South African builder, Leopard Catamarans, sold nearly 30 units of their new Leopard 42 before hull #1 was even available to sea trial. That’s like buying a car before you can test drive it and that may seem crazy, but the pandemic has created demand for boats like nothing we’ve seen – possibly ever. Taking elements of their 40 and 50- foot sailing models, Leopard even borrowed some of the interior styling from the Leopard 53 powercat to create one hot cruiser that targets a sweet spot in the multihull market, which was exploding long before COVID even hit.
Above: 2021 Leopard 42 Catamaran Sailing Yacht. Photo by Leopard Catamarans.
In creating the new 42, Leopard Catamarans stuck with their successful formula which includes the combination of designers, Simonis and Voogd, and builder, Robertson and Caine. The construction is the same foam-cored vacuum infusion but it’s topped by a one-piece cabinhouse, which is a departure from the three-section tops on her predecessors.
The rig includes an aluminum mast and 1,256 square feet of sail area with a large fully-battened Ullman mainsail. The 42 has what looks like a boomvang, but it’s not really a tool for trimming the main but rather for keeping the boom from hitting the cabintop accidentally when the mainsail is lowered without tensioning the topping lift. Keeping the boom up is important because like her two larger siblings, the 42 has a lounge on the cabinhouse where people can sit. This L-shaped sitting area is a great place to enjoy a sundowner cocktail at anchor and it’s near the helm station so under way, the captain and crew can converse.
It’s interesting to note that despite the addition of the lounge, the boom didn’t need to be raised to allow vertical space for it, which means the mainsail didn’t have to shrink and the overall profile of the boat doesn’t didn’t become overly high.
To get to this lounge, there’s a staircase leading from the port side deck up to the cabintop. It’s a fairly easy trip when going up but there’s not much to hold onto when coming down so it’s best to keep you own center of gravity low. Floating steps were used to keep the staircase looking “lighter” and to not obscure visibility out from the aft cockpit.
A trademark feature of Leopard is the forward glass door that provides immediate access to the foredeck from the saloon. The 45 has a full second cockpit here with seats and a table but on the 42, the designers opted to focus instead on a large sunbed with enormous stowage space below as well as room for the 6kW generator.
Although the trampoline on the standard model is an uninterrupted single piece, the addition of the optional bow sprit necessitates the accompanying compression arm which splits the net in two. That was the case on our test boat.
Interior And Available Layouts
The Leopard 42 comes in two layouts: a three-cabin owner’s version with the master suite encompassing the entire starboard hull, and four cabins and four heads which will be popular in charter. Our test boat was laid out as the owner’s version with a cabin that has few intrusive supporting structures. There’s an unobstructed view from the bed all the way forward to the shower. That was made possible in part by the strength of a stainless-steel “H” frame, which is central to the entire structure and minimizes bulkhead intrusion.
The saloon has the standard back-to-back dinettes and settees with one inside in the saloon and the other in the cockpit. With the doors and window open, there’s an indoor/outdoor combination that will accommodate large groups well.
The galley is forward in the starboard corner and the nav desk is by the front glass door to port. As is standard on Leopards, there are two Virtrifrigo drawers by the aft door but the electrical panel, which used to be above, has been replaced by an optional TV. The panel was moved down near the steps to the starboard cabin which is a clean and workable solution.
The cabinhouse seems to have been raised just a hair which increased the headroom (now 6’ 7”) in the saloon. This also created taller windows that improve the view out and bring in more light. The interior styling and color scheme were borrowed from the Leopard 53 powercat. The finish is called “Driftwood”. It’s warmer than the previous grey tones that Leopard is known for and with soft white accents, the result is more inviting.
There are a few nice touches including a tap at the galley sink for purified (not just filtered) water which means you can make full use of the water tanks. There’s also a basic digital switching platform by Raymarine that reduces the need for visible switches. High capacity lithium batteries are an option.
We had an excess of wind on test day with gusts to 30 knots. Waves were crashing and the breeze was whipping seafoam up so hard off the coast of Fort Lauderdale that the test was conducted instead on a channel in Dania Beach. Tacking in the narrow channel wasn’t easy with a 501 sq ft genoa. However, we did see nine knots of speed in a 25-knot wind gust at 60 degrees apparent wind angle.
Lately, there’s been a growing appeal of small headsail/large mainsail combinations on both catamarans and monohulls. In this sail plan, there’s a self-tacking jib that basically manages itself and makes sailing easier when single- or short-handed. For downwind work, a Code 0 is added. Leopard espouses a more traditional approach with an overlapping genoa (105%) so the headsail needs to be pulled through to the opposite side. A Code 0 can still be used instead of the genoa when sailing abaft the beam. It was too windy that day for the Code 0 but with the bigger headsail, we sailed at 6-8 knots of speed on a beam reach.
Auxiliary power is provided by 45-hp Yanmar diesels with Saildrives and the twin engines on our test boat generated a cruising speed of 8-9 knots on the flat water of the channel. Leopard turned the engines 180 degrees (already done on the previous models), so the propellers are ahead of the rudders which makes the boat quicker to respond in turns and from a full stop than cats with the reverse arrangement. One observation was of concern. The aft sections of the lifelines (which normally block off the swimsteps for safety under way) are angled sharply (when connected) in such a way that they cut across the steps between the side deck and the cockpit. This won’t be an issue at anchor when those lines are open but underway, they make for a strange pinch point.
The water tanks, which most cats have just ahead of the mast, were relocated down into the hulls. This keeps the center of gravity lower and also moves the water weight aft where it belongs. The water tankage was also reduced. The Leopard 40 has 206 gallons of fresh water while the 42 has just 174 gallons and that’s because more people are adding watermakers, which comes standard on the charter versions of this model.
Catamarans in the 40-50-foot range have been in short supply ever since a large portion of the Caribbean charter fleet was destroyed by back-to-back hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. Add to that the growing popularity of multihulls in general over the past decade and the global demand for boats of any kind during the pandemic and the appeal of boats like the Lagoon 42 is off the charts. It’s no wonder then that so many hulls of this model were sold purely on drawings and specs. Having had the opportunity to test one, I’d say those purchasers won’t be disappointed and cruising couples as well full charter groups can rejoice that another model in
this size is now available.
Designer: Simonis and Voogd
LOA: 41’ 7”
LWL: 40’ 10”
Beam: 23’ 1”
Draft: 4’ 7”
Air Draft: 67’ 10”
Sail Area: 1,256 sq. ft. sq top main
Displacement: 27,485 lbs.
Headroom: 6’ 7” saloon, 6’ 4” cabins
Water Capacity: 174 gallons
Fuel capacity: 158 gallons
Engines: 2×45 HP Yanmar w/ Saildrive
Price: $669,000 as tested