Light Wind Assassin
In 2018 the Outremer 4X became the first production catamaran to race in the famous singlehanded Route du Rhum from France to Guadeloupe in the Caribbean and it placed a very respectable fifth, just behind the world famous multihull racer Loick Pyeron who in fact helped develop the 4X.
However you would be mistaken to think that the 4X is designed as an out-and-out race boat ... afterall how many race boats have two heads, three cabins, luxurious fitout and large lounging and entertaining spaces. No the 4X is not a high performance race boat, it’s a high performance cruising boat that just happens to impress on the race course.
New Outremer 4X Puffin just after arrival in Australia.
But why bother going to all the trouble and expense to make a cruising boat high performance? What’s the hurry anyway? Afterall going cruising wasn’t meant to be in a rush right?
We catch up with new 4X owner, Doug Hibberd, who just took delivery of his new boat that recently arrived in Australia who intends to go cruising around Australia and the South Pacific with his family on board the Outremer 4X Puffin to ask these very questions and understand why he ended up with a 4X.
“I really love sailing in light winds,” explains Doug as we cast off the lines on Puffin for a sail outside of Newcastle Harbour, “It’s just easier on the crew and boat when the conditions and sea state is light”.
We are heading out for Puffin’s first sail since it arrived in Australia after being shipped from Genoa in Italy, after a couple of months sailing around the Med on its shake down cruise. Doug previously owned an Outremer 5X (60ft) that he sailed throughout the Med and before that a Catana 471 which he and his young family sailed from Australia extensively through Asia. Doug was injured in a motorcycle accident during their preparations to cross the Atlantic on his 5X which took him out of action for six months and closed his window to sail back to Australia and meet work and school obligations for his kids, so he readjusted and downsized to a 4X to eventually sail with his wife Robin from Australia. With his crew mates now in high school and uni, a big boat like the 5X was overkill but the 4X was perfectly sized for he and Robin.
“Any boat will sail in 20kts, but I’m more interested in sailing in 10kts,” Doug says passionately, “I’m doing wind speed in 8kts of breeze ... it’s magic, and I’m sailing when many other boats have to run their engines”.
Loick Peyron had input on the Outremer 4X design.
Consider what the sea state is like in 8-10kts of breeze ... it’s comfortable. Compared to 20+kts which is when it gets lumpy, bumpy and uncomfortable for everyone onboard. When you have a family onboard to keep happy, comfort is a very important factor to the overall enjoyment of the experience. This seems to be a repeating theme with Outremer owners who are out there crossing oceans and sailing the world. This was best put by Outremer 5X owner Urs Rthcr in on an online post recently, “One reason I have an Outremer is to avoid serious bad weather.”
So how do you achieve efficient sailing in light winds with a comfortable cruising platform? It comes down to a combination of keeping displacement at a minimum and a good sail wardrobe combined with an efficient hull.
Lightweight stowable shade.
The Outremer 4X has a light ship displacement of 8.2 tonnes which at 48ft is considerably less than other similar sized cruising cats which commonly approach 20 tonnes. The light displacement is achieved by using carbon fibre through the bulkheads, saloon roof, and a carbon mast amongst other weight savings here and there. With Outremer’s sister company Gunboat just across the road, they borrowed some GB technology and even installed thermo-formed foam sandwich construction which in effect, removes excess resin from an already optimised resin infused layup process. This is not a standard inclusion on the 4X but the Route Du Rhum boat experimented with this process and with a weight saving of approximately 400kgs, Doug didn’t hesitate to opt for this.
Lithium batteries consisting of 2 x 180 Ah (5,000W) in combination with a solar panel package made up of 3 x 118W walk on panels on the roof and also 4 x 150W on the davits totalling 954 Watts and two 115 amp alternators, eliminates the need for a generator.
Solar panels on davits
Puffin has a beautiful set of North 3Di moulded sails onboard. A 68sqm square top mainsail with three reef points, plus a 55sqm furling genoa. Taking full advantage of the standard carbon compression beam that extends to a bowsprit, the boat also features a self tacking 26sqm stay sail and a 12sqm storm sail. For reaching there is a Code D furling gennaker and downwind a 120sqm symmetrical spinnaker with a sock.
Winches at helm with main halyard, genoa sheets and reef sheets.
On deck the main helm with wheel is located on the port side with an electric winch for the main halyard, main sheet and a secondary manual winch to trim the genoa and add reefs all from the helm. Further to this there is a third winch which is also electric with a neat foot pedal remote control to furl in the genoa, essentially making the boat singled handed to operate. This same winch also helps with trimming the spinnaker or Code D, plus raises the daggerboards which help with upwind pointing and can be raised to reduce downwind drag.
Beyond the primary helm which will soon have an ‘Aussie’ shade cover, you have the twin tiller helms that Outremer are famous for, allowing you to sit in comfort with full visibility and enjoy the pure thrill of sailing as you get the boat in the groove.
This level of performance optimisation really appeals to sailors who have spent their life looking for that extra knot of boat speed and feel at ease when they can turn the motors off. If you are a motor cruiser there are plenty of other options out there for you.
Comfortable queen beds in each stern.
But to reiterate an earlier point, this is not all about performance. The boat has a very stylish European designed fitout, several very comfortable beds, nice galley and plenty of seating both in the saloon and cockpit for both cruising and entertaining. Plus with all the benefits that a cat offers with stability and low draft. But unlike other high performance cats on the market, this boat is a true production cat, with factory warranty and backup via an international network of dealers, high resale value and a 35 year heritage of building boats.
The Outremer 4X without the performance enhancements is known as the Outremer 45 as featured on the famous Sailing La Vagabonde YouTube channel, which is also a very respectable performance cruising catamaran in its own right.
For further information on Doug’s Outremer 4X, be sure to follow his online blog at www.sailpuffin.com