Will be following the saga…
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Hi Doug, thanks for the great blog. We’re considering a build of the 5X and your posts and videos have been helpful. Drop me a note when you have a chance and maybe we can chat. I’m located on the East Coast US. BTW…we’re planning a visit to the Outremer yard in December if there is anything we can help with.
Hi Tom, thanks for the feedback on the blog. I’m glad you’re finding it useful. If you’re at the factory, can you take a look over the construction of our boat and let me know if you see anything that we need to correct? Good luck with your 5X project!
I was turned on to your site by our broker, Pete McGonagle of Swiftsure in Seattle, who is helping research & locate the right performance cruising cat. One of the boats we’re interested in the Catana 471/472, along w/Outremer.
I see that your former site about your travels on the 471 is no longer up.
Can you provide any insight into the 471 &/or Catana in general.
We owned and sailed our 471 for just over 4 years, and it was a great boat for us. The 471 does everything well, but isn’t outstanding in any area. I especially like the interior design of the 471, which few other catamarans can match. The biggest negative on the 471 is that they stopped making them quite a while ago, so most of the boats out there are getting a bit old. We had to spend a lot of money on ours to update many of the systems and replace equipment that was at the end of it’s life. You will have to look to get one that is in really great condition and make an honest assessment of what it’s going to need in terms of updates after you buy it.
Catana describes their boats in general, including the 471, as high performance cruisers, but I don’t agree with that. They are certainly better than a Lagoon, but in standard configuration they are too heavy to perform really well. If you’re looking for high performance, then Outremer is better. If you’re looking for a good all round boat, then the 471 is excellent.
The Outremer boats are more focused on performance, so for an equivalent length, they will be lighter, faster, and more fun to sail, but smaller and more cramped inside. Even the 5X is a bit smaller in the hulls and has less storage than our 471, although the 5X salon and cockpit areas are bigger. If you compare an Outremer 45 or 50 of the same vintage as the 471, the Outremer will be a lot smaller inside.
Since the 471, I haven’t really liked the design of the newer Catanas. They are getting bigger and heavier, and they have made a lot of interior design changes that I don’t like. Outremer have gone in the other direction. The interiors of their new boats are really excellent. Still a bit less room than Catana, but a great balance between design, comfort and performance. If you’re buying new, I recommend Outremer. If you’re buying used, it’s hard to beat a well maintained Catana 471.
Like your posts, very thoughtful & informative & thanks for the quick response.
My research has paralleled your comments on the 471’s……..limited range of years to choose from wisely, potential upgrades an issue, etc.
How did you find the helm position & trimming locations on the 471. I have a racing background so am sensitive to the issue, but also am attracted to the centralization & to doing everything from the security of the cockpit. Pete has also noted that the Catana’s mainsheet arrangement is a double-ended block system instead of a traveler which he finds a disadvantage.
If cost were not an issue, building new would be an easy decision. For us to do that would be a stretch & we would have to weigh carefully the long term gains in modern design, new systems, yearly maintenance, resale, etc. Any thoughts on those issues?
You’re definitely asking the right questions. I’m also more concerned with sailing abilities and performance than some of the other features, and that has driven my decision to sell the 471 and buy an Outremer. Specifically, there are aspects of the 471 that I really didn’t like. Your mileage may vary depending on your priorities, but here are the main issues that I would need to address before considering another Catana:
1. Helm positions – I actually love the helms on the 471, you have excellent view of the sailplan and all corners of the boat from either helm. It’s not difficult to tack or jibe the Catana either. The big drawback to the helms is they are too exposed. Not only to the sun, but also to the weather. When conditions are marginal, there’s no way to get any shelter from the rain and waves. People will tell you that it doesn’t matter, you can just use the AP, but that’s BS in my experience. There are always situations when you need to hand steer, and it’s usually when conditions are lousy. We put carbon fiber hardtop biminis over our helms which solved the sun exposure problem but still didn’t protect us from the weather.
2. Mainsheet arrangement – This is my biggest gripe. I really hate this double-ended block mainsheet system that Catana (and now Leopard) uses. Not having a traveler makes trimming the mainsail really difficult. Of course it is possible to trim the main correctly, but it takes a lot of trial and error and too much effort in my opinion.
