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Excess 12 - It's a sensation!

by John Curnow, Global Editor, 30 May 2021 18:00 PDT
Whether you're the only sailor aboard, or someone else wants to join in, the Excess 12 will make all feel welcome © John Curnow

(Well actually it is more than one…) You know, the father of Excess, Bruno Belmont, always said to me that Excess is all about delivering sailing sensations, with the amenity of a cruising cat. A boat for you to keep enjoying your sailing, and also one that offers family and guests their own cabin, multiple zones for private space, and shallow draft for all those island escapes you’re going to do.

Having just delivered the Excess 12 from Pittwater back to Sydney, I can attest to mission accomplished. You get a sense of the windward hull just lifting, and of course it’s not flying (and never will). You get to look through the optional sunroof to the main, and all its telltales. You’ve got direct connection to the rudders, and the Excess cat will use the wind that’s available, so you’ll be sailing early, especially of course if you go for the optional, taller Pulse Rig. You will definitely also be having a code zero or straight luff screecher. Finally, if you’re seriously contemplating some miles offshore then also a proper asymmetric bag, because if there’s wind, you’ll want to use it.

Now straight off the bat we are going to the elephant in the room. Some marine journalists have commented somewhat despairingly about the furniture on the Excess catamarans. I mean honestly, just exactly what are you expecting this side of a Royal Huisman?

Production vessels have had composite panels like these for what seems like an eternity. Notwithstanding colour options over the years, and an ever increasing brilliant use of space, as well as overall fit and finish from always improving technology, possibly the only difference is that they have become lighter in mass, yet retain a genuine tactility, as manufacturers do all they can to reduce the displacement of their craft. Right oh. Rant over.

So yes, I really like the interior. I think the neutral grey and modern feel is apartment-esque. After all, it is what is wanted in this market, and you can jazz it all up with the Excess Orange if you so choose. Ours was the three-cabin version, with the owner’s hull to port. To my mind it actually all works a treat, plus there’s a full double up for’ard on the starboard side, which again, is a clever idea. Not feeling cramped, neither having to enter cabins sideways, nor duck for anything and everything, is always a real bonus. Ours had three fridges – two in the galley, one in the cockpit – and of course there are alternatives, as you have come to expect from Groupe Beneteau.

The main saloon offers great connection to the cockpit. The coachhouse roof is high, and the vertical, untinted windows provide for superb vision all around, from helm seat to nav desk, cockpit to galley. Again, this is all part of the sensation aspect, so that wherever you are, you can you feel connected with boat and water. I would have probably just liked slightly larger windows on the very edge of the cockpit where they go into the pillars, which are substantial, but the rest of it’s very clever. You do get to see both bows from either helm, along with the entire craft, and again, think of the sensation of being connected with your vessel.

Being deck stepped, and very much aft set, the post for the rig actually forms the demarcation of the galley, as well as offering a handy grab hold in the event of a nasty seaway. Cats have wide-open spaces, so a point to aim for on your way in or out is a well thought out touch.

Now we just mentioned aft stepped, and it is a real focal point, not only for giving a sporty appearance, like a car with low profile tyres, air dam and wings, except here what we’re looking at is a significant rake, impressive square top main, and respectable fore triangle with a real jib in there that actually works, very much dichotomous to the rear spoiler on say a standard Toyota Corolla.

So this is a sailing vessel that does have responses akin to a monohull, and just a dash of daring to which cats are most commonly identified. For instance, it will even just give you the vague notion of lifting a hull, which I think is a good thing. Normally, in any sun blasted climate, something like an opening roof is thought of as only for the Europeans. Yet here is a really interesting development, for I would consider the sliding cockpit sunroof as mandatory as the taller Pulse Rig, for both speak directly to the level of sensation, which goes to the crux of what we are talking about here.

If you’re under autopilot you can close it. If you’re out on either helm, which you’ll do from anything further aft of cracked sheets, then that is the time to make hay, so you may as well have the best harvester. Right?!!! The Excess 12 does actually go well under two-sail, but as we mentioned earlier, you’ll be definitely having a range of off-the-breeze sails in the wardrobe, and there’s plenty of space to store them up for'ard.

So yes. The helms are outside. As the Swedes always say to me, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. So get a big hat, a face and neck gaiter/scarf, long sleeve top, and laugh away. It’s exactly what I did as I relished both sailing time, and the late Autumnal sun. There is an optional shade you can tick the box for, but then it impedes on said sight lines, which is one of the very sensations you did all this for.

