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Leopard 39 100% cruiser and compact

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Complying with the inevitably very demanding specifications of the world’s biggest charter company (Moorings/Sunsail), has got to be good! Both builder and architects are obliged to reconcile aspects which are naturally contradictory, such as comfort, volume and...sailing pleasure and speed. We have to admit that with the Leopard 39, the South African builder presented, in 2010, a rather attractive catamaran. Our regular tester, Philippe Echelle, let himself be tempted by an outing in a good breeze: a 31-knot gust and a good wave propelled the catamaran at 17.6 knots. And with full sail! We couldn’t advise you to give the boat this kind of treatment, of course...but this anecdote shows that five years ago, for its launch, the Leopard made an excellent impression. Ditto in the United States, where the specialized press at the time wrote lots of good things about this boat, which in reality has several names: Leopard 38, Sunsail 384, Leopard 39, Moorings 3900… Four names for an almost identical catamaran: the last two – 126 examples – are equipped with a polyester bimini as an extension of the coachroof, and a rigid ‘cap’ which covers the steering position. On the 38 and the 384 (69 examples of which were produced in 2009 and 2010), the bimini was slightly raised and the helmsman had to be satisfied with a canvas protection. Another distinctive feature: the Leopards, with their three cabins, are dedicated to private owners, whilst the other two models, charter oriented, are equipped with four cabins.

Second-hand test Leopard 39

The marked longitudinal steps in the hulls maintain a moderate beam at the waterline.

A nacelle out of reach of the waves

Although English and South African production boats have often inherited platforms which are too low, the Leopard 39’s bridgedeck is much higher. The boat is rather narrower than its direct competitors – 6.03m as against 6.53 for a Lagoon 380 and 6.73 for the Lipari 41 Evolution, just like the hulls, which remain quite slim at the waterline, thanks to the marked longitudinal ‘step’ which run along each side. A comfort/performance compromise which has already been tried and tested...and still works. In performance terms, the 39 is certainly handicapped by the significant windage of the coachroof and its relatively high displacement, but as for the rest, it holds some good cards in its hand, starting with a low wetted surface area. And its very slim rig – over 20 meters above the waterline - provides it with some extra horsepower. “The Leopard 39 is fast, even in light weather,” Clément Daël, the manager of Sunsail Brokerage noted. And this is what we reported, both in the Mediterranean for the first tests – just before the famous gale – and during a week’s charter in the Bahamas. With the fixed appendages, you can’t hope to sail closer than 50° to the true wind. But you will be surprised by the boat’s speed, which reaches 6 knots close hauled in a force 3 – 4. On the open sea, the ...

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