Leopard adds new spot on 42
One of seven models reviewed in Issue 60 that will appear at the Cannes Yachting Festival, the new Leopard 42 has evolved from a proven design and added a new hangout spot with its upper lounge to offer a practical, seaworthy and spacious entry-level model. By Kevin Green.
The Leopard 40 was premiered at this year’s Palm Beach International Boat Show
The new Leopard 42 shows the brand continuing to evolve with Simonis Voogd, the Dutch design studio that also has an office in Cape Town, home of builder Robertson & Caine. The 42 joins the brand’s accomplished 45 and 50 sailing models, and all three will be on display in Port Canto at this year’s Cannes yachting Festival along with the 53 PC powercat in Vieux Port.
Despite the market’s continuing demand for more liveable space and volume, the new entry-level 42 still incorporates reasonable performance, as I found out when sailing hull number three in Australia, where the model made its regional debut at the 32nd Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show.
The foredeck features direct access from the saloon, a popular Leopard feature
Although production cruising catamarans like this 42-footer with mini keels are not about drama or exhilaration, they are far from dull, yet a safe bet for family coastal cruising with the wind generally behind the beam.
This is not always a given. The cruising catamaran market is vibrant for many reasons and lifestyle is a major one, so builders are continually asked to incorporate more into hulls, which can consequently be compromised, along with performance. However, Leopard has grown to become one of the catamaran sector’s ‘big three’, with Lagoon and Fountaine Pajot, by being able to tick most boxes.
The foredeck is a comfortable and safe place to relax
As a huge supplier to the charter market – The Moorings charter cats are Leopard designs – the brand’s practical designs need to cater to a range of sailors covering the good, bad and the ugly. And being relatively conservative also has strong merits in the private market when considering the large number of new sailors in the multihull space.
Yet the Leopard 42 shows a brand that continues to refine and improve with each model. For starters, the infused hull with its rounded chines and snub bows is a major revamp of its predecessor, the 40, while its elongated windows and new upper lounge with an L-shaped sofa and a table are inherited from its larger siblings.
The upper lounge is a distinct new feature
In an increasingly competitive catamaran market, seeking market differentiators can be challenging in the mass-production sector where everything is built to a price point and componentry is shared. This is where economies-of-scale kick in, so with typical annual production of about 150- 200 hulls from Robertson & Caine, the brand’s exclusive builder, the price for such an entry-level boat becomes even more reasonable.
The other major plus from these numbers is a thorough test of ergonomics. Like all Leopards I’ve sailed, everything is sensibly placed on the new 42, from the layout of the navigation controls to the versatile saloon that accommodates a range of users, whether it’s a blue-water sailing couple or an eight-person charter party.
The upper lounge connects with the helm to starboard
Liveable deck space is a major feature of all Leopards and the 42 has a large aft cockpit shaded under the saloon top, with bench seating both sides, while the wide hull steps invite easy water access. Similarly, equally large side decks safely guide guests forward to the foredeck cockpit with its large twin sunbeds.
The model comes with three or four en-suite cabins – the latter an impressive offering on a 42-footer – and retains all the brand’s signature features including the foredeck cockpit with direct access from the saloon.
The cockpit includes a U-shaped sofa with adjustable aft backrest as well as a starboard sofa
Other key features include a forward L-shaped galley to starboard and a sizeable navigation station to port, while the interior finish is cost-effective dark laminates. The galley comes with a three-burner gas stove, oven and microwave, alongside a deep sink which is surrounded by drawers, generous Corian worktop space and drawer fridges. The L-shape is also ideal for supporting the cook in a seaway.
Another good feature is the adjustable dinette table, which retracts to become a bed by using the lounge benches and cushions. While lying down, you can look skywards through a long skylight to view the mainsail, which is handy. Storage is generous throughout the saloon, with lockers in the nacelle, and sensibly, the substantial bank of four AGM house batteries which centres the weight.
The saloon features a large galley and a table that can convert to a bed
Downstairs, there’s a washer-dryer and there’s space for other goodies such as a generator, which can go in the bow locker to run the optional air-conditioner. A watermaker would be my other consideration for blue-water cruising with generous shower times.
ROOMY OWNER’S LAYOUT
Our review boat had a three-cabin owner’s layout, so the entire starboard hull is one dedicated apartment with double bed aft, vanity table centre and elongated bathroom forward. The semi-island bed gives some side access, which is preferable for older owners who don’t want to crawl about.
The Leopard 42 offers three or four en-suite cabins
Those long hull windows give plenty of light, while airiness is added with opening skylights and transom hatches. Storage is again plentiful with wardrobes and deep drawers.
Underfoot is hull access to seacocks and systems. Interestingly, despite its size, escape hatches are not fitted. “Our foredeck saloon door is our emergency exit,” says Australian dealer David Flynn, my host for the day.
In the three-cabin layout, the master to starboard includes a desk and bathroom with washer-dryer
On deck there’s a single elevated starboard helm to give the skipper commanding views of the four hull quarters. Helm controls include a Raymarine chart plotter, autopilot and wind instruments, plus power controls; all ideally placed for viewing and operation.
Engines are twin Yanmar saildrives with hatch access near the transom. Here, the sturdy alloy steering crossbeam impinges over the engine, but a turn of the wheel gives access for servicing.
The starboard helm is connected to the cockpit below
Engine rooms come with watertight bulkheads, safely separating them from the living areas, while the bows also have crash bulkheads, all giving this fibreglass foam-injected hull plenty of buoyancy should major water ingress occur.
Ease-of-use is core to Leopard so there are no unpleasant surprises with the rig. Sensibly, the sail plan is kept low by avoiding a high flybridge design, but it means that guests on the upper lounge should watch their heads when underway. All lines lead neatly to two sets of substantial jammers with twin Lewmar 45 winches plus one for the mainsail.
The elevated helm also allows communication with the foredeck
Control of the mainsail is via a double block system, rather than a track, which means there’s two sets of sheets to operate, but it does give you extra control via jammers and the sheet winch. For eating up the sea miles, the Performance Pack option has a square-topped mainsail and bowsprit-hung cruising chute (both were fitted to our review boat).
Motoring from the busy marina near the major city of Brisbane, the seaward views are of islands and a myriad of hues of blue reflecting the shallowness of Morton Bay. One of Australia’s main boating hubs, the area abounds with marinas and facilities, so with an international airport nearby, it’s an ideal location for visiting sailors.
The author sea-trialling the hull in Australia
Underway, the Leopard 42 had generous power from the twin 45hp Yanmars with fixed propellers that sped us along to 8.2 knots at 2,950rpm before slowing to a more economical cruising speed of seven knots at 2,500rpm while consuming about 10 litres per hour.
Hoisting the mainsail was effortless, as my foot simply pressed the electric winch button; five minutes later, the sail was set and I was unwinding the roller furler genoa. Then, a pleasing sound, the hiss of the bow wave followed as we glided on a broad reach in the light 10-knot wind, reaching a speed of 5.1 knots.
The varied sail plan can include big top mainsail, genoa, jib and spinnaker
The Lewmar helm gave enough feel to make steering worthwhile before we wound-in the mainsail to go closer to the wind, managing about 45 degrees as the speed showed as 6.8 knots.
Ideally, cruising sailors would turn downwind and hoist the Code Zero, to enjoy the northward voyage to tropical Queensland, something the new owners of this boat will do. They will be well cared for in the Leopard 42.
One of the household names in cruising catamarans, Leopard recently launched its new entry-level sailing cat a year after debuting its flagship powercat.