3. Line routing – This might be just a personal bias, but I don’t like the all lines led to the cockpit setup. It’s not necessary on a catamaran, and because of the loads involved, there is significant additional friction added by the turning blocks, which places huge unnecessary loads on the lines, fittings and winches. Not to mention the massive amount of line spaghetti in the cockpit. The 471 has all lines led back to a central main winch with no less than 5 direction changes from the leech reef point to the winch. The new Catana 59 has 6 direction changes! That’s an awful lot of unnecessary additional load and complexity.
4. Helm balance – The 471 suffers from some helm balance issues. This shows up in two areas. Under engines, there is a lot of prop wash over the rudders that causes a turning effect and requires steady counter pressure on the helm to correct. Not a big issue, but inefficient nonetheless. The bigger problem is weatherhelm. When you have a full main up in stronger conditions, you get a lot of weather helm which (again, in my opinion) forces you to either fight the helm, or depower the rig to get balance. I felt like I was having to depower a lot earlier than necessary so I was always sacrificing speed in order to balance the helm. This would be less of an issue if the boat was lighter, because rig power would be translated into boatspeed more readily.
So what to do? If I was buying a used boat today, I would first look for an Aikane 56. This is an excellent boat. Very high performance, very sea worthy and quite good design. The Aikane was designed by VPLP, same designer as the 5X, and it’s actually almost identical to the 5X in terms of hull shape and design. The Aikane is right in the ballpark of the 5X in terms of speed on the water as well. If the Aikane is too expensive, then next choice would probably be a Catana 50, but I would convert it to 24V Lithium house batteries and rip out the generator, and all the heavy appliances inside to get the weight down as much as possible. My 3rd choice would be a 471, with the same story on the weight reduction. They are just too heavy to sail well in their standard configuration.
I hope this helps a bit.
do you remember me? Laura (swiss/italian) We met a la grande motte on mai and you invited me to join you at dinner at the resaurant! , I was doibg ny engine course! And waiting for our 5X for the end of July. We finished our looong vacation yesterday (sardegna,sicilia, Montenegro and back to la grande motte)
When do you plan to go back to la grande motte send us a mail, it’d be nice to meet eachother again!
How did you like Montenegro? We’re planning on heading to the Adriatic next summer. I’ll be back in LGM late November if you’re around.
in November from 11-16 I’ll be probably there for a couple of days, but let me know when do you go to LGM in any case?
Do you have the mail of Jahan (Mona 5X, I’d like to put me in contact with him).
We are now home in Switzerland, but I miss soooooo much our boat and our way of life. Same for you?
Montenegro: It is ok to go there once, because it is something different in Mediterranean, but if you stay just another summer here aroud, it would not be my choice. We went in Porto Montenegro in Kotor , it is a big lagoon (more similar to a Swiss lake, rather than a Mediterranean seaside, that way it is so particular), we went at the end of the tourist season and was Ok, but it is easy to imagine this place in high season: if you like the very VIP place with enormous motor yacht and nightlife. Next summer we’ll go in Greece, my be we meet not just a La Grande Motte…
This year, do you do the Outremer regata ? I’ll be curious to know your experience about it.
Hi Doug; i’m Bruno from Florensac which is 50 mn driving from “La grande Motte”
I follow you for few months because i’m a lover of catamaran “Outre Mer”.
We have been in La grande Motte yesterday and your wonderful boat is going well !!( just miss the tender engine protection ?)
Also i wanted to thank you for all these photos and articles you post on your blog that are very interesting even if my English is bad.
if one day you need a hand does not hesitate to let me know …
looking at a lagoon 410 or 440 hot shore yet , BUT have ONE small problem the wife
is not shore if she would be safe out in the blue ocean, can you guys PLEASE try to
HELP in my battle to get her to see the countries and enjoy live.
Big Thanks Bruce
Everyone has a different perspective on what makes them feel safe, so it’s hard to provide specific advice. We chartered catamarans before we purchased our first boat, which was a great way to be sure that cruising and offshore sailing was something we wanted to do as a family.
The Lagoon catamarans you are looking at are great boats that have done many offshore miles and circumnavigations with no trouble. If you buy a well maintained boat and exercise good judgement, there should be no reason you and your wife would be unsafe at sea.
Best of luck!
Hello Robin and Doug,
Richard and I have found your posts informative and entertaining. Our 51 build will begin in Sept in LGM. We are working through the red tape and getting all our ducks in order. Here in Canada we have a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC). I have read that in the Med the officials require the International Certificate of Competence (ICC) through RYA or IYT. Is this what you have come up with through your research? If not what have you found please.
