Sailing a New Outremer 51 Performance Catamaran

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The Outremer 51 illustrates perfectly the “light is fast, fast is fun” philosophy endemic to performance-cat builders. A development of the popular Outremer 49 designed by Christophe Barreau back in 2009, the 51 springs from the same basic molds, but benefits from some attractive styling tweaks and a functional second-generation interior by Franck Darnet.
Built a stone’s throw from the waterfront in the small south-of-France town of La Grand Motte, Outremer cats combine performance with cost-effective but sophisticated construction, more Porsche than Ferrari. Hull and deck moldings are a PVC foam/E-glass/resin sandwich, with solid laminate below the waterline and under deck fittings. Exotic materials are restricted to the rig; the boat we sailed had the standard aluminum spar, but a sporty carbon-fiber rotating wing-mast is a popular option. Similarly, a full-roach conventional mainsail is standard, but most owners opt for the square-headed alternative. The standard headsail is a self-tacking jib, though an overlapping genoa was fitted to our test boat.

The boat we sailed, Archer, is owned by highly experienced cruisers Rick and Julie Palm, who spent decades crossing oceans on a series of monohulls before succumbing to the allure of two hulls a year ago. Sailing mostly two-up, but with an extra crewmember for ocean crossings, the Palms have found this powerful boat easy to handle. Electric winches serve the main halyard and genoa sheets; most sailing is done with just the main and genoa, though a furling screecher can be hoisted out of its lair in the starboard bow locker when the wind goes light, and a hank-on self-tacking staysail can be rigged equally easily on a detachable stay in stronger winds. As we noted in our Outremer 49 review in 2012, the deck and cockpit ergonomics are first class.

Favored with a 10- to 15-knot breeze for our test sail, a little toe-power—as usual on cats, the buttons for the powered winches are set at foot level to keep your hands free—quickly had the mainsail up, and soon we were cantering along at close to 10 knots. Outremers can be ordered with a pair of tillers to back up the wheel, and I was more than a little impressed at how much fun it was to steer this big boat with these. Setting the big red screecher took our speed up to over 10 knots—the Palms have seen 20 knots, but sail the boat conservatively, aiming for a 7.5-knot average speed while on passage.

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Belowdecks, Archer is a three-cabin boat, with the port hull dedicated to the owner’s stateroom and a large head/shower, with a decent array of lockers and shelves between the two. To starboard, two good-sized cabins share a separate head and shower stall. Because of the short bridgedeck there is not as much room in the saloon as on an equivalent charter-oriented cat, but there is more than enough for comfort. The settee makes a good passage berth, and the galley is blessed with excellent stowage. A watchkeeper can monitor course, steer the boat and keep a lookout from the chart table, from where there is near-panoramic visibility.

Wanting a simple boat, the Palms ticked the box for a watermaker, but declined the generator, dishwasher and washing machine. They also restricted the A/C system to a single unit serving the bridgedeck saloon. The standard Isotherm drawer fridge and separate freezer draw praise from the Palms, and Rick says the 560W solar panel array above the dinghy davits can keep the 800Ah battery bank topped up for three days without recourse to engine charging. On passage, with the Watt & Sea hydrogenerator deployed, there is no need to run the engine.

All too soon our sail on this lively yet predictable bluewater cat was over, and I was left to reflect on how many more monohull sailors the Outremer 51 and its ilk would convert.

Specifications

LOA 50ft 1in BEAM 24ft 5in

DRAFT 3ft 1in (min) 7ft 8in (max)

DISPLACEMENT 22,000lb (light ship)

SAIL AREA 1,345ft² (main plus ST jib) Air draft 69ft

FUEL/WATER (GAL) 88/100

ENGINE 2 x 40hp Volvo diesels with Saildrive

SA/D RATIO 27 D/L RATIO 78
What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios

DESIGNER Christophe Barreau

BUILDER Outremer Catamarans, La Grand-Motte, France, contact@catamaran-outremer.com

For more Outremer Catamarans, Click here.

Images courtesy of Outremer; Sail plan by Pip Hurn

June 2015

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