Immediately next door to the Excess 12 (reviewed last week) at the 2019 United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis Maryland was the Bavaria/Nautitech 40 Open and 46 Open. We spent some time with Flo Tarjan of Aeroyacht in Stonybrook, NY on Long Island taking a tour of both yachts. She was fairly insightful having raised her family aboard a few Nautitech boats herself. Her husband Gregor, the founder of Aeroyacht, is an insightful author and authority on multihull sailing yachts worth reading. Follow along for our experience and impressions in our Nautitech 40 Open Review.
As with most of the cats at the show, we boarded from the sugar scoops. Thanks to the hard chines, the sugar scoops are generously wide and flat despite the narrow hull beneath and feature only a single step up into the cockpit level. The bridge deck seems a bit low and the thought of waves washing over the cockpit floor did cross my mind as we entered. However, there are floor drains across each entryway behind the helms and a large full-width trough across the saloon door to catch anything that made it past the helms.
Entering from the starboard scoop, we stepped up behind the starboard helm station. Access was clear and lead us via a left turn into the spacious, if not huge for this size yacht, cockpit area. Nautitech has differentiated this cat in two ways from the bulk of the competition and the size of the outdoor seating area is one of them. The “open” concept is to push the saloon wall forward and make more outdoor space rather than indoor space. However, with the saloon door open, the boundary feels a bit vague.
The cockpit space is large and simple with two long benches running almost all the way from the saloon to the helm stations on each side. The distance between is more than enough to situate the long table and another row of folding chairs while still having room to walk past. The cockpit area is enclosable with optional canvas and extends the indoor area outside in all but the coldest weather. There is also a bench seat across the back of the bridge deck between the sugar scoops.
There are two helm stations positioned a bit further forward than the Excess 12. Each helm has a dedicated seat with permanent backrest that looks and feels more substantial as well. Visibility forward is good with tall windows in the saloon offering views diagonally to each bow.
The cockpit and sugar scoop decks are covered in a synthetic teak flooring that provides an attractive and low maintenance surface. A big plus in our minds even though we have heard that it gets hot in mid day sun. There are linear LED lights across the roof that are carried into the saloon to enhance the one-space look and feel and provide ambiance lighting at night.
The saloon is the weak point of this cat. I understand the philosophy was to assume the outdoor table to be part of the saloon in the “open” concept but it just feels lacking. A lot of compromises are made to squeeze the galley and a small seating area/nav station into this space. The nav station is a convertible table system that doubles as a small dinette or a small couch all-in-one. It is a cute and clever execution with a fold-out table should you have to cram everyone inside for some reason. But, it feels strange.
The galley is adequately equipped but, like the Excess 12, lacks anywhere to brace yourself while preparing food at sea. There is a small cooktop and oven next to the companionway and across the way another countertop for food prep, although it is partially in the stairwell to the guest hull. A slip sideways will send you down into the hull.
There are no lips or rails on the countertop either to prevent items from sliding off in rough seas but there is workable space to carry out the task. The door to the cockpit opens past the sink, nearly to the cooktop, and there are very large windows all around the saloon making it very bright and “open” feeling. It is obvious they have made a clear effort to blend the indoor and outdoor spaces. Lastly, there does not seem to be any good place to mount a television for you to watch our videos. You’ll have to manage on your tablet.
The Guest Hull:
To starboard is the guest hull with two staterooms, one forward and one aft as is typical. There are a shared head and shower with central access at the bottom of the stairs with a small but separate shower stall divided with a curtain. The styling and fixtures are adequate and suit my tastes. However, there is a significant difference in some of the qualities compared to the Excess 12 that this boat seems to be competing with.
For example, my eyes were immediately drawn to the round plastic cover below the shower hose in the photo above. Functional, I’m sure, but a more elegant solution must have been available.
The forward berth, despite the narrow hulls, seemed more easily accessible than on the wider Excess 12. Despite being narrower at the bow-end, having the bulkhead a few feet from the aft end of the bed makes it much easier to climb into.
The aft stateroom also features a climb-in bed arrangement thanks to the narrow hulls. But the bed is fairly wide and there are adequate storage compartments in the rooms and in the hallway connecting the two berths. The double windows provide a great view out of the bed and provide a lot of natural light combined with the overhead hatch. These double windows are a welcome upgrade from prior model years. Vents for fresh are built into both the hatch, side windows, and a porthole to the rear.
The Owners Hull:
The boat is available as both a 4 cabin charter layout and a 3 cabin owner’s version. Like most boats at the show, the one we visited was the owner’s version featuring a large master bath forward and extended master bedroom aft.
Being a fair amount narrower below decks than the Excess 12, the Open 40 has a bit less storage although laid-out similarly with a desk/vanity and hanging lockers.
Forward is the owner’s head with a separate shower enclosed by glass doors. These doors felt a bit flimsy and the transparent plastic/rubber closer between the panes feels a bit cheap. However, these are probably the sorts of details that contribute to the relatively low weight of this catamaran.
There is a sliding door to close off the owner’s hull from the saloon, but there is not enough room it seems to have shelving in this door as seen on the Excess 12. A reasonable desk/vanity area resides at the bottom of the stairs with a large hanging locker just forward. A minimal bulkhead separates this area from the master bed aft. The same large double windows and hatches illuminate the master bedroom with plenty of natural light and the owner’s hull overall feels bright and roomy despite the narrow hulls.
