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Elba 45: The right compromise between performance and comfort

After seven years in prod uction - and 259 units built - the Hélia 44 is stepping down, to be replaced by the New 45, whose name will be announced early September. We carried a preview test out on the occasion of the first very sail of this eagerly-awaited new model.

Our rendezvous was scheduled on the Troia peninsula, south-east of Lisbon. In early summer, conditions here are most often quite windy - the famous Portuguese trade winds. But we were going to have to be satisfied with a few puffs of northerly breeze... which in the end turned out to suit the New 45 quite well. A pleasant surprise really, because this new baby is rather chubby: 14 tons as opposed to the 10.8 of the Helia 44. We’re not very far off the displacement of the Saba 50 - 15.7 t. The sail area logically follows this increase: upwind, it goes from 115 m² (1,240 sq ft) on the Hélia to 124 m² (1,335 sq ft). The Berret-Racoupeau team of naval architects and the yard's design office obviously took into account the wishes of customers in the market for a 45-foot catamaran intended for long-distance cruising as well as charter: to have maximum comfort. This means more volume - and therefore more material - and additional equipment. Hence a higher displacement. The architects' design feat is to have managed to maintain fluid and harmonious lines on this New 45: thanks to small details such as the very slender bimini, the skillfully cut side windows and the metallic grey trim on the edges of the coachroof, the catamaran undeniably has an elegant profile. As for the hull, the emphasis was placed on the shape aft, stretched out - see the word from the architect, below. The fixed skegs are short - only 1.20 m (4’) draft - facilitating access to shallower water.

 

Helm station and sail handling

The deck layout of the New 45 brilliantly combines the requirements of sailing with some beautiful areas for relaxation. Let's start with the cockpit: it is perfectly protected by the bimini as this extends very far aft. The cockpit table can seat 8 guests, or even 12 by opting for the extension. A sunbathing area is integrated on the port side. Ease of access to the sugarscoops is excellent. The only detail to review is the vertical bathing ladder and its plastic steps... A good point on the other hand, is the large aft platform: it is equipped with integrated davits and can accommodate a 3.40 m (11’) tender with its outboard raised. The side-decks, nowhere narrower than 66 cm (2’2”) wide, are safe, with a beautiful handrail at the exit of the cockpit. Forward, an 8.5 m² (92 sq ft) deck saloon with reclining seatbacks and still two trampolines. Only one regret: no step here to climb onto the coachroof. On the other hand, access to the flybridge is easy, via the starboard side-deck or from the cockpit. You reach the sail trimming console, which is easy to read. A system of trunking allows the maneuvers from the port side to be transferred across to starboard. Just behind the sail handling console, the helm station. A large relaxation area is also provided on the flybridge.

 

Lively and pleasant under sail 

The light conditions encountered during our test – we never saw more than 12 knots of wind – might not have seemed favorable to a catamaran with a rather high displacement; but I must admit that the New 45 surprised us with her easiness. Certainly, our model was equipped with a superb composite sail wardrobe... but nevertheless: this catamaran starts off frankly as soon as the first bit of breeze appears, picks up speed to 6 knots in 10 knots true, at 35 to 38° from the apparent wind. Going by the GPS track and the wake, leeway is almost nil despite the shallow skegs. A straightforward turn of the helm through the wind and the New 45 was immediately through without ever missing a tack. Coming off the wind, and thanks to a slight breeze, the GPS even indicated 7.5 knots. Well under way, the New 45 seemed ready to accelerate further... but still needs the wind to cross the 10-knot mark. Under certain sea conditions, the rounded bilge at the stern that skims the waterline "slaps" the surface of the water a little, but nothing disturbing.

The feel at the helm is good - cable steering transmission. You enjoy a good view of the water and the sail plan. You can even see the port quarter by leaning over a little - very practical when maneuvering onto a dock.

