Those familiar with Neel trimarans will know that they offer a genuine alternative to performance cruising cats. A Neel 45 won the multihull division of last year’s Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, the first time one of these boats had entered the ARC, beating several bigger and theoretically faster boats both on the water and on handicap. The La Rochelle, France-based builder has just announced a new model, the Neel 51. It supersedes the builder’s first-ever boat, the Neel 50, with a newly redesigned main hull, new styling and a new layout.
Central to the boat is Neel’s “basement,” a machinery and storage space with near-standing headroom that runs nearly the length of the main hull below the accommodations. Systems, batteries, engine and tankage are concentrated down here, where they’re easy to maintain. This arrangement also keeps weight low in the boat and leaves scads of open space up top for crew’s belongings and general storage in the roomy four-cabin layout. The ensuite staterooms are on the bridgedeck, offering excellent views and ventilation.
Construction is lightweight but strong, with foam sandwich used in the hull and deck, and composites employed in bulkheads and furniture. As with the Neel 45, a racing version will be offered, with a carbon rig and other go-fast goodies.
Neel Trimarans, neel-trimarans.com
LOA 51ft LWL 51ft Beam 29ft 2in
Draft 4ft 10in Displacement 30,800lb (light ship)
Lagoon 52s & Sportop 450S
Realizing that not every sailor likes flybridges—many think the helmsman is too isolated from the rest of the crew; others do not like the aesthetics—Lagoon is now offering its popular 450 and 52 models with the option of a mid-height helm position. The SporTop models also have lowered boom heights, which will improve stability and make it easier to handle their big mainsails.
Lagoon Yachts, cata-lagoon.com
The third catamaran in the youthful Bali range shares the main features of its larger siblings, the 43ft Bali 4.3 (see our review of the boat on page 56) and the 45ft Bali 4.5. While these boats are delivered worldwide on their own bottoms, they are aimed at the charter and coastal cruising markets, a focus that has allowed the builders to experiment with some innovative concepts.
Forward of the cabin, there is a dining nook and a large sunbathing area, complete with sunbeds. There’s no trampoline, the bridgedeck is solid all the way to the bows. The single-level cockpit and saloon are separated by a “garage door” that lifts up and out of the way to form one large open-plan living area, while side windows can be shut to enclose the cockpit on cold evenings.
The galley is set forward in the cabin, where a drop-down window allows not only excellent ventilation at anchor but easy access to the lounging area. Another popular feature is the large domestic-sized refrigerator, which allied with the generous water tankage, really does add to onboard comfort. A large self-tacking headsail, with the mast set well aft, combines with light weight to give this boat a very respectable turn of speed.
Bali Catamarans, bali-catamarans.com
LOA 40ft LWL 37ft 9in
Beam 22ft Draft 3ft 8in
Displacement 18,920lb (light ship)
A cruising cat that will “outperform anything of equivalent size and class on the planet”—that’s a bold claim, but the designers and builders of the HH 66 aren’t afraid to repeat it.
The HH66 is one of a line of sports catamarans designed by Morrelli & Melvin and built in China by Hudson & Hakes. These are not boats for casual cruisers. Construction is carbon fiber composite, and the spars and standing rigging are also carbon fiber. Curved daggerboards and T-foil rudders, combined with a powerful rig and skinny axe-bowed hulls, will get this big beast cruising at 20-plus knots.
Although the slim hulls are designed for speed and seakeeping, there is still plenty of volume for roomy and comfortable quarters for owners, guests and crew. There’s a choice of three- or four-cabin layouts, and the interiors are customizable.
Sail handling is done from a forward working cockpit, and owners can choose between twin helm stations aft with swing-out carbon fiber pedestals or an inside steering cockpit.
At time of writing five of these boats had been sold, a respectable first year’s production run.
HH Catamarans, hhcatamarans.com
LOA 65ft 11in LWL 65ft Beam 28ft 6in
Draft 13ft (boards down)
Displacement 36,740lb (light ship)
Astus Boats called on the expertise of renowned design company VPLP, which has drawn some of the world’s fastest boats, to help with its latest model. The result is the pretty little Astus 16.5, a trailerable tri that’s available in a family-friendly daysailer version or as a tricked-out racer. The standard boat weighs 462lb; the resin-infused Sport version is considerably lighter at 396lb.
There is a small cuddy where you can keep your sandwiches and drinks, and the trampolines are long enough to stretch out on should you feel like a spot of camping under sail. As with Astus’s other boats, the floats are on telescopic arms, reducing the beam from 12ft 6in to a tad over 8ft for trailering.
