Whatever your thoughts are on the Catana yard shifting their focus to the cruising catamaran market with their Bali brand over recent years, you cannot deny that they have been very successful in carving themselves out a niche in this market with innovative design
Top 4 Builder
With Olivier Poncin at the helm, the Catana Group has become one of the top four catamaran builders in the world, and they are intent on offering a model range that matches every size of the main competition (Lagoon, Fountaine Pajot, Leopard). Take a look at our Catana 471 review: that model was the among the first models this company sold with Poncin in charge. The company has certainly changed direction!
The Bali 4.8 Open Space fills the gap between the 4.6 and the 5.4 with all of those innovative Bali features from previous designs, plus some new ones too. These catamarans are built close to where the Windelo 50 is made- but they couldn’t be more different.
- Up to 5 configurations to choose from, going up to 6 cabins each with their own heads.
- Huge living space on the main deck with the garage door and access to the foredeck lounge.
- Very light and spacious with the big fridge.
- Direct access to the transom from the aft cabins. Big cabins forward.
- Great visibility from the flybridge helm with even more living space up here.
- The height of the boom – it won’t be easy to reach the mainsail if there is a problem.
- You are pretty isolated up on the flybridge, especially coming into the marina.
- The winches seem low, you might be winding on your knees.
- High centre of effort on the mainsail.
- The solid foredeck would worry me in a big sea.
So like her siblings, the 4.8 comes with the solid foredeck, a fully open interior, the garage door that turns the whole main deck area into one outside or one inside space depending on the weather, and the big American fridge/freezer. And with all of that Catana experience, they have once again produced a boat that sails and is comfortable at sea.
A Tough Boat
The boat is constructed with a closed-cell PVC foam sandwich (there is no balsa here unlike the competition), and the bulkheads are laminated rather than glued which all adds up to a strong, stiff, hard wearing boat. The company now has yards in Canet-en-Roussillon, La Rochelle and Tunisia.
Let’s cover this off first shall we, as that is the real Wow Factor on Bali Catamarans. All of that space! The finish isn’t up to the standard of, say, a Privilege Catamaran but, to be fair, we are not talking the same price point.
When you put in your Bali 4.8 order, you will have some planning to do because this catamaran offers five versions. There is a 3-cabin version with a very large owner’s hull with separate bathroom and work/office space area. The big news on the Bali 4.8 is the direct access to the starboard transom.
Room for a Football Team
And of course, with Balis being so popular in the charter market, there are options for 4 , 5 and even 6-cabin versions (the latter with 6 en-suite heads) which is pretty unique in its class.
But where the 4.8 really comes into her own, is in offering for the first time on a multihull under 15 meters (50’) in length, 6 double cabins and 6 en-suite bathrooms. The charter companies make up two thirds of the sales of these boats. I am sure they will be “doing the math” on that one.
The open saloon, galley and cockpit area combine to make one huge light living area (we are in New York apartment territory here). The tall fridge freezer unit is placed in prime position between the saloon and the galley.
There is plenty of storage and worktop area, with clever design touches for waste storage, cooking, lounging and navigation.
The 4.8 follows her larger sister with the forward door to the foredeck, increasing the living space at anchor and calm conditions even further. The deck is really a 15 m² lounge with a couple of L-shaped benches and a table, plus a forward sun lounging area.
This rigid foredeck versus trampoline debate rages on, but Bali have a lot of arguments in their favour. The structure increases rigity of course, and in rough conditions, with the high bridgedeck and sculpted profile, the foredeck adds extra bouyancy to reduce pitching and push the bow through the chop.
And the communal living areas don’t stop there, as up top there is an extensive flybridge with another L-Shaped sofa behind the helm under the bimini, another table for al fresco dining and a sun lounge area.
Down below, the living space Wow Factor continues with direct access to the cockpit from the aft cabins.
Up front, the two double cabins in either hull have double beds set athwartships with great views of the sea through the portholes. The forepeaks house bathrooms with separate showers.
Head to the Heads
You can then order up to four other head compartments with integrated showers. There are two cabins in the centre of the hulls in the full charter version with two single bunk berths each, a configuration that is sure to be popular with families.
The two cabins aft have direct access to the cockpit, another innovation from the French builder.
Sailing & Handling
The helm station is up on the flybridge, which gives you great visibility on this boat, but the flipside is that you are a long way from the lines when you come into the marina. You are going to need some competent crew on this boat.
All the lines for sail handling are easy to reach though, as you are pretty close to the mast foot, but that boom is high. The winches seem low to me.
The high boom is the big draw back with the flybridge configuration. It means that the centre of effort on the mainsail is higher than the competition and it is not easy to access the mainsail if something goes wrong.
Save Budget for the Code 0 and Gennaker
With the self tacking jib up (47 m² / 505 sq ft), she will comfortably hit 50% of true wind speed in light to moderate winds. Keep some budget back for a Code 0 (90 m² / 970 sq ft), and you will slice through the water faster in calmer conditions. In moderate conditions on a beam reach, you should comfortably hit 8 to 10 knots and perhaps over- this boat is no slow coach for a cruising catamaran.
The hulls are nicely sculpted and you should quickly hit 8 knots of cruising speed under power, especially if you have ordered the twin 57HP engines. The standard spec is 45HP. Put this upgrade at the top of your options list.
The great thing about Bali is how they have raised the bar in cruising catamaran design with their innovative design touches. This catamaran is all about maximising comfort and space, and with 5 options to choose from, they are going to appeal to a very wide market with this boat.
The charter companies will love it as the configuration maxes out at 6 cabins. This is stiff competition for the Leopard 50 and the Lagoon 50.