A few weeks ago we visited the 2019 United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis Maryland. Over the course of two days, Saturday and Sunday, we visited a variety of boats. Day one was focused on catamarans and we started the day on the new Excess 12 from Groupe Beneteau. So, sit back and enjoy our Excess 12 Review.
We boarded the boat via home-made gang-plank to the starboard sugar scoop. The scoops are wide and only a few short steps to the cockpit level. Immediately you are greeted by the starboard helm station forcing you to turn port into the main cockpit area. The cockpit spacious and neat with a long bench at the rear of the bridge deck. The helm seats, when not in use, fold in half and vertical inboard on each end of this bench. A small cushioned seat runs fore along the starboard side until it meets a refrigerator. On the starboard, a long bench and table make for plenty of outdoor seating room for crew and guests beyond what could comfortably sleep aboard.
The model we visited was equipped with the optional sliding soft-top roof over the cockpit. A GRP roof extends all the way aft on each side with support posts. This top at first glance seems fun. However, we quickly realized that we are typically trying to find ways to hide from the sun rather than soak in it. If one wants sun on this type of boat, there is plenty of trampoline and foredeck area out front for your UV pleasures.
One of the major ways that the Excess 12 is differentiated from its sister/cousin, the Lagoon 40 from which the hulls are shared, is with dual helms. On many boats, this arrangement liberates the cockpit area in the middle making for a more open feel. Compared to the Lagoon, this has not been accomplished here. If anything, deck spaces at the sugar scoop have been reduced significantly while only adding an outdoor refrigerator where the helm station would be on the Lagoon.
We are unconvinced that the execution of the dual helms on this boat is worthwhile. While it would make docking easier, it leaves the helms exposed during harsh weather being isolated from the main cockpit and only being enclosed on three sides. We were also unimpressed with the folding helm seats. While seemingly sturdy enough, I suspect in rough seas I would not feel comfortable leaning back against the textile backing stretched between two poles that constitute the back-rest. Seated directly over the top step on the sugar scoop, tipping back puts one in the drink.
Entry to the saloon is continuous with no step or well. There is a large drain across the floor in front of the door for rough seas and weather to keep the saloon dry. The saloon, for a “small” catamaran, is plenty spacious for a couple or small family. There is comfortable seating around a large table with a movable bench seat (secured how while in rough seas?). The port side bench has no back and is shared seating with the port-facing navigation station. The layout of the nav station is minimalistic but adequate for a modern boat.
The galley, or kitchen, is small but adequate. We found, unlike an earlier review by Ruby Rose, solid surface countertops. However, there were no lips or handrails to keep sundries and people where they are supposed to be while the boat is in motion. The galley is L shaped with the back of the person using it exposed to the open saloon making meal prep challenging in rough seas.
A storage and TV area is located to starboard just as you enter from the cockpit for you to enjoy watching our Youtube videos.
The Guest Hull:
We had to divide our below deck time with a visit to the foredeck due to another couple being shown the master hull by none other than Wiley Sharp, of Dennison Yachting. So we first ventured down into the guest hull. This boat was configured in the three-cabin, two-head version. At the bottom of the stairs is the guest/day head.
The guest head is pleasantly large with a separate shower stall. Basin, fixtures, and finishes were modern styled and of seemingly adequate quality. The aft stateroom features a half-to-one-third walk around bed suitable for two average-sized adults. There were a few lockers and storage drawers for necessities.
The forward stateroom trades some bed size and bed access for a little more flat floor space with a large hanging locker next to the shower stall. Entry to the forward bed is somewhat blocked by a bulkhead and will require occupants to crawl up and in before spinning around to lay down feet towards the bow. Clearly a bed for short term visitors or youth.
The Owners’ Hull:
The owner’s hull is quite nice for this size vessel. It features an identical bed arrangement to the aft guest cabin, but with the head placed all the way forward with the spacious shower at the bulkhead for the sail locker, there is ample room for a seating bench, a desk/vanity seat, hanging lockers, and some smaller lockers and drawers.
The head and shower occupy the same footprint as the forward stateroom on the guest side and are more than adequate if not lacking a little storage for linens. A sliding bookshelf acts as the door to close off the owner’s suite from the saloon without losing space to a swinging door. In fact, it has fairly deep shelves and conceals even more storage that becomes accessible when the door is open. On the opposite side of the stairs are some flush hatches concealing some of the electrical and mechanical systems.
The Deck and Topsides:
One accesses the side decks via a few steps in front of either helm station. Hatches along the side decks are flush-mounted but have raised dome vents that could be a toe-stub/tripping hazard. The shrouds do not impede movement forward due to thier location just forward of the helm stations. However, this will limit the swing angle of the boom for down-wind sailing.
For whatever reason, likely cost, the sail locker hatches were not recessed and again pose a potential tripping hazard at sea. Like the Lagoon 40, there is a gutter along the roof that doubles as a handhold. It is adequate for even smaller hands, but quite high and a reach for those who are vertically challenged. Even for my larger hands, I feel a rail gives me a more secure hold and also somewhere to clip onto in rough seas. I assume this can be added as an option.
There is a small ladder that stows in the roof at the front center of the saloon to facilitate accessing the main and rigging. We were not impressed by its sturdiness with our salesperson fidgeting with it to get it settled. There are also no rails apart from the gutter once you are atop the roof suggesting you mount via knee. With nothing further to steady yourself until you reach the mast, it will be a scramble in rough seas provided you don’t trip on the self-tacking jib track.
Thanks to the dual helms, the boom swings quite low to the roof giving excellent access to the main for service and reefing. The soft-top is supposedly walkable, but again in rough seas this will be an uneven footing that gives more and less depending on where you step and could lead to twisted ankles. I would opt for the hardtop and mount solar panels rather than take the soft-top model.
Comparison to the Lagoon 40:
The two boats share identical hulls and nearly identical specs. With the boom heigh lower, the excess sports a bit more sail area at a lower center of gravity. We can see the mast height is only about 6″ different, and shorter on the Excess 12. The mainsail and code zero areas seem the only sail areas noticeably different on the Excess. On the Lagoon 40 specification found on thier website, there appears to be a typo swapping the sizes of the self-tacking jib with the code zero. Given that, the jibs are identical as might be expected.
All other capacities and features are the same apart from displacement. The Lagoon 40 reports a slightly heavier displacement of 24,001lbs vs. 22,712lbs on the Excess 12. Given they have identical hulls, we can assume there is more carrying capacity on the Excess 12.
Overall I was pleased with the styling and quality as far as we could investigate it. I like the minimalistic European styling and even the burnt umber color of the upholstery. I felt the layout was good and moving about the boat seemed effortless, at least at the dock. I don’t think this would be our first choice in a cruising catamaran for live-aboard use or long-distance passage making. As a vacation home in warm climes and for fair-weather sailing, I can see it being a great boat for the size.
I hope you enjoyed our Excess 12 Review and found it useful. If you have comments, questions, or corrections feel free to leave a comment below. We would love to know what you think of the boat.