The Australian debut of the new Excess range is a smart reaction to the burgeoning catamaran cruising market, reports Kevin Green.
The debut in 2019 of Beneteau’s new catamaran brand Excess in France caused quite a stir among us marine journalists and of course other builders. Given the vast research and development of CNB’s parent company, there was great expectation. Yet, this was tempered with messages of modesty from company executives, such as commercial director Thomas Gailly who I met with in Cannes to discuss the first models, the 12 and 15, that debuted there in 2019. These used the same nacelles as Lagoons and were described as slightly livelier versions of the company’s long standing brand. The current Excess range comprises models from 37-50ft (model numbers 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15) a roll-out that only the vast sheds of CNB’s Bordeaux yard could possibly deliver; using its skilled workforce in high volume catamaran manufacturing.
Fast forward to 2020 and the 37ft Excess 11 launched in January 2020, at Boot Düsseldorf and then Miami in February, where I spent an afternoon aboard. Freshly built with original tooling and at a very desirable size range for entry-level owners, the Excess 11 represents the brains trust of CNB’s 35 years of catamaran expertise combined with the credentials of leading design house VPLP and interior experts Nauta Design; with added flair from car design guru Patrick le Quément. It was interesting to meet up with this prolific duo (Vincent Lauriot Prevost and Marc Van Peteghem) to discus the multihull scene and specifically their Excess design. “Most catamarans are centred around being comfortable while there are also extreme performance versions, so we conceived Excess as being in the middle-ground between them,” Marc Van Peteghem told me over a coffee. Modesty on show yet again; so my expectations were well tempered by the time I got aboard the first hull of the Excess 11 at the Miami Boat Show in February 2020.
The concept of creating a more open air and lively feeling catamaran, yet without the fear of having an overpowered monster on your hands is laudable. Given that cruising catamarans are built more for comfort than speed, a modest evolution of the proven Lagoon brand clearly makes sense to the company and probably its many buyers. Built in the same basic construction as Lagoon to minimise costs, yet with a more open deck layout, the appeal is clear. Competitors such as Nautitech have been doing this style of boat for some time, and in much lighter hulls; while speedsters such as Outremer have perfected performance versions of this concept. What’s different with Excess is the tweaking of Lagoon’s old philosophy of ‘building from the inside out’ into a more rounded concept.
Walking along the Miami boardwalk towards the grey painted Excess 11 clearly showed this departure, thanks to shapely hulls and the alfresco deck-layout. However, the same blunt cabin top like its sister brand clearly demarcates it as a Lagoon cousin, and of course, gives all the lovely interior space to the saloon. This 37 footer is the smallest mass-production cat on the market, so an ideal entry-level boat. Yet it still can have up to four cabins, or a three cabin owner version, while an optional sporty sailplan can add to the thrill, or more importantly get the hefty hulls moving in lighter airs. In Miami, I spent time with product manager Thibaut de Montavalon, an experienced Lagoon 380 sailor: “What I really like about the Excess concept is the sensation you get from the helm which is outboard; and of course the movable bimini so you can see the sails as you steer.”
The 380 happens to be my favourite Lagoon, so the similar sized Excess 11 already had a tough act to follow.
Maximising topside space is the primary design feature of the entire Excess range because of the outboard helms and flat decks. The outboard twin helms give clear views forward and untinted windows allow vision across the boat as well. Night vision is also helped by these untinted windows as well. Helm seating is a pair of rather flimsy twin canvas chairs, which flip up; and there’s a bimini option for each helm. Helm response from the two space rudders felt good when I turned the Carbonautica composite wheel, as the proximity to the rudders requires only short linkages. Raymarine instrumentation is nicely angled for the steerer and Yanmar engine controls just below are also easily read without stooping. Handily, there’s an option for a second set at the port helm. The optional sunroof was fitted to the review boat that concertinas closed via a hand-crank. The downside with the soft top is a lack of solid walking space to the boom end.
Like all Lagoons the Excess 11 is a functional boat, by that I mean, most gear is well placed throughout the hull. For example, the running rigging all comes back to the helms and a bank of jammers with a Harken winch on each side. So short-handed sailing can be done and mainsheet control is good via a simple block setup on the transom. Beyond, is a pair of sturdy davits to hoist the dinghy well clear of the briny. Moulded steps on each hull give good water access for swimming and entering the rubber ducky. Inside the cockpit is plenty of open space for shoreside entertainment and a corner dinette table (removable for party time) with surrounding benches and transom bench/storage. Underfoot is more locker space and the liferaft is slung (rather precariously) at the outside of the transom.
Halyards run cleanly into jammers near the helm. Image Kevin Green
Walking forward is unimpeded, thanks to the single outboard shroud and low profile deck hatches with a handrail on each side of the saloon. At the bow, the anchor is on the crossbeam, making it more accessible than the convention of having it in a hull indention. The Excess 11 layout keeps it clear of the hull when the boat swings; the downside is weight higher up. The vertical windlass and chain sit on the longitudinal centre beam, so guests should watch their toes on deployment. A rather flimsy second roller was also fitted on the review boat. Beside the bow lockers is a retractable step up to the blunt coachroof for sail handling. Our review boat had the optional bowsprit fitted for a Code 0, a wise choice for those preferring the sound of rushing waves to the chug of diesels in low wind scenarios.
SIMPLE SAIL PLAN
A simple basic sail plan is ideal for catamaran newbies, so the self-tacking jib is easily handled by a Facnor LS180 furler, in a large fore triangle is nicely balanced with the slab reefed mainsail. Its boom is fairly near the coach roof, so gives a low centre of effort and easily man-handled. The alloy mast is further aft than earlier Lagoons so offers a more balanced sailplan, and gives plenty of space to deploy the Code 0 for off-the-wind runs. The Code 0 is easily flown with the Facnor FX+ 4500 furler. Those seeking light wind performance should consider the Pulse Line performance package which has a metre taller mast and accompanying sail area with grey tri-radial laminate Incidence sails, including square topped mainsail. All the reefing lines run aft, so control from the helms is easy when short-handed.
Compared to one of my favourite Lagoons, the 380, the Excess 11 really has great space in the saloon, even with the large galley included on the starboard side. Twin sinks, a two burner hob/oven and sizeable fridge plus oodles of cabinet space make the Excess 11 more than a mere weekender. Those vertical bulkheads are where the volume comes from of course, so you may dodge around with windage at anchor but inside is an airy atmosphere no matter the weather; especially when the two large front windows are opened. There’s even a corner navigation station adjoining the main couch that surrounds the dinette table. Quality of finish, or lack of, is a point made by some of my fellow yachting journalists and I would agree to an extent but remember this is mass produced yacht built to a price point and CNC machining with medium quality fixings is all part of the package.
Good features in the galley include the locker space, deep double sinks, drawer fridge and plenty shelf space for the optional microwave. Image Excess
The owner’s bathroom is vast and acres of white gelcoat are easily wiped clean. Image Excess
The bow guest cabin has good ventilation and wardrobe space. Image Excess
THREE OR FOUR CABINS
The three cabin owner’s version uses the entire port hull, with two doubles starboard. The four cabin version has a bathroom in each hull, located between the cabins. Stepping down into the hulls is an airy and light filled experience, thanks to plenty of opening skylights and those large elongated portlights. Looking at the owner’s version in Miami, it showed a spacious layout with athwartships bed filling the stern hull with vanity desk nearby and a really large bathroom in the bow. Acres of white gelcoat in the bathroom may be glaring but is easily wiped down. Overall, the owner’s space is incredible for a 37ft boat, so a major feature for potential buyers; especially those choosing the liveaboard life. Over in the port hull the two double cabins enjoy similar volume, including useful wardrobe space, and a large bathroom between ensures privacy.
HULL AND SYSTEMS
Hull design is similar to Lagoon, with twin mini keels, rudders behind saildrives and flared to maximise volume in living spaces above the waterline. Also similar to sister brand is the use of balsa coring in the GRP hull above the waterline. Construction is via vacuum infusion for the hull and deck with injection moulding used on the roof to minimise weight. The design minimises the structure forward so fairly large trampolines are used. Below, the nacelle is shaped to deflect waves which is good, given the modest looking bridgedeck clearance, especially at the aft section.
Rudder shafts go directly to the wheels on the Excess, a simple solution that offers more feel and less complication.
Blunt bows maximise the waterline and the tall hulls give the inside volume. Volume is also evident when I peer into one of the two engine compartments at the 29hp Yanmar sail drive. Its battery is sensibly elevated but the open grain plywood ends will soak up any water incursion.
I was unable to sail the review boat after the Miami boat show due its lack of sail wardrobe, so I look forward to sailing the first one that dealer Flagstaff Marine get in. However, boss Graham Raspass has told me that the 12 is here. “She comes with the optional Pulse taller rig and is the ideal boat if you are seeking both the joy and sensation of sailing but also want to enjoy cruising in spacious comfort and luxury,” said Graham. Having also done a walk-through of it and the 15 in Miami, they also impressed.
The beds on the Excess 11 use the entire aft hull so are spacious, as the guest aft double shows here; although some more surrounding shelf space would be welcome. Image Excess
Returning to the Excess 11, the polars show modest but capable performance: 7kts boat speed in 12kt breeze while pointing at 55 true wind angle. The polars show (surprisingly) only a modest gain running: 8.6kts speed at 90° in the same wind. Choosing the Pulse package, gives roughly 10% more sail area and about 10% gain in speed, but as mentioned better light air performance could be a key buying point for this option. Under power, expect good performance with the twin 29hp’s and fixed triple bladed propellers pushing the hull to about 6kts at 2,500rpm. Overall, the Excess 11 looks to be a capable coastal cruiser from a company with a proven pedigree and at tantalising price point for buyers wishing to enjoy the thrill of their first multihull.