For those who think cruising should be much more than simply about getting there, give the stylish Outremer 45 a serious look, advises KEVIN GREEN.
Outremer is a petite French yard with a big history, created by producing fast catamarans for the last 30 years, so something that Australian distributor Multihull Central saw as an ideal complement to their Seawind cruising range. Having just welcomed the first Outremer 45 into Australia – and a 5X is on its way, the brand is gaining recognition locally. So, that was a good reason for me to visit the yard and sail this new performance catamaran. Based near the shores of the Mediterranean in the modern marina complex of La Grande Motte, the yard is in prime position to oversee the competition at Europe’s largest multihull show that takes place here annually. Apart from the new 45 and the 60ft 5X, the yard also markets a 51 footer as well, which is a replacement for the Outremer 49. Replacing the race-winning original 45 – that sold coincidently 40 hulls during a 10-year production run – with a more all-round performance cruiser means the new Outremer 45 has a lot to live up to. Having been on several of the brand over the last few years I was already aware of their main characteristics – big rigs, sleek hulls and performance orientated deck layouts – so stepping on the Outremer 45 brought me back to familiar territory.
Competition has never been tougher in the mid-sized catamaran sector, as I found when touring this year’s show at La Grande Motte and this is something designers Christophe Barreau and Franck Darnet were very aware of when penning the Outremer 45. It may sound obvious but performance-cruisers have to succeed at both sides of this equation to work, which means a boat that is an efficient yet safe passage-maker for those bluewater voyages. To achieve this, the 45 is designed to be sail at between 80-90% of wind speed, which is impressive. Having lived on the shores of the Mediterranean and sailed my own yacht there for seven years I can testify that this waterway is a harsh judge of performance, as you need plenty of sail area and an efficient hull unless you’re a fan of diesel engines, so being able to sail meaningfully in say only 5kts is ideal. Looking at the tall slim hulls and raked back lines with snub bows of the new 45, I’d liken it in the car world to an Audi, where the polished exterior hides a fairly aggressive chassis. On the 45 there’s the pod-shaped saloon located quite far aft, like a sports car, while the entire foredeck is devoted to performance; with the trampoline covering the entire area. Yet, those tall hulls with that long indent to soften them allow plenty volume inside, despite housing deep daggerboards that is the sign of performance cruiser.
TILLER OR WHEEL STEERING
Starting at the cockpit where Outremer’s unusual twin tiller system – this option is a boon for sailing enthusiasts but may be less so for the leisurely cruiser – clearly shows this yacht’s serious sailing intentions. Those bucket seats safely keep your derriere where the action is and the tillers are adjustable and of course flip up. For general handling the portside steering wheel is comfortably positioned, giving visibility to the four hull extremities and surrounded by all the sail controls, so I found working this cat very easy on my own. A set of electric Andersen winches control the halyards and upwind sails plus another set in the cockpit for the gennaker. Beyond them are jammers, including ones for controlling the rotating mast and a bank for the mainsail slab reefing lines. Overhead, can be fitted a canvas bimini to protect you and one version can have canvas instead of GRP for parts of the main cockpit bimini. The standard rig is alloy with long bowsprit to fly a big Code D with gennaker behind but for ease of handling a self-tacking jib is also available. The fully battened Incidences mainsail is Dacron with the track on the transom for maximum leverage and twist. As expected on a performance cat there’s daggerboards for good upwind performance and their control lines run back to your feet at the helms, allowing easy adjustment.
My review boat, hull #5, came with an optional rotating Axxion mast that turns to create a smooth foil shape on the luff and increases pointing but the downside is complications for instrumentation, especially radar. However NKE and B&G are well acquainted with Open 60 gear so they would be your choice. Power controls are also well laid out on the Outremer 45 as the long throttle levers are inboard of the Jefa wheel with instrumentation clustered around including the rev counters high on the main bulkhead. The B&G plotter handily swivels but with space lacking the compass is relegated to knee height; however this means it can be viewed from the cockpit table when on autopilot.
Cruising sailors should be happy with the sheltered aft cockpit where tall coamings protect the area for families while the fibreglass bimini gives shade and in northern climes could probably take clears to seal the area. Not quite so family friendly is the main track that runs across the transom but this is the best way to optimise the shape of the mainsail so something Outremer wouldn’t compromise on. Behind it are the davits holding the rubber ducky well clear of the water with 560W solar panel on top to catch the rays and protect the tender. Water access is fine from each hull with drop down swim ladder and handy open lockers for snorkelling gear. Elsewhere on deck, berthing is well taken care off with sufficient cleats all round including midships.
Moving around the flat decks can be safely done with tall guardrails and handrails on the coachroof leading you to the bows. Here, there’s just enough fibreglass under foot to comfortably run the foot operated windlass, a sizeable vertical Lewmar with capstan. But watch those toes as the rode runs clear on top, along an alloy beam connected to the main bow cross beam. Twin twin lockers around it can house spare gear as well. The anchor hangs below the main crossbeam, so can be quickly deployed. The bow area is neatly arranged with solid triangular support for the screecher and plenty separation between it and the genoa inboard. Having experienced bowsprit failures on catamarans, including one on a windy Three Peaks Race, this is an area I find particularly worth paying consideration to on performance boats; and performance is definitely available with the big rotating rig fitted to our review boat. The coachroof mounted alloy mast sits on a hefty compression post in the saloon and is supported by twin shrouds on large chain plates attached to the topsides. At its mast foot is a step, which I found handy when tidying the mainsail, while nearby is a winch for deploying foresail halyards. Set on the coachroof this winch is at a perfect height for leaning on to maximise your effort. Below it and running athwartships is the self-tacking track for the headsail which completes a very tidy foredeck on the Outremer 45.