Now having the sunroof does mean that you’ll have to do the boom bag from either side. It’s not that onerous, but does remind one of a famous little ditty and tulips, so pay attention. So I just put a foot up and clambered onto the roof using the huge drainage gutter as a finger hold like I was up for mountaineer of the year. I just found the collapsible ladder on the leading edge of the coaming a little bit light. Don’t worry, it still took my 100kg no problem, but did leave me feeling a bit like, ‘So where’s the steak?’

I’m not the only one as it would turn out. Seems the very cool idea that is the Excess Lab, which is the new area for owners and other interested parties to provide feedback to the factory’s designers and build team about all that they have on their mind, has also taken up this point. Upshot is that a new wooden, and removable ladder has been fitted moving forward. By the way, Excess’ Thibaut de Montvalon, who is in charge of her commercial success, even answers some of these questions and concerns himself. That’s certainly closing the loop.

Ultimately, you end up with a 40-foot cat that gives you the space of maybe a 60-foot mono. So you’ve got all that entertainment space; you’ve got a whole owner’s hull; and I think the real thing is that you can have your ten people, if that’s how many you want to have on board, but you’ll also actually be going for a yacht in far more conditions than any other production cruising cat I’ve been on. At the end of the day, that’s the whole point - to go for a yacht - and for all the others, they can enjoy the inherent form stability of a cat.

It is single line reefing. So if somebody was getting carried away you could easily put the first slab in, and you know you’re not going to come unstuck. You will definitely be ordering furling sails for downhill work, and enjoying the associated speed, because she will take off with whatever power you can give her.

Whilst talking control lines, there’s an optional electric winch for halyards to port, then reefs and so forth to starboard (the main helm station), sheeting runs to the two of them, with roller reefing and continuous furler for the Ace all to port. The grey and orange colour coding works, but you do have to pay attention whilst learning. Two forward vees means this, grey with orange flecks means that, and so forth. At any rate, the rope bags were big and well placed and it all meant that in combination with the German mainsheet system right beside you at the helm, the cockpit was free of spaghetti, which is again something you want if you are the sailor, and the rest of the POBs are guests.

So just on that very point, I made this comment on the way down the coast. It was simply, ‘You will use the apparent breeze.’ OK, it’s not like the Figaro 3 I had played so joyously with the day before. Der. What I do think, is that it’s a case of unless you’re looking at a very high-end carbon or alloy cat, then you’re just not going to see some fun without some serious extra zeros before the decimal point. It’s just not going to happen. This is where it’s at for the bulk of the market.

Graham Raspass from the Australian Distributor, Flagstaff Marine, is definitely excited by the brand, and joined me for the trip down the coast. With the first Excess 12 now with its owner, Raspass reflected on the emergence of the brand here in Australia. “I think we were initially a little sad that we couldn’t do the full launch last year when it was scheduled, but now that we’re able to get the boat out and place her in front of potential customers, I think they’re now seeing the same level of excitement as we’ve enjoyed for a while now.”

“It’s a boat where if you enjoy sailing you really do get the sensation of sailing with all of the benefits of a catamaran. The first one sold to a customer in Port Douglas, and we expect to see this Excess 12 sold fairly quickly. We also have an Excess 11 coming at the end of the year.”

So when it becomes time for you to obey orders and have a family oriented craft, and you’re definitely not ready to live with a motor-sailer, then the Excess 12 is a no-brainer for you. Same for anyone who is the type that buys a car because it moves you, and is not just vanilla on wheels.

Equally, it would seem that this is the case across the Excess range, as well. You will be amazed too, price wise, for if you exclude shipping, then they are numbers you can certainly see working for you. They are not as expensive as you might have thought, and certainly make any cheaper competition look just that…

If you are intending to bring it down under then that cost is what it will be on the day, for there are simply not the number of ships making the entire transit as there once were. Over time it will change, but perhaps by then European travel will also be back on the menu.

None the less, one thing you will have to do is deal with the queue. Every reputable builder now has one as a result of the year that 2020 was. The Excess 12 we sailed is for sale now, the result of Flagstaff Marine making sure they had secured forward build slots. The Excess 11 that will arrive soon can also be yours, but the thinking is that even if just a soupçon of that craft’s popularity filters over the equator to here, then it too will be gone, providing the much sought after respite boating has so profoundly delivered to the world in this interesting time.

After all, if you are going down this path then it is simply because it is about the sensations, and more importantly, you receiving and enjoying them.