Purpose-built motor catamarans like the new explorer-style ILIAD 50 give owners a versatile vessel for heading over far horizons, as Kevin Green discovers.
Powered catamarans have many attractions for the cruising boater and day sailor alike, both of whom can appreciate the stability, space and frugality.
A great example is the new Chinese-built ILIAD 50, brought to the market by Australian company Multihull Solutions as the first of a range that will encompass a 70 model due at the Sydney International Boat Show, plus a 60 and 90 later. These semi-displacement yachts can do double-digit cruising speeds while offering vast ranges.
But this is not just another coastal cruising powercat, as Multihull Solutions boss Mark Elkington is keen to point out. The key point of difference is a wide array of engine choices. “The ILIAD range starts at 50 feet because you need that size to have all the equipment that a true passagemaking boat requires,” he says. The other key market differentiator is the semi-custom build and an exceptionally high level of detail in the finish. Multihull Solutions offers fully optioned base boats, rather than creating add-ons afterwards.
The popularity of explorer-style yachts has never been higher, as boaters seek to escape the madding crowd, while embracing the latest technologies to liberate them from onshore services. For motor yachts, fuel efficiency is a key attribute and this is where catamarans, with their low-drag hulls, become attractive. Realising this and then forming a consortium to bring such a vessel to market proved a steep challenge, explains Elkington. “I explored about 50 yards around the world for an offshore passagemaker that was tough enough to be beached if necessary, but most were using IPS engines, which are too vulnerable. So our choice was either forget about this market opportunity or put a team together and build something ourselves.”
The resulting company, Global Marine, includes former Azimut designer Riccardo Bulgarelli, and a Chinese naval dockyard relaunched as Xinlong Yachts in Zhanjiang. A prototype was launched in October 2017, which motored 3,000 nautical miles around Asia for research and development. Only then was the mould created for the ILIAD 50.
The explorer-style ethos required the hull to be resilient so the shaft drive engines and rudder are protected by a skeg and a keel-line. The ILIAD 50 has three impressive levels of living space, with owners’ or charter versions available below decks. Its silhouette is dominated by the large flybridge extending all the way aft. Climbing up via the inboard steps from the cockpit reveals a semi-covered area with lounge midships that seats eight, along with wet bar, electric plate and bar fridge. Offset forward to port is the helm.
Aft, across the swath of thick teak floor, is an open area designed to house a dinghy, with stainless winch base already in place – but being a semi-custom boat, this area could have sunbeds or even a Jacuzzi. The helm has a Raymarine Hybrid Touch chart screen, alongside autopilot and engine controls.
The main aft deck is a vast area of relaxation space that will be a strong draw for buyers. A wet bar and table for eight means it is a seamless alfresco extension of the open-plan saloon, with the galley and dinette just inside to port. The forepart of the saloon is elevated by a step, so there are clear views from the second (optional) helm, and airflow at anchor thanks to a large front window.
The galley features quality Siemens appliances and spacious Corian worktops, and the large cupboards overhead and twin drawer fridges are ideal for victualling long-term.
Most striking is the ILIAD 50’s level of detailing and quality of finish. It’s clearly hand-finished in most places, from rounded ends to curved cocktail table tops and immaculate stitching in the soft leather couches. The review boat, a stock vessel, had been on display for only a day before a couple bought it.
Closed off by a sliding door, the entire port hull is dedicated to the owner, with large island bed in the stern, ensuite in the bow and vanity / desk midships. Large ports beside the bed and down the hull afford generous water views and give an airy feel. Teak underfoot and a quality Tecman electric head finish off the area nicely. Over in the starboard hull the two double berths with ensuites are equally well appointed, including memory foam mattresses and bookshelves with tasteful mood lights.
There is ample usable deck space; the bow features elevated twin sunbeds and lockers between them to house the anchor system. The rode runs under the nacelle, safely away from bare feet, and is controlled by a substantial Quick 2000W vertical windlass.
Moving back aft, each hull has moulded steps into the water and the transom can house a tender on davits. Here, also, are the hatches to each engine. The standard fitting is for 375HP Volvo shaft drives but up to 10 engine choices are available, including different brands. “Our slogan is freedom of choice and it applies to most of the systems, such as engines and electronics, which the buyer can select,” says Elkington.
The engine room is spacious and well organised with electrics and batteries elevated above the engines. Only quality components are used, like Racor filters, Victron inverters and a Seafire automatic fire suppression system. This is all houses in a sturdily built, CE A category hull that has a solid fibreglass base and mini keels to allow a grounding.
“It’s a full vinylester hull, not just below the waterline but above as well, with monolithic or solid glass around the keel line and key parts,” says Elkington. Elsewhere PVC closed-cell infusion has been used by the Xinlong shipyard, who were visited by European CE inspectors at key stages of the build.
Cats offer great maoeuvrability thanks to wide-set shafts, and the ILIAD 50 spins in its own length. High up on the flybridge, I have clear views so easily dodge obstacles before opening the throttles. We reach 21 knots at 3,450rpm from the fitted Volvo D6-435s before I slow to a more sedate cruising speed of 18 knots, showing a fuel burn of 105L/h. Cruising at 10 knots should extend range to 750 nautical miles. And although the sea is calm, we punch through our wake without a murmur from anything.
The ILIAD 50 is a highly competent power catamaran that will appeal to a broad range of boaters looking for an odyssey of their own.