Leopard 46: A Leap for Leisure
Designed for blue-water cruising, this comfy cat will get you where you're going in a hurry. From our July 2007 issue.
The Leopard 46 has the genes of a racer. It's built in South Africa by Robertson and Caine and was designed by Gino Morelli and Pete Melvin, who drew the record-breaking maxi-catamaran PlayStation. But make no mistake-this 46-footer's also designed to cruise in comfort.
The Leopard is a striking boat, from the first glimpse of the high, almost-plumb bows to the streamlined, louvered house and the rakish transoms. The hulls are narrow at the waterline-skinny is faster than wide-and have a very fine entry, then flare sharply to a chine just above the water for good interior volume and reserve buoyancy for sailing in a seaway.
I sailed the boat in light airs; when going to weather, the slippery hulls and tall sail plan gave me boat speed almost equal to the wind speed at a time when most cruisers would have the engines going in those conditions. Cracked off the breeze with the asymmetric spinnaker flying, our speed was at least equal to wind speed.
Construction is of vacuum-bagged E-glass over balsa core with isophthalic gelcoat on the hulls and decks to reduce the chance of osmosis. The keels are separate, bolt-on units designed to break away and thus reduce damage to the hulls in the event of a hard collision with something solid.
The cockpit is big and comfortable, as you'd expect on a boat with a 25-foot beam. An adjustable hatch in the fiberglass bimini opens forward and acts as a windscoop to keep the crew cool when they're relaxing over lunch. Raised to starboard is the helm seat, with room for two and its own bimini; there's good access to the engine controls, the wheel, and the sheet winches. A neat feature is the seat along the aft part of the cockpit between the davits; it folds down to become the right height for use as a dinghy dock. Wide, flat decks are clear of impediments for crew movement forward. Large louvers in the forward end of the house restrict sun glare in the interior and are good steps to the cabin top. The anchor and windlass are on the centerline inside a hatch in the bridgedeck. The large trampoline between the hulls forward provides a comfortable place to lounge.
Access below is through sliding glass doors that essentially extend the saloon into the cockpit at the same level. Part of the galley counter folds out, enhancing this effect. The galley is in the starboard, aft part of the saloon and is large and easily worked; it's well connected to the cockpit, helm seat, and dinette. The dinette forward provides 360-degree views around the boat and seats eight in comfort. Clearly this boat is designed to stay cool in the tropics: Three ports above the dinette in the forward part of the house open for good flow-through ventilation right through to the cockpit.
The interior's satin-finished cherry woodwork is attractive without being too warm. The laminate flooring used throughout looks good, wears well, and makes for easy maintenance.
The Leopard 46 I sailed had the owner's layout, including a well-lit, sybaritic cabin in the starboard hull featuring a queen berth aft that's set at the same height as most household beds. A 6-foot settee and hanging lockers are immediately forward, and a large head with a separate shower is in the bow. In the port hull are double cabins, fore and aft, separated by a pair of good-sized heads, each with a stall shower. Opening hatches and ports provide good ventilation in both hulls. A four-cabin layout is available in which the starboard cabin mirrors the port.
All things considered, the Leopard 46 looks like it would be a good boat to mosey around the islands of the Caribbean at speed, lounge in some anchorage, or go for line honors in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers.
Andrew Burton is a Cruising World associate editor.
LOA 46' 4" (14.12 m.)
LWL 44' 7" (13.59 m.)
Beam 24' 10" (7.57 m.)
Draft 4' 5" (1.35 m.)
Sail Area 1,011 sq. ft. (93.9 sq. m.)
Displacement 24,206 lb. (10,980 kg.)
Water 206 gal. (780 l.)
Fuel 185 gal. (700 l.)
Engines 40-hp. Volvos
Designer Morelli & Melvin