Our Sailboat

wildling_logo_2

Wildling is the name of our sailing catamaran. She is a 59′ Outremer 5X built at the Outremer factory in La Grande-Motte, France.

After spending the past 4 years sailing a Catana 471 catamaran, we’ve really come to learn what we value most and what things our previous boat did well and not so well. So given the opportunity to have a blank sheet of paper for our next boat, we had to decide on the important features that our new boat would need.

For me, the most important things are performance, security, and reliability. I really enjoy sailing, and sailing fast is a passion for me. I like to push the boat and know that it can handle the conditions safely and comfortably. I learned the hard way that at sea, complexity is the enemy. Systems that are too complicated will fail and always at the worst times, so keeping everything as simple as possible is really important.

Robin is not too concerned about performance, but she does want the boat to be comfortable and safe. She really enjoys cruising and entertaining, and loves being at anchor in exotic locations. She wants plenty of space, good storage, a practical layout, and of course some luxury and conveniences.

So we had to go in search of a boat that would meet both our criteria.

Boats are like cars, in that it’s just as hard to find a really comfortable sports car, as it is to find a high performance RV, and the catamaran market has evolved to a point where almost all the production boats today are focused on the charter market, i.e. they’re more in RV mode. The charter market is focused on people that want to fly in to an exotic location, hang out and entertain their friends on board in comfort while they visit a few islands and then fly home. High performance sailing is not required, and in fact adding more performance is a negative because it increases the likelihood of something breaking.

This Lagoon 52 is a good example of an excellent charter boat.

This Lagoon 52 is a good example of an excellent charter boat. Lots of flat surfaces for people to hang out, and plenty of shared seating areas. Driving from the top deck looks like fun too!

The Lagoon in the picture is an example of the catamarans aimed at the charter market. They are designed around accommodation, roominess and entertaining at anchor. They are also heavy and slow. We like the comfort, but don’t like the poor performance.

Fortunately there are still a small number of production builders that are focused on performance. The one we like best is Outremer, located in the south of France. Their philosophy is: “To design and build catamarans that are seaworthy, fast and simple”

Notice how the 5X is much more streamlined. The lower salon roof has less wind resistance, and the boom is about 6 feet lower to the water than the Lagoon. This allows for a bigger mainsail, more power, and more speed.

Notice how the 5X is more streamlined. The lower salon roof has minimal wind resistance, and the bottom of the mainsail is about 6 feet lower to the water than the Lagoon. This allows for a bigger mainsail, more power, and more speed.

The 5X is an amazing design accomplishment for Outremer. It is comfortable, can be sailed by two people, is safe in extreme offshore conditions and very fast. So fast in fact that it will sail at almost the same speed as the wind. For example, if it’s blowing 9 knots, the 5X can sail at 8-1/2 knots. If it’s blowing 20-25 knots, it can do 18 to 20 knots. This is more than double the speed of typical production catamarans.

The key to this level of performance is hull design and weight. They have made the hulls longer, but kept the living areas a similar size as you would find on a 52 or 55 foot boat. This makes it lighter, narrower, more streamlined, and able to carry more sail area, and so develop more power from the wind. To give a sense of the weight differences, the 52 foot Lagoon in the picture above weighs 26,000 kg (57,000 lbs). The 5X weighs 13,500 kg – about half the weight and has roughly 1/3 more sail area.

It's a long way down! The mast on the 5X is made of carbon fiber to save weight. It's also 87 feet high!

It’s a long way down! The mast on the 5X is made of carbon fiber to save weight. It’s also 87 feet high, which seems crazy, but is actually 3 feet less than the Lagoon 52!

It also turns out that interesting things happen when a catamaran approaches 60 feet in length. The sea motion becomes much less, giving a smoother ride, which is faster and more comfortable. By keeping weight out of the ends of the boat and having a carbon fiber mast with Kevlar rigging, instead of aluminum and stainless steel, the boat doesn’t pitch as much, so it’s smoother, more comfortable and once again, faster.

Notice the long forward section of the hulls. These act just like the long skis downhill racers use, or the long big wave surfboards. When a sailboat is travelling at 20 knots, the long forward hulls prevent any pitching or nosediving which can get ugly fast!

Notice the long forward section of the hulls. These act just like the long skis that downhill racers use, or those long, big-wave surfboards. When a sailboat is traveling at 20 knots, the long forward hulls prevent pitching and nosediving. In fact, the design team for the 5X is VPLP in France. The same people that designed the catamaran that Team Oracle sailed to win the last America’s Cup, so they know a few things about how catamarans behave at high speed.

The other significant design difference between a performance, offshore catamaran and a charter oriented catamaran is the helm position. The 5X has dual helms at the forward area of the cockpit at deck level. These provide good visibility and shelter in rough seas and rain, and allow the helm person to keep in contact with the folks inside.

The 5X looks pretty slick from the outside, but what about inside?

The 5X cockpit. Good access, plenty of visibility and shelter, and safe to move around in big seas.

The Lagoon has a flybridge design for the cockpit which is elevated above the deck. It’s cool for tooling around in nice weather, but I would never want to be up there in the middle of the night, with 12 foot seas, 30 knots of wind, rain and breaking waves!

Great for hanging out with friends in paradise, but no place to be when you're trying to get there!

The Lagoon “flybridge” cockpit is great for hanging out with friends in paradise, but no place you want to be when you’re trying to get there!

The 5X is definitely fast, and safe for offshore passages, so I’m pretty excited! But what about Robin? Let’s take a look at the interior of the 5X and see how it compares to the luxury accommodation of the Lagoon.

The Lagoon salon. Fitted out like a luxury condo, it's really comfortable and perfect for entertaining at anchor.

The Lagoon salon. Fitted out like a luxury condo, is really comfortable and perfect for entertaining at anchor.

The interior fitout on the Lagoons is really nice. At anchor, it’s hard to beat. The large vertical windows give excellent visibility, and protect from the sun. The downside, (aside from a disconcerting IKEA feel) is all the angles, obstructions, sharp edges and corners.

If you go sailing offshore, I promise you will never look at the interior of a boat the same way again. At sea it gets rough. We’ve sailed in 4 to 5 meter (12 to 15 foot) seas, a number of times, and trust me, everything is moving! You can not walk two steps without holding on. When you’re worn out from being on night watch for 6 hours, and your crew is too seasick to take the next watch, you don’t want to be trying to dodge all of those sharp edges, poles and obstacles.

The salon on the 5X. Notice how there are no obstacles. All the surfaces have are smooth and rounded. It's comfortable and simple, and perfectly safe when the conditions get "sporty"

The salon on the 5X. Notice how there are no obstacles. All the surfaces are smooth and rounded. It’s comfortable and simple, and perfectly safe when conditions get “sporty”

Plenty of counterspace for preparing meals at sea or at anchor. Robin loves the microwave! :-)

The 5X galley. Enough counter space for preparing meals at sea or at anchor. Robin loves the microwave! 🙂

 

The cokpit and the salon are all on one level, so no stairs. We had steps down into the salon from the cockpit on our Catana, and it was the main cause of several accidents at sea.

The 5X cockpit and the salon are all on one level with 6′-6″ headroom throughout, so no stairs. We had steps down into the salon from the cockpit of our Catana, and had to duck to enter. It was the cause of several accidents at sea.

We really liked the interior layout of our Catana 471, and the 5X is very similar. The differences are definitely improvements that come from Outremer working closely with their owners over the years. They have kept all of the essential design elements that we like, and added some new ones that we can’t wait to try out!

 

5X Navigation station. Almost the same layout as our Catana, which we loved. The 5X has bigger windows and a lot more visibility when sitting at the Nav station.

5X Navigation station. Almost the same layout as our Catana, which we loved. The 5X has bigger windows and a lot more visibility when sitting at the Nav station.

Lagoon nav station. Not really something, that charter folks want to bother with!

Lagoon nav station. Obviously not something that charter folks want to deal with! Nice use of sharp corners though.

So while the 5X doesn’t have all the vacation condo bells and whistles of the Lagoon, it does an excellent job of providing comfort, safety and not a small amount of luxury at sea. I think we can check the box for Robin!

Oh, and the 5X scrubs up pretty well for a night out on the town, too!

And the 5X scrubs up pretty well for a night out on the town!

10 Comments on “Our Sailboat

  1. I can’t wait to see the finished product. I love the “no sharp edges” concept.

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  2. Misti and myself wish you all the best with the new Cat. Outremer have got a great reputation, at 13500kg she should be super fast.My favorite boat of all time is the old Outremer 55 light. I like the options you have gone for and you are absolutely right in keeping things simple. Once again all the best and keep us posted as to the build progress.

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    • Thanks for the feedback guys, I’ll keep you posted for sure. Clive, I remember you telling me about the Outremer 55 when we were in Cairns on our voyage north, which is why I kept an eye on what they were doing with their new models. Thanks for the advice!

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    • Hi Eric and Tamara, it’s a great adventure, and we’re all really looking forward to sailing with you guys again!

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  3. Doug, I get up to Brissie regularly and I’m very interested in buying you a coffee if you’re around. Like to ask you more questions about Outremer and why – it’s certainly looks like a great choice.

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  4. Doug, I thoroughly enjoy your blog and think it is best that is out there – I am now in the process to select and purchase my Catamaran….I am 51 yrs and finally decided to get serious about sailing. I have many highly experienced friends who sail but my business commitments never allowed me the time . ,10 yrs ago I left my job, started my own company as a manufacturer of Pipeline Valves for the Oil & Gas Industry, thankfully it is going well. The time will come to sell my business , MIR VALVE ( http://www.mirvalve.com ), we are based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – I am from Wollongong, Australia and moved to KL almost 24 yrs ago. Once I do, we are going to sail around the world, spend as much time sailing –

    I have many questions to ask and would like to know how best to write to you directly ?

    I also keen to learn from highly experienced sailors and would like to know if it is possible to get time ( say up to maxi 4 weeks, or 1-2 weeks ) on-board to learn, as a crew member ?
    Reading thru your blog you address and answer nearly all questions – I could think off !! Its brilliant and am sure the sailing community must be thrilled to have someone like you who puts in the time, effort and detail for all to learn from , your youtube videos are also a
    ” must” to learn from .
    Hope to hear from you soon.

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    • Hi Stasi, thanks for the great feedback on the blog, I’m glad you find it interesting!

      There are a couple of options I know of to get sailing experience. Outremer provides training through their subsidiary Grand Large Services. I’ve talked with some people that did this, and they found it very worthwhile. If you call them, they can give you all the details, they all speak English, so don’t be put off by the French website. http://grandlargeservices.com/grand-large-academy/

      The other option is to hire a skipper/coach to give you training on your own boat. I can recommend Claudia and Jan, who do a lot of Outremer deliveries and coaching with new owners. This would be the best way to acquire offshore sailing skills. Here’s their website. http://www.sailingoffshore.net/coaching.html

      Good luck with your cruising plans, and please send me any questions you have and I will try my best to help.

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