As my sixth and last boat I have visited in detail during this year´s edition of Cannes Yachting Festival I´d like to come up with a very special one. The all-new Excess 14 cruising catamaran celebrated its world premiere at the Croisette and although I am a bit biased being an Excess-dealer myself I can say it would have got my attention anyway despite this fact. Why? Because this catamaran comes up with some very cool features I´d like to talk about.
First of all it is the second “real” Excess next to 2020 launched Excess 11 by the yard. Their predecessors, Excess 12 and 15 had been hybrids using parts of their sister brand Lagoon. 11 and 14 are unique and separate developments of the Excess team, there is no connection to Lagoon whatsoever. More than this, the Excess 14´s hull designed by renowned bureau VPLP comes up with asymmetric hulls, a feature I wrote about in length previously.
Like all of a piece
Now it was the time to see the catamaran live. Which by the way hasn´t been my first time: Months before when I was handing over an Oceanis 51.1 in Les Sables d´Olonne I saw this very first hull #1 along the expedition pontoon. I as well had been welcomed by my fellow colleagues by the yard but of course wasn´t allowed to take pictures nor to write about the boat. Well, it is unveiled now and here we are.
The boat is a beauty. She takes on the Excess-typical lines, faintly reminding on an E-Type Jaguar. I like the inverted bows as well as the new cat-like hull windows. The grey hull and the stickers are Excess indeed and among so many undistinguishable boats, this one is easily recognizable. The boat looks like it is all of one piece. Take the bowsprit for example.
It looks like an organic extension of the boat, much more dynamic and vividly than the aluminium-part fitted to the Excess 11. Everything about the Excess 14´s design talks speed, even the newly designed composite davits at the very opposite end. Design-wise the new Excess 14 keeps what the renderings promised: Owners can be sure to be involved in pontoon-chat everywhere they tie up their pretty boat.
The yard changed a lot in regard to the Excess 11 that is a huge commercial success by the way. Not all changes I liked: The backseats for example. On the new 14 these are made from a fold-up one-piece GRP part that looks nice, for sure, but I like the two-way folding stainless steel seats on the 11 more. Well, a boat is always a compromise, the backseat is a tiny detail, no problem.
All in all, looking at the new catamaran from all angles, she is well-balanced. Not as edgy and bulky as some of her competitors, not overly emphasizing particular details, like others do. If form follows function than this new boat should really be a suitable proportioned yacht: Quick, but not uncontrollable, voluptuous but not fat. A dynamic mix, an attractive design. But what about the promised sailing capabilities?
A step further along the Excess DNA
Of course we couldn´t take her out to do a small sea trial during the show (I hope to being able to do so coming spring with some of our buyers/prospects) but looking at her layout reveals some information. Easy sailing, for example, which is one of the core values of Excess. Excess 11 comes up with a self-tacking jib and all lines ending up on one single winch.
The Excess 14, being a 44-footer, it’s a bit more complicated. The running rigging is derived to two winches. Except this the catamaran is similar to the 11. Why two winches? Because the new 14 comes up with a real overlapping Genoa. This said, it is clear that we now will have two Genoa-sheets instead of a single Jib-sheet for the self-tacker on the 11.
Also, mainsail trim (which again on this boat will be a square top mainsail without any backstays) is different than on the Excess 11. On the smaller sister the German Cupper System is installed. This is two mainsheet lines rendering a traveler unnecessary. I like this because it makes mainsail trim single handed very easy. Gybing becomes a no-brainer. On the new Excess 14, I guess because there is too much load on the big mainsheet, comes with a traditional traveler and electric winching.
Talking of the Genoa: This sail is derived through Genoa lead cars on a track. This gives at least some degree of fore sail trim possibilities and more freedom in sails trim upwind/downwind. The Genoa lead cars are manually operated. For this, the skipper must go to the mid-section of the boat and trim the cars on the track. This may seem a bit odd but since fore sail fine trim is done not so often, I guess it is okay to occasionally leave the helm station.
Truly blue water capable
Practicality of the running rigging and ergonomics of the layout will be tested soon, as I said, let´s now take a look at the more important details of a catamaran: The interior. Buyers of a multihull choose a cat because of the stunning internal volume and the comforts of heeled-free sailing. In this, being a 44-footer and thus a pretty huge boat, the 14 must be best of her class in this respect.
And look at this grand entry! The saloon of this boat is not only roomy in respect to the bare numbers, the clever planning of the layout makes it absolutely huge. The windows all around create a light-suffused lofty character: Somewhere around these 360 degrees the sun will surely shine and light up the interior. The layout is clean and simple: The large dining area around a table in the front, in front of it, a large free area that makes the whole room appear much bigger than it is.
