There was certainly no lack of fine catamarans launched in 2019 that will soon be introduced to charter fleets around the globe and, in the years ahead, will shepherd many a happy crew on countless memorable vacations. French builders have seemingly made a cottage industry of placing roomy, well-appointed, comfortable cats into the charter trade, and this year they upped their usual ante with a host of new offerings from Bali, Lagoon and Fountaine Pajot. But when our judges were asked to decide which cat they'd choose among them all if they were off on a charter trip, their pick as the year's Best Charter Boat was the Leopard 50, aka the Moorings 5000.

The renowned South African builder Robertson and Caine has been supplying cats exclusively to The Moorings and Sunsail fleets for many years now, and between longtime naval architect Alex Simonis and The Moorings’ own marketing maven Franck Bauguil, it’s a collaboration that has the process down to a science. Put another way, this team knows how to manufacture fun. Their new 50-footer will deliver it in spades.

“It’s already been ­determined that over the next five years there’s going to be 200 of these built, so there’s no question about the commercial viability,” said Tim Murphy. “They have a 15-year track record of following through with their plans; they know exactly what goes into the boats. It’s probably going to be built with 5,000 or 6,000 man hours. Robertson and Caine know precisely what they’re doing, and they do great work.

“Everyone involved did a really good job of following through on the design criteria set out for charter catamarans,” he continued. “The visibility and traffic all the way through the boats; the communication from the helm station down and back to the social spaces; the safety and comfort of the cockpit, saloon and staterooms — all these things are addressed and implemented very, very well.

Leopard 50 interior
Down below, the staterooms are sumptuous, inviting and perfect for a sailing vacation.Jon Whittle

“One of the themes we have are the different kinds of social spaces you can create on a cat, specifically one of this size. There’s the outdoor aft cockpit; inside the bridge deck, or in the saloon; forward of the coachroof; and up on the hardtop. Four spaces. The goal, specifically for chartering — when you have different couples, or groups of people like families — is having different spaces to have social interactions. And then, of course, there’s the component of sailing and running the boat. So the test is how all these different spaces interact. Of all the nominees, I felt the Leopard/Moorings was the most successful at developing each of these social spaces, and integrating them. There’s a flow in this boat through the living spaces that’s independent of the sailing functions. So the social spaces are really unified in that way. Not only that, but going up to the sun deck you have a dedicated stairway up to that area. It’s completely separate from the sheets and halyards, and the helm. Once you’re up there you’re surrounded by seating and rails, so you’re centered in that space the same way you would be in the cockpit.”

What more is there to say? Well, other than “pack your bags.”

See All Winners:
2019 Boats of the Year

Other Winners: