Cruising catamarans are the fastest growth category because of their general liveability. The Leopard 45 is a good example of this.
Leopard catamarans are prolific boats with more than 1,500 launched during the 26-year history of the South Africa-based company. A major reason for their prolificacy is the charter market which company owners’ Robertson and Caine supply. For example, the Leopard catamarans are known as the Sunsail 454, should you want to charter one to try it. This market has given them a reputation for robustness and good ergonomic layouts.
We enjoyed sailing several models, including the 40 which was a surprisingly nimble yacht for a dedicated cruiser; and the Leopard 45 was more of the same, as we realized after an enjoyable afternoon sail from Cannes.
Experienced Dutch designers Simonis-Voogd have incorporated three or four cabins into this model and our review boat, hull number 14, was the owner’s three cabin version. The owner has the entire starboard hull with a large double bed aft, a lounge and central vanity with a spacious bathroom forward.
The new boat retains all the signature features of the South African brand including the foredeck cockpit with access directly from the saloon. Other key features include a forward-located galley–now in a U shape–which separates the food preparation from the rest of the saloon. Another good feature is the adjustable dinette table which retracts to become a bed, using the lounge benches and cushions.
On deck there’s a single elevated starboard helm to give the skipper commanding views of the four hull quarters. Helm controls include Raymarine chart plotter and wind instruments as well as power controls; all ideally placed for visibility and operation. Engines are twin Yanmar saildrives with hatch access beyond the transom.
The engine rooms come with watertight bulkheads, safely separating them from the living areas, while the bows also have crash bulkheads. All of this gives this fibreglass foam-injected hull plenty of buoyancy should major water ingress occur. Another important safety feature are the glass escape hatches in each hull; which is also an EU requirement.
Ease of use is the raison d’etre of the Leopard so there’s no unpleasant surprises with the sail plan either. All of the lines lead neatly to two sets of substantial jamming blocks with twin Lewmar 45 winches plus one for the mainsail. Control of the mainsail is via a double block system rather than a track which means there’s two sets of sheets to operate but it does give you extra control via jammers and the sheet winch. For eating up the sea miles, the Performance Pack option includes a large roached mainsail and bowsprit-hung cruising chute.
Sailing from Cannes
Motoring from Cannes across calm seas we reached a maximum speed of 8.6 knots at 3,000 RPM before slowing to a more economical cruising speed of 8 knots with the Yanmars’ turning at 2,500 RPM and consuming 10 litres per hour.
Typically light Mediterranean wind conditions meant that sailing was a challenge but the electric winches allowed an easy hoist of the Ullman mainsail before we rolled out the genoa to gently point the Leopard 45 towards Nice. However the Leopard 45 made the best of it, reaching a speed of 6.5 knots in only 10 knots of true wind as we pressed hard at a 40 degree sailing angle.
The numbers improved as the breeze grew to 14 knots, with the Leopard 45 doing 8.1 knots boat speed. But most importantly this required little effort from our crew, which is the mark of a capable cruising catamaran; something the Leopard 45 clearly is.
Leopard 45 Specifications:
- >> Price: 415,000 euros
- >> LOA: 13.72 m/ 45 ft
- >> Beam: 7.35 m
- >> Draft: 1.48 m
- >> Displacement: 14,500 kg
- >> Bridgedeck clearance: 0.91 m light, 0.75 m loaded
- >> Sail area: mainsail 73 m2 , genoa 50.4 m2 , spinnaker 140 m2
- >> Fuel: 700 L
- >> Water: 780 L
- >> Engines: 2 x 45 HP Yanmar saildrive diesels, 3 bladed fixed propellers.
- >> Design: Leopard/Simonis-Voogd