Five Cats That Purr and Prowl
Continuing a trend that at this point appears irreversible, the single largest category in the 2016 BOTY fleet was the Multihull Cruisers class, with five entrants, all catamarans. A stroll down the docks at the Annapolis show suggested that cats continue to be the fastest-growing segment of the new-boat marketplace. Furthermore, the nominees were all from the two lands that lead the planet in multihull development and production: France (the Bali 4.3 Loft, Bavaria Open 40 and Fountaine Pajot Ipanema 58) and South Africa (the Leopard 40 and Voyage 480).
The most unusual member of the group was the Bali 4.3 Loft, produced by the well-established Catana yard. With its many unique moving parts, the judges affectionately termed it the “transformer boat.” Among the yacht’s several innovative characteristics were a drop-down folding transom platform for easy boarding and recreation; a cockpit door/bulkhead that could be raised overhead to open up an expansive living space; and a solid deck forward that eschewed trampolines to create a vast lounging area.
Designed by Alex Simonis and built by the distinguished team at Cape Town’s Robertson and Caine boatyard, the Leopard 40 was a boat that came in with high expectations and didn’t disappoint. Alvah Simon said, “I gave high marks to the flow of the deck layout and floor plan, the nonskid, pushpit, pulpit, stanchions, lifelines, and the way they set up the windlass and anchor bridle. And it sailed surprisingly well.”
The Voyage 480 is actually built right down the road from Robertson and Caine. Tim Murphy found a lot to like about it: “They did some nice things to keep weight out of the boat, using cored furniture and doors that are very light. With several other boats you can really feel the weight all over the place, but not here. For sailhandling, they use double-ended bridles that work well. They provide control athwartships, across a wide span at both ends of the boom, so you can really dial in the sail shape you need.”
Murphy also noted that Fountaine Pajot had done an excellent job in addressing the relatively low girth of the Ipanema 58. “This is a massive vessel — a flybridge boat, which is a trend we’re seeing more and more in cats — and yet the displacement-to-length ratio is 124, which is one of the lowest in the entire fleet,” he said.
But for all the diversity in this category, the judges found common ground in announcing their clear winner. The Bavaria Open 40 was their unsurpassed choice as the Best Multihull Cruiser for 2016.
Built in France at the Nautitech yard — in collaboration with Germany’s Bavaria Yachts, which recently purchased the French company, and Horizon Yacht Charters — the 40-footer did just about everything remarkably well. Murphy summed up the panel’s collective opinion: “Most everyone building cats speaks about an ‘open’ concept, but the design of the Bavaria Open 40 was so simple and elegant that it really excelled with this feature. Bavaria’s solution is a closed forward bridgedeck that connects the indoor space and the outdoor space with soft covers around the aft cockpit so you can make one continuous open area.
“The way they integrated the working space with the social space was terrific. There are two helm positions outboard at the aft end of the hulls. Initially we thought those might be exposed spots, but once we were sailing, the visibility was outstanding, better than many monohulls we tested and certainly the best of all the catamarans. There’s exemplary connectedness between the people running the boat and the people socializing on the boat. Those things added up to the Bavaria Open 40 standing out in the category.”