Best Cruising Multihull and Overall Boat of the Year: Voyage 440

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The South African-built Voyage 440 won a category in which eight cruising multihulls competed.© Billy Black

Among the boats in the contest, eight were catamarans, making them the single largest category this year. The number of new models at the Annapolis shows has been rising, too; their numbers on the show docks have met or broken records for each of the last three years: from 38 multis two years ago to 42 this year and last.

The boats we sailed ranged from 34 to 57 feet. The lone cat in the mid-30s size range was the Esprit 3400, built by Creeksea Ltd. in Durban, South Africa, and designed by Prout. At the other end of the size scale was the luxurious French-built Lagoon 570.

Between 42 and 47 feet we saw six cats. Two, the Moorings 4200 and 4700, were designed by Alex Simonis and built by Robertson & Caine to Moorings charter specs, which are impressive; the boats are also sold for private use under the name Leopard 42 and 47. The EndeavourCat 44, built in Clearwater, Florida, was the most commodious of all the cats. The French-built Outremer 45, the only cat in the contest with daggerboards, was the one most stripped down and powered up for speed.

In the opinion of the judges, the one boat that best blended performance, safety, and comfort into two hulls was the Voyage 440 catamaran.

Built by Voyage Yachts in Cape Town, South Africa, and delivered on her own bottom from the middle of austral winter, the boat we sailed, hull number six, looked brand new. With 8,000 miles under her keel, she had only 64 hours on the engine.

"Everything about this boat," said Alvah, "indicates that it’s seriously made for going to sea." Said Ralph: "Structurally, the boat’s built the right way. Their ’light but strong’ concept is delivered through attention to detail: bagged core, strong execution of the glass work, double redundancy in the hull/deck joint. Every panel seemed to have not too extensive a span before it was reinforced with a gusset or a bulkhead. It was elegant in both form and function."

Under sail, we saw 9-plus knots in 12 knots of breeze going upwind; on a spinnaker run, 9.6. "I like the rig," said Carol. "I understand that the fractional rig driven by a fathead main makes it necessary to have a bunch of headsails. But I like the way they’ve thought it through, that they actually have a nice-sized working jib that could be furled down to a storm jib. Plus, they had that genoa set up, then they had an asymmetric spinnaker. So they really had their bases covered for a variety of wind ranges in very safe ways. Overall, I was impressed with how it sailed. It had the nicest motion of anything we sailed."

The deck layout felt that it would be safe at sea. "The deck was laid out so that there was a handhold every time I sprinted from the cabin to the bow," said Alvah. "It was like somebody who sails a lot has been around that boat to put those in."

Alvah was impressed to see handholds below. "Multihulls normally won’t make the concession that the boat moves. They always try to impress monohullers by putting a glass of wine on the table and setting sail. But these builders know that even multihulls move in rough seas."

The boat’s maintenance-friendly interior features an up galley and four double cabins in the hulls. "It had a bright, albeit simple interior," said Alvah, "but I liked it. I told Carol it looked perhaps too blank. But the first time you personalize it with a favorite painting or pareu, you’re going to take away some of that stark, white expanse and turn it into a real home."

Skip found the electrical system "absolutely 4.0," as well as other systems: "The fuel tank forward was as fine an execution of a fuel tank as I’ve ever seen: sight gauge, easy-opening inspection port, great big handle on top to dog it down. Valving, filters, everything labeled on the bulkhead. Neat right angles. It was phenomenal."

Added together, all these details made her not only the judges’ pick for Best Cruising Multihull but also the Overall Cruising Boat of the Year.

Congratulations to all the folks at Voyage Yachts.