Discovery Yachts’s first boat, the Discovery 55, was originally conceived as a one-off dreamboat for Sunsail Charters founder and single-handed transatlantic sailor John Charnley and his wife, Caroline. In creating the design, naval architect Ron Holland distilled all of the Charnleys’ experience and requirements into a world cruiser that could be easily handled by a couple.
Before John and Caroline could cast off lines, though, a number of like-minded folks began asking if they could have something similar. This demand fueled a thriving business and led John and Caroline to postpone their plans some 10 years.
Finally, deciding it was now or never, John and Caroline revisited their wish list and concluded that two hulls would now be better than one for the type of cruising they planned to do. The result, conceived with the help of designer Bill Dixon, is the new Discovery 50 catamaran.
This is a strongly built boat. Woven mat, carbon fiber, Kevlar and E-glass set in vinylester resins are used throughout the molding process, and stringers and bulkheads are bonded in.
The vacuum-cured laminate has a high-density foam core for stiffness, weight reduction and insulation, and both hulls and the deck are molded as one for superior strength, with the latter both bonded andbolted to the hulls. There are watertight bulkheads fore and aft, and the engine rooms are sealed.
The Discovery 50 is available in three layouts, with three or four cabins. The test boat had three cabins, including a large stateroom in a forward cabin on the bridgedeck, with a large centerline berth. There is an abundance of stowage here, with every nook and cranny turned into usable locker space—including areas beneath the sole and under the berth and adjacent steps. The numerous portlights, tall windows and large hatches allow plenty of air and light to flow through, and there is access into the cabin from both hulls.
In the four-cabin layout the forward bridgedeck area is divided between two double cabins, each with a berth that can be oriented fore and aft or athwartships. The aft cabins are identical in both layouts and can house a double berth or two singles.
The saloon is open, airy and luxurious, with large portlights all round and a triangular table with seating for eight on an L-shaped settee and chairs. Opposite is another smaller seating area with either a settee or two easy armchairs for watching the built-in flat-screen TV. A liquor cabinet resides beneath the raised navigation station.
The galley is very well equipped and has a U-shape to make the most of the space, as well as giving the cook some support at sea. The navigation station is slightly elevated to afford a clear all-round view and includes a large console for charting systems and an onboard computer.
The cabintop is all smooth curves, rounded edges and gentle inclines, and the boat’s hulls have an inviting sheer running forward to a pair of high, powerful bows. Moving about one feels safe and secure thanks to the sensible ergonomic deck design, high stanchions, gentle inclines and an efficient molded non-skid pattern.
The cockpit is spacious and offers plenty of comfortable seating. The raised helm station includes a double seat, from which you have a clear view forward. A rigid windscreen and bimini is optional, but our test boat was equipped with canvas, which can be easily removed in fine weather.
Davits between the hulls aft support a decent-size RIB, and the liferaft is mounted on the transom for easy deployment. The boat’s deep and spacious anchor locker is large enough to house both bower and kedge anchors, as well as a Lewmar vertical electric windlass, which has a duplicate set of controls and a chain counter at the helm. Immediately aft, under a large deck hatch, is a popular trademark feature–a combination hot tub/splash pool.
As with all Discovery yachts, the primary design brief for the Discovery 50 was that the boat should be easy to sail double-handed. As a result, the rig and helm configuration are smart but simple. The helmsman can both hoist and trim the headsails from the raised helm station without leaving his seat. On each side of the helm is a powerful electric self-tailing winch–one for the genoa sheets, the other for halyards, the headsail furling line and kicker.
Unusually for a catamaran, the fractional rig features a tapered and pre-raked alloy Seldn mast with integral electric mainsail reefing. A vertically battened furling mainsail is standard, but a slab-reefed full-batten main is an option.
The standard headsail is either a self-tacking blade jib or a 130 percent genoa, depending on the owner’s preference. Twin headstays are optional, as is a furling cruising chute, which flies from a short bowsprit.
During our test sail we had a cold but steady 16-20 knots of wind, with occasional gusts into the mid-20s. Within seconds of hoisting sail, the boat was sailing 8 knots on a close reach in 24 knots of apparent wind, increasing to 8.5 knots in the gusts. With the wind on her beam we saw 9.6 knots before we decided to reef both sails.
Sailing on the wind, the Discovery 50 maintained a 35 degree apparent wind angle while making 7.2 knots through the water with no more than 6-8 degrees of leeway, which is commendable for a cruising cat. Heading back to the marina, we let out the reefs again and hit an impressive 10.2-knots—completely without drama.
We motored out of the boat’s tight marina berth with little difficulty. The boat’s twin 54hp Yanmars provided plenty of power to counter the gusty wind that was trying to push us onto the pontoon.
This boat has been carefully planned and meticulously built for the type of weather and sea conditions likely to be encountered on an extended bluewater cruise. The result is a fast, safe and comfortable cruising platform for those who prefer to stay on the level as they sail over the horizon.