Article Sailing Today: Bali 4.0
Bali 4.0 – boat tested and reviewed
Bali’s new 4.0 Lounge stands apart from the catamaran crowd thanks to some revolutionary design features. Sam Jefferson reports
For those looking to charter a yacht this summer, and browsing the options out there, it won’t take you long to realise that it’s more expensive to hire a multihull than the equivalent-sized monohull.
There’s a very good reason for this and it is simply that the market doesn’t lie. The modern multihull offers more space and greater comfort levels than the equivalent monohull and this is naturally reflected in the cost of charter.
And yet if you actually choose to buy a 40ft (12.2m) catamaran as compared to a similarly specc’d monohull, the price difference is negligible. Why is this?
It’s a very good question and it probably has a good deal to do with the fact that cruising multihulls have traditionally had a reputation for being a little, well, shall we say uninspiring performance-wise? Particularly on the wind. This is fine for a holiday, but not something you want to put up with permanently.
Yet manufacturers are getting so much smarter. The days when your typical cruising cat wouldn’t nudge much nearer to the wind than a close reach are long gone and the latest generation promise supreme comfort and performance.
A company that has been at the forefront of this renaissance has been Catana – with models such as the Catana 42 boasting excellent comfort levels but also daggerboards, sleek hulls and a powerful sail area which provide a beguiling mix of performance and comfort. But the average cruising sailor is intimidated by technicalities such as daggerboards and perhaps this is the reason that Catana’s new Bali range is causing a stir. Its new boats don’t have daggerboards, but it seems to have hit upon an excellent blend of speed and comfort while featuring all sorts of innovative ideas.
With a length of 39ft, a beam of 22ft and towering freeboard combined with some angular styling, the Bali 4.0 is… well, boxy. In order to provide the extra space we all covet, catamarans have been getting more and more beamy, but in fact, the Bali is slimmer than some of its rivals. On first impressions, though, Bali has embraced the inevitable boxiness rather than fighting it, and I say, hats off to them on that score.
The result is an incredibly roomy 40-footer with all sorts of clever design features, not to mention a quite bewildering feeling of space. This is also far more than just a floating caravan; a lot of thought has gone into her lines – penned by French multihull maestros Olivier Poncin and Xavier Fay. In order to guarantee a reasonable level of performance, the pair opted to use a vacuum-infused foam-cored sandwich construction which provides a very stiff hull. This is further complemented by the fact that the Bali rather unusually eschews the forward trampoline in favour of a solid foredeck which provides further rigidity – not to mention extra space.
Although there is a big emphasis on space aboard the Bali, the wetted profile is actually very fine due to the ‘step’ in the hull just above the waterline that provides both extra internal volume and also serves as a spray deflector. Below the waterline she features two keel stubs to provide grip to windward and these are augmented by a pair of moulded-in skegs which improve her ability to point, but also have a sacrificial use in the event of a grounding.
The flybridge helm with its curious little bimini makes for a higher boom, which raises the centre of effort of the fat-headed main. But the rig is stepped well aft, right atop the coachroof, which affords a much larger headsail than most cruising cats. The result is a versatile sail plan with a working sail area of 860sq ft
compared with 706sq ft for the similarly proportioned Nautitech 40.
Almost as soon as you step aboard the Bali you are confronted with what is to my mind the piece de resistance of this yacht. Initially you think the cockpit is broad but rather narrow – there’s little more than a metre between the stern and the aft bulkhead. But then you discover that the entire bulkhead flips up – garage door style – presenting you with a massive open space, all on the level with no protruding frames or runners. To my mind it’s the ultimate solution to the indoor/outdoor dilemma that all cruising catamarans wrestle with.
You might expect such a huge item to be difficult or unwieldy to raise and lower, yet it hisses up and down on hydraulic struts with ease and the locking mechanism to hold it in place is also gratifyingly simple. The Bali also features a very clever system for raising and lowering the tender into the water which utilises a stainless steel frame that drops down into the water and creates a useful step for getting aboard.
