Boats

Just Launched: Alpha Cat

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It’s great to see companies like Gunboat bringing big-boat manufacturing back to the United States. The company opened a new North Carolina yard in May, and we can look forward to seeing a new range of high-end catamarans appearing there in the near future. 

There’s also been movement on Long Island, New York, where the first Aeroyacht Alpha 42 is under construction at Alpha 1 Composites. This striking cat is the brainchild of longtime multihull enthusiast, author and broker Gregor Tarjan, who in addition to preaching the multicoque gospel in general has evolved some strong ideas of his own. These are brought to life in the Alpha 42, whose looks could scarcely be more modern and whose spec sheet bristles with up-to-the-moment features. Along with Tarjan, Marc Anassis, naval architect at Alpha 1, is responsible for the design and engineering.

Tarjan wanted to combine true cruising comfort and load-carrying ability with excellent performance—in catamarans the balance inevitably tilts one way or the other—so he and Anassis combined go-fast features like wave-piercing bows, a high bridgedeck and a large rig with a square-topped mainsail with chined hulls for extra volume and lavish use of composites to keep weight down. As far as possible, heavy components have been centered in the boat to reduce pitching and lower the center of gravity. 

The hulls have foam cores skinned with epoxy/polyester laminates above the waterline; the solid laminate below the waterline is laced with Kevlar for impact resistance. There are a number of collision bulkheads for safety.

Renderings show wraparound tinted saloon windows offering panoramic views, and a choice between an owner’s layout or a four-cabin, four-heads charter layout. There’s up to 6ft 5in headroom throughout. Systems are rugged and as simple as possible, given the demands of today’s owners. 

The rig has been designed for shorthanded crews; aluminum spars and stainless rigging are standard, but you can specify a rotating carbon spar and synthetic rigging instead. The small main/big headsail configuration is counter to cat fashion, but should prove easy to handle.

Tarjan says several buyers have already put their money down, and hull #1 should be on the water by the end of the year. If the Alpha 42’s performance lives up to its looks, Aeroyacht should be onto a winner. 

As a New World sailor I’d heard of Italy’s Grand Soleil brand, but I’d never seen one until one day in 1986. We tied up in Gibraltar’s Marina Bay alongside a sleek, purposeful-looking yacht with a near-flush cabintop, sculpted curves and teak decks. “That’s a Grand Soleil,” my skipper said. “Spaghetti Swans, they call them.” I grasped the allusion right away, for I had indeed assumed the low-slung 46-footer was one of Finland’s famed Swans. 

That was a while back, and the affectionate nickname is obsolete, now that the Swan brand itself is Italian-owned. What’s not obsolete is the cool styling and potent performance of these cruiser-racers: pasta power, indeed. 

This past year, the Cantiere del Pardo yard on Italy’s Adriatic coast introduced a 39-footer and a 50-footer to join the 54 and 46 that were already in its revamped lineup. More recently, the yard unveiled a new Grand Soleil 43, which replaces the current Botin & Carkeek-designed 43-footer that enjoyed great racing success over its life. 

Claudio Maletti, a key figure on Italy’s Luna Rossa and Il Moro di Venezia America’s Cup teams back in the monohull days, is responsible for the lines of the new boat. He’s known for creating powerful hull forms that stand up well to a press of sail and also for meticulous engineering that keeps weight down without compromising strength. For example, Grand Soleil’s traditional steel interior grid, which carried keel and rig loads, has been replaced here with a composite carbon fiber/epoxy grid that is bonded to the hand-laid fiberglass/foam sandwich hull.

Displacing a touch over 19,000lb, the GS43 has a sensible three-cabin, two-head layout that’s decked out in muted, almost stark wood trim and white-finished composites. A large nav station, full galley, saloon settees that double as sea berths, and generous stowage should suit the needs of both performance and cruising-minded owners. On deck, both the mainsheet and primary sheet winches are within easy reach of the helm, and most lines are led out of sight in galleries for an exceptionally clean deck layout.

The yard is eager to re-establish its presence in the U.S. market, so hopefully we’ll see some of these pretty, classy rides appearing on this side of the Atlantic.

Images courtesy of Aeroyacht and Grand Soleil

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