In the wonderful movie "Snatch," Tommy suffers an amusing confusion with Traveller (Pikey) accents and the animals called "dags." Or "dogs." Well, I like cats.
I've long enjoyed small cats but I haven't always liked big cats. However, around twenty years ago, design, engineering, and strength of material came together to make big cruising catamarans palatable to my refined tastes.
Stop laughing! I mean it. This is probably a good place to put the general disclaimer that this post is my opinion. YMMV. Especially if you have no sense of aesthetics. Oh, and did you really think I was gonna do a post about dogs? Or kitty-kats? Snicker.
As is common in the first generation of a new(ish) thing, there was a proliferation and profusion of a great variety of designs and, sadly, quality. One of my favorite of the earliest generation of viable cruising cats from the early 90s was a lovely French design by Van Peteghem/Luriot-Prevost, offered by Jenneau, and built by my favorite US builder, Tillotson-Pearson, now TPI Composites. The Lagoon 42.
My strongest criticism of this design is that big rounded cabin front. Those huge windows let in way too much light and HEAT in the tropics and too much wetness when they leak in any locale. Any seal between different materials on a boat will leak eventually and those sucker expose a lot of opportunity for water to enter your saloon. But it was head and shoulders above most other designs from that time and much better built than any other similar cat. Fast, too. Speaking of head and shoulders, tall people didn't like it. Not a problem for me.
Also coming in the early 90s was a boat which is still one of the sexiest designs in the world of big cats, brought to you from the pens of Joubert and Nivelt and the facilities of Fountaine-Pajot, the boat my pal Bob owns, the 38' Athena.
Now it's 2010, almost twenty years since those boats moved from the drawing board to the production line to a marina near you. In twenty years, there must have been some fabulous improvements, right?
Lagoons are still being produced and the newer ones have swapped that sloping panoramic brow for a tugboat-style series of windows.
A distinct functional improvement and I find the aesthetics ok but they've seriously compromised their performance. The new generation Lagoons are not quick. Let me hasten to add "for a catamaran." It'll still eat the lunch and dinner of most monohulls.
Fountaine-Pajot cats still look pretty much the same but they've given in to the current rage for hardtops rather than a soft (foldable) bimini.
So, yes, there are some great new innovations out there but, sadly, there are some creations which, if they were living things, would be considered mutants. And not the good kind. The nasty ones like in I Am Legend or Strange Brew. Remember the opening for that movie? Loved it!
Twenty years after the TPI-built Jenneau Lagoon 42, with its slight flaw, and the near-perfect Fountaine-Pajot Athena, South Africa has offered us these horrors.
Leopards of various sizes all pretty much look like this:
Twenty years later, they've adopted the hydrophilic rounded cabin trunk and seemingly added even more glass. And that hardtop is just... shudder! I'd be embarrassed to be seen on that boat. Beyond the mere, abysmal aesthetics, they've gone backwards in function, too. In the Lagoon and Fountaine-Pajot photos, you should be able to see that there's a good bit of space between the water and the bottom of the middle of the boat. This is called bridgedeck clearance.
With reasonable clearance you avoid a condition called, onomatopoetically, "slap." Slap sucks. Note the bridgedeck clearance for this Leopard. Practically nonexistent. Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap. Mile after mile. And it's not like a tv or movie face slap. It's like hitting a garbage can with a baseball bat.
Moorings, one of the original charter companies, has its own line. Moorings cats of various sizes look like this:
I'd be embarrassed to be on a Leopard but I would not set foot on this Moorings cat. Period. This photo doesn't show the boat's stern but I can tell you it's a slap magnet. And did I mention how ugly it is? Blech!
Maybe it has something to do with the Southern hemisphere. Here's an offering from Australia; the Seawind company sells this model which I believe is properly called the Fugly, although some call it the Seawind 1160. (It's about 38' or 11.60 meters.)
Put me on that old Athena and set me free on the sea.