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Boat test: Jimmy Cornell’s Outremer 4E catamaran

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Editor of Sailing Today with Yachts & Yachting Sam Jefferson tests the Outremer 4E, the boat that Jimmy Cornwell will sail around the world

Regular readers of Sailing Today with Yachts & Yachting will be familiar with the challenge that the adventurous octogenarian Jimmy Cornell has undertaken (see ST&YY October issue). For the uninitiated, he opted at the tender age of 81 to attempt a round the world trip following in the footsteps of Ferdinand Magellan.

He isn’t the first man to circumnavigate the globe via the Magellan Straits but, what makes this challenge a little different is that he selected a boat, Elcano Zero, which was entirely powered by electricity (and of course the wind); no back up diesel generator, nothing.

In a previous article in our magazine Sailing Today with Yachts & Yachting, I explored the human and practical side of this venture, but I was also fortunate enough to go out sailing with Jimmy and, as such, run the rule over Elcano Zero.

Team Cornell ready for the next circumnavigation

This is handy, because the boat is the prototype of a new yacht in the Outremer range; the Outremer 4E.

Before we get started, it’s probably best to clear up a few things. The 4E is a pioneering new model but the hull and basic layout is taken from the Outremer 45, originally launched in 2018.

What makes this boat different is the set up of the motors and power generation system which are obviously radically different from the standard twin Volvo 30hp diesels.

To start with the absolute basics; this is a 48’ catamaran designed by the Barreau Neumnann team. Displacemnt has been kept modest and, as with all the current models in the Outremer range, this is a yacht designed for fast cruising. As such, she carries daggerboards and her twin hulls are relatively skinny and clearly designed with speed in mind as opposed to simply providing high volume.

Outremer’s record on strong, safe construction is excellent and there is no question that this is one of the things that attracted Cornell to the French boatbuilder in the first place.

The hulls and deck are built in vinylester with a divinycell core but beneath the waterline the manufacturers have switched to solid fibreglass to increase strength – particularly in the case of grounding. Carbon is used in the high load areas and there are reinforced ‘crash bulwarks in the bows to ensure that the boat remains afloat in the event of a head on collision.

So you might think this was one of the big reasons Jimmy Cornell selected the Outremer for his round the world trip. In one sense you’d be right, but there was much more to it than that, as he explains: “I needed a boat that could move fast enough to provide significant power from hydrogeneration (using the propellers to generate power while under sail), the Outremer ticked that box.

“It was also important that this was a boat that could present a high surface area to the sun for recharging purposes and a multihull was therefore the obvious option. Outremer’s also have a pedigree so I could approach the project with confidence.”

 

On deck

Step aboard and you wouldn’t recognise the boat as being overly different from a run of the mill 45; there’s a roomy cockpit with the helm station set to port and ample seating as you’d expect from a catamaran with an L-shaped seating arrangement to starboard and decent sized dining table.

There are davits for the dinghy aft and above this the space is used to mount 1300W worth of solar panels which provide a significant chunk of the electricity generation for the boat. The side decks are nice and wide and access is substantially easier than on some other models that I have sailed on, with the relatively low coachroof meaning that it’s just three steps up to the helm station which still feels nice and involved with the main cockpit.

The helm station is very well thought out with two electric winches to hand plus push button control at your feet – which frees things up even more. Elcano Zero had the optional extra of a pair of outboard tillers complete with a bucket seat. This means that, if you wish, sailing really can take on a truly thrilling ‘dinghy’ feel that is rather frequently missing in cruising multihulls.

Out on the side decks, there was a real feeling of space and there were plenty of decent handholds to help you on your way. The running rigging is straight from the 45, featuring the twin electric winches at the helm station which control the mainsheet and headsail. The mainsheet traveller runs the width of the aft end of the seating area. The only other lines to complicate things are the two control lines for the daggerboards which are run aft into the cockpit area. There is substantial storage forward too, both in the fore part of the nacelle where the water tanks are located and also in the fore part of the hulls, where there was ample space for an electric outboard, extra stores etc.

The rig differs from the standard Outremer 45 and takes the concept of a rotating rig seen on the larger Outremer 4x and scales it down for the 4E. This is basically to maximise upwind performance which may prove vital on the tough beat through the Magellan Strait. The mast and boom are also in carbon as a further weight saving measure. In terms of the sail plan, the standard version has a self tacking headsail but this is augmented on Elcano Zero by a Code Zero and also a Parasailor which Jimmy explained to me he had always found to be a hugely practical sail on his previous yachts but, so far, had not proven very popular on multihulls. He hopes to change that.

