Our judges felt a little squeamish about this one, as it marks the third year in a row Fountaine Pajot has received a Best Boats nod for one of its new mass-production cruising catamarans. That having been said, there’s no denying the French builder’s ongoing mastery of this important market niche, in which the often competing demands of private owners vs. charter companies and sailing performance vs. posh accommodations must be carefully balanced while also hitting a competitive price point. With its new Saba 50, a stylish cruising palace available with either a six- or four-stateroom layout, Fountaine Pajot has once again managed to push a camel through the eye of the proverbial design needle.
Most notable on the Saba 50 is how outdoor social spaces have been maximized without raising the boat’s profile or unduly prejudicing its handling or performance. A full-width bench seat in the cockpit that can comfortably seat eight or even 10 in a pinch nicely complements a full-size dining table that seats six to eight. Up on the hard targa top there’s an expanded low-profile sun lounge, plus another behind the bow just forward of the cabinhouse. These are both elegant but minimalist spaces that do a great job of increasing comfort without also increasing weight. Meanwhile, the helm station, offset and only slightly raised to starboard, makes it possible for one or two active crew to easily manage the boat and interact with guests without actually disturbing them. Line runs are neatly concentrated just forward of the wheel, with lots of space for handling and stowing line tails, and the helmsperson has an unimpeded view of the sails.
Accommodations inside the boat are suitably luxurious, with a quality of finish that seems to improve from year to year. Our judges were particularly taken with the four-stateroom layout featured on our test boat, which boasts a very spacious owner’s suite that steals nothing from the guest cabins.