Outremer 55: a truly challenging sea trial.
The market is unfortunately getting us used to seeing sailing catamarans that look more and more like motor sailers. Boats that, in almost all cases, end up sailing mostly under power all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I like to be comfortable in a boat too, however, there are some limits that, when crossed, make sailing almost impossible.
Outremer Catamaran is a French boatyard that, on the contrary, has been manufacturing catamarans that are instead designed for real sailing for 40 years, whether they are used for summer cruises or, as is often the case, to sail off and travel the world. They are boats that can go fast, ensure great comfort and luff up like a monohull, all while providing a very high level of safety.
You will therefore easily understand how, as soon as the chance arose, I jumped into my car and, rocketing off, drove to La Grande Motte to climb aboard an Outremer 55, the flagship of this iconic shipyard.
Outremer 55 Sea Trial
Our Outremer 55 is waiting for us in La Grande Motte, headquarters of the shipyard and a charming Camargue town near Montpellier. This is precisely where the Mistral is born, and today’s day confirms this unquestionably. We are still in port, the wind is already blowing between 20 and 25 knots and tends to strengthen later in the day.
Mark, the skipper, however, is as cool as a cucumber and, using the two engines, maneuvers smoothly between the posts and gets us out of the mooring. We sail slowly out of the breakwater and, while we’re still sheltered, set to windward and hoist the mainsail, then bear away, the boat rockets off and we turn the engine off. With just the mainsail we are already sailing at 9.5/10 knots!
We open the genoa, trim it to sail with the wind abeam and again our Outremer 55 speeds up, in no time the speed is just under 14 knots. At this speed the miles are flowing fast and we are also soon coming out of the shelter offered by the shoreline, the fetch is increasing and with it the height of the waves.
These are the conditions I was looking for so, after asking the captain, I take hold of the windward wheel and set about steering.
This is certainly not the first sailing catamaran I have tested but this one is definitely different from anything I have sailed on before, the wheel is prompt, responsive and allows to “feel” the wind pressure on the sails: helming in these conditions is inebriating.
I pull away and from the transom drop down to 110 degrees of apparent wind, Outremer 55 sails fast and safe, with the legendary daggerboards lowered halfway, in a sea streaked white by the wind. The true wind is blowing at 24 knots and we are sailing peacefully at 16.8 knots!
I start to luff up; I need to see how the Outremer 55 performs against the wind and, more importantly, against the waves. The apparent wind, however, obviously increases a lot, so we trim the mainsail, roll the genoa and open the foresail.
By now we are far from the coast, the true wind is steadily above 25 knots and some gusts reach 30.
The waves have greatly increased and reached an average height of 1.5 meters.
Sailing windward, however, Outremer 55 is performing decidedly well, at 60 degrees from the apparent wind we are sailing at 11.8 knots and the waves are not a problem, of course we feel them, but the hulls’ passage over them is smooth, the catamaran does not slam and slows very little.
I luff up again and get to 35 degrees of apparent wind, in these wind and sea conditions I would not be able to make this angle with a cruising monohull, yet Outremer 55 continues to cruise at between 8 and 9 knots of speed, with no trouble at all.
What a catamaran guys, what a catamaran …
I bear away, reluctantly leave the helm and go down to the dinette, where the situation is surreal. Outside the wind and the sea are raging and it’s cold, but here we are sitting and chatting, warm and almost in silence.
We are sailing on autopilot and I am sitting comfortably at the center desk, close to the bow windows of the dinette. From here you can comfortably steer the boat, acting on the remote pilot controls, an extraordinary convenience during long sailings or, more simply, to stay sheltered at night.
If I wanted to be at the helm, however, I could still do so while staying under shelter, since the Outremer 55’s wheel is pivoting and allows it to be used in three positions: all out (maximum visibility on the sails), center (for mooring with the throttles at hand) and inside (when the weather is inclement) to stay completely sheltered.
In short, this Outremer 55 is a decidedly out-of-the-ordinary catamaran, hard not to be enchanted by this intriguing mix of performance and comfort.
The Outremer 55 in detail
Rigging, deck and sail plan
Outremer 55 is a catamaran designed to be simultaneously fast and easy to handle. To the large 104-square-foot mainsail, the deck plan, in fact, allowa to match the most suitable headsail to the course and wind conditions under which you want or need to sail.
The bowsprit is easily accessible and allows a Code Zero or a Gennaker to be rigged on a foresail, while a 68 sq. m. genoa is on the main forestay. This configuration enables the boat to be quite fast in all ways, both when the wind is light and when it strengthens, up to an apparent of about 18 to 20 knots.
If the wind increases, all you need to do is roll the genoa and rig the self-tacking foresail, which can be either always present or rigged as needed to reduce the exposed sail area and continue to sail fast with the boat always properly balanced. The mainsail has 3 hands so with this configuration you can sail even in really extreme conditions.
More importantly, all adjustments are deferred to the steering stations so it is really very easy and safe to handle this big, fast boat. Even lowering and stowing the mainsail, an operation that is often difficult with other boats, on the Outremer 55 is simple: from the bow, in fact, it is possible to climb up onto the Hard Top thanks to three steps and then operate on the lazy bag which is positioned at the correct height. A piece of cake in short.
Outremer 55 – Main Deck
The stern of the Outremer 55, with its 8.30-meter beam, is a simply jaw-dropping masterpiece. The stern sections of the two hulls draw two beautiful and enormous descents to the sea, which, equipped with steps and bathing ladders, in addition to satisfying the view, make all sea-related activities easy.From here, in fact, you can get on the SUP, put on a scuba tank, or descend into the water in the easiest way possible.
Arriving in the dinette, which can moreover be completely enclosed with appropriate covers, we are greeted by an enormous space that, when the windows are fully open, eliminates the barriers between interior and exterior and creates a simply immense multifunctional area.
Outside this area, protected from the sun and the elements by the large Hard Top, a central sofa can comfortably seat about ten people. Looking forward, we are impressed by the large galley equipped with a central island that, in addition to being extraordinarily beautiful, also allows for safe cooking in rough seas by leaning into the port corridor.
To starboard we find another large L-shaped settee, which, equipped with a fold-down table with telescopic legs, allows this area to be converted at will to have a cocktail party, dinner, or to create a large watch berth.
The interior of the dinette facing forward houses the central helm station, which comprehensively and neatly gathers all of the on-board gear. From here it is possible to manage the boat, chart, communicate and, thanks to the autopilot, steer the boat.
The sleeping zone
Outremer 55 is available in three- or four-cabin versions, an option capable of satisfying even the largest crews. My favorite version is clearly the three-cabin one, which allows the owner to enjoy the entire starboard hull as well as a simply enormous bathroom. The port hull accommodates two cabins, equipped with double beds and dedicated facilities. The two aft cabins of Outremer 55 are really large, equipped with King Size beds, closets and plenty of storage volume to face long periods on board.
Outremer 55: conclusions
Outremer 55 is an out-of-the-ordinary sailing catamaran, capable to being brillianty ultra-fast, easy-to-handle and comfortabl at the same time. It’s the perfect boat for anyone wishing to enjoy pure sailing, forgetting the engine.
The only problem ? The addiction it creates, it’s really hard to get off such a boat….
Patrick Le Quément
1.36 / 2.30
13.9 / 18.5 t
140 m2 (option)
220 m2 (option)
2 x 60 HP