the Leopard 50 sailing cat at La Grande Motte last year, the model had its Asia premiere in Thailand in July and is already the company’s best-selling model.
For 2019, the company has revamped its 45, a boat I found to have much better performance than previous models and which now comes with larger cockpits and improved interiors, with many of these changes based on feedback from charters and owners.
As I said, the time is right and the choices multiple, so good luck while making yours.
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Catamaran Choices, Sail and Power – Part 1 of Yacht Style Special