Stylish French crusing catamaran
By Tom Dove
Fountaine Pajot has been building cruising catamarans for a long time, and the company makes a refined product. I sailed the first one imported into the U.S. as well as most of the subsequent models, and I’ve also visited the factory, so I was expecting no surprises with the new Orana 44.
The hull is solid-glass laminate below the waterline, foam-cored from the waterline to the sheer, and entirely vacuum-bagged. The deck is balsa-cored glass laminate, laid up dry between two molds and then injected with resin. The hull and deck are bolted and adhered together. The interior furniture is plywood with a sycamore veneer. The floorboards all lift for easy bilge access to through-hull fittings and other systems, but they creak when walked on.
Deck and cockpit
The cabintop of the Orana 44 continues straight onto a hardtop over the cockpit, making a level surface that translates into easier access to the end of the boom and to a top deck area large enough to tango on. The helm, with a seat wide enough for two, is easy to access through a cutout in the hardtop (with its own sliding hatch), and the cockpit flows easily into the cabin at the same level, through double sliding doors.
All the sail-control lines except the halyards lead simply to a cluster at the helm (the traveler is on the hardtop), so a singlehander can reach everything while steering. There’s also space for a crewmember to crank the winch while standing on the nearby starboard side deck. The only thing that limits the helmsman’s control is a long reach from the helm to the traveler line stopper. Visibility from the helm is excellent.
It’s a big vertical distance from the foredeck onto the cabintop, and there are no steps. Once you’re up, though, the huge, high expanse offers a perfect platform for a lookout to see the route through coral or shoals, and it’s a short distance for talking to the helmsman, who also enjoys a 360-degree view of the surroundings.
A delightful 10-to-12-knot breeze off Annapolis produced 7 to 7.5 knots of boatspeed. Tacking and gybing were simple with either one or two crew. I think the helm area needs better line-tail stowage; otherwise, it’s nearly perfect. The Orana 44 tacked easily through about 90 degrees and accelerated quickly coming out of the turns. I felt a slight springiness in the wheel from the steering cables; perhaps it needed some adjustment after the transatlantic voyage.
There was some kick to the rudders when backing down, but nothing dramatic or difficult to control. The boat turned smoothly in about 11/2 boatlengths with both engines running at 1,500 RPM and within its own length using opposite thrust to the two props, like other twin-engine cats. A 2,800 RPM setting produced 74 dBA of noise in the saloon and 8 knots of boatspeed. The top speed was 8.5 knots at the 3,000 RPM engine redline. With motoring speeds like these available in a cruising catamaran, who would want a trawler?
The nav station is forward, to starboard, while the galley is abaft that. This puts the navigator in a spot with excellent visibility through the big saloon windows.
The joinery is of good production-boat standards, and the feeling of the light-colored wood interior is modern, bright, and open, almost to the point of starkness. The hull liner is a foam-backed plastic fabric.
I sailed the four-cabin version, best suited to charter service. The optional three-cabin version dedicates the entire starboard hull to an owner’s suite. There’s ample headroom in all the cabins, and the bunks are low enough to be easy to enter and exit. I especially liked the dual-purpose saloon table, which not only mounts either inside or in the cockpit, but flips over for a choice of wood or laminate surface.
The Fountaine Pajot Orana 44 is not a radical departure from the builder’s earlier boats, but it’s a significant evolutionary step. The new hardtop design, improved helm station, pleasant interior, and good sailing qualities add up to make a comfortable, swift cruiser.
Price: $469,000 (approx. FOB factory) includes depth, speed, wind instruments, full-batten main,
furling genoa, refrigeration, and windlass.
Builder: Fountaine Pajot, Aigrefeuille, France; www.fountaine-pajot.com
Designer: Joubert Nivelt
U.S. distributor: Bay Yacht Agency, Annapolis, MD; 410-263-2311
Displacement: 17,637 lbs
Sail Area: 1,179 sq ft (actual)
Power: (2) 30-hp Volvo saildrives
Tankage Fuel/water/waste: 105/140/60 gal
Electrical: 395-Ah (house) plus 100-Ah
for each engine
Displacement-Length ratio: 134
Sail area-Displacement ratio: 18.4
Certification: CE Category A