by Nancy Birnbaum

Blue Water Sailing
December 2008


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An ocean going South African cat designed to be comfortably cruised by a small crew

I was first introduced to Admiral Cats at the 2005 Miami Strictly Sail Show. While I was doing the walk-through, I met a young couple who were about to buy one. I was at the show volunteering for the Seven Seas Cruising Association, so I did what every good SSCA Volunteer does—I signed them up!

About a year later, I ran into them again at a Weather Course for Mariners presented by SSCA. This time, Lisa and Gary Eckis were getting serious about preparing themselves for long-term cruising. They were about to head off to South Africa to oversee the delivery of their very own Admiral 40. It so happened that after putting their deposit down on the 38, they were offered first dibs on the new 40, hull number one.

I wrote about their unique adventure for the SSCA’s Bulletin, beginning in Cape Town, South Africa, where they got to see the final touches being applied to their Cat, to the actual launch, culminating in their first-ever passage—a monumental voyage by any standard: 8,000 nautical miles, non-stop, from Cape Town to Annapolis. Since it was the first 40 for Admiral, it would have its debut at the Annapolis Boat Show. I documented their experience from “birth” or launch, to delivery and found myself living it, albeit vicariously.

Earlier this year, I was invited to do a test sail on their new Cat, named Siyasinana, (a Zulu name that means “We dance with each other”).

If I could design my dreamboat, it would have to be a catamaran for starters. Second, it would be somewhere between 38 and 45 feet, but would have to be a blue water cruiser. It would be well built, spacious and comfortable, yet strong and tough; well thought out, of course, and designed with lots of storage space.

The new Admiral 40 by Admiral Yacht Builders, out of Cape Town, South Africa, fits the bill completely.

The Admiral 40 Catamaran is now part of an expanding line of cats at Admiral Yachts, the others being the 38 and 50. The factory is brand new, very large and has recently moved from Killarney Gardens to Atlantis, located approximately 25 minutes north of Cape Town.

The 40 is the successor to the spacious Admiral 38, a popular mid-sized cruising catamaran with four models that range from the “Daysailer” to the “Executive.” The 40 is available in the “Sailaway” and “Executive” models. David Bird, CEO and his dedicated team at Admiral Yachts, in pursuit of excellence, are constantly improving their product, in tooling, methods or layout, so in the end the result is an irresistible craft.


Siyasinana is an “owners version, executive package,” which features three cabins instead of four with the extra space in the owner’s hull for the larger head with separate shower fore, an office/vanity area amidships and additional storage. The “Executive” package basically means “fully-loaded,” with all electronics, radar, SSB, generator, front load fridge and freezer, washer/dryer, sails, working gear, fold down flats screens at the nav station and in all cabins, twin Yanmar 29-horsepower diesels, heat/air conditioning and more.

Each new owner can choose their own, personal choices of colors, woods and materials from rosewood, pear wood, and rich dark cherry to a lovely, lighter-toned beech. Siyasinana is outfitted with warm toned colors such as maroon, burnt orange and burnt yellow.

In the spacious cockpit, the helmsman’s station and comfortable double bench are to starboard and are well protected from spray peeling off the bows at higher speeds by a removable dodger that spans the entire width of the house. The traveler is on the cabin top and the mainsheet then runs to self-tailing, electric winches. The genoa sheets also run port and starboard to cars and self-tailing winches.

The saloon is quite spacious with the galley immediately to port as you enter, the nav station just inside the sliding door to starboard. It offers a swing-out stool, which tucks conveniently out of the way underneath. The large, curved dinette is forward to starboard. Lisa opted to remove the dinette table and instead use a hand-crafted wooden rectangular table in order to make it “more like our living room.” It really does serve to open up the large space making it ever so welcoming.

In this owners version, the master stateroom, desk/vanity and large private head occupy the starboard hull, while the double guest cabins and second head fill the port hull. Counters are finished with Surinno (similar to Corian) in the galley, heads and cabins.

The construction is of hand-laid FRP laminate with a vacuum-bagged balsa core and a tabbed hull/deck joint. Careful attention to every detail of construction is visible behind the scenes, such as in the lockers. First-rate craftsmanship was also evident in the bulkhead supporting the deck-stepped mast and the extra heavy-duty chainplate structure.

Sailing Siyasinana around Biscayne Bay in a fair breeze allowed us to get a feel for how easy she is to handle. Lisa was proud to show us all how easy it was for her to raise the considerable mainsail. Along for the test was CEO David Bird. When it was time to furl the jib, David showed us all a trick that only someone as intimate as he is with his product could know. Wrapping the jib sheet and the reefing line around the electric winch, David demonstrated with panache.

Under power, the 40 can really fly with the relatively small Yanmar engines and they offer great maneuverability as well as speed. This was apparent as we threaded our way out of the crowded docks of Miamarina and into the Bay. With her throttle open wide, she can do greater than 8 knots yet will cruise comfortably at 6.4 knots at 2,500 rpm.


Admiral Yachts seems to be doing something right. They fly owners to their production center in South Africa, put them up while their Cat is finished and offer them a captain for the trip home. All this for an excellent price overall.

The Admiral 40, like its predecessor, the 38, is a comfortable cruising home that can also perform. It is tough enough for the open ocean, easy enough for “newbies” like Lisa and Gary to take their first passage on, yet fast enough to get you where you want to go in a hurry. Most importantly, Admiral will get you there in comfort and in style.


LOA                 39' 11" (12.17m.)
LWL                 37' 1" (11.30 m.)
Beam                24' 0" (7.32 m.)
Draft                 3' 9" (1.14 m.)
Sail Area (100%) 1,043 sq. ft. (96.9 sq. m.)
Displacement     18,739 lb. (8,500 kg.)
Water                 105 gal. (397 l.)
Fuel                    105 gal. (397 l.)
Engines               Twin 29-hp. Yamahas
Designer              Lavranos Marine Design
Price                    $425,000
Admiral USA  (954) 713-0412

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