Head upwards a couple of steps and you’re on the flybridge, which is offset to starboard and provides excellent all round vision, with only a small section of the port quarter not in full view. All the main control lines are led to this helming area and everything is easily within reach making, this a highly manageable yacht for a couple. Many early cruising catamarans suffered from the problem of leaving the helmsman up on the bridge in splendid isolation, but since then efforts have been made to remedy this and the Bali features a very comfortable lounging area adjacent to the helming station, while the offset helm means that there is much closer contact with the main seating area below.
The side decks are wide and the handrail moulded into the cabin top is a nice touch. Ahead of this is the foredeck, which on most multihulls is dominated by the trampoline and is essentially dead space. Not so on the Bali, where the solid foredeck provides space for a simply huge second dining area around a pair of tables. In fact, it’s more of a conference area, as you could seat 10 out here without difficulty.
A clever drop-down front window means that you can pass food out with ease. The temptation for more agile crew members to clamber through is also immense. In rough weather, this could provide a safer alternative route to access the foredeck. Essentially, it means the Bali has two cockpits and an unprecedented amount of outdoor space. There is also plentiful storage up forward, both beneath the bench seats and in the voluminous anchor locker.
Acres of space
It’s rather a nonsense to use the term ‘down below’ on modern catamarans – particularly this one – as the outdoor space is designed to merge with the interior. That said, with the ‘garage door’ lowered, you feel secure and totally enclosed while also benefiting from an incredible near panoramic view thanks to the acres of windows.
The interior is uncomplicated, with a large dining table and bench seats in the indoor/outdoor section of the yacht. Head forward and you have the galley area with steps down on each side which lead to the berths. To my mind, the very openness and feeling of space here could be a liability in bad weather, because of a shortage of decent handholds or places to secure yourself. That said, catamarans are less prone to uncomfortable movement at sea. There is a small nav area just to starboard of the galley and this affords an excellent view if you were planning on navigating from the comfort of the interior using the autopilot.
The yacht I tested featured an owner’s cabin with en suite that took up the entirety of the starboard hull. The port hull was split into two separate berths with a shared heads compartment. Inevitably, there is an option for an extra cabin if you opt to do away with the owner’s suite. This arrangement will doubtless be favoured by yachts on the charter market. On the flip side, you can opt for a version with just two double cabins both with en suites. Overall, the quality of the finish was very good and the feeling of light and space, even in the sleeping areas, was really impressive.
So far, so good, but now came the real test as we headed out into Southampton Water in a very modest breeze that fluctuated between 8kt and 12kt. I had high hopes and was not disappointed.
There is one electric winch for getting the mainsail up, which is always a blessing on these multihulls. But as we discovered when it came to stowing the sail in its stack pack at the end of the test, the high boom makes it hard to manhandle the main. You have to use a step built into the mast for the purpose. Other than that, sail handling was a doddle.
That enormous sail area and big headsail gave her plenty of power and a good feeling of balance and we were soon reaching along at 8kt-plus, which was not half bad in the fickle conditions and made me wonder how she would go in a good stiff breeze. On the wind, she was still able to maintain 6kt and tacked through around 80 degrees – a clear improvement on many of Bali’s predecessors.
The steering took a bit of getting used to, as it was disconcertingly light, yet once I adjusted to it, I found it was quite responsive and the boat was actually quite playful to handle. Under power, the twin 40hp Nanni diesels gave her an impressively tight turning circle. This made mooring simple, but the helming position means you ideally need a crew to handle the lines for you.
Compared with previous generations of cruising catamaran, the Bali 4.0 is a step forward in performance terms, and will win sailors over on that alone. In relation to her multihull rivals, what impressed me most were the clever design touches. The garage door set-up aft is an absolute masterstroke. The deep forward cockpit, clever dinghy davit and bags of stowage are among her other key strengths. She is never going to win any beauty contests, but then few multihulls would.