Helia 44, the 13.5-meter cruising catamaran, which premiered at the Cannes Boat Show, made a strong impression. In addition, the shipyard knows how to warm up the audience, in three months the first renderings were thrown into the network, enthusiastic words and queues for this catamaran served as a sign that the Fountane Pajot shipyard hit the mark. Of course, we wanted to personally check these impressions by going out on the water ...
Cruising catamaran Helia 44
Helia: how to reconcile the incompatible?
Class of 44-45ft catamarans, which already has a decent seaworthiness and sufficient space, is for many yachtsmen a "self-sufficient" boat, respectively, the demand and interest in such yachts is huge. The economic climate and competition means that manufacturers simply cannot afford to make mistakes! Orana-44, predecessor Helia, had a steady demand, and the heir had to become unsurpassed in all categories: appearance, interior style, quality, ergonomics, production technology and, of course, driving performance ...
A saga nearly forty years long!
It all starts with a designer pencil. Experience and intuition guide him in the creation of harmonious forms that express a personal style, which the production masters later give a complete look that meets the elementary needs of everyday life. Little by little, sellers have noticed "serious" trends in the expectations of future clientele. Those of the manufacturers who were not left on the sidelines by the turmoil of the economic crisis have strengthened the international reputation of their brands, and today they provide appropriate “machines” that meet the complex requirements that are being put forward by new adherents of the advantages of catamarans as a class.
Silhouette ... Style ...
Helia - a representative of this revolution; it is the product of a state-of-the-art, integrated and rational approach. Olivier Racoupeau to date, the governing bureau founded Jean Berret, surrounded by a young team that is fluent in the latest generation of computer tools. They were at the origin of 5 models of the line. Fountaine Pajot (Salina, Eleuthera, Galathea)including the two most recent models (Sanya and Helia)... Isabelle - Olivier's wife is an interior designer.
Modern catamarans have stunning interior volumes and are therefore visually bulky. The challenge is to align these features with the individual style of the brand.
V Helia's talent manifests itself in everything: its cockpit is well proportioned, with a hard domed roof and cleverly designed panoramic glass. Whale-eye oval side windows are in good harmony with the clear-edged vertical freeboard of the hull, which adds sophistication to the overall lines and visually lowers the freeboard. The streamlined contour of the sail rig confidently proves the desire for a good ride.
Come aboard! Welcome! - a clear message from Helia: wide open deck space, cockpit and saloon on the same level, incredible internal volumes of cabins ... and what is even more surprising - the recreation areas (lounge-deck, helmsman's seat on the half-bridge, external saloon) are merged together with the personality of the vessel in terms of design solutions - their the mutual arrangement looks natural. The transitions are extremely smooth, they harmoniously affect both the overall impression and the attractiveness of this multihull as a whole. The fact that ergonomics have been taken seriously, along with the interconnectedness of the zones, fuels the pleasure of being on board such a "convincing" craft.
Interior design made by Isabelle Racoupeau, this is an undeniable success. The choice of materials and sizes, diffused LED lighting, along with noteworthy quality of finishing works - all this creates a calm, harmonious and cozy atmosphere that meets the requirements of the sea.
Architecture and construction
The general trend of the yacht is close to Sanya 57, and hydrodynamics is very close. This raises the question of the speed of 45-foot hulls with a displacement of 11 to 12 tons. The hull lines must remain “soft” to maintain good average travel speeds, while ample fore and aft volumes combat pitching, which always compromises performance and comfort. A longitudinal fracture along the cheekbone of the hulls acts as a stiffener and creates a noticeable increase in usable space in width, just where it is needed (about thirty centimeters above the waterline). It also acts as a wave reflector with good vertical damping effect. The bridge with the floats is smoothly connected along a large radius, and its front end is simple and straightforward, so the entrance to the tunnel between the hulls and the bridge is smooth and open, which guarantees a harmonious ride on the wave.
Helia possesses the characteristic of the creation of its deck, which is currently being produced using RTM technology (Resin Transfer Molding)... This method involves injecting resin into a single positive-negative matrix. This avant-garde technology requires a large capital investment, but eliminates the need for separate molding of the inner part and saves significant weight.
