The 4.3MY is the first power model in the Bali range of cruising catamarans built by Catana in south-west France. This 2019 boat reflects the growing market for these spacious boats, as company design engineer Yann Chabaud explained: “It was determined right from the start that Bali Catamarans would have a power model but it took us a few years to develop the uniquely-designed sailing boats that form the heart of our range before we could enter the motoryacht sector.”
Catana's reputation as the French builder of performance cats took a different turn with the introduction of the Bali series in 2015. The range currently has eight models, starting from the 39-foot Bali 4.0, to the flagship 5.4 (55 foot) that impressed me during a delivery along the French coast. Success has been quick for the range because it mimics motorboat features; take, for example, the voluminous, usable space and innovative inclusions like movable bulkheads and multiple deck access points.
Following in the wake of power cat market leaders Leopard from South Africa and prolific French competitor Fountaine Pajot was never going to be easy, but it was an inevitable evolution of the brand.
“Since our close competitors are making significant sales in this sector… we’d be wrong not to be interested in it,” said Chabaud.
The result? A flybridge cruiser with up to four ensuite cabins, lounge areas fore and aft, plus a vast upper deck. In many ways, creating this topside is the easier part of the equation. The remainder is the trickier calculation of transforming a sailing hull shape into an effective motor cruiser. Some early attempts at this transition have failed, such as Lagoon's defunct MY40 which delivered only trawler performance in single digit speeds, while others have bodged some volume into the back ends of hulls in attempts to engender successful planing — one reason, perhaps, why Catana has been working on this project for three years. The result stood before me at La Grande Motte in south-west France, where show-goers had given it a thorough going through. Now it was my turn.
CONSIDER A CAT
Among the features of catamarans are their two engines located far apart (unlike a monohull) which gives them incredible manoeuvrability and inbuilt redundancy. This can blur the lines between sailing and power versions. The catamaran design equation is further tweaked by the creation of flybridges, as found on this Bali 4.3MY and several others from market leaders Lagoon and Fountaine Pajot. Of course, engines can only do so much for these sailing catamaran style of hulls, but for sailors who want to go cruising and enjoy ample space, the trawler power cat concept is very attractive. The Bali 4.3MY flybridge elevates you to see hazards well ahead in shoal waters that can be found around Asia, a benefit I had wished for when delivering a catamaran through the Arafura Sea a few years ago. The downside of these towering structures is of course windage which increases fuel consumption, but handling these high flyers is fairly easily done, thanks to those outboard engines that pivot the hulls easily.
Given the stiff competition, Bali designers Oliver Poncin and Yann Chabaud sought a market differentiator and found it in a word — flexibility. It dictated the approach to the entire range.
The main attraction on every Bali is the movable aft bulkhead that creates a vast entertaining space. Other access points around the boat include two staircases to the flybridge, and the walk-around transom on the 4.3MY is ideal for tropical waters.
Water access is another plus thanks to the transom platform that can hold an inflatable dinghy on its side, and the swim ladder on the port hull. These features, along with the spacious three level layout, have appealed strongly to both private owners and charter operators such as the Philippine charter company that took delivery of the very first hull. Australian and New Zealand dealer Christophe Vanek at Dream Yacht Sales at Airlie Beach has similar ambitions for this model, he told me.
Looking over the Bali 4.3MY as it sat among about 30 other competing models during the La Grande Motte multihull show, it was clear that similar approaches have been taken with how space is maximised on a flybridge catamaran. The result is fairly angular aesthetics, which are perhaps more functional than sleek, and notable features include voluminous, tall hulls with fine plumb bows running aft to wide transoms — the latter is ideal for carrying heavy cruising loads.
Topside, flat decks with flush hatches allow unimpeded walking space, topped off with the high flybridge lounge space. The large flybridge has access on two sides with a helm, on the starboard side, protected by a discreet but effective windshield. Our review boat, destined for tropical waters, wisely had the optional fibreglass bimini fitted. This completely shaded the two sets of tables and benches. The dual use of fittings will appeal to charterers thanks to the added flexibility of being able to change the table height (albeit with rather cumbersome alternate table legs) to create dual sunbeds. Further comforts are the wet bar adjoining the steering console.
At the steering console, the feeling is snug with the compact hydraulic wheel, throttles for the shaft driven Yanmar 250HPs and essential electronics — Raymarine autopilot, plotter and trim tab controls. Another handy system is the anchor counter/control for the 1500W windlass and rode, especially useful when short-handed.
On the main deck, the aft area will be a key selling point for prospective buyers, especially those coming from a motorboat background where unimpeded relaxing space is enjoyed. The entire area is shaded by the flybridge extension, supported by large diameter stainless struts, and seamlessly flows into the saloon at the click of a button that lifts the aft bulkhead upwards.
Inside, the saloon is dominated by the longitudinal dinette table surrounded by an L-shaped sofa. Ahead of it is the galley, ideally placed for serving food. Over to starboard is the elevated steering console, just ahead of the stairs at each side to the hulls. The inside console has similar controls to the flybridge, and the double helm seat means command need not be a lonely job.
