The Fountaine Pajot Elba 45 launched at the Cannes Yachting Festival in 2019. This cruising cat is going head to head with one of Lagoon’s most popular models: the Lagoon 46 – the replacement for the 450, which came in both a flybridge (450F) and raised helm version (450S).
So how does the replacement to the Helia 44 from FP stack up?
Fountaine Pajot are known for continuous improvement of their range rather than radical redesign, so it should come as no surprise to discover that the new 45 has incorporated many of the popular features of her larger and smaller siblings.
- Even more space than her predecessor, the Elba 45 boasts some of the biggest living space in her class.
- The Fly Lounge is clever. You get the lounging space at anchor, a helm that is connected to the aft cockpit and a lower boom than you would see on a flybridge cat.
- She’s pretty nippy off the wind, a good compromise between comfort and speed
- The keels are mounted and glued into recesses which is a good safety feature should you ground the boat. They should just shear off with minimal damage to the hulls.
- The flybridge means a slightly higher boom, which means a higher centre of effort on the mainsail.
- She’s no stellar performer upwind, but that’s true of most production cruising cats.
This 45 feet yacht, with its inverted bows keeps that signature raised helm station that you’ll see on many of their other boats, plus a fly “lounge” on the bimini that has proven so popular on the Saona 47. This is a neat trick as the bimini lounge gives you most of the benefits of that great view at anchor without the windage or raised boom of a full flybridge cat like the Lagoon 450. And that means its easier to get to the boom of you encounter any problems under way – with the reefing lines for example.
There is space for four or five and a big sun-pad cover more than 10m2 and you still have space for solar panels. The price you pay is a slightly higher boom, which the centre of effort of the sail. However, the boom is still a lot lower than you would find on a flybridge cat like the Lagoon 46. This is a neat compromise.
There’s still room for two on the helm seat, and plenty of space to work on your 3 large Lewmar 50 winches.
There’s also a foredeck lounging area, although this looks more like an add on and not as much of a feature as, say, a Leopard with its forward cockpit accessible from the saloon.
The cockpit has several sofas, a sunbed, benches and a long dinner table. And then there’s the hydraulic dive platform aft, which carries the tender when you are under way. This is a cat with plenty of space and the space really “flows” on this boat. We didn’t feel like we were dodging things to get from one zone to the next.
Big windows and hatches bring a lot of natural light and ventilation inside the boat, both in the saloon and in the hulls. The forward window swings up in its entirety connecting you to the forward cockpit and nets. You can’t get much better ventilation than that! (Make sure it is securely closed when you are underway though).
As an option, you can replace the davits with the ‘transformer’ hydraulic bathing platform (around €17,k), which can raise a tender up to 3.2m long, and 150kg in weight.
The thing that really impressed me about the Elba 45, which I saw at the Cannes Yachting Festival, were the cabins which have to be the roomiest in her class. Both aft and forward they are light and spacious.
The Owner suite and guest cabins are quiet and comfortable with en-suite shower rooms depending on the version.
Fountaine Pajot boats are nimble for cruising cats if you keep the boats light. In terms of performance, you are looking at something between a Lagoon and a Nautitech, but make sure you don’t overload her. All the sheets and control lines (gennaker or code 0 excepted) come back to the bulkhead helm station.
You can tell from her hull profile that she’s no slouch in the water.
The mast is set forward and integrates well into the saloon down below. This gives you a well balanced sail plan with the overlapping genoa (there is no self tacking jib unlike much of the competition) that remains well powered up even in lighter winds without having to fly a code 0 or gennaker off the bowsprit.
Off the wind in a decent breeze you could be seeing speeds in the low teens in the right conditions.
She won’t be able to compete with a dagger-board cat upwind like an Outremer 51, for obvious reasons, but that’s the case for any keel cat: that’s your trade off for all of that space. You are likely to hit her sweet spot at around 60 degrees to true. If you need to get upwind faster, you can always stick on the leeward engine at low revs and charge your batteries up.
This boat is a great set up for owners who want a solid performing boat that will be very comfortable at anchor. The design cleverly maximises all the available space, with the stand-out features being that lounge on the bimini at anchor and the size of the cabins down below.
The saloon and cockpit flow together very nicely and the helm station is well connected, with all the lines coming back making her an easy boat to sail short-handed. There’s something to be said for their strategy of continuous improvement on these boats!
You might want to look at the South African competition (read our Leopard 50 review for example) and of course the Lagoons are worth a look too in this category. Nautitech will give you more speed but there is a trade off on comfort.
If you want to follow a couple of Elba 45s sailing around, try the following:
Follow the Iqbal Family and friends aboard the SV Stargazer, their Fountaine Pajot Elba 45 catamaran.
Follow an Aussie family on the 45. Dean, Megs, Jude and Addie set sail!