Leopard 39

All you need to know about leeway... with mini-keels

I’m going to be chartering a sailing catamaran this summer for four weeks. It’s a Leopard 39 from 2011. I’d like to know the leeway resulting from different wind strengths (let’s say 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 knots for example) and according to points of sail (close hauled, a fine reach, wind on the beam, broad reach, deep reach). I can’t find this information on the internet, nor does it appear in the catamaran owner’s manual. As for the builder and charter company, they were unable to provide any information.
Gilles, Paris

Leopard 39 test in MW117
Secondhand test in MW141


Hello Gilles,

It might come as somewhat of a surprise, but the data you’re looking for is practically undocumented - at least not in the detail you’d like. The potential for speed and windward gain, on the other hand, is covered by speed polars - supplied to us by Leopard Catamarans, which you can find here.

These curves for different sail configurations indicate the speed of the Leopard 39 for a given heading and wind strength and include the leeway in optimal sailing conditions. In concrete terms, the course indicated is the true course, i.e. that of your chartplotter, and not the compass course - the difference between the two would be the aforementioned leeway angle you’re looking for, provided there’s no current to take into account. Visually, this leeway can be roughly estimated by measuring the angle between the catamaran’s centerline and its wake. So why not publish this leeway? Because it’s so multi-factorial that it can only be managed empirically. Roughly speaking - and naval architects Morelli & Melvin may be able to refine our comments - a catamaran like the Leopard 39 equipped with short mini-keels will incur leeway of 6 to 8° in the most unfavorable conditions, i.e. upwind in light airs. Note that a multihull equipped with deep daggerboards will only drift off half as much. The faster a catamaran goes, the less its leeway. The further off the wind you come, the less noticeable the leeway. So much for theory. But there are many other factors which can also have a major influence on the smooth sailing and leeway of your catamaran. For a start, the helmsman is in the firing line: if he persists in climbing above 50°, the leeway can quickly exceed 10°, especially in light airs - a bit like the effect you get just coming out of a tack. Correct sail trim is also essential - to a lesser extent, so is the condition and quality of the sail area. As for sea state, it influences leeway if the sea is head-on. Finally, the use of fixed propellers, the addition of windage due to paddleboards or kayaks stowed against the guardwires and/or a dirty hull are all factors likely to increase a catamaran’s leeway.

In the past, controlling leeway while sailing, as well as following currents, was essential for compass-based dead reckoning. Today, it’s still essential for optimizing performance, but now “integrated” into your chartplotter. This means you know you’ll need to tack one more time to pass a particular headland... or start one or both motors; when the wind is shifting and the sea kicking up a bit, getting upwind is made easier by starting the leeward engine at low rpm. With the mainsail trimmed flat, you get good balance at the helm, correct speed and heading (with little or no leeway), minimum fuel consumption and battery recharging to boot. No shame in leaning on the engine when cruising!


Technical specifications

Builder: Robertson & Caine
Architect: Morelli & Melvin
Material: ...

Log in

Password forgotten ?


Subscribe to Multihulls World and get exclusive benefits.


Most-read articles in the same category

View all the articles

Current issue

MW #196 - July / Aug 2024

Discover the issue

Most read

Subscribe now

The latest news from €3 / month

Subscribe to the magazine

Video of the month

Our latest YouTube hit!

Watch the video

The Multihull of the Year

The 2024 results

Discover the results
For all used-boats for sale

Classified ads

View classified ads
Location :
ROSAS, Spain
Year :
275 000,00 Inc. tax€