The galley is blue water-rigged. To port side the big stove: This time it´s an Eno-3-flamer fired up by natural gas. The oven is separated and also works with gas. Knowing that Butane or Propane bottles are abundand all over the world, this might be the most suitable solution to cooking. In light of recent discussions about fossil fuels and the current events unfolding around energy, it may be time for the industry to think about induction cooking. Definitely worth a separate article though.
Vis-à-vis the galley buyers of an Excess 14 can choose how to fill this part of the galley: Multiple combinations of stowage, cupboards, fridges or freezers are possible so that your 14 fits the very personal use case of the owners. The aft edges of the saloon could be filled with more cupboards and stowage, such as it has been done now with the Excess 11 where surplus hanging furniture is offered. Maybe the first feedback from sailing owners will make the yard do an update here.
Port side facing forward next to the main switch panel is a small nav station. A mobile one-seater can either be fitted here so that the L-shaped main settee is prolonged or fitted opposite the dining table, making it a kind or “O”-shaped siting order, leaving space for feet of the navigator to sit here and do the log. All in all, the saloon is huge: Imagining spending much time here on a long haul trip makes me a good feeling.
Once a king …
The main selling point of a catamaran is comfort. All owners and buyers of a cruising catamaran I know tell the same: You simply won´t get that high level of comfort, space, volume, bathrooms and cabin-sizes in monohulls. Ever. And this is true, I must say. Since my first own long encounter with a cat, delivering the boat through the Bay of Biscay to Spain, I can confirm: The comfort is indeed impressive! And that was for the Excess 11. It´s even true for the much bigger 14 – and the comfort-level on this boat a multitude of times bigger.
To starboard side, going down the winding companionway, one enters the owner´s hull. As with the Excess 11, the layout is pretty classy – but not quite so. Looking aft to over one´s right shoulder you will see a huge open room with a large floating island bed in the middle. Bulkheads and structural elements are limited to a minimum, thanks to Carbon and Kevlar that is applied where needed.
The owner´s bed comes wit impressive measurements and is easily accessible from either side. A large skylight above, one smaller opening hatch to the rear and a large hull window to seaside make sure that this area is always lit up in natural light. I was a bit sad to see that the hull windows on the Excess 14 have been placed well above the waterline which is a pity: On the Excess 11 they are much deeper so that one can see the water when in bed. Not so here.
On the other hand, right in the middle of the owner´s hull the designers have gone a little farther than on the Excess 11. The boat office down here is truly a workspace one can … well, work with. The tabletop is big enough to act as a real writing desk, there is much stowage for this and that. Alone the cupboard´s plastic fiddles seem a bit too fragile but I am sure a dedicated owner will and can transform this area into a full fledged office. The pouffe down here may not be appropriate enough for a full workday´s load …
Uniting charter and owner´s demands
A real novelty on the Excess 14 is the fore cabin in the owner´s hull. This is said to be a walk-in closet that can house crew wear and all the clothing needed for the whole trip. Also, this cabin could be transformed with ease into a cabin sporting two butterfly berths.
The idea is kind of cool but seeing this live makes me realize that this butterfly-cabin/walk-in closet idea is just a secondary usage of something else: The front cabin of the 4-cabin/charter-version of the Excess 14. In this version, you will get a full sized cabin in the front and a proper bathroom – just like we have on the portside hull. In the owner´s version, there is no “need” for a front cabin, so I guess they came up with the idea of the walk-in closet.
This will get more apparent when seeing the bathroom-situation of the 3-cab owner´s version: There is a nicely set up washing facility with lots of bathroom-stowage and a sink port side. When standing here washing or getting a decent shave, one will stand back to back to the very bathroom: WC, shower and yet another sink are inside a closed off bathroom. Kind of done twice here …
It´s nice, but a bit off for me personally. So, I do have an idea: Why go for the owner´s 3-cab version anyway? I mean, this boat is so big and the guest cabins (as you will see now) are also so nicely done, that this Excess 14 will do much better when ordered in 4 cabins. I´d say that a proper fourth cabin instead of a makeshift “butterfly”/closet-hybrid seems more logical to me. Anyone investing in such a big boat may have a big family or circle of friends. Well, just a thought here …
Guests and family welcome
What a 4-cabin catamaran would be looking like can be seen inside the opposite hull. The aft guest cabin has the same size in terms of bed and sleeping area as the owner´s counterpart. The cabin is huge in monohull-standards. I´d say that even on the new Beneteau flagship, Oceanis Yacht 60 the aft cabins haven´t got the size offered here. On a 44-footer.
The fore cabin is also decently sized. The bed here isn´t of the so famous island-shