Best Boats 2012 Winner: The Leopard 44 (Cruising Multihull Under 50ft)
Designed in the United States by Morrelli and Melvin and built in South Africa by Robertson & Caine, the Leopard line of catamarans has enjoyed a successful decade in the Caribbean and North American markets. Robust build and clever design are hallmarks of the range, and over the years each new model has featured a number of smart and sometimes downright innovative ideas and refinements. It’s not easy to give a loaded cruising cat satisfying sailing performance, but the designers are known for their fast-sailing boats and the 44 is as sprightly as such cats get.
You expect voluminous accommodations on a catamaran of this size, and the 44 does not disappoint. Whether you choose the three-cabin interior of the Leopard 44 or the four-cabin Sunsail charter version, the 444, there is space to burn. But what really sets this boat apart is the sheltered forward cockpit, accessed from on deck or via the “front door” set into the front of the saloon. There’s room for up to four people to sit around a drop-leaf table, and we could imagine relaxing there at anchor on a tropical evening, enjoying the warm breeze. The designers managed to make this addition without sacrificing internal volume by pushing the bridgedeck forward a little and shortening the bow trampoline. The saloon has benefitted by dint of the door, which can be left open for air flow, and the large expanse of window, which affords an excellent view forward. Most importantly, the extra cockpit has added a third private area to an already spacious boat.
Various performance cats have been designed with working cockpits forward of the saloon, but the Leopard 44 is the first production cruising cat to take advantage of the idea. We suspect it won’t be the last. leopardcatamarans.com
|Sail Area||1,270 ft2|