Yacht Class n°19 (dec 2019/jan-feb 2020)
EXCESS – Construction Navale Bordeaux
Launching a new brand is a major challenge, even for Beneteau Group. The Excess 15 perfectly meets the fast and responsive requirement of the specifications, and also offers a seaworthy layout.
Written by: Christophe Varène – Photos : All rights reserved
When the sky acts up, a sea trial usually becomes more interesting and takes all its meaning. If it is also one of the most anticipated sailboats of the autumn shows, the programmed outing becomes exciting. And finally, when one of the sailors on board is Marc Guillemot, who has an extraordinary experience in ocean racing, this adventure promises to be comprehensive and informative. So yes, the morning began gloomy in Port Adriano, southwest of Mallorca (Balearic Islands), under a soft rain until it quickly gave way to a nice breeze of between 10 and 15 knots. Yes, this Excess 15 has piqued the curiosity of all the stakeholders of the yachting industry and yachtsmen. How could it be otherwise when one of the world’s leading yachting companies, Beneteau Group, launches a new brand, with the ambition to propose catamarans designed to offer real sensations? And yes, Marc Guillemot can boast an impressive list of achievements, including many podiums at prestigious regattas such as the Vendée Globe, the Route du Rhum or the Transat Jacques Vabre. Perfect to provide a live and objective assessment of the Excess 15’s behaviour.
A fierce catamaran!
With only one propeller, leaving the port was a mere “formality”, and soon time had come to hoist the mainsail, a fast and simple operation, even with a small crew since all the lines are within reach of the starboard helm station and the electric winch provides valuable help. The Excess 15 we tested was fitted with the Pulse Line rigging, which increases the sail area from 159.5 to 171.6 m2, for an estimated power gain of between 5 and 7%. Unfurling the self-tacking jib was just as easy, and straight away, our catamaran came to life. At 40 degrees to the apparent wind, she easily reached 8.5 knots, and with a beautiful lifting wind, the boat was rather fiery, and offered an additional knot. And when the helmsman decided to slightly open the angle between 110 and 120° and replace the jib by the Code 0, the boat accelerated again to settle at around 10 knots. But more importantly, – and this was the challenge and the promise made by the designers of this new brand -, the Excess 15 is reactive at the helm, confirming the expertise of VPLP architectural office. The choice of the two helm stations, in contrast to the single high-up one, is interesting. They both deliver excellent visibility on the sails, the seas and the bows – thanks notably to the very wrap-around saloon windows – but they also give the helmsman precision and sensations thanks to the direct use of the Vectran lines. We leave it up to Marc Guillemot to conclude this trial: “I didn’t expect her to go so fast and reach right away around 8.5 knots. She is not a racing boat – I don’t have the reflex to push a button to adjust the sails with electric winches – but we still experience sensations. I would not mind embarking on a trip, after perhaps slightly lightening the boat, to sail under one reef mainsail and gennaker at a fishing speed, for dolphinfishes.” That’s a nice compliment from a sailor who knows what he is talking about. And to make the boat even lighter, Marc Guillemot would like to remove some elements, such as air conditioning, which do not match his activity as an offshore racer, but show that the Excess 15, is both lively but also smooth and comfortable.
On board, many details confirm that this catamaran is actually made for pleasure sailing. The steering station settees are elegant, more suitable for sailing under automatic pilot, and can be folded to free up the access to the aft skirts. Hanging from the davits, the elegant Highfield tender features the same subtle combination of grey and orange as the Excess 15. As for the cockpit, it offers to the guest three settees and a spacious and friendly table protected by a sunroof.
The starboard hull for the master suit
A large bay window opens onto the saloon where the Nauta Design placed emphasis on modernity, simplicity and functionality. The forward lounge enjoys a panoramic view thanks to the wrap-around windows providing maximum brightness. The galley occupies a key place between the inside and the outside. Note that even if a catamaran, by nature, does not list, or just slightly, the fiddles on the furniture are very convenient. Whereas there is no railing to secure the top of the two companionways located in the galley. Our Excess 15 was the three-cabin version. On portside two guest cabins, with double berths and private head room, are similar in size and offers many cupboards, including stylish and useful leather tidies. The master suite occupies the starboard hull and features a bedroom with a large island bed, a lounge/office with wardrobe and bookshelves, independent toilets and a bathroom with double basin and shower stall. Over the entire length, the hull and deck windows provide sea view and clarity to this warm yet sober space. In the end, Excess 15 has successfully met the challenge. She is as Bruno Belmont, in charge of the brand development from the very beginning, wanted her to be : lively at the helm, likely to seduce even monohull enthusiasts, but also comfortable thanks to simplified, but neat and high-quality fittings. To be consumed with Excess !
Yann Masselot (CEO of CNB)
“Sharper and ready-to-sail catamarans”
“The project Excess, which began taking form in 2008, is based on a study of the current catamaran production. 90% of it is part of the market focusing on comfort and luxury, in contrast to the remaining 10%, positioned between simplicity and sensation. The Excess range – today the 12 and 15, soon to be joined by the 11 (to be presented in Dusseldorf in January 2020), 13 and 14 -, aims to be at the centre of this universe and to reconcile all its aspects. In addition, this market, which has grown from 5% to 50% of worldwide turnover in 20 years, has become more mature with clients who now own their second or even third catamaran. We focused on the performance by optimizing the rigging (square top mainsail, higher and positioned far aft mast, shorter boom…) and improving the nacelle/beam ratio thanks to a shorter central nacelle, among other points. We are therefore targeting seasoned customers, but also young people (30-40 years old) who enjoy switching from one leisure activity to another, by offering them a boat encouraging multiactivity: sailing, travel, kitesurfing, paddle… Our commercial strategy consists in offering ready-to-sail boats, in other words basic packages that includes the square top mainsail, the electric winch, an electronic pack, the tender davits, a 220 V circuit and a battery park. The Excess 12 is launched at the price of 311 000 € before taxes and the Excess 15 at 625 000 € before taxes.”