By Caroline Strainig
The breeze is light but steady, the sun is shining, and the boat is slipping through the water effortlessly. Everyone on board is smiling, savouring the moment. “It doesn’t get much better than this,” I reflect, as I sit back and take in the luxurious catamaran we’re on.
For me, almost any day on the water is pretty good, but this one is extra-special: we’re on Fountaine Pajot’s new catamaran, the Astrea 42. Queensland/Asia Pacific agent Multihull Solutions had invited me along to check out the Astrea, which debuted last year but has already won two boat-of-the-year awards.
Sales are also impressive. More than 200 have already been sold internationally, with Multihull Solutions responsible for 21. Staff told me most Australian owners are opting to pick-up their new boat from the factory in France and sail the Med before heading home. What an adventure – lucky them!
Looking around, it’s easy to see why the Astrea 42 is so popular. Fountaine Pajot is a world-leader when it comes to manufacturing catamarans, and this new model combines the space today’s buyer demands with cutting-edge design. Reverse bows to maximise waterline are one noticeable innovation.
The massive covered cockpit flows almost seamlessly into the saloon, separated by sliding doors. Designers have made the most of the 7.2-metre beam and you could host a myriad of guests.
Almost every seat has stowage under, and there are even multiple compartments in the saloon sole. Wrap-around windows help maximise light and ventilation, but functionality has not been forgotten, and the U-shaped galley, for instance, would be easy to brace yourself in in very rough conditions.
The helm station is up a few steps from the cockpit, and I loved the set-up here. From this vantage point you have an excellent view all around and are protected from the elements by a soft-top bimini. However, you are not cut off from the social action because there is room for two on the seat and adjacent on the cabin top is a comfortable sun lounge.
Interestingly, Fountaine Pajot has opted to put sail controls forward of the helm pedestal on the cabin top, so you must leave the helm to tweak sails. In practice this worked well: one click and the autopilot took over while you went forward. It also ensures the helm area is not littered with sheet and halyard ends.
Forward are two trampolines and another seating area. Two massive stowage compartments are located near the mast, which helps keep weight central and low.
Another feature I liked was the optional hydraulic dinghy-cum-swim platform aft, which raised and lowered at the touch of a button. Yay! No more davits!
The test boat was the Maestro version with an owner’s stateroom to starboard and twin guest cabins and two heads to port. Multiple configurations are available, so I won’t dwell on these here. Suffice to say, that there is something to suit everyone.
The owner’s stateroom was to die for: island bed aft with cross-ventilation, desk/office midships and forward what would have to be one of the largest heads and separate shower compartments I’ve seen on a catamaran.
The Astrea 42 still moved well in the light breezes we encountered, with the large, roached main and overlapping headsail ensuring plenty of sail area to capture what wind there was. With the optional gennaker, the catamaran would have achieved even higher speeds. The boat also tacked well – we simply put the helm over, backwinded the headsail a little to push the bows around, and hey presto, we were sailing on the other tack. Under motor at 2500rpm the cat purred along at seven knots.
We let one person do almost all the sail work to see if the boat could be easily sailed one-up, and they had no issues, with an electronic winch taking the hard yakka out of raising the main.
Heading back to the jetty at the end of our outing, one person laughingly suggested we mutiny and set sail for the Whitsundays, which elicited an enthusiastic cheer. None of us wanted the day to end. In the promotional brochure Fountaine Pajot says the Astrea 42 is “sheer pleasure” and “distinguished by its abundance of natural light, energetic lines, elegant living spaces and unparalleled comfort”. Even with just our quick outing, one would be hard put to disagree.
A well-equipped Astrea is $775,000 AUD if you opt for factory pick-up in Europe and $1,015,000 AUD landed in Australia with taxes paid. Fountaine Pajot also caters for non-sailors with a mouth-watering array of motor yachts.