 

Outremer 4EDown below

Down below Elcano Zero is 100% an Outremer 45. This means it is a thoughtfully laid out boat with a decent mount of space but perhaps not quite as much as you’d enjoy on a Lagoon or something of that type.

Outremer 4EThis is the three cabin version with the entire starboard hull being used by the owner who enjoys an ensuite. To port there are two rather more modest double cabins for guests who share a centrally positioned heads/shower room. The forward berth had an extra fold down berth.

The saloon features an L-shaped galley to starboard and opposite this forward is the nav station with the dinette to port. The quality throughout is very good and there is a nice feeling of space plus the distinct feeling that the space – certainly in the saloon has been used much more efficiently than on some other models.

A full version of this article appears in the January 2021 issue of Sailing Today with Yachts & Yachting

Under Sail

I carried out a test sail on Aventura Zero at La Grande Motte, France, where Outremer has its headquarters. The boat was not fully laden at the time of testing, but Jimmy and the crew were getting there so it was a good indicative test. The breeze was a good solid 18-20kn with a few extra gusts for good measure. The breeze was offshore and this made for very flat water. Leaving the berth was a pretty tight operation thanks to the extraordinarily tricky mooring post system and almost total lack of any breathing space. However, these were negotiated in silence thanks to the electric motors and the high levels of torque and responsiveness were a definite boon.

Getting the sails up was simple and the decision was wisely taken that conditions were too marginal for the Code Zero. This meant we were down to the self tacking jib and full main. We were soon blasting along at speeds in the high nines with very little effort at all. The helm was well balanced and you could let go of it altogether without any worries without using the autopilot. It’s never going to be as responsive as a J/24 or something like that, but by multihull standards, it was exceptional and the addition of the twin tillers is an inspired touch. She was also noticeably closer winded than other multihulls (admittedly aimed squarely at the charter market) that I have tested earlier this summer. In light airs, I was assured she performs beautifully too. As it stood, we never fell below 9kn once we got the sails up.

Is this the sort of boat you could take around the world? Definitely. Via the straits of Magellan? Well, let’s wait and see…

GREEN POWER

What makes 4E so special is the fact that this is a boat powered exclusively by sun and wind – there is no backup generator. This, therefore, the key to what makes this boat so special.

Jimmy explained to me before departure: “There are four essential factors in an electric sailing boat, and they are all dictated by the need to be able to generate electricity not just by passive means (solar panels, wind and hydrogenerator) but also active sources: the movement of the boat under sail.”

It was with this in mind that Jimmy approached Finnish company Oceanvolt, which has been working on electricity regeneration for the last 20 years and has produced an ingenious system based on its ServoProp variable pitch propeller.

The ServoProp’s unique feature is the possibility to turn the propeller blades more than 180°. The software-controlled variable pitch saildrive adjusts the pitch of the propeller blades automatically so the power generation and power output are optimal.

Combined with uniquely designed blades this delivers optimal efficiency in forward, reverse and hydrogeneration. With the blades set to the neutral sailing position, the propeller creates extremely low drag similar to the drag of a feathering propeller. The ServoProp is capable of generating an estimated 1 kW at 6 to 8 knots.Given that the Outremer is capable of sailing at around 4kn in 5kn of wind and you have a boat that can generate electricity in all but the lightest breezes.

On top of that, the ample square metreage of solar panels which are capable of generating 1,300W worth of solar power and you have a system that Jimmy believes generates enough electricity to do without a backup generator.

Jimmy has opted for a tried and tested B&G Zeus package of instruments. This time he has made certain modifications as he explains: “B&G has agreed to my suggestion to use the new boat as a test bed for possible solutions in such common emergency situations as lightning strike, autopilot failure or power blackout. This was one of the main concerns expressed by cruising sailors who took part in a recent survey among short-handed crews. This was a perfect opportunity to test the feasibility of such an arrangement.

“As I am setting off on a 32,000-miles voyage I want to be confident that we shall be able to deal with any emergency. An essential part of such self-sufficiency is having a separate emergency electrical circuit not connected to any of the boat’s networks, and thus protected from possible lightning strikes. It consists of an independent autopilot processor, with its own compass, Triton display unit, and wireless wind sensor.  An emergency 1200 Ah battery, charged by a Sail-Gen hydro-generator, would supply electricity not only to this emergency arrangement, but also to the service circuit.”

Visit Outremer Yachting

The post Boat test: Jimmy Cornell’s Outremer 4E catamaran appeared first on Sailing Today.

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