Fountaine Pajot – Sanya 57
The Sanya 57 from French catamaran specialist Fountaine Pajot continues a line of easy-to-handle sailing cats that also provide a good bit of performance, thanks to that racing pedigree.
Launched at the Cannes 2011 boat show, the first Sanya 57 from French builder Fountaine-Pajot finally reached Sydney Harbour, where I enjoyed a pleasant afternoon’s sail. Along with Lagoon and Robertson & Caine, Fountaine Pajot is one of the big three global catamaran builders. The La Rochelle based company has been in business since 1976 and has more than 2200 builds to its name.
The yacht, designed by Olivier Racaupeau, is jostling for position in a competitive market so the Sanya has to put on a good show. Yet another constraint for cats of this size are the various market segments to be catered for, which include dedicated owners, blue water cruisers and the charter market; the latter are traditionally a strong area for the Fountaine Pajot partnership.
Boarding via the stepped transom reveals an enormous al fresco entertaining deck with an eight seater teak table, wet bar and all nicely sheltered by the overhead fibreglass bimini. There is no indication that this is a sailing boat, as the 25 square metre area aft deck is totally dedicated to living space, including a wrap around lounge which adjoins the outboard sunpad – so expect to be the most popular party boat at any anchorage you pull into.
Guests can also tan on the flybridge lounge and yet more seating nestles topside on the port cockpit, where some skippers might prefer a second helm for tricky mooring situations. Crew and guest numbers won’t exactly be a problem offshore either, as the Sanya has a European CE rating for 14 people offshore and 30 inshore. To accommodate all those guests, there is a large semi-flybridge under the boom, plus the portside seating area as well, leaving all the sail handling and steering gear on starboard, reached by stepping up a sheltered tunnel to the elevated binnacle, which sits across from the winches controlling all the running rigging.
Separating the sail controls from the steering has pluses and minuses – the helmsman can’t trim, but the trimmer has plenty of room to operate all the Antal W60 winches and jammer bank for halyards. Both headsails and mainsail can be controlled from this position, an efficient layout that worked well during our sail test, with only a single winch portside to control the gennaker. The mainsheet has good control of the long boom as it’s right at the end of the spar and runs off a long track, allowing plenty of twist.
Apartment style interior
The huge interior uses the 8.88-metre beam well, with a maximum of six berths available between the hulls while the galley-up and adjoining lounge are well proportioned. Our review boat – an owner’s version – came with five cabins, dedicating most of the portside hull to a large suite.
The saloon owes more to opulent shoreside apartment living than nautical living – a lack of fiddles is one downside to this – but it does mean the interior, designed by Isabelle Racoupeau, is spaciously laid out, with single level access to the stern deck al fresco eating area. The interior has the lounge adjoining the large sliding external doors with galley opposite, while the forward bulkhead houses flip-out navigation gear plus a large flatscreen television. The ambience is cool chic, with dark oak coloured cloth furnishings that contrast nicely with light wenge and cherry woods. The galley has everything a chef needs, including microwave and dishwasher. Ventilation is a wee bit limited, being restricted to smallish round overhead hatches with two small forward.
Stepping down into the owner’s portside hull is a pleasant experience thanks to good headroom and wide corridors that lead to the main suite aft or the smaller guest suite forward. Turning aft reveals a stylish owner’s cabin with athwartships queen sized island bed and similarly laid out bathroom behind. Bathrooms are nicely designed and easily cleaned, but the below decks could use better ventilation.
The Sanya 57 has fairly conservative windward sail area compared to most of her competitors so in lighter conditions, the gennaker would be needed to move the 21 tonne hull. The deck-stepped, two-spreader Marechal rig has twin forestays, sturdy diamond inner stays and large diameter spars including a big gooseneck (that could withstand inadvertent gybes).
All halyards and lines are in gutters and, with twin shrouds terminating at meaty chainplates fixed well outboard, there’s ample deck space for trotting forward to stretch out on the trampolines. The foretriangle has twin headsails with inner furling genoa and outer gennaker located on a GRP bowsprit, ensuring good separation between sails. Sail handling is good on the Sanya thanks to the easy saloon-top access to the fully battened mainsail that nestles in lazy jacks. The conventional slab reefing system is free of hassle and has three reefing points.
