The Bénéteau Group family of sports catamarans has grown thanks to a 14-metre model, which is fun to sail and is very liveable. It sails very well, even in light winds
by Luca Sordelli
Since the time four years ago when the Excess brand was created as part of the great Bénéteau family, the approach was as clear as could be: they had to target cat fans who were halfway between people who just wanted to cruise, and those who were looking for speed and performance. The Excess multi-hulls could be considered cruiser-racers and could be compared to the First range that is also produced by Bénéteau. In other words, they are boats that can be used for going on holiday, but without ever foregoing the pleasure of sailing, and of feeling the boat. The first ones to be produced were the Excess 12 and the 15, while two years ago came the turn of the entry-level 11-metre. And now comes Excess 14, which with the long bowsprit means it is nearly sixteen metres long overall.
This latest model also carries all the distinctive family traits, starting from having the steering gear well aft, close to the water and thus very sensitive. The roof deck isn’t designed to be used, since the boom is very low to increase the sail surface as much as possible. The same idea is also behind the use of a slightly overlapping genoa on this 14-metre, while to improve performance (starting from keeping the bows out of the water as much as possible) the fins under the hulls have been shortened and made a bit deeper, as are the rudders.
The design of the waterlines is, as in all of the range, asymmetrical. The mast is located forward of the central lounge (as on the Excess 12) and so they have had to move the deck house and the cockpit slightly aft, and this all means there is more usable space in the bow where, as well as the traditional nets that span the gap between the hulls, there are two large sun pads just below the windscreen.
It doesn’t displace very much. The yard, together with the VPLP studio, was obsessive in delivering a design that reduced weight, and the bulkheads and interior furniture are made using sandwich techniques and lightweight material. In terms of structure, the principal load-bearing points have been strengthened with carbon fibre.
Two set-ups are available for the interiors, with either three or four cabins. In the latter case, the entire starboard hull is given over to the owner, who – in addition to a cabin and bathroom – also has an office area and a large amount of storage in the bow.
Another distinctive feature that runs throughout the range is the large cockpit on the same level as the central lounge, from which it is separated only by the kitchen top. That is where 90% of the day is spent while cruising, and that is where the architects have focused on creating a single welcoming, liveable area. As well as the linear sofa along the transom cap, there is a chaise-longue to starboard and a second L-shaped sofa to port that runs alongside the dining table. With the addition of two folding chairs, as many as eight people can eat there. With the two wheels set back, and not on the fly deck, the people involved in steering and handling the rigging can also be involved in life on board. Performance is decidedly good.
TWO MINI-CRANES IN THE STERN MAKE IT VERY EASY
TO LAUNCH THE TENDER. IT IS EASY TO GET INTO THE WATER
WITH THE STEPS ON THE TWO HULLS AND THE HELM STATION SEATS WHICH CAN BE RAISED TO MAKE GETTING THROUGH
TO THE COCKPIT EASIER.
For the test, we tried out the Pulse version with a slightly larger mast, and even with the true wind at eight knots, the Excess 14 didn’t just do well, it did more than that: with the Code 0, on a day with a very calm sea, we sailed at 70 degrees, reaching 6.0 – 6.2 knots, which rose to nearly 7.0 knots at 90°, and then went back below five knots, bearing up beyond 150°. Those figures show that you can use the sails in conditions in which you would normally choose to use the engine, and even enjoy the sailing.
And as soon as the wind increased, albeit, by just a bit, the fun increased exponentially. With a 12-knot wind, we sailed steadily between 7.5 and 8.2 knots, without even overdoing it with minor adjustments. It was just when we started sailing a bit closer hauled that we fell below 6.5 knots.
It felt very nice at the helm, and the boat was reasonably reactive and pleasant to handle. From the helm you have all of the riggings to hand, you just have to sort your way out in the mesh of winches and ropes. But I did appreciate having an electric winch which works both drawing and releasing the mainsail traveller, something that is essential on this kind of boat. The sightlines looking forward are a bit limited, as is always the case with catamarans that don’t have the wheel on the flybridge, but that is made up for by the large window in the central structure and the ease with which you can get around from one wheel station to the other.
F-33072 Bordeaux Cedex – France
VPLP (naval architecture) • Nauta Design (interiors)
LOA 15.99/13.97m • Length 13.34m • Maximum beam 7.87m • Maximum draft 1.48m • Light mass displacement 12,800 kg • Fuel tanks volume 2 x 200 l • Water tanks volume 2 x 300 l • Main sail sailing surface 83 m2 • Genoa sailing surface 40 m2 • Code 0 sailing surface 87 m2 • Sailing surface close-hauled 123 m2 • Sailing surface Pulse Line close-hauled 135 m2 • EC Certification Cat A 10 people
2 x 57 hp/41,9 kW Yanmar diesel
(as standard 2 x 45 hp) • Swept volume 2.19 l • 4 in-line cylinders • Bore&Stroke 88mm x 90mm • Three foldable – blades propellers
495,000 € Excl.VAT, as standard (April 2023)
(Excess 14, out of the box – Barchemagazine.com – April 2023)