The new Leopard 50 is destined to be one of the most popular mid-size family cruisers in the multihull market
We were all checking our phones as we gathered at the Leopard 50 in the Harbor Towne Marina because the forecast was for serious thunder squalls later that morning. The storm was brewing over southwestern Florida and aiming right for us in Dania, which is just south of Ft. Lauderdale. The green blotches on the radar had large yellow and red highlights that indicated both really heavy rain and probably lightning.
But that didn’t stop us. We climbed aboard the new 50, let go the lines and inched our way out the marina entrance in Dania Cut. At the helm was regular Leopard skipper Calvyn, plus Steve Long and Katie Baker from the Leopard sales and marketing team.
Under power, the 50 handled smartly, turning in its own length inside the marina and then strutted easily into the building breeze at cruising revs as we motored down the canal toward the cut at Port Everglades that would take us to the open sea. The boat comes standard with two 57-horsepower diesels that are easily accessible in the large engine compartments aft.
The 50 we sailed had the optional raised lounge on top of the hard Bimini that covers the cockpit. This is a great space and even though it is quite high, you do not feel like you are on top of a multi-tiered wedding cake. The helm is raised to starboard and at a level right between the cockpit and the raised lounge so the helmsperson is always in contact with the rest of the crew.
Visibility from the helm is good but the port bow is just out of sight behind the cabintop for those under six feet tall or so. The ergonomics of the helm are well thought out so a lone watchstander can manage all lines and sheets through a battery of deck organizers, line stoppers and the three electric winches. Certainly, on a boat of this size, owners would be wise to go with electric winches instead of manual ones.
Once we reached the ship turning base at Port Everglades we hoisted the huge mainsail which has a two-part halyard and a country mile of line to gather as the sail inches upward. It’s a big sail with full battens and 1,066 square feet of area. We motorsailed out the cut and then fell off the wind and rolled out the genoa.
In big cruising cats, the sensation of speed or even acceleration can often be muted or subtle. That wasn’t the case with the Leopard 50. The big mainsail and 125-percent genoa with a total area of 1,750 square feet, packed plenty of power to get the cat moving smartly. The wind was blowing at about 12 knots and we were making 7.5 to 8 sailing up wind at an apparent angler of about 50 degrees. We threw the big cat through a few tacks and determined that it would easily tack inside 100 degrees and in flat water would get close to 90 degrees. But, a big cat like this is happier sailing at about 50 degrees AWA instead of being pinched.
Calvyn was happy to let me run the boat so I took the helm and ran through a series of tacks and jibes without assistance from the crew. The boat can easily be singehanded if the autopilot is working properly and the electric winches are functioning. Once you get the lay of the land, all lines and sheets are where they should be so even jibing in the rising breeze was not a huge challenge on my own.
Off the wind the 50 was more in her element and at 110 degrees apparent it really showed the performance built into the design and sail plan. The breeze was building and the dark clouds of the advancing squall were rising over the western horizon but we carried on and tried to get the boat to maintain 10 knots while accelerating to over 11 in the puffs.
We finally had to relent as the dark clouds gathered and the radar images on our phones showed an alarming number of dark red thunder head patches. We raced back into the inlet and quickly dowsed the sails. The mainsail fell neatly into the stack-pack sail cover and the genoa rolled away with the press of a button.
With the throttles down, we hightailed it back to the marina and managed to get the big boat into its marina slip in a piping crosswind just in time to beat the rain, thunder and lightning. The Leopard 50 was a pleasure to handle under power and showed a good turn of speed at over 8 knots when we were in a hurry. Under sail it performed above average for a modern production cat intended for the charter fleets as well as private owners. Ten knots is a pleasant cruising speed and the 50 can do that in the right conditions. Plus, the boat is set up so it can be singlehanded, which is a requirement for couples cruising on their own.
While an owner might choose the Leopard 50 for it’s overall ease of handling and performance, there is no question that at the top of the list of positive qualities will be the boat’s spaciousness, accommodations and dedication to comfortable living.
The main cockpit is huge but it is only one of three outside cockpits. The U-shaped dinette will seat up to eight and will be the spot for most meals in warm weather. There is a drawer style fridge in the cockpit and easy access to the staircase that leads to the lounge.
Aft, between the hulls there is a platform that rises and lowers mechanically that doubles as a massive swim platform and a dinghy dock, with a folding cradle, that will hoist the dinghy clear of the water when underway.
On the foredeck, you will find another cockpit with a roof with a sliding hatch over it where one could sit in the shade and read or simply watch the world go by. This can be accessed through a large, weather-proof door from the saloon. Just ahead of the cockpit is a large sun bed that runs across the bridge deck. Under the pads you will find the generator, the water tanks and the windlass and chain locker.
There are large storage lockers on the forward ends of both hulls for fenders, lines, downwind sails, a second dinghy and other spares. The starboard locker can be fitted out as crew’s quarters with a single bunk and a head.
The saloon is set up for indoor-outdoor living with the door in the front and a large sliding door and sliding window aft. When everything is open, the breeze will flow unobstructed right through the boat from bow to stern.
As you enter the saloon from the aft cockpit, there is another eight-person dinette that will be the spot for meals in rainy or cool weather when the boat can be buttoned up. The chart table is forward and to port while the huge galley takes over the whole starboard side of the saloon. With giant windows all around, the saloon is a very bright, airy and inviting space.
The hull accommodations can be set up with three, four or five-cabin layouts and up to five heads. The boat we were sailing had the normal four-cabin layout with two comfortable cabins in each hull. Access is via a single stairway into the port hull or via two stairways into the starboard hull. The master cabin in the four-cabin layout is the aft starboard cabin.
The cabins are large and have plenty of ventilation and light. Plus, the boat can be rigged with air conditioning run by the genset so you can stay comfortable even on hot muggy nights. There is a remarkable amount of storage space throughout the boat which in turn makes the 50 ideally suited for living aboard and long range cruising.
The fit and finish of the 50 has been done to a high standard with an emphasis on simplicity and uniformity in all of the veneers, table and counter tops, doors and the floors. Keeping a boat like the 50 in trim and clean will be easy and not require a lot of elbow grease.
The Leopard 50 does a lot of things well and will be a great addition to a charter fleet or a fine private yacht for an adventurous couple. It is easy to sail and does sail very well. It powers efficiently and handles tight quarters with twin-engine ease. With 264 gallons of fuel, the 50 will have a cruising range under power at 7 plus knots of nearly 900 miles. Running on one engine at six knots would give you a range of more than 1,200 miles – which, FYI, happens to be the distance between Bali and Singapore in an equatorial region known for little or no wind.
The 50 is a very large 50 footer so even with the four-cabin layout, you will always have privacy and a place to find some quiet time. Fifty feet seems to be the new mid-size for cruising cats and I can see why. The boat is big enough to be a proper home yet not so large that it swallows you. It is easy to sail and fast enough to make quick work of long passages but not too complicated for a couple to manage on their own.
The new Leopard 50, which replaced the very popular Leopard 48, is destined to be an even bigger success.
Displ. 44,092 lbs
Sail area 1,750 sq. ft.
Bridge Clear 3’3”
Mast height 77’2”
Engines 57-hp. X 2
Water 185 gals.
Fuel 264 gals
Waste 45 Gals