Cruising catamaran Helia 44
The interior of the catamaran Helia 44
A rational approach to the design of the interior has led to changes in the familiar saloon, the absence of a bulky table allowed the installation of a large modern galley that will satisfy any chef in his culinary delights. Sliding panels between cockpit and saloon allow converting the work surface into a kind of bar counter. The use of a fairly strict furniture design in combination with soft sofas creates a very cozy place that guests will also like with a great view. The wide and comfortable cockpit does not conceal any surprises and will accommodate everyone on board. Thoughtfulness and taste are felt throughout the interior decoration.
Cruising catamaran Helia 44
No wind was expected on the scheduled crossing before the Cannes boatshow, and suddenly a hideous storm from Hurricane Nadine ahead of the La Rochelle show ... after all, Helia 44 finally gave up, faced with our determination, and agreeing to leave us sailing on a wonderful windy day in late October!
The close acquaintance was pleasant and easy - A multihull of this size opens doors to the ocean without requiring too much effort to get it ready for sailing, or mastering exceptional steering skills. The chart table is moved to the starboard side; the review remains good. The two 40-horsepower engines are powerful enough. Replacing Fixed Three-Bladed Propellers with Folding Propellers Volvo Penta was justified - 2 knots increase in wind speed. The only thing is that this option costs an additional 1900 euros!
Faced with the excitement of scallops in Pertua Bay, we could not blame the motors: they allowed us to confidently maneuver in almost all sailing conditions. At 8 knots, which is a very high cruising speed, we “motorized” without any problems, without any frontal waves and pitching.
The mainsail with a square headland is equipped with an automatic corrugation system; access to the boom from the deckhouse roof is excellent. The electric winch lifts 70 squares of sail without any problems. The sail is easily controllable in both cycles - spinning from a spin and changing to another tack. The absence of winches in the deckhouse in the area of the mast frees the sheets from the "traps" that sometimes call their use there in doubt. The shrouded treads ensure a smooth transition of the genoa and its sheets to the other tack, and this large sail is as easy to fly as an automatic jib, even on its own.
We headed for the nearest island; the steep backstay showed the boat as quite light, comfortable and fast enough. The southwest breeze seemed to want to get stronger to 25 knots on gusts, so we took the first reef, continuing on course under one genoa as we reefed. When the halyard is released, the mainsail descends without any effort, and the halyard is controlled from the helmsman's seat.
Cruising catamaran Helia 44
The work on guiding the sheets and halyards through the Teflon-coated rings has paid off: the trajectory of the sheets and reef pendants is amazing, avoiding point friction and wear. The sails were dropped with one hand, in less than a minute, without endangering any crew member. This point is very important for the user!
With the boom-sheet carriage selected in the DP, we walked at a speed of more than 8 knots in a down-hauled at 50 degrees of apparent wind. On the next tack, near Oleron, the wind was even and we ramped up and raised the full mainsail with the same ease. Full sail with 25-27 knots wind (on a family cruise, we should have taken the reefs earlier!) The most rewarding part of testing has just begun: the speed was high (it seemed over 9 knots) and I had to check it on the GPS. At the same time, the trim of the vessel was stable, and the control was easy to implement. The short wave intersected with the swell coming from the side of the open sea.
Helia's behavior on such a complex excitement was overwhelming: she slightly "reared up", supported by her median and stern volumes. The front, clear of water, greedily absorbed the strongest waves; the catamaran was sailing clean, without slamming and falling between the crests of the waves - amazing for such a compact cruise ship!
This experience demonstrates the phenomenal capabilities of the new 44-foot. By tilting away little by little, we reached a stable 10 knots of travel. The wave has become more pronounced. Then a turn was made through the fordewind. It was produced quite easily thanks to the optimal sail center placement. The crossing of the wind line was done without sharpness, with a carriage in the center and a tight boom sheet. We spun the gennaker, having prepared on the previous tack, and attached it to the permanently installed bowsprit. The very first planing lifted the bridge over the water, and he took a safe position for the crew. As the wave energy was not sufficient to support prolonged gliding over the waves, the tack continued at 11-12 knots with exceptional heading stability. For this catamaran I would prefer a “code 5” sail or a retractable asymmetric spinnaker that would give more power than a “code 0” gennaker.
A word from the architect
My first collaboration with Fountaine pajot goes back to work on Marquise in 1991, and since then we have established a certain mutually pleasant acquaintance! Catamaran design and production have undergone tremendous changes over the past 20 years. Today we take a holistic, integrated approach from the outset of the process and strive for product consistency rather than “uncovering successive layers of work”. This means, for example, that the interior fittings are fully integrated, i.e. makes up a single whole and gives a finished look to the project.
I advocate a separation between design and engineering. Our teams, in this sense, are just different. The R&D department should oversee industrialization, and the architect should bring as much creativity as possible to his project.
Our philosophy strive to offer a respectable and noteworthy catamaran that will bring true pleasure to its user. This means balanced handling and good driving performance combined with comfort from all points of view. I also attach great importance to additional technical "benefits", sometimes small ones, that improve performance and quality of life on board. We aimed to bring these settings to life in the Helia 44 project.
Advantages and disadvantages
+ mature, consistent design concept
+ pleasure to use
+ manufacturing quality
- insufficient height of the stern protective railing (raised on future models)
- steering drive (improved on future models)
- a slightly creaky hull in the area of the panoramic window of the wheelhouse
LEOPARD 44 - Sail area - 138 (in beydewind) (sq. M); Weight (tons) - 14.9;
Base price in euros, excluding VAT - 335,000
NAUTITECH 441 - Sail area - 98 - (in beydewind) (sq. M); Weight (tons) - 9.2;
Base price in EUR, excluding VAT - 407 800
LAGOON 540 - Sail area - 13 (in beydewind) (sq. M); Weight (tons) - 15.5;
Base price in euros, excluding VAT - 359,000
PRIVILEGE 445 - Sail area - 114 (in beydewind) (sq. M); Weight (tons) - 9;
Base price in EUR, excluding VAT - 488 600
Architect: Olivier Racoupeau; Interior Design: Isabelle Racoupeau; Shipyard: Fountaine pajot
Length …………………………… .13.30 m
Width …………………………… .7.40 m
Displacement ………………… .10.8 t
The area of the grotto ………………… 70 sq. m
Genoa ……………………………… .45 sq.
Water ……………………………. 2 х 375 l
Diesel ……………………………… .470 l
Motors: 2 x 40 HP Saildrives or 2 x 55 hp as an additional option
The options are: Quatuor - 4 double cabins or Maestro version, 3 cabins
Base price: € 348,000 (excluding VAT)
Maestro version with ocean cruise equipment: € 378,000 (excluding VAT)
Main options, excluding value added tax:
- folding 3-blade propellers: 1912 euros
- 60 l / h water distiller: € 10,000
- solar panels + eco cruise display: 6100 euros
- 500W hydrogenerator: € 8100
- electronics and autopilot: 10,783 euros
- gennaker + bindings and bowsprit: 11500 euros
- automatic first reef: € 851
Helia - a successful cruising catamarantalentedly adapted for multipurpose family use. Its course is predictable thanks to the correctly selected sail, and at the same time the catamaran remains tolerant of errors in handling.
It sails smoothly, the organization of the deck equipment is really efficient, and the ergonomics of the helm (rudder - seat - sheet control) are commendable. The overall ergonomics and the location of the deck fittings make the boat very pleasant to use. The high quality in general, along with the vessel's dynamic character and tasteful interiors, are attractive features for future crews.
1: Helia 44 is a modern boat that meets the expectations of today's sailing ships. This is an undoubted success!
2: A catamaran that sails well and reliably while offering ample living space. The best choice for a long cruise!
3: The entrance to the tunnel between the floats is smooth and clean, ensuring a well-balanced ride on rough seas.
4: A family-friendly cruising catamaran with high quality and fast sailing performance while being forgiving of handling - what more could you ask for?
5: The helm station raised above the deck is a very practical thing when there are a large number of people on board (party, feast, companionship, celebration, feast, etc.).
6: As for a 44 foot, we have numerous seating areas including the now traditional lounge deck on the deckhouse roof.
7: Center of boat life - the cockpit is well protected and will accommodate all the friends on board at the anchorage.
8: The interior is undoubtedly successful, with pleasant light sources in the cockpit ceiling and particularly attractive interior volumes and spaces.
9: Cabins are highly successful, bright, pleasant and comfortable.
Text: Philip Eckel. Photo: Alexander Goron, Fountaine Pajot shipyard
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