The Deck and Topside:
The side decks are easily mounted from just ahead of either helm station with just a few steps. The shrouds on the Open 40 are just a bit forward of the cockpit giving wider boom swing for downwind sailing than the Excess 12 but a steep enough not to hinder passage to the foredecks. The side decks are generously wide but are encumbered by raised hatches that could be a tripping hazard in rough seas.
Forward we found some nice features and some shortcomings. There is a rain gutter that doubles as a handhold along the roof leading forward but no rail to clip onto. Again, A rail might be a possible option to be added. The lines for the sheet and traveler of the self-tacking jib run through deck organizers and then down the inboard length of the side decks. In general not that invasive, but near the front of the saloon, they do stick out far enough to be a tripping hazard.
There is a large trampoline area between the sponsons and there is a nice overhang covering the attachment of the tramp that gives a nice clean look. Port and starboard sail lockers are large enough to have a small bunk in each if necessary.
The mast is set at the very front of the saloon with two sturdy step ladders to port and starboard giving easy access to service the mainsail. One can hold onto the various rigging or winch while mounting the roof. The dual helms leave the boom swinging close to the roof further increasing access and lowering the center of effort. Two skylights permit viewing the main trim while standing watch in the saloon.
Comparison to the Excess 12:
The Excess 12 seems like the logical boat to compare the Open 40, and not just because it was next door. They have a lot in common, at least from a marketing perspective. They are both marketed as small “sporty” cruising catamarans. Lagoons, however, have never been known as being particularly sporty. What makes a catamaran fast has as much to do with hull design as anything else so we should expect there to be some big differences between these two.
Length overall is similar, with the Nautitech being 10″ longer than the Excess at 39’4″. We find a similar story in beam, the Nautitech 6″ wider at 22’8″. Mast height is quite a bit higher on the Nautitech and just 9″ over ICW limit at 65’9″ compared to the Excess and nearly a full 5′ taller.
The main on the Nautitech comes in 14% larger than the Excess 12 at 678 sqft (assuming the Pulseline option on the Excess gives you a bigger main). The jib on the Open 40 is 14% smaller at 301 sqft. Total upwind sail area on the Nautitech is 979 sqft and 4.5% greater than the Excess 12.
The optional headsails are large and many for the Nautitech. While the Code 0 is 22% smaller at 592 sqft (55m), the optional gennaker reacher is 753 sqft (70m), gennaker runner 1044 sqft(97m), and asymmetric 1022sqft (95M). Presumably, some of these optional sails would also be available for the Excess 12.
Displacement is the big differentiator based on what we can see from spec sheets. We know anecdotally that the Nautitech has finer and narrower hulls and this, in turn, leads to lower hull volume and therefore displacement. But we see this born out in the published displacement values. The Nautitech comes in a whopping 21% lighter at 18,739lbs vs. the Excess 12 at 22,712lbs. That’s nearly two tones lighter on the Nautitech Open 40.
Engine power is near enough the same as not to matter unless one specifies the 45HP option on the Excess 12. Fuel capacity is slightly larger on the Nautitech by 8 gallons. Freshwater is substantially larger on the lighter Open 40 at 114 gallons vs a mere 79 on the Excess 12. There isn’t much room to squeeze a water maker on to these boats either.
Holding tank size is not published for the Nautitech, but this can be an issue for liveaboards. I’ve read on some advertisements there may be two tanks at 30l (60l/15.8gal), one tank per head. This is a bit small compared to the Excess at 160l/42gal meaning more trips to the pump-out.
With such a huge difference in displacement and hull shape, we can expect a huge difference in sailing performance. Add to that an increase in sail area in favor of the Nautitech and we should no doubt expect a much more spirited ride in the Open 40. This does come at the cost of carrying capacity and space below decks.
We found the dual helms a bit more reassuring on the Nautitech being better separated from the sugar scoop by distance and a permanent seating arrangement. One is still isolated from a closed cockpit with weather canvas up with either boat and only protected from three sides.
We found the mast layout and roof access much more logical on the Nautitech and even with the raised hatches and deck organizers (the dome vents on the Excess aren’t much better) we preferred the Nautitech’s design.
Another feature not talked up much is that the Nautitech construction is nearly wood free. There are a lot of technical arguments supporting balsa core construction. I have read a lot of them. There are foam detractors like this yacht surveyor. A properly executed balsa core, comparing thickness and weight, is stronger and stiffer and should be just as tolerant of accidental water intrusion. That said, perfect never happens. Balsa cores are also more brittle and delamination from strain or impact likely.
Synthetic foam cores, while not as rigid and sometimes heavier to compensate, have a superior impact and stress tolerance. Should an unintended penetration happen with a foam core, far less damage likely apart from freeze expansion (both suffer similarly). Being wood-averse, the foam core is a huge advantage in our opinion. Modern foam cores like the Divinycell used by Nautitech have very high heat distortion temperatures (257F) and balsa like strength(or even stronger) with the toughness needed to survive impacts and strain damage.
Lastly, the price is nice. The Nautitech base price is in the low $400k range delivered to the east coast and low fives nicely optioned for cruising. That’s a bit more money than the Excess 12, reported at mid $350k range base and mid $450k range nicely optioned. I was honestly expecting it to be a bit more given the performance factor. But, it is a small cat targeted at the lower end of the market.
In summary, I like this boat more and more as time goes by. However, another 6 ft on the water makes a huge difference. Stay tuned for our review of the Nautitech Open 46 coming next week. We hope you have enjoyed our Nautitech 40 Open review and found it useful. Please let us know your thoughts on the boat and if you feel we left anything out.