Astus Boats, astusboats.com
LOA 16ft 2in LWL 16ft 2in
Beam 8ft 2in/12ft 5in
Draft 7in/3ft 7in
Privilege Serie 6
A brand new model from luxury-cat builders Privilege doesn’t come along every year. The Serie 6, from designer Marc Lombard, is a sharp-looking 64-footer that’s in the dream-boat realm. Lombard has drawn a hull with high freeboard to permit generous bridgedeck clearance, and hulls with vertical bows, a chine for volume and a narrow waterline to minimize drag.
There are twin helms up on the flybridge with a comfortable lounging area between them. Duplicate controls make docking as easy as it could be on a boat this size.
Most Privilege owners customize their boats, but the standard layout has four double cabins with ensuites. The owner’s stateroom is vast, nearly 20ft across with a king-size bed, a couch, a workstation and an opulent heads/shower.
The carbon fiber rig carries a high-aspect, square-head mainsail that stows in a Park Avenue boom, and there are two permanently rigged headsails plus a furling screecher.
Privilege Marine, privilege-marine.com
LOA 64ft LWL 62ft Beam 30ft Draft 6ft 1in
Displacement 62,400lb (light ship)
Want a boat that combines the comfort and living space of a catamaran with the slimness of a monohull? The Futura 49 could be for you. Designed by Judel/Vrolijk, better known for high-performing monohulls, it’s the world’s first variable-beam big cruising cat.
The Futura’s accommodations are housed in a central pod suspended above the hulls and their shifting mechanism. At the press of a button the hulls can be extended or retracted, to vary the beam from 15ft 8in to 26ft 3in. Sturdy, low-friction carbon-fiber structural members and water-lubricated bearing surfaces ease the transition, which takes less than a minute.
Not only does the concept allow the boat to fit into a monohull slip, it opens up narrow channels and rivers where a beamy cat otherwise might not dare to venture. It cannot be sailed with the hulls retracted, just motored, in effect becoming a powercat.
As with just about any cat this size, it’s available in three- or four-cabin versions, all with excellent visibility from their helm location in the one-level pod. Engines and fuel tanks are located in the hulls, where there is also plenty of general stowage. All other systems are located in the pod.
Futura Yacht Systems, futura-yachtsystems.de
LOA 49ft LWL 47ft 7in
Beam 15ft 8in (retracted) / 26ft 3in (extended) Draft 2ft 3in
Displacement 23,000lb (light ship)
The indefatigable James Wharram and Hanneke Boon are about to launch the prototype of the Mana 24, a new Polynesian cat designed for trailer sailing. As with all Wharram cats designed for home build, construction is of marine ply coated in epoxy resin. The kit components will be cut out on CNC routers and flat-packed to the customer. Wharram’s kitboat build system has been refined to the point where the hulls can be slotted together in a day.
The Mana looks like a fun little weekender that offers considerably more living space than the average trailer-sailer. There’s a single berth in each hull, and you can sleep on deck under a tent. The rig is a variation of the Wharram Wingsail, a high-aspect ratio mainsail with a smaller mizzen to provide balance and aid steering.
In case you think such a boat is too small for any serious voyaging, note that Wharram sailed across the Atlantic in a self-built 23ft 6in plywood catamaran in 1956.
Wharram Catamarans, wharram.com
LOA 23ft 6in Beam 12ft 8in
Draft 1ft 6in
Displacement 2,090lb (max)
The sleek blue hulls of the Balance 526 catamaran were quite the scene-stealer at Strictly Sail Miami in February. Recently arrived from South Africa, this innovative cat looked in excellent shape and sported some clever ideas. The most obvious was the “Versa” helm design, brainchild of Multihull Company president Phil Berman. The large wheel pivots between “sailing” and “parking” positions—with the helm down, you can see all four corners of the boat, which is usually not possible from a conventional bridgedeck helm. What’s more, the helm floor and seat are both adjustable to suit drivers of varying height.
The fresh thinking continues belowdecks. The three-cabin, three-head version on show at Miami featured an owner’s suite to starboard, with a large, luxurious shower and head in the stern and the queen-sized berth arranged athwartships under the bridgedeck. This layout permits better ventilation and gets you away from engine noise. The saloon settee can be used as a passage berth.
Ease of handling for a small crew was paramount in the design process, and all sail controls are led over the cabintop to a pair of electric winches. The boat on show had an inboom furling main, but this choice is down to the individual owner; a self-tacking jib makes sailing solo a breeze.
Balance Catamarans, balancecatamarans.com
LOA 52ft 6in LWL 47ft 4in
Beam 27ft 2in Draft 1ft 8in/7ft
Displacement 20,573lb (light ship)
MHS Summer 2016