Monohull sailors can sometimes become perplexed when they think of catamarans. Attributes such as size, performance, and cost are all relative. Consider, for example, the Isla 40, the latest model from French builder Fountaine Pajot.
At just over 39 feet in overall length and just under 22 feet in width, the Isla takes up a good chunk of water real estate – around 850 square feet. It’s about the size of many city flats, and far more than the footprint of a monohull of similar length. However, the yard qualifies this model as a “bridge” boat, and it is the smallest in the range of Fountaine Pajot sails. With cruising catamarans, trying to be much smaller would mean that the hulls, to work properly, would not be wide enough to accommodate a double berth. On top of that, they would struggle to float all the gear, equipment, and toys that most cruisers want to bring to sea.
On the cruising side, a 40-foot monohull beating upwind in 15 knots of wind may seem sporty as it heels and the spray flies. A 40 foot cat? Not really. Oh, the boat can squirm a little in the chop, but the drinks won’t spill – one of the reasons catamarans are so popular these days.
And then there is the price. The catamaran will cost more pretty much every time, thanks to two engines, extra air conditioning units, and more fiberglass, resin, furniture, etc. Again, you get that aforementioned living space. And the Isla, at $411,000, was the cheapest cat that C.W. The Boat of the Year judges sailed last fall in Annapolis.
Me? I thought the Isla had a Goldilocks charm that would appeal to all sailors: big enough to sail just about anywhere, but small enough to be handled by a couple or a family, and about right for an owner who relies on charter revenue to help pay the bills.
Designed by Berret-Racoupeau Yacht Design in collaboration with the yard’s in-house team, the Isla shares the look and feel of her bigger siblings. And, like them, it sails well. Upwind in a breeze of around 12 knots – not a cat’s favorite pace – the GPS showed us we were going 6.5 to 7 knots. Cracked at hand, I saw some 8’s on the screen in bursts. That’s not bad for a well-equipped cruising cat, and it shows the benefits of rigging the boat with a flat-topped mainsail and overlapping genoa.
The boat was also easy to handle. The helm station is to starboard and elevated so the helmsman can see over the cabin roof and Bimini. Three winches and several line clutches are within easy reach of the wheel, making all sail control lines legibly accessible, including the traveller’s, which extend aft of the Bimini. There is access to the helm from the cockpit and side deck, and a set of steps lead from there to the Bimini, where the boom is mounted low enough to provide good access to the sail pocket when the time comes. to close things.
Fountaine Pajot offers the Isla with a few different lifestyles. The boat we visited was a Maestro, with the owner’s quarters occupying the starboard hull. There was a berth aft, an office and main compartment amidships, and a shower forward with a washer/dryer in the forepeak. In the port hull, double berth cabins are filled at either end, with separate head/shower compartments between them. There is also a four-cabin layout, popular with charterers, called the Quatuor. A skipper’s cabin in the forepeak is also available.
On deck, the cockpit has a table adjacent to the galley, located just inside the port saloon door, and several lounge areas to relax and enjoy the ride. Inside and opposite the galley is a digital navigation station with a multifunction display mounted at eye level, with dedicated space for a laptop below. Ship to port, a table can be raised for dining or lowered for cocktails.
Put it all together and you have a cat that is fun to sail and comfortable to live on board. Sounds right, right?
|SAIL AREA||1,023 square feet|
Mark Pillsbury is a C.W. editor-in-chief.