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Fountaine Pajot’s Stunning New Starter Sail Cat

Several units of Fountaine Pajot’s Isla 40 sailing catamaran are already sailing around Asia following strong demand for the La Rochelle builder’s new entry model.

Apr 12, 2022 | By John Higginson
With three winches and two banks of clutches, the helmsman can manage all sailing manoeuvres.

Fountaine Pajot’s seven sailing catamaran models through to the flagship Alegria 67 have names ending in ‘a’, including some such as the Elba 45 and the Tanna 47 that refer to islands. For its new entry-level model, the Isla 40, the French builder settled on the generic Spanish word for island, pronounced ‘iz-la’.

Measuring just over 39ft overall, the Isla only had its official world premiere at last year’s Cannes Yachting Festival, yet it has already sold multiple units across Asia, where owners – including a client in Japan who switched from a 48ft motor yacht – have started exploring islands, beaches and bays around the region.

“When we think of Asia, we sometimes think of big boats because of motor yachts, but you can have a very capable, fully equipped Isla 40 delivered here for €500,000 (about US$570,000), so the pool of customers is much wider,” says Kevin Corfa, Fountaine Pajot’s Head of Asia.

A fixed helm bimini is an option.

“These new owners are attracted to boats they can sail themselves without having crew while still having large social areas and privacy when needed

“For the same amount of living space, the Isla consumes much less power because it’s a sailing yacht but also when motoring because it’s a cat. It can have a big water tank and because owners will handle more things on board themselves, they appreciate having so much space around the engine in the technical area, making maintenance easier.”

A Little Extra in the Hulls

Like all Fountaine Pajot’s current sail cats, the Isla 40 features naval architecture by Berret-Racoupeau Yacht Design. The newcomer succeeds another island-themed model, the Lucia 40, and is a notable upgrade on her popular predecessor, which sold almost 300 units in five years.

The comfortable bow area is accessed by wide side-decks aided by long handrails on the coachroof.

The main modifications focus on the interior and the hulls, whose bows now adopt inverted stems. The hulls have gained 8in at the waterline, increasing the length from 38ft 6in to 39ft 2in, and it’s remarkable how the inverted bows alter the silhouette and give a much sportier, seductive design.

In this pivotal 40ft category — much below this length, some crews might hesitate to embark on ocean passages — the performance/comfort compromise is a subtle equation, for want of space. Hulls that are too narrow deprive the boat of double berths in the forecabins. On the other hand, a nacelle that’s too large translates into displacement and consequent windage.

The inverted bows give a modern and elegant silhouette to the Isla 40.

The Isla 40 scores highly, with sufficient but controlled volumes everywhere. A light displacement of nine-plus tonnes and a total sail area of about 1,025sqft (95sqm) gives a good sail-area-to-weight ratio.

Built To Last

The generous semi-circular sections of the hulls can carry the load, while the design offers fine-entry bows and comfortable bridgedeck clearance. The hulls adopt a discreet chine on their inboard sides.

Using infusion, the hulls are made up in three sections: the underside of the nacelle, the inboard topsides and the outboard half-hulls. The sandwich consists of a balsa core and skins made of multiaxial glass cloth.

The cockpit is backed by a wide aft sofa, while the starboard daybed is by steps to the helm station.

The deck and coachroof, true to the yard’s know-how, are injected parts — vacuum lamination in a two-sided mould. A closer examination of both the bilges and the electrical circuits inspires confidence, with all elements accessible and connections carefully made. The engine compartments are particularly large and the three-cylinder motors benefit from easy access for maintenance.

In addition to its sandwich construction, it should be noted that the Isla 40 is equipped with four buoyancy zones. The assembly of the catamaran’s steering components is robust and all the elements such as the rod connecting the two rudders and the autopilot ram are accessible.

Trialled and Tested

We were able to discover the Isla 40 at Bandol in the south of France, where our test model was equipped with twin 30hp Volvo engines, offering 7-8 knots. The helm station is raised, but it’s not on the coachroof, which has the option of three solar panels aft but is otherwise clear.

The cockpit includes an L-shaped sofa and a table to port.

The helm offers good visibility over the water and the helmsman can easily manage all sailing manoeuvres using the three winches and two banks of clutches.

The area is user-friendly due to the double bench seat and the proximity of the cockpit below, while steps and a railing allow easy access up to the optional fixed bimini.