A lounger in the saloon 

The nacelle is of course flush-decked with the cockpit. Opening the windows forms an L, facing to the right: 1.87 m (6’2”) of height, a width of 1.21 m (4’) where you walk through, and a total width in the upper part of 2.32 m (7’7”). That's 50 cm (18”) more than on the Hélia. The nacelle interior, with a beautiful headroom of 2.17 m (7’1”), meets modern needs: no more real traditional chart table but a vast panel that groups all the dials, near the cockpit and therefore the helm station. The galley takes advantage of this to make itself comfortable: a large worktop and many storage spaces are available. The same goes for the saloon, which incorporates a clever modular lounger - perfect for reading or watchkeeping while sailing. The table measures 164 by 84 cm (65 x 33”). The table top proposed here is of the low table type, but it is possible to order a higher table and even one that can be transformed into a double berth. The ventilation has been well thought-out, with a large opening hatch, forward. The yard has installed overhead openings: lots of natural light, a view of the sail plan from the interior, but you will need to opt for blackout blinds when sailing in hot weather.

The manufacturer offers two layouts for this boat: Maestro with three cabins and three bathrooms or Quartet with, as you guessed it, four cabins and as many bathrooms. The model we tried was a Maestro. The port hull is entirely dedicated to the owner - the companionway is closed to take advantage of all the available volume. As a result, the opening to the aft double berth is maximum - nothing like the traditional cabin door. In the corridor, a real desk, plenty of storage space and a large bathroom up front. On the other side, two more traditional cabins - with island bed for easy access. The mattresses are wide: 1.60 m (5’3”) at the back, 1.55 m (5’1”) at the front. Each cabin is ventilated by two hatches or panels. Overall, the finish and woodwork in Alpi are very carefully done, except for a few points of detail - areas of unvarnished wood for example. But the model presented to us was hull number one; future examples should be even more advanced.

Conclusion

While the New 45 clearly focuses on comfort compared to her predecessor, this new catamaran manages to remain efficient and elegant. The accommodation set-up is perfectly adapted to long periods at sea - huge galley, watchkeeping station, and many storage spaces. And sail trimming is easy and intuitive, guaranteeing that it’ll be quick and pleasant getting to grips with this multihull.

 


Technical specifications:

Builder: Fountaine Pajot

Architect: Berret-Racoupeau Yacht Design

Interior design: Racoupeau Design

Overall length: 13.45 m (44’2”)

Beam: 7.55 m (24’9”)

Draft: 1.20 m (4’)

Displacement: 14.01 t (30,890 lbs)

Sail area: 124 m2 (1,335 sq ft)

Mainsail: 75 m2 (807 sq ft)

Genoa: 49 m2 (527 sq ft)

Engines: 2 x 40 or 2 x 60 HP

Fuel: 700 l (185 US gal)

Water: 470 l (124 US gal)

Price ex-tax: € 435,760

 

Principal options ex-tax:

Exterior cushions (cockpit + lounge deck): € 6,050

Exterior cushions foredeck lounge: € 2,970

Built-in gas grill/bbq: € 1,837

GARMIN 3 Smart Cruising Navigation Package: € 16,000

Solar panels 4X90/100W: € 3,610

Multifunctional electric saloon table: € 5,500

Gennaker: € 5,760

Gennaker hardware and bowsprit: € 5,850

Electrical dinghy platform (max load 150 kg): € 17,200

1 Electric genoa sheet winch: € 2,860

Folding propellers: € 1,893


 

Pluses

Elegant silhouette

Convincing performance, even in light airs

Saloon has built-in lounger

Minuses

Some sharp angles in the interior

No steps in front of the coachroof

Unsightly bathing ladder

 

The competitors to the New 45

Model                                          Leopard 45                Lagoon 46                                   Balance 451               Nautitech 46 Open    Bali 4.5

Builder                                         Robertson/Caine        Lagoon                       Balance Cats              Nautitech                   Catana Group

Upwind sail area m²/sq ft            124/1335                    140/1507                    132/1420                    112/1205                    111/1195

Weight in T                                 14.5                            16.6                            8.4                              10.8                             11.6

Basic price                                € 399,000                € 433,000                US$ 470,000          € 413,000                €391,540

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