Interview: Magic Cat
If there’s anyone out there who hasn’t talked to their boat I’d be surprised. Yes, you can “meet” a boat. You can sometimes fall in love. You can be seduced by its charm, its style and its personality. Some have incredible stories to tell. Magic Cat is one of those boats. Moored at the quayside in the port of Sète, in the South of France, between a multi-colored fishing boat, and a rusty bridge, you’d almost say that the sun only shines on Magic Cat.
It’s not difficult to fall under the spell of the big ocean racing boats. It is rarer however, to be speechless, staring open mouthed at a cruising multihull. This is the case when any sailing fan, whether their choice is two or three hulls, comes across Magic Cat, either out at sea or in port. As with classic cars, twenty years have contributed to the undeniable charm of this boat. She certainly doesn’t look her age. Anglo-Saxons would call her “Chic and Slick!” You can’t escape the fact that cruising catamarans today resemble glass and plastic buildings. External vision has been improved with all the vertical windows and levels, but this is to the detriment of the aesthetic. Here, the clean, discreet lines draw you in immediately. The boom almost touches the coachroof, like an ultimate symbol of performance. Once you’re on board, your first impressions are confirmed. But where are the ends? Saint Exupery said : “Sometimes perfection is reached not when there is nothing more to add, rather nothing more to take away. “ It’s a maxim that could be written on the 25 meters of this ship, given the way it seems to have inspired its design. To do something this simple is extremely complicated. There must have been thousands of hours of thought and drawing, before they arrived at this level of perfection. At the back of each hull is a cockpit for helming and sail trimming for the most demanding sailors. In the center is a simple and discreet space for luxurious relaxation.
The wing which links the three davits, shows the aeronautical style attention that has been given to the design, starting with an almost obsessional war on weight. As with an airplane, it is the enemy of any multihull that is striving for performance. The calculations of the architect Gilles Ollier, which are visible on board, go right down to the 200 gram signaling mirror. Respecting the initial 24 tonne lightship weight was ambitious but crucial. The Multiplast shipyard managed to do it though. This is the secret of the ship’s success. Even when fully loaded for a world tour (30 to 35 tonnes) with all tanks full, and all the necessary spare parts to guarantee full autonomy on board, the sailing performance is remarkable. It’s enough to convince any novice or connoisseur that takes the helm whether invited by one of the owners or as charter clients for a boat which is just a little out of the ordinary. The silky movement and lack of impacts attest to what a pure vessel this is. The designers Gilles Ollier and Yan Penfornis have injected a little champion DNA into the carbon body: Commodore Explorer, originally Jet Services V, the first to go around the world in under 80 days. Not content with just inheriting its DNA, it has also taken the rigging and daggerboards (draught 2.00/3.20m. Good breeding will always shine through!
If from the outside you’d think that you were on Orange 2 (which has been renamed Vitalia II) it’s inside that the change is the most startling. It’s a marriage of the best of both worlds. At the helm you can dream of surfing in Jules Verne’s wake. A few meters away you find yourself in a Relais & Châteaux dining room. And the immense open plan kitchen and salon allows the lucky passengers to enjoy the chef’s dexterity. It’s a bit of a throwback as modern plans tend to be pushing the cook to the extremities of the boat. The fittings sport sober and harmonious tones. Franck Darnet, the interior designer supervised the refit in 2009. These fittings combine an aesthetic design with the practicality needed at sea. This is indispensable when you’re cruising between 20 and 25 knots. These are speeds which can take a toll. A crossing from Sète over to Corsica to spend a weekend there? Spend 4 months in Tahiti before turning back and heading north for Panama? Simple formalities. The one problem, the constant interest from coastguard helicopters for this unidentified floating object that’s constantly breaking the speed limit, especially when you’re surfing along in a force 8, as the only vessel braving the conditions. The advantage of length is that the bad weather hits you more slowly. The skill of skipper Bruno Mabire and his crew is dedicated to making sure that everything goes smoothly, as at those speeds things can go wrong very quickly. If the boat is seaworthy, so too is the crew, even to the point of raising the sails manually fearing the all-powerful hydraulics. Maintaining the boat is a constant issue. It shows too, as it looks like new! There is constant maintenance for the four crew members. And it can get complicated. When the antifouling needs doing the mast has to be completely dismantled to allow the crane to haul the boat out: that’s a two week stoppage minimum! But it’s worth it for all the miles that pass by without incident, which mean that this boat has covered the equivalent of four times around the world!
If you ever come across Magic Cat, you will be smitten. From whatever distance you see her, you will be struck by the perfection of her proportions. Upon closer inspection, the long covers which hide the roof hatches will look like they are winking, inviting you aboard. After spending the summer in the Med, this boat will then participate in Les Voiles de St Tropez. Lining up alongside the most beautiful, classical boats, confident of her lines, the immaculate whiteness of her hulls will not be fazed, up against Velsheda and the other beauty queens at this classic event which showcases all that is elegant on the water. However, you may need to turn away for fear of falling in love? Now that would be a pity…