Awesome boat mate and nice blog. Good to read some technical sailing info, reefing techniques, boat performance and wind strengths etc. Helped us to read the Outremer reefing plan and your thoughts on it and compare how we are handling our boat.
Good luck with your adventure. See ya out there some day for some cat talk!
Doug, Thanks for the great posts! Fun to watch and very informative. BTW, in one of your videos you wore a Port Aransas hat. sailed Texas Gulf Coast before?
All the best,
Hi Marshall, We lived in Austin for 13 years, and during that time we sailed a lot in the gulf. I love that region because there is so much life in the water and in the air, it’s like being part of a Discovery channel documentary every time you go sailing!
Great blog, thanks for putting the time in. My wife and I are heading to LGM Multihull show in April with Outremer as one of top choices. Although we are several years from a decision we diving in head first to the evaluation/shopping process. I would love to hear your thought on the Outremer as compared to other for a cruising couple.
For some reason the blog insists I use my gmail account to post a comment. If you have time for email chat please hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org
The boat show should help you with your decision in terms of what you like for living aboard. The challenge I had was it is very hard to determine how it will be sailing any of the boats without time at sea.
In answer to your question, if you are looking for more performance than the charter cats (Lagoon, Leopard, Priviledge, etc.) you have to give up interior room (and comfort) in an equivalent length boat, or go longer in the performance boat. This is why we went from a 50ft Catana to a 59 foot Outremer. The Outremer has about the same amount of living space in the hulls (a bit more in the salon and cockpit) but significantly better performance than the Catana. If you have the budget, Outremer allows you to upsize for performance while keeping the room you want in a smaller boat, but they can still be sailed by a cruising couple. In many cases you will find the larger Outremer is easier to sail than smaller less performance oriented boats due to the attention to the sail-handling plan. If going longer is not an option, then you have to make the tradeoff between living space and performance.
Good luck with your project, it’s a really fun process researching and buying a new boat!
Thanks. Always welcome the insight of folks in the know. I think a 51 is about our limit and the living space compromise is what we are trying to wrap our heads around. I’ll keep following your blog, searching for others and visiting boat shows until we pull the trigger! Agreed, shopping is a ton of fun.
The 51 is an excellent boat, and Outremer has just announced some design updates to the new model. Robin and I are in Paris at the boatshow today and we met with Xavier and Matthieu (CEO and CMO) of Outremer and they showed us some layouts. I didn’t get into the details with them too much, but it’s good to see they are giving all the models in their range attention based on owner feedback. Current 51 owners have said they would like a better arrangement for interior storage and shelving, it would be worth talking with the factory about this if you place an order. You will find the Outremer team easy to work with and willing to adapt their layout to suit your needs.
Please keep me posted, and feel free to contact me if you would like to bounce around any ideas, no matter what kind of boat you end up choosing. I love talking multihulls!
This has been an interesting exchange as Julie & I are also exploring catamarans & specifically, Outremer. For the past year and half, we have been looking for ways to gain direct experience & inform choice. As Doug advises, nothing beats some time on a boat for informing how it performs & how you will respond to being on board under sail & at anchor. With performance being an important criteria, we narrowed down the choices to Catana’s of a certain vintage & Outremer. After doing the Baja Ha Ha on a Catana 471, Catana’s dropped off the list as too heavy, too slow, too complex….leaving Outremer. We have been able to spend a week aboard a 49 in the Caribbean as arranged by our broker & done two passages on another, BVI-Bermuda & Hampton – Bahamas. These provided exceptional insight into sailing characteristics, sail handling, anchoring, motoring & just being aboard & is helping narrow our decision around what feels like too much boat…..or not, what equipment is a must (like power winches)…..or not, what layout is most desirable (3 or 4 cabin), etc., etc. In short, if you can arrange some sailing time, it is well worth the investment. A major consideration for us that has evolved is “what feels like too much boat.”……or are we up to the challenge of handling what feels like a really big boat. Towards that end, we are still exploring the distinction between a 45 & a 51. Decision soon.
Cool, please keep me updated and feel free to reach out to compare notes. I’ll be at La Grande Motte in April. I am interested in finding an Outremer to charter but have not been able to make location/dates work yet. Fingers crossed for 2018.
Doubly interesting…………….we are looking into putting an Outremer into charter for a period of time until we are ready to take off full-time. Below is my personal email address if you want to stay in contact direct:
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