Neel 65 Evolution is 19-metre cabin trimaran which moves fast under sail and sails close hauled a little bit better than a catamaran. Comfort requires a bit of room
by Niccolò Volpati, photo by Olivier Blanchet
I am really very curious. I have never tried out a cabin trimaran, and I want to understand if it is true, as some people say, that it is very different from a catamaran. It is very comfortable, and there is lots of room, but not much performance – that is the prevailing opinion of a catamaran. Perhaps that’s true, if we are talking about two hulls, but when there are three of them, things ought to be different.
The location is one that commands respect: La Rochelle. I have never seen so many sailing ship masts in a harbour. They go as far as the eye can see. Despite the fact that I have been here a number of times, I would never have managed to find the Neel 65 Evolution if somebody from the shipyard hadn’t gone with me. The weather has also come to our meeting.
The wind is blowing at around 15 knots, no less. And there is a slight wave. Around 40 centimetres high. We raise the mainsail and unfurl the self-furling foresail. There is also a genoa on the winder in the bow, which is over twice the size, but the captain tells me that from 15 knots upwards, he prefers the small sail. Not just because it tacks on its own, but also because 110 m2 of mainsail and nearly 35 of foresail are more than enough with this wind speed.
He’s right, because performance in speed terms is more than respectable. With the wind between 15 and 16 knots, we sail at around nine. When, moving away from the coast, the wind strengthens a few knots and goes up to between 17 and 18, the trimaran goes at a constant speed of around ten knots. And it does more or less at every point of sail, without much difference between them. The speed is nearly always the same.
It is a really great feeling, and I have to admit, compared to a catamaran that never tilts at all, I like the Neel 65 Evolution more. Perhaps that is because of the windward hull that is always out of the water. Nothing extreme. It raises by a couple of dozen centimetres, but that is enough to give a feeling that you never get on a catamaran. It feels more like a monohull boat, that heels when sailing close to the wind.
But things change at the helm. The feeling isn’t so nice. The hydraulic system is fairly tough. There are two wheels, not far from one another. There is no doubt of the advantage of having a double wheel, not because of the gain in visibility, which is good, even when we unfurl the genoa, which is distinctly bulkier than the foresail, and could thus reduce visibility. The rigging is all channelled through the flybridge to not far from the helmsman’s seat.
In beam seas she moves beautifully. I try to sail upwind. Up to sixty degrees from the wind the boat doesn’t lose speed and continues going at around ten knots. If you push your luck a bit further, things change. But we did manage to get to 45 degrees, losing speed, but without coming to a halt, and that is essentially an angle that is definitely too tight for many cruising catamarans. From that point of view the trimaran wins hands down.
What didn’t convince me so much was the way it handles. Neel 65, perhaps in part because of its size, given that the hull is a full 19 metres long, is not especially agile. It is a good feeling when sailing, but it isn’t a boat made to go out and go for a quick spin. That is clear, given that we are not on board a dinghy. But in general the feeling is that it is better if you can avoid tacking. We are on board a large floating house.
Neel 65 is a boat made to spend a long time at sea without having to go into port. There is so much room that mentioning feels like pointing out the obvious. The beam at its maximum point is twelve metres. Compared to a catamaran of a similar length, it is a good two metres wider. All this means that there are abundant open spaces.
The Neel trimarans are famous for their dinette areas, to such an extent that the yard even wanted to copyright the name. Neel has invented a syllogism – “cocksaloon”.
The word comes from putting cockpit and saloon together. And the one on the 65, the yard’s flagship, can’t fail to make an impression. It is so big that it feels like a dance hall. The galley is to starboard. It is a separate area, all enclosed in glass, both looking to the interior and the dinette, and the exterior, the gangway. It reminds me of a kitchen on a television show. At any moment I expect somebody to come out with a dish to try.
The owner’s cabin is similarly appealing, with the bed head positioned to give a splendid view outside. The layout also has three other cabins, one for each hull and all of them with a private bathroom. There is a fifth one that you reach from the stern area of the dinette, which is ideal for the crew.
I am less convinced by the furnishings. It feels as though they haven’t been given much thought because of the amount of room available. Why, for example, are there two lunch tables, two metres away from one another? If the main feature is the cocksaloon, why have two tables, one in the dinette and one in the cockpit, as if it were two separate rooms?
There is a similar arrangement up above on the flydeck. It has two large tables, one next to the other. They aren’t joined together: there is a 15-centimetre gap in the middle, nearly a kind of corridor, which isn’t even enough to walk through. So basically here too the feeling is that in the stern part of the flybridge there was so much room available that it was decided, without really thinking it through, to fill up the space somehow.
By contrast, a space that has been well used, is that for the garage for the tender, which has been taken out of the central hull. It opens with a remote control, and there is a circuit system to launch and recover the tender. You just attach the carabiner to the tow hook at the stern of the tender and activate the – electric – controls of the winch. All of it is simple, and accessible. And spacious, given that it can hold a four-metre tender.
Neel 65 Evolution
Project: Joubert-Nivel (naval architecture), Franck Darnet Design (interior design)
Hull: LOA 19.20m • LWL 19.00m • Maximum beam 12.05m • Draft 1.80m – Light mass dispalcement 20,700 kg • Water tank volume 950 l • Fuel tank volume 1.000 l • Main sail surface 110 m2 • Genoa surface 96 m2 • Staysail surface 34,5 m – Spi surface 245 m2
Main Propulsion: Volvo D3-150 • Outlet mechanical power 110 kW
(150 hp) • 5 cylinders – Swept volume 2,4 l – Bore&Stroke 81mm x93,2 mm • Compression ratio 16.5:1 • MAximal rotational speed 3000/min • Dry weight 301 kg • In-line propulsion with a 4 foldable blades propeller
CAT A 14 people, CAT B 16 people
Price:1.598.000 €, Excl.VAT for a 3 cabins version
4 rue Virginie Hériot
Plateau nautique, BP 23085
F-17032 La Rochelle Cedex, France
+33 546 29087
Marina Cala Galera 24
I – 58108 Porto Ercole
tel + 39 0564830234
+ 39 335220742
(Neel 65 Evolution – Marzo 2019)