Boats & Gear

2012 ANNAPOLIS CATAMARAN TESTS: Leopard 58 and Fountaine Pajot Sanya 57

Leopard 58

Both the cats I tested after the Annapolis show this year are super-sized production boats designed mostly to serve in the charter trade. The Leopard 58, a.k.a. the Moorings 5800, is the more extreme example of this species, fully three stories tall, topped with an enormous covered flybridge on which it is possible to entertain and feed a dozen or more people while simultaneously driving the boat.

Leopard 58 flybridge

The Leopard's amazing flybridge. There is both a wet bar and dedicated barbecue to satiate the hordes that will gather here

Viewed from a dock, or even from on deck, the height of the flybridge does seem preposterous, but when you're up there, looking down on the mortals from the heights of Olympus, it makes all the sense in the world.

The interior, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is also extreme, in that two of the six double staterooms are at saloon level, with access forward to a private covered social cockpit behind the tramp between the bows. Counting the interior main saloon and the aft deck behind the saloon, there are thus a total of four major areas of the boat that are given over to social activity.

Leopard 58 interior

Main saloon inside looking forward through one of the saloon-level staterooms to the forward social cockpit beyond

Leopard 58 shower

En suite shower stall for one of the two saloon-level staterooms, looking forward across the bows

Leopard 58 aft deck

The aft deck. That bit of wake you see is the only thing that suggests the boat is moving

Actually sailing the boat was pretty much a non-event. We had mostly moderate conditions for our test sail, with true wind in the neighborhood of 9 knots, but we did find some gusty patches of water and saw the apparent wind spike as high as 20 knots. None of this made any difference to the Leopard 58. Whether the boat was moving 3 knots or 9, there was no sensation of speed and no feeling of connection between the helm on the flybridge and the wetted surface of the hulls three stories below. Handling the boat is like handling a small cruise ship, and there is little satisfaction in sailing it.

All the satisfaction is in simply being on it.

Sanya 57 under sail

Sailing the Sanya 57, a more "down to sea level" sort of experience

The Sanya 57 tries much harder to split the difference between sailing and socializing. Like the Leopard it carries six separate double staterooms (a five-stateroom lay-out is also available), but they are all down in the two hulls, and the ones in the middle aren't quite as large and glamorous as those forward and aft. There is a large and fabulous interior main saloon, and a very fabulous galley, but the only exterior social spaces are the expansive aft deck (replete with wet bar) and a small sun deck directly under the boom on the targa top.

Sanya 57 saloon

Main saloon on the Sanya 57

Sanya 57 galley

The galley, with its shore-sized fridge

Sanya 57 sun deck

The sun deck under the boom. A discrete and very comfortable place to hang out

All of which may sound a bit Spartan compared to the profligate Leopard, but it is possible to derive some satisfaction from sailing the Sanya. Our test boat actually wasn't much faster or more closewinded than the Leopard--both boats made in excess of 7 knots in 20 knots of apparent wind at a 45-degree apparent wind angle--but on the Sanya you can feel the speed. If you order the Sanya with a standard rig, which is 3.5 meters taller than the optional charter rig we had on our boat, I expect you will be sailing a bit faster than the Leopard and will certainly be able to feel the difference.

The helm station is modest and well-designed. Raised just a bit above the level of the coachroof and offset to starboard, it affords a good view of the rig. All controls are led to a working station just forward of the helm, with relatively short line runs that keep line friction to a minimum.

Sanya 57 helm

Helm station on the Sanya

The best bit, as far as I'm concerned, is that there's lots of room for the many line tails. There's a big line bag under the winches, a bit of rail you can hang coils from, or you can just throw the tails down the short stairway that leads down to the aft deck.

Sanya 57 aft deck

During our test sail we kept the main halyard coiled down on the aft deck

If you're nothing but a social animal, you may be offended at the thought of guests having to step over working lines, but if you're a sailor you won't mind this a bit.

For full reviews on both these boats, be sure to check upcoming issues of SAIL magazine and the next issue of SAIL's New Sailboat Review.

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