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.
The handsome Leopard 46 has high freeboard, as you’d expect on a cruising cat, but it’s nicely broken up by a chine above the waterline. Above the chine, the hull flares to increase interior volume; below it, the hulls are narrower, which means better speed.
We sailed the Leopard in light air, and the slippery hulls gave us boat speed nearly equal to the wind speed. Steering a few steps above the cockpit from a comfy chair for two, we had a good view of the sails and easy access to the main and jib winches on the coachroof. This boat had a three-cabin layout: Two cabins in the port hull have double berths separated by two midship heads with showers, and a single cabin to starboard has a large double berth aft and a settee and storage amidships with a luxurious head forward.
The saloon is bright and airy, as with most cats, but this one has three small opening ports forward to provide through ventilation. A nav station with a chair is to starboard, next to a large dinette with wraparound seating. The galley is to starboard along the aft bulkhead with a fold-out countertop that extends into the spacious, covered cockpit. A table with wraparound seating is to port, with seating aft in the open air for those who want more sun but still participate in the cockpit conversation. Yes, the Leopard 46 is one comfortable cat, but that comfort comes at a price: $520,000. Still, for the owner who can afford it, this cat is a fast one that can go anywhere.
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