Bali 4.4 extends the winning formula
Designed by Catana Group boss Olivier Poncin with an interior by Lasta Design Studio, the new Bali 4.4 rounds out the French builder’s modern series of sailing catamarans, which range from the 40ft Catspace Sail and 4.2 to the larger 4.6, 4.8 and 5.4 models. By Emmanuel Van Deth.
The Bali 4.4 had her world premiere at this year’s International Multihull Show
With an overall length topping 44ft and a beam over 24ft, the new Bali 4.4 is in some ways a replacement for the 4.3 but more for the 4.5, the very first model in the Bali range. Aboard this catamaran, which is more than ever dedicated to comfort and family vacations, all the attributes of the Bali DNA are to be found – tilting door, opening side bay windows, rigid foredeck and large chilled capacity.
As a bonus, with the size of this model being closer to the 4.6 than the 4.2 among the current Bali range, there’s a forward door, a flybridge and aft platform. Acting as the rear façade of the deckhouse, the large ‘Bali door’ on the 4.4 is 11ft 6in across and 6ft 3in high – and opens electrically in under 25 seconds. The entire saloon is then open to the rear, while the door at the front leads to the foredeck.
The 4.4 fills out Bali’s modern range of six sailing models
Although the deck layout has been designed for relaxation with a maximum area of rigid deck space due to the integral foredeck and the high-low platform that extends to the sugarscoops, it remains functional, with fluid circulation everywhere. Furthermore, the natural ventilation is particularly effective – or at least it would be in warm weather.
Instead, we tested this new Bali in La Rochelle in sub-zero temperatures, which meant much of the time we didn’t enjoy the ‘open space’ mode, which is one of the big attractions of every Bali model. At sea, we kept everything closed, entering the boat via the door within the Bali door, yet the winter configuration proved very homely as the extra-large saloon and its big windows create a warm environment.
Like all Bali models, the 4.4 features a solid foredeck that expands social space
Underfoot, the composite sandwich is very stiff, proof of careful and generously sampled construction. Up front, the hard deck is entirely covered with sunbeds. It looks good and provides an immense amount of social space, although opening the lockers is more complicated with all the covers. The aft cockpit is home to a large, almost 9ft-wide bench seat, forward of the sugarscoops and the hydraulic platform.
SUITABLE FOR ALL SEASONS
We entered the Chenal des Minimes channel under engine, our model featuring the optional twin 57hp Yanmars. It was immediately apparent that the motors propel the boat with little effort, given we were up to about 7 knots at 2,150rpm aided only a little by the northeast wind, as we hardly noticed any difference when we turned and headed into it.
Up on the flybridge, accessible from both sides, manoeuvring is simple: everything happens from the helm station, which is offset to port and neighbours a raised L-shaped sofa to starboard. Aft is a lounging area surrounded by padded rails, while the designers wanted to limit the height of the boom. In fact, the lazy bag is easily accessible, and the mainsail area is larger.
Despite the cold, the halyards and sheets manage to run over their respective sheaves, round the winches and through the clutches. As soon as the mainsail was hoisted and the Code 0 unfurled, we trimmed the traveller and the sheets. With the wind oscillating between 8-15 knots on the beam, our boat speed was 7-8 knots with a few peaks at 9 knots during little gusts.
The Bali door raises electronically to connect the cockpit and saloon
When the main is set just right, you can clearly feel the Bali 4.4 is just waiting to be sailed. The Code 0, promoted by the yard, brings an obvious bonus up to about 70° off the wind. It won’t go higher because the sheeting angle logically passes outside the shrouds. To get closer to the wind, we rolled up the Code 0 and unfurled the self-tacking solent. This reduces the headsail area from 796sqft to 452sqft.
Despite a sail-area-to-weight ratio of 8.68sqm/t, which is more favourable than the 7.07 of the Bali 4.2, the difference in punch is clearly felt. When we came up to 50/55° off the true wind, boat speed barely exceeded 5 knots, leeway was noticeable, and the sail trim needed to be quite precise. In such conditions, not ideal for relying purely on sail, one or two of the engines can be used to help you maintain course.
OPEN SPACE IN AND OUT
During most of our day of sailing, we stayed warm inside, the perfect view over the water allowing us to keep a close watch and the autopilot remote control did the rest. Obviously, some changes in angle of the wind coming off the coast did force some of the crew up on to the flybridge to make adjustments.
The saloon has over 7ft of headroom in areas and the option of two lounge chairs to starboard
For the rest, we were able to taste oysters – the famous Marennes d’Oléron, of course – while making good speed towards the island of Ile-d’Aix. The level of comfort inside the saloon is enhanced by its generous headroom, which reaches up to 7ft 3in in places. Far from being exclusively reserved for tropical or summer use, the Bali ‘open space’ concept shows it’s also comfortable in less favourable climates.
The galley features a large L-shaped work surface complemented by a sideboard and a plus-sized fridge-freezer that is another Bali standard. The recess for the helm station is integrated into the whole, although the table in this area can be bigger on the four-cabin charter version. Forward, to starboard, a chart table is fitted.
The galley to port offers storage, cooking appliances, sinks and countertop space on three sides
The ‘Elegance’ finish on our test boat included upgraded upholstery, armrests, two club chairs and integrated bar and leather handles for the storage spaces, all nice touches on a model that featured the three-cabin owner’s layout downstairs.
AT HOME IN THE HULLS
The port hull is entirely dedicated to the owner and is accessed down five steps. The master suite includes a big double bed configured as an island bed, a dressing table/desk, a huge bathroom, large windows in the hull, two opening portlights, and numerous storage spaces. It has it all.
In the owner’s version, the master suite occupies most of the port hull
The companionway to the starboard hull has a sturdy handrail, which is very useful in choppy seas. The aft en-suite cabin has the same dimensions as on the port side, with a minimum headroom of 6ft 5in.
The 4ft 9in-wide bed in the forward en-suite cabin is a little narrower than at the stern and much higher, lying almost 3ft above the floor as opposed to just under 2ft in the aft cabin. Both rooms benefit from large hull windows, great ventilation and plenty of storage space. In fact, all three cabins are plus points.
Forward view of the master suite
Like most Bali models, the 4.4 is designed for boaters who want a platform for enjoying life on the water, a floating home that can be moved from anchorage to anchorage, and even from one ocean to another.