If you have been living your cruising ambitions vicariously through YouTube, then you may have seen the Outremer 45 thanks to some recent attention generated when a young Aussie couple, who go by the name Sailing La Vagabond, received a little help from Outremer to upgrade their yacht to a 45. Riley and Elayna from La Vagabond have been exploring the islands of the Med showing a fantastic insight into what it is like to cruise on this this vibrant, culturally rich, spectacularly beautiful and incredibly popular cruising destination.
I visit the Outremer factory just days after the Cannes Boat Show to take our newest Aussie customers, John and Anne Strickland, through the factory, go sailing on their future boat (the Outremer 51), and get the lay of the land for when they take delivery of their boat and start their epic cruising adventure around the Med and meander slowly back to Australia.
Outremer are uniquely located on the shores of the Mediterranean in a summer tourist town, La Grand Motte. Just a short taxi from Montpellier Airport which connects via Paris to Australia, getting there is easy and boat owners get the full advantage of having the factory at the end of the marina, while providing easy access to some of the best the Med has to offer all within a day or two sail including the Balearic Islands, Barcelona, Corsica and Sardinia.
John and Anne are not experienced sailors, but will prepare with some sail training in Australia before they take delivery, plus Outremer in partnership with Multihull Central now offer an extensive hand over procedure in La Grande Motte including seamanship training seminars and a delivery experience onboard your own boat.
We arrive at the factory and are greeted by Outremer Sales Manager, Matthieu Rougevin-Baville who welcomes us through on a detailed overview of the build process. It is here that the real value of an Outremer becomes abundantly clear. Outremer’s DNA is made up of three elements that sets them apart from many other boat builders, which is the promise of speed, safety and simplicity. Speed in the form of efficient sailing which means you sail more and motor less and enjoy getting to your destination. Safety in that the boats are lighter than most, but not so light they are difficult or too technical to sail. These are designed for couples and families to be able to cross the worlds oceans comfortably. Simplicity in that when you reach your dream destination in the remote South Pacific somewhere, your trip isn’t ruined by overly complexed systems and hardware that if it were to fail would prevent you to continue.
Matthieu explains, “We find that the more experienced the sailor, the simpler their boat becomes and they prefer to have less complicated systems and accessories”. This is because these sailors have been there and done it all before and prefer less to go wrong.
Outremer’s typical customer includes Europeans taking a 12 month SEAbbatical from Europe to the Caribbean and back, so the boats need to be efficient, comfortable, and robust. This approach is then taken throughout the build.
The boats are built with three moulds for the hull and one large deck mould. They use resin infusion technology to eliminate excess resin, with a vinyl ester outer layer to prevent osmosis and a solid fibreglass section along the keel and parts of the gunwale for extra protection. This protection makes Outremer super tough when up against adversity.
“We have had boats in the ARC rally that have been tied up against concrete jetties when the weather turned against them. They survived when other cats have been terribly damaged.” Matthieu remarks, “And others that have by mistake ended up on a reef on an outgoing tide and not able to float until the next high tide, yet escape with only scratches. A boat with a foam or balsa core along the keel would have been ripped to pieces.”
They also glass all of the parts together to become one super stiff, super strong monocoque structure. This means that each bulkhead and key component of the boat is painstakingly fibreglassed onto the hull and deck with further reinforcements added. This is not an automated process and is very much a skilled job by experienced shipwrights, but results in an incredible strong outcome. Of course, the temptation is to save on man hours by adopting techniques used by mass production boat builders where both furniture and the deck are glued in rather than fibreglassed. “Catamarans naturally want to flex as the two hulls move through waves at different times, which can create disturbing noises, slack rigs and movement through the boat and its internal furniture,” Matthieu explains, “but not an Outremer. Our boats are incredibly stiff and strong due to the techniques we use to build them. They are built to have a life of 50 years or more.”
But when it comes to sailing, performance offers many benefits, from avoiding bad weather, reducing the time at sea on passages, or just the joy of sailing without the annoyance of noisy engines. Though many factors are important, when it comes to maintaining performance ultimately you need least wetted surface area as possible (skinny rather than fat hulls), an efficient rig and sails, and keep weight as low as possible. A Outremer 51 weighs in at about 10 tonnes and Outremer are the only production factory that guarantees weight at time of contract…compare the Outremer 51 with most other 50ft production cats and they would be upwards of twice that weight. It’s no wonder I see so many engine hours on the used cats when they arrive in Australia after sailing across the Pacific. Then daggerboards provide the final element, allowing significantly higher pointing upwind, and less drag downwind (when raised).
After a few hours walking through the production process, we head to the water and set sail on a new Outremer 51. The new 51 includes some recent enhancements including reverse bows for additional waterline length and buoyancy up front. The boat we test includes a carbon rotating rig which reduces weight up high and keeps the centre of gravity lower on the boat, while the rotating mast section provides a turbo charger for the sails as the wing mast section points into the angle of the wind extending the luff of the sail and giving the ability to make it more or less powerful.
By Brent Vaughan