In Cape Town, South Africa, BWS takes a Robertson & Caine-built Sunsail 384 for a test sail on Table Bay
The Sunday morning we met up with the gang from Robertson & Caine to take a brand new Sunsail 384 for a test sail was clear and warm, and the wind was piping from the east right over Table Mountain at 18 to 22 knots.
We dropped our mooring lines in the inner harbor right next to the Royal Cape Yacht Club and motored out into the bay. The twin 30 horsepower engines offered plenty of push as we negotiated tight turns in the marina and then put the throttles down in the open and flat water of the harbor.
The boat was brand new. It had been trucked from the factory a few days earlier, the Southern Spars rig had been stepped and the brand new Quantum sails bent on. The commissioning crew had taken the boat for a spin as they ran through their post-launch inspections and that was it. Now, we were out for the boat’s second sail. As is usual with Robertson & Caine boats bound for the charter fleets, the 384 would get a full commissioning survey, have any glitches repaired, and then take off for a transoceanic voyage to its new home.
With the stacking main hoisted and the 120 genoa rolled out, we broad reached across the bay in the pleasant breeze making 8 to 9 knots. The boat felt stable but pleasantly lively and the helm was finger-touch light.
We spent two hours tacking and jibing across Table Bay and were all impressed with how well the little cat performed. As we got into the lee of Table Mountain, the wind went light and we found ourselves ghosting along at 5 to 7 knots in less than 10 knots of true breeze.
The sheets, halyards and traveler control lines are all led to the helmsman’s raised station through line fair leads and controlled with line stoppers and the two winches next to the helm. The traveler is on top of the hard dodger and since you use that instead of the mainsheet for small sail trim adjustments, it is useful for the lines to be right at the helm, too.
The 384 has a double bench seat at the helm and a cut out in the hard dodger for the helmsman that can be covered with a canvas insert to keep rain out of the cockpit. The owner’s version of the boat is known as the Leopard 39; it has the same hull and deck, but the hard dodger has been integrated into the line of the cabintop and the helmsman has a cutout with the fixed hard top over it.
The cockpit has a fixed table to port that will seat six; under the seats there are storage spaces for the life raft, deck gear and the three Group 31 Lifeline batteries. The hulls aft are quite wide and make good boarding or swimming platforms. On the after end of the hard dodger, a stainless steel crane has been devised to act as davits for hauling a dinghy out of the water.
The interior spaces of the 384 are open and seem large for a boat of this size. The galley to port faces aft and is handy to both the inside and outside seating areas. Right inside the cabin door, two drawer-style fridges are built-in, so cold drinks will always be handy to the cockpit and groceries will be near the galley. The electrical panel and radio are mounted above the fridge and just inside the door where they are near the helm.
The dinette is U-shaped and will seat four on the benches and six with two stools added. The cabin windows around the saloon are vertical and capped on the outside by an eyebrow that will keep sun and rain at bay; this arrangement prevents the saloon from becoming a solar oven in the tropics and allows you to keep ports open when it is raining.
The Sunsail 384 is laid out for use in the charter fleets, so it has four double cabins and two small single cabins in the bows. The after cabins are true doubles and will fit two normal-sized adults. The forward doubles are slightly smaller but will still be comfortable for two. The single berths forward will be great for children—or, while on charter, for a skipper. If you are going to be sailing with a crowd, you can convert the dinette in the saloon into another double berth. That’s a total of nine potential berths for you and your crew. The heads are amidships in both hulls and have good storage lockers and ample room for showering.
The finish work aboard the new Robertson & Caine boats has never been better. The cabinets are made of a dark, honey-colored cherry that looks very handsome when coated with varnish. Countertops are elegant black Corian. The overhead panels are covered in a pale white vinyl that gives the whole saloon and the sleeping cabins a pleasant aura of lightness. Light, attractive fabrics and the many hatches, windows and ports let natural light keep the interior spaces bright and airy.
Robertson & Caine launched its 770th cruising catamaran at the end of December last year, and many of them either went into charter fleets or were purchased by families who went cruising. With all of that experience behind them, they have perfected the art of production boat building and are able to turn out consistently good boats that are capable of sailing anywhere on the seven seas.
Displ. 19,790 lbs.
Fuel 92 gals
Water 206 gals
Sunsail Yachts (384—charter version)
Leopard Catamarans (39—owner’s version)
Ft. Lauderdale, FL