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Cruising's no different

by John Curnow, Global Editor, 23 Jun 2020 06:00 UTC
As Excess say - inspired by racing for cruising pleasure... © Christophe Launay

Just like everything else on the planet, cruising has undergone a major shake up in recent times. We do feel for everyone who has been aboard and had to adapt, improvise and conquer, as a result of it. Many thanks to the entire community for sharing with us, emailing, and generally staying in touch. Our aim has been to have pertinent, accurate and timely information available for you.

Some have also made sure we look after our headspace, such as Klaas Van der vlist who sent us this spotify playlist, adding, "It's a perfect day on the water. It's days like these that have inspired some great songwriters to sit down and write tunes about what we love - sailing.

Feel like going for a yacht?

Akin to a rearranging of the deck chairs, COVID-19 has reshuffled the deck in terms of not only the actual production of boats, but also which ones are going where. This became present to me when I received an email saying, "Would you like to sail aboard the Excess 11?" It then went on to say, "In this size of catamaran, the Excess 11 represents the only real 38-foot production boat on the market. She may be one of the smallest cruising catamarans, but she's got everything you'd find on a big one! Comfort, habitability and thrills are all there." That is certainly enticing.

Now I can't exactly get there easily, and even if I could and chose to, the quarantine periods on returning back home are enough to put you off, but this is the third of Groupé Beneteau's new catamaran brand to be launched, and I am yet to sail on either the Excess 12 or 15 that have preceded the nine tonne, Excess 11. So I did the next best thing and spoke at length with someone who has.

Graham Raspass from the Australian Distributor, Flagstaff Marine, said, "We think the Excess Catamarans are sufficiently different to garner interest from people who want to enjoy the comfort and spaciousness of a multihull, but still enjoy their sailing. It is interesting that you talk about the Excess 11, as one that was destined to be a showboat doing the severely truncated circuit that has just become available, so if it sounds like you then please get in touch, for it won't last long!"

The Excess Catamarans are not a carbon copy of the new vessels from the market leader, Lagoon, but the lineage is obvious given both brands are from Groupé Beneteau, and the mighty VPLP penned both forms. In such an important and growing sector, you have to wonder if all of the volume production craft have kind of ended up in exactly the same position? Naturally you have - say - Sunreef excelling in comfort, and Outremer chasing performance, as too Balance and HH. Yet back a little bit more in the middle, and with a price point to take note of, is Excess with its genuine sport element. If it were a car it might be sport line version of a touring or euro-wagon model...

Raspass added to this sentiment with, "Excess is all about the thrill of sailing without sacrificing comfort. There is no flying bridge option, but you can have the even taller 'Pulse' rig with its very distinctive square top mainsail. Excess is all about targeting younger buyers, or those very much still young at heart, and the brand/design was in making for at least four years prior to launch."

In terms of standing on its own two hulls (intended), Raspass commented, "You get to understand this when you get on board and appreciate that you can see the opposing hull's bow through the coachhouse windows, how all the volume is above the waterline, and that the twin helms are in direct contact with the rudders, which adds to the feel, and the enjoyment. These are not motorsailers, and there are no plans to make Excess a powercat brand."

"Excess is best summed up by thinking of them as inspired by racing for cruising pleasure. They will very much suit a keen social sailor who now needs a bigger family vessel to perhaps do some coastal and passage type cruising. It is little wonder that the Excess 12 and 15 have been award winners."

What appears to be evident too is that with the coachhouse set aft, 'long' bow sections, and the mast also stepped well back is that Excess have opted for a tall and skinny (high aspect ratio) sail plan, even with the base version. A short boom is always handy, and in conjunction with the self-tacking jib it will make all your manoeuvres a dream. Naturally, this is just part of it, for matching centre of effort to the centre of gravity for a balanced vessel is critical, and this is something Excess' Bruno Belmont indicates they spent a lot of time ensuring was a focus of each model.

"Given that production had a little sabbatical there has been a bit of lag coming into the European season, but that is changing now, and it is not clear as yet just how all the charter fleet operators are going to operate relative to fleet upgrades. What I can say is that our Excess 12 with the Pulse option is arriving in August. The 900mm taller rig (15.97m) allows for a 52m2 main, 35m2 jib, and 87m2 Code Zero for a sail area to displacement ratio of 4.38 off her 10,300kg mass. The high ratio is what gives the brand its sporty feel. We also have the flying barber haulers, a code zero from the bowsprit, and the tri-radial cut, warp oriented polyester fibre (grey) sails on board our three cabin / two head owner's hull version that has the standard, injection moulded, opening cockpit deckhead. We cannot wait to show her off to people..." said Raspass in closing.

Real times in the real world

During the height of the pandemic, we ran as much material as we could on the various areas where cruisers found themselves, and sincerely thank all those who made that possible. These included traversing the Panama Canal, especially if you are under 65' LOA, how French Polynesia used the time to effectively eject foreign craft, and then how Fiji made so many cruisers feel welcome. The plight of cruisers trying to leave the Caribbean ahead of hurricane season and finding the trek back across the Atlantic entirely less palatable than before even found its way into an article in The Guardian newspaper. Trying to get into Australia by boat was even more rigorous than usual, yet for vessels already here, things were not too bad at all, and only improved as internal restrictions eased.

I spoke at length with Chris Tilley from Pantaenius Sail and Motor Yacht Insurance to see what company with a genuine global presence, and one used to dealing with urgent situations and scenarios, had to say about the impact of COVID-19 on cruising sailors. "As Australia and the world closed down in the face of the virus, Pantaenius moved quickly to facilitate a range of programs aimed to assist our insured in this uncertain time. We have been working closely with our clients to assist them wherever we could. This included being flexible and accommodating with regard to payment of premiums, by facilitating different options in this regard."

"For our cruising customers, we quickly provided a range of options for those who could not access their vessels, and also for many who found themselves isolated and unable to leave port."

"Where our insured have been unable to travel to meet their vessels, we have provided tailored cost-effective options aimed at saving them on their premium. In Europe and in most regions in the northern hemisphere we have long-term relationships with many shipyards and storage facilities, and we have used these contacts to assist our insured where possible to safely locate their vessels on the hard, or in a secure and safe marina," added Tilley.

"We have also maintained constant contact with many of our insured, providing them with updates on the status of customs clearance and isolation requirements for the regions they are located in."

In closing, Tilley added, "If you have been affected, and would like to discuss what solutions are available to you, we encourage you to get in touch with the team that knows boats. With over 110,000 clients worldwide, Pantaenius delivers true local service, and supports you with advice and expertise all over the world."

Our Managing Editor, Mark Jardine, spent time in conversation with James MacPhail the Managing Director in Australia, and in it he details many of the programmes and looks to the way things may pan out moving forward from here. Please watch the video to learn more.

So you see, there are stories, lessons, inspirations and history to regale yourself with. Please use the search window at the top of the home page if you are after something specific, as only the latest news appears on the website as you scroll down. We enjoy bringing you the best stories from all over the globe. If you want to add to that, then please make contact with us via email.

If you want to see what is happening in the other Hemisphere, go to the top of the Sail-WorldCruising home page and the drag down menu on the right, select the other half of the globe and, voila, it's all there for you.

In the meantime, do you love being on the ocean? Well remember to love them back too. They need our help. Now more than ever! Until next time...

John Curnow
Global Editor,

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