Multihull Central’s Brent Vaughan reports back from his trip to La Grande Motte in the South of France where he attended Outremer Week, incorporating a week of specialised training for passage making cruisers and followed by the Outremer Cup regatta.
Outremer continue to carve out a niche for themselves in the world of cruising catamarans with few rivals, specialising in building high quality passage making catamarans that are designed to sail efficiently covering miles quickly, be safe for a couple or family to cross the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans and still offer the comfort and necessities for our modern lifestyles.
What’s impressive is their relationship with their customers and commitment to their wellbeing and preparedness for the journey that lay ahead. Nothing highlights this more than the Outremer Week, a weeklong event combining specialist in-class training seminars by expert presenters, onwater training by their team of skippers, followed then by a three day regatta to hone sailing skills and parties in between allowing boat owners and crew to mix and form friendships. All of which is conducted within 5 a minute walk of the shipyard’s base in La Grande Motte – a popular holiday town in the South of France.
With a new Outremer 51 ‘Two Coconuts’ just launched for our Brisbane based customers John and Anne Strickland, we were pleased to join them for the week, along with some customers from Australia exploring the idea of buying a new boat who were also keen to take advantage of the training program on offer.
The training program had a mix of presentations, practical seminars and boat handling events including:
• Weather Forecasting
• Communications and Electronics
• Diesel Motor Maintenance
• Offshore Boat Maintenance
• Modern Textiles & Ropes
• Boat Manoeuvres in Port
• Boat Manoeuvres at Sea
• Ladies Only Boat Manoeuvres
I attended the class on ‘Modern Textiles’, hosted by a rigger from Outremer’s sister company, Gunboat. Here we were shown how to splice Dyneema into loop ends, endless loops, soft shackles and also use other forms of the synthetic rope to create covers for halyard in high wear zones such as halyard sheaves and rope clutches.
The classes were complimented with evening cocktail parties and special presentations including ‘How to choose the best sails’ by Incidence Sails, ‘Financing Solutions’ plus an inspirational presentation of the ‘Journey of Moby’ about a 12 month circumnavigation of the globe by former owners Benedicte and Loic Helies onboard an Outremer 49.
As the training wrapped up, anticipation builds leading up to the three-day regatta. With a record turnout of 27 boats, the Outremer Cup has close to 300 people attending from 11 nationalities and a broad spectrum of experience, from Route de Rhum winners to the newly initiated keen to learn with skippers on hand to help…Outremer had even organised French America’s Cup legend and coach to the French Americas Cup Team, Bertrand Pace to be on hand to offer coaching assistance.
Race 1 was a warmup time trial reaching race, with the boat to record the fastest lap inside the hour time period announced the winner. The wind is a beautiful 17 – 18 knots as we hoist the square top hydranet mainsail and unfurl the Code 0 on Two Coconuts and blast across the start line. As we blast across the start line we are straight into double digits topping at 15 knots.
Race 2 is something different however, as the wind eases and mid race changes direction completely. It’s a good tactical race however in the light conditions, with those picking the wind shifts and able to keep boat speed finding their way to the top of the fleet. Despite the winds down around 5 knots, incredibly we are still maintaining around 4.5 knots as we pull out the Code D, a furling flat spinnaker type sail.
While there is some serious competition on the race course, competition is also hotting up in the galleys onboard each of the boats, with a ‘My Kitchen Rules’ style cook-off underway with judging later that evening at the yacht club. Anne and Nichol onboard Two Coconuts excelled in their culinary skills, landing us our first and only win for the regatta with their coconut pudding presented in, you guessed it, coconuts! This was a really nice touch to the event as it injected some fun and levelled the playing field with the best meal winner getting the same points as a race. As each boat cooked enough food their crew, there was enough to go around and a massive pot luck dinner was enjoyed by all.
Day two of the regatta and Race 3 got underway with a coastal run up and down the bay, with a beautiful reach using the Code D with a new top speed of 16 knots in about 20 knots of breeze with daggerboards up to less drag. With John on the helm and his hand on the carbon tiller, there were smiles all round as rooster tails started shooting up behind us. The Outremers are famous for their optional tiller helm arrangement, secondary to the standard wheel helm. They are fun to use on a nice sailing day when you want more feel on the helm, plus come in very handy when racing as you can move from helm to helm on each tack and keep an eye on the fleet and your tell tales.
Race 4 again had conditions ease, tempting us to experiment with sail combinations including the Code 0 to windward. Despite good boat speeds we couldn’t keep the height that is allowed to you with the standard self tacking jib and daggerboards down. The boats with genoas got away from us but we still finished mid fleet.
Back on the beach we joined the rest of the fleet at the ‘Bikini Club’ for a beach party like no other. Each boat had to show their artistic talents with another point scoring competition for best artistic presentation. There was song, dance, paintings, poetry and even human pyramids, however it was the kids from Outremer 5X Moana who impressed everyone with their acrobatic feats on the forward trampolines. The dancing carried on into the early hours of the morning with many new friends, and hangovers made.
The next day started slower, but ended fast with good fresh winds blowing and two short course races planned. With busy start lines followed by colour skies light with spinnakers, it was a truly impressive sight. By now our boat handling skills by our new crew was becoming more slick. When cruising you have plenty of time to plan out your sail changes and boat manouvers, but it was good practice to in a faster paced environment with hands on deck to help. For example, as you round the top mark you go from a working sails including self tacking jib on hard along with the square top mainsail centred, to then hauling the Code D, unfurling it and sheeting on, dropping the main traveller, easing the main sheet, raising the daggerboards, furling the jib and then finding your groove and accelerating, all within a few moments which is quite exciting, but also a little exhausting after a few days.
So as the week came to a close, and the winners were announced, everyone enjoyed one last cold beer, then hugged and said their goodbyes to new friends found and settled back into a far more relaxed pace…ready for the cruising adventure to begin. Though if anyone was inspired by the winning boat ‘Eleven’ (formally Moby), maybe we will see some boats back next year having also circumnavigated the globe.
Despite the exhaustion from a big week though, there was certainly excitement of what lay ahead for John and Anne as we shared dinner with another Outremer 51 owner in a restaurant inside the old fortified city of Aigues-Mortes located about 15 minutes from La Grande Motte. There couldn’t be a more inspiring location as discussion turned from the regatta results to planning their first cruising destination around the Mediterranean, a location that has inspired sailors for thousands of years.
If you are considering buying a cruising multihull to cross oceans, then consider attending the Outremer Week in 2020. Multihull Central will be renting an Outremer catamaran especially for the regatta and limited crewing packages available to book. For further information contact or 0418 670 751.
More information on all Outremer Models can be found here