With a catamaran of this size and complexity, weight is always a challenge. Fountaine-Pajot’s racing background means that they have always been keen to keep this in check, and as one of the early adopters of expensive foam core vacuum bagging infusion, the company is well versed in weight-saving. The Sanya 57 comes in at 21 tonnes unladen, while the Lagoon 560 and the Sunreef 58 both come in at around 28 tonnes.
Hull volumes are fairly high and this is carried to their beam-ends, ensuring buoyancy under load. Cats lose performance rapidly when overloaded, so the full ends of Racoupeau’s design combined with the inboard shaft drive (supported by external cutlass bearings) engines is intended to ensure even trim fore and aft. As you’d expect in a cruising cat, mini keels are used and spade rudders connected to the single steering wheel via hydraulic power. Bridge deck clearance is adequate but even better is the actual hydro dynamic shape which arches the underside to greater width as it joins the hulls, resulting in a smooth structure intended to minimise wave slap, often a curse of cats going to windward.
An unusual feature is the enclosed dinghy shelf on the transom (with sunpad above), which can take a four-metre tender with 25-horsepower motor. There are a couple of downsides to this interesting design. One is that it limits both the size and height of the motor. Then there is the proximity to the water; Inshore sailors will find the electric davits and general setup useful, but bluewater voyagers may find that lumpy seas damage this area and the dinghy.
The standard engines are a pair of Volvo 75s, but our review boat came with the optional D3 110HPs and folding props. Engine access is via hatches in the stern cockpit and then through another bulkhead, allowing maintenance access to the essentials. The upgraded engines on the review boat were among approximately $250,000 worth of optional extras. Other extras included Garmin navigation gear, cockpit teak, electric heads, icemaker plus 5000w and 1200w invertors. For power generation, $19,000 worth of Eco Cruising Solar panels were included on the bimini with a water generator available as well. Both 12v and 24v power is available on the Sanya including on the 1500w Lofrens horizontal windlass and capstan. Stored power is via a bank of 420 amp AGM batteries but surprisingly, no genset was fitted to our review boat, though a 7kw unit is offered in the options list.
The hull topsides are generally well finished off with heavily laid up saloon overhangs, nonslip on key spots and large cleats all round including midships. The main connecting hull beam and dolphin striker are substantial alloy struts; all part of Racoupeau’s stated goal to achieve “rigidity of the platform”.
On the water
The light airs that prevail in much of Southeast Asia and indeed through much of the Asia Pacific region requires sailboats to perform efficiently or be so over canvassed that crew find it tedious managing a large sail plan. So, my lightwind sail of the Sanya 57 was revealing and the results were fairly good, with the big girl managing 5.2 knots SOG in the fickle 8.2-knot breeze at 120 degrees off the wind. The large gennaker was needed for this of course.
With the pressure rising, I unfurled the genoa to go to windward. At 40 degrees off the wind, the 57 skipped along at 6.1 knots as wind rose to 9.8 knots. From my elevated perch at the steering wheel there were good views all around – a useful safety factor on a cat this big – and I could also see the set of both sails with genoa telltales clear and the overhead bimini window allowing me to check the trim of the mainsail. Actual trimming of course required a crewman just ahead of me to operate the winches. Tacking went without dramas or much loss of speed as the big cat spun through 110 degrees with little effort expended on the hydraulic steering.
With our afternoon coming to an end, the headsail was quickly wound in on the electric winch, then the main halyard was released, dropping the mainsail neatly into the lazy jacks while the wide saloon roof easily allowed crew to tidy the mylar sail. Starting the motor, with little sound, we carried on back to harbour on a single 110-horsepower engine, reaching just under nine knots along the way.
Specifications – Fountaine Pajot Sanya 57
Displacement (light) 21,000kg
Genoa 52 m² (approx.)
Main sail 89 m² (approx.)
Genoa 62 m² (approx.)
Main sail 108 m² (approx.)
Engine 2 x 75 HP (110 HP option)
Water 1050 Litre
Fuel 1100 Litre
Maestro / Owner model five cabin
Charter version six cabins
Certification CE / EC A : 14; B : 14; C : 24 ; D : 30
Design Olivier Racoupeau