Our review boat came with four double cabins and twin heads but the owner’s three cabin version is proving very popular. Moving inside, which is on the same level as the cockpit with good drainage between, the galley is immediately to starboard with navigation station ahead of it while the L-shaped lounge uses the forward port quarter. The galley has a three burner stove/oven with deep sink and front opening fridge below, while to port is a freezer. Storage space is plentiful including cabinetry and under-benches. Natural light comes from the large side windows and rear slanting front ones that are a good compromise of not letting too much direct sunlight in while also having opening portlights for ventilation at anchor, plus skylights. Composite and lightweight Alpi veneers are used to create a modern and easily cleaned interior. Clever ideas include removable storage bins that can take shopping and be stowed full. Not spacious by 45ft standards but welcome when you’re bouncing around in a seaway, the saloon has plenty to grab on, including the height-adjustable table that becomes a berth and there’s rounded worktop edges to avoid bruisings. An excellent navigation station has a large console for instruments, sizeable chart table and main switchboard neatly recessed. Sitting comfortably here when offshore you steer by the autopilot while safely having all round views. Batteries are nearby below the bench, their centralised weight aiding stability.
Down in the hulls there’s plenty to like as well, thanks to four sizeable cabins on our review boat. Alternatively, the owner’s version has a dedicated starboard hull and two doubles port. Also listed is an ‘offshore’ layout which has two bunks in the owner’s hull, so ideal for young families. The crawl-in berths are the same in each aft quarter of the 45; and are basic but have enough volume (1.9m headroom) and good ventilation while the forward berths are surrounded by storage, including underneath and the beds should sleep two adults. Slatted bases and thick mattresses are other good points I noted. Walking through the wide corridors, a bathroom is centralised here on each hull and the starboard one has a corridor sink. Under the corridor hull steps are the escape hatches in each hull, while outside there’s jack-stays to grab should you invert. Outremer has wisely chosen to make these hatches usable for ventilation, rather than the break-glass variety that is common, so yet another good feature on the 45. Just remember to shut them before hauling the anchor!
Hulls construction is infusion, with solid polyester below the waterline and PVC polyester sandwich above, with reinforced bilges for strengthening and resistance to impact while the deck is also infused in PVC foam sandwich. Walking around their compact yard in La Grand Motte – that builds about 20 boats annually – I watched a final hull fit-out take place and saw some good detailing. The rudders are made of composite and turn on aluminium stocks, connected by a sturdy alloy crossbeam and the autopilot is directly connected to this. Drying out, at favourite places like Lizard Island, doesn’t look possible with these fixed rudders, saildrives and of course no mini keels to balance the hull but I believe Outremer may offer some kind of support legs. Despite not being particularly light at 8,700kg the hulls are slim and their shape maximises the waterline. Engine access is the only thing that caused me to frown as the 30hp Volvos are located under the main crossbeam aft. A sensible idea to centralise the weight in the boat and minimise hobby horsing but it means it requires hatches in the stern cabin to allow work done. However the main service points – impeller, fan belt, oilways and filters – can all be used from the hull hatch. The starting battery is nearby here as well and safely away from bilge water; and cleverly is also wired to start the engine on the opposite side. Other power can come from an optional hydrogenerator and coupled with energy efficient lithium batteries give the Outremer 45 good cruising capabilities.
My host for the day, commercial manager Matthieu Rougevin-Baville, and I motored from La Grande Motte. The three bladed folding propellers created plenty of thrust, pushing the Outremer 45 to 8.5kts against the 10kt breeze before we slowed to make sail. At the touch of button the Andersen winch pulled the big topped mainsail out of its bag to be guided aloft by the lazy jacks, while at my foot I trimmed it, before unjamming the line to roll out the genoa as we turned off the wind. With plenty of strings to pull on the 45 I was in my element, so I then reached for the leeward daggerboard line as we hardened up while finally remembering that the rotating mast line also needed a tweak. Pulling the mast inline with the sail improved the air flow and brought the centre of effort forward so we climbed higher. Tweaking done, I left the steering wheel to enjoy the bucket seat and dropped down the tiller. Maybe too much fiddling for your average cruising sailor but your efforts on the 45 come with plenty of rewards. Top among them is the direct feel of the rudders from the tillers, once I’d adjusted them to my liking; and they never felt overloaded, even with the big Code D flying. Looking up at the B&G showed us doing an impressive 7.8kts SOG in only 9.1kts with the bows at about 44°; nice. For regattas this seating arrangement gives you a good race line to watch but remember to stand up to check across to the other bow. Tacking with the tillers requires a wee bit of a walk, down then up the other side of the boat, so spinning the carbon Jefa wheel is the easier manoeuvre. Double digit speed was our quest so the colourful self-furling Code D was hoisted then I unwound it using the cockpit winch and trimmed. Off the wind now, we accelerated nicely creating a lovely fantail wake as the B&G showed us skipping along at 11.5kts with the true wind showing 13kts, the Outremer 45 again well rewarding us for our efforts which does really sum up the philosophy of this exciting but refined yacht.