The mainsail is quick to hoist. As soon as the overlapping genoa is unfurled, the Isla 40 starts to move with barely a ripple on the water, even with fuel and water tanks 80 per cent full. Despite a still-low speed, she tacks easily to get closer to where the breeze looks to be.

The interior benefits from panoramic views, natural light and breeze through windscreen hatches.

There, with 8-9 knots of wind, we strode along at five knots at an angle of 50° off the true wind. No need to head up any further — the Isla 40 prefers the sails just a little open. The wind finally settled down between 12-15 knots and we took advantage of this to unfurl the gennaker, which is an option. This gave the predicted turbo-boost, with the GPS displaying between 8-9 knots.

Outdoor Zones

The first impression when you stroll around the Isla 40 is that the deck is clean, bare and efficient. The side decks are at least 2ft wide, the non-slip is effective even when wet, and each side of the coachroof has two long handrails.

The bow area presents a wide sunbathing area aft of the trampolines, while stools at the tip of each hull provide a fun place to watch over the water. The anchoring gear is well designed and easy to use.

There’s a watchkeeper’s berth and additional storage space.

The aft cockpit is covered by a generous overhang. To port, there’s a big L-shaped sofa that seats five and a long table (5ft 5in by 2ft 9in), but with the addition of four stools, you could squeeze in up to 10 guests.

To starboard is a comfortable lounger, while aft is a 6ft-wide forward-facing sofa. The large open areas facilitate circulation and access to the deck as well as to the wide sugarscoops, plus there’s also a dinghy davit, with Fountaine Pajot offering a 10ft Hypalon with 15hp outboard as an option.

Inner Sanctuary

The sliding bay door is the passing point between the cockpit and the saloon, and the opening is wide, while there’s also a sliding galley window that helps the flow between the exterior and interior. Like the Elba 45, the overall finish inside is very attractive, while the saloon feels roomier and more relaxed compared to the Lucia 40.

The saloon starts with an aft galley to port.

The L-shaped galley includes a three-burner hob, oven, double sink and drawer-fridges. Compared to the Lucia, it offers additional storage space and pleasing, rounded corners, while the forward chart table has disappeared. Instead, all the navigation equipment is grouped together to starboard, by the cockpit.

The interior headroom of 6ft 10in offers plenty of volume, while there’s a lengthways window in the coachroof. The side windows are wide, with the view particularly expansive toward the stern, and so many windows make the saloon very luminous, especially since the uprights are quite discreet.

The three-cabin Maestro version has the master suite in the starboard hull.

At the forward end, Fountaine Pajot has kept its sloping windows, which are topped by a small overhang like the peak of a cap, lessening the greenhouse effect. Furthermore, two large opening hatches provide effective ventilation. The lounge features a large, comfortable C-shaped sofa with table, which can be transformed into a double berth.

Maestro or Quartout

In the hulls, there are options for three or four cabins. Maestro, the three-cabin version, has the master suite occupying the starboard hull with an island bed aft, a desk/vanity table, plenty of drawer space and hanging wardrobes, a separate toilet and a forward bathroom and shower.

The port hull has a VIP cabin with island bed aft and a guest cabin forward, and there are options for both of these cabins to have en-suite bathrooms or share a larger bathroom.

Views of the master cabin’s en-suite bathroom in the Maestro version.

Quatuor (quartet), the four-cabin layout, offers two cabins in each hull, either with en-suites or a shared bathroom in each hull, while there’s also space for a compact crew berth in the starboard forepeak. Overall, ventilation in the cabins is well thought out and the mattresses are of excellent quality.

If you try the Isla 40, it’s likely you’ll want one. We took great pleasure in sailing her, as she’s well balanced under sail and easy to handle. A single-hander will manage fine, novice sailors will quickly get their bearings as the miles go by, while the boat’s numerous stowage spaces support offshore journeys. The Isla is an evolution as intelligent as it is seductive.

The VIP suite on the port side.

“The layout is slightly different and more open than other brands, with the cockpit and saloon of a similar size, while there’s still a very good flow of communication between passengers,” Corfa says. “I think the interior finishing is the same level as on the 51, so I’m really happy with the result of the Isla. Sales figures are really encouraging.”

This article first appeared on Yacht Style.

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