This demarcation cleverly divides the forepart of the saloon for working while leaving the large aft section to flow out into the cockpit or be snugly closed by that movable bulkhead. Given the Bali 4.3MY can sleep eight if four cabins are chosen, catering needs to be on a fairly grand scale. Owners won't be disappointed with the huge household fridge, generous Corian work surfaces around the U-shaped galley, and flat space on the forward bulkhead. Cooking is done on the three-burner gas hob with nearby oven, while barbecue food is put on the electric plate on the transom. Other plus points include deep double sinks, fiddles around all work surfaces, and, most importantly, good ventilation from the large sliding window at the front.
This first hull is an owner's layout, so the entire port side is a suite with two double cabins on the starboard one. Alternatively, for large families or those considering putting the Bali 4.3MY into charter, there are four cabins with four bathrooms available, the latter a good achievement for a 42-foot hull.
Accessed by steps in the forepart of the saloon, the owner's suite has the vanity table in the centre, bed aft and large bathroom forward. Single rather than the preferable two seats at the vanity was my only gripe here but, on the upside, it means lots of storage cupboards.
Around the double bed is ample headroom and hatch space, but no skylight, and a large sliding door seals the area off nicely from the saloon. A welcome hangover from the sailing 4.3 version is the escape hatch on the hull which gives good ventilation, but remember to close before seagoing.
It’s nothing particular fancy or unique but it is voluminous and offers plenty of cupboard space.
Similarly, over on the starboard side, the two cabins are functional with the stern one having the slightly larger bed but both with ensuite bathrooms — the reason for the optional water maker aboard our review boat.
Warm water boating is largely about alfresco living so generous deck space is essential and yet another major feature that the entire Bali range was designed around. Case in point, the sunken foredeck cockpit with benches and two tables is a wonderful area with triple sunpads, though the latter require better attaching. Good practicalities here include deep lazarettes and a powerful 1500W vertical windlass with deep chain locker. The optional generator also can go here, to balance the trim.
In Catana's yard, near the foothills of the majestic Pyrenees mountains at Canet-en-Roussillon, they use the latest infused foam moulding system to create a relatively light but strong vessel. Twin mini keels protect the spade rudders which are behind the shaft-driven propellers which have small skegs — in theory, the hull can dry out or survive a grounding.
Inside, the engine room in each hull is spacious so it can house hot water, air conditioners and starting batteries with room to spare. All service points — water, oil and filters — were visible on the Yanmar 4LV250 engines. Based on the Toyota 2.8L turbo intercooled direct injection diesel, accessing parts should be easy anywhere around Asia.
The four-cylinder 4LV250 has the latest common rail fuel injection with electronic engine management, enabling it to operate over a wide range of RPM without worrying about cylinder wall glazing under light loads. The 130A alternator puts stored power into the triple AGM house batteries that are deep in the nacelle, ideally situated for weight distribution to counteract the hefty 800kg of engines at the stern. Also, here I could see the sturdy steering linkages and quadrants (on stainless shafts), along with the emergency tiller (should the hydraulic steering fail).
MOTORING ON THE MEDITERRANEAN
Marina manoeuvring is the major source of stress for most boaters, and catamarans are no exception, especially if it’s windy.
But with engines located far outboard and judicious use of throttles from the commanding views afforded by the flybridge of the Bali 4.3MY, we easily pivoted within our own length before making our way past the hundreds of yachts at what is the largest marina on the south coast of France.
A placid Mediterranean Sea welcomed us, despite the stiff breeze blowing offshore. After making myself snug at the inside helm I pointed our twin bows towards my favourite islands over the horizon — the Balearics — and put the throttles down. Acceleration was not overwhelming but steady as the dull roar from the twin 250hp put us on the plane at about 14 knots then to 18 knots, the optimised cruising speed.
The auto trim tabs showed 100 per cent as their vertical fins stabilised our stern and made the ride feel comfortable. Looking at the numbers on the Yanmar dials, they showed revs of 3400 and diesel consumption at 80 litres per hour, giving a range of 180 miles, not quite the 225 miles I'd need to reach the Balearics, so I'd consider the optional larger tanks to double this capacity.
Pushing the throttles fully down made a difference as we passed the magic 20 knots and topped out a nearly 23 knots. High speed turning of catamarans is of course different, as they can't lean like monohull powerboats, so the downside is larger turning circles, but of course without spilling your G&T and completed very comfortably on the Bali 4.3MY, which will allow owners to enjoy the high life wherever in the world they voyage.
FACTS & FIGURES
€515,000 ex-factory France
Length overall (LOA) 13.10m (42ft)
Displacement 13,500kg (loaded 20,000kg)
Fuel 800L (optional 1600L for total capacity)
Fresh water 800L
Black water 2 x 60L
Make/model Yanmar XLV250HP shaft-driven
Olivier Poncin and Yann Chabaud
Chantier Catana, Canet-en-Roussillon, France
Lasta Design Studio
Dream Yacht Sales
Airlie Beach QLD 4802
P +61 (0) 457 036 756