This new spacious cruising cat from Robertson & Caine will thrive as a charter boat and be a comfortable floating home for cruisers. (Published Spring 2015)
We don’t usually start our sail trials of new boats by running them aground. But, that’s just what happened as we set off after the Miami Strictly Sail show last winter to give the brand new Leopard 40 a good test out in the open ocean. The channel through the Port of Miami can be a little tricky and has acres of shallows right next to it.
We had quite a crowd of folks aboard who were looking at the 40 to buy and those who were trying to get them to do so. Everyone was talking at once. We had hoisted the main and rolled out the jib and all seemed well until we stopped somewhat abruptly. The wind was blowing gently, the sails were full but the new Leopard 40 wasn’t moving.
It was time for the engines to show their stuff. We slacked the sheets and then threw the twin 29-horsepower diesels into reverse and gave them maximum revs. Inch by inch, the 40 gathered sternway, despite her drawing sails, and then the keels popped free and we were able to pivot and steer back into the deep water.
The result was positive and what we learned was that the new 40 can get herself out of trouble with the best of them. That’s more or less a Robertson & Caine trademark; their boats are robustly built and their systems are up to any task thrown at them. The majority of the boats that the company builds go into the Tui Marine—the Moorings and Sunsail—charter fleets around the world.
The boats are built in Cape Town, South Africa and most are delivered to the charter fleets on their own bottoms. So, the boats have to be extremely seaworthy, they have to be easy to sail and they have to be sturdy enough to stand up to both the rigors of ocean passage making and the day-to-day bumps and bruises of bare boat chartering.
We motor-sailed out the cut into the ocean and then trimmed in the sails to see what the 40 could do upwind. The seas were a bit lumpy and the breeze a pleasant 12 knots from the southeast. The 40 gathered her skirts and began to sail nicely and fairly close to the wind. At 40 degrees apparent, we had her at a steady 6 knots and cracking off a bit to 60 degrees, she showed her reaching ability with better than 7 knots on the GPS.
We reached out to sea for a while and then turned back for a broad reach back to the channel. The wind was gaining force so we had the boat leaping along at 8 knots. It was a stable and comfortable ride, despite the lumpy seas.
You steer and handle the boat from the raised helm on the starboard side of the cockpit. Visibility from here is good and you can see both bows when you stand up. This makes docking a lot easier than it is when you can’t see the port bow.
Halyards, control lines and sheets all run through deck organizers and line clutches to the winches by the helm. From here you can hoist and lower the sails, adjust the traveler, trim the sheets and adjust the vang. Basically, the 40 is set up for singlehanding and that’s a good thing since most of the time the boats will be sailed by couples.
When we returned to the marina, we had a tight turn to make to get up against the floating dock where the boat was to be moored. This was a perfect situation for the skipper to show the crowd on board how a cruising cat can maneuver. Using just the engine controls in forward and reverse he spun the boat in a 180 degree turn within her own length and then easily backed her between two pilings and up against the dock. In the last 10 feet he made the boat crab sideways until we could step off and secure the docking lines.
The new Leopard 40 is a pure cruising boat that will stand up to long and hard use while offering the motoring and sailing performance cruisers need and want.
The 40 comes with either a four-cabin charter layout or the three-cabin owner’s version. The four-cabin version has two sleeping cabins and one large head in both hulls, while the owner’s version replaces the bow cabin in the starboard hull with a huge head and shower.
The 40’s cockpit has a U-shaped dinette to port where most meals will be served in warm weather. The cockpit joins the saloon through a single sliding door and via windows that open. Inside the saloon there is an L-shaped dinette, the galley, which faces forward, and a small chart table. The boat has a pleasant airy feel and visibility through the saloon windows is great.
Several recent models from Leopard have had the forward cockpits that people like so much for outside lounging. The 40 has a smaller version of this feature with a door that leads from the saloon to the fore decks. Instead of a cockpit forward, a large flat area over the storage lockers has been designed that can be covered with cushions. Three or four people can relax and sunbath here while enjoying the cool breeze.
The fit and finish of the new 40 is impressive in a boat that is built on a production line and in large numbers. The molded parts are of very high quality while the light colored veneers and fabrics give the boats a warm, homey yet elegant feel.
MQ had the good fortune to visit the Robertson & Caine factory in South Africa a few years ago. The scale of the company is impressive and the volumes of boats they build has increased over the years. Since labor is relatively cheap in South Africa, R&C employs a cast of over a thousand skilled and production workers to turn out the boats. The company’s quality control systems are highly developed and run by the most senior staff. The results of which are impressive.
Robertson & Caine has built over a thousand cruising catamarans since the company was founded in 1991and this year they are on schedule to build 130 more. They are presently launching three new boats a week in Cape Town.
The boats have proven themselves time and again to work well for cruising couples and families whether they are cruising the B.V.I. or setting off around the planet.
Displ. 20,591 lbs.
Water 206 gals.
Fuel 95 gas.
Engines 2 x 29 hp.
Sail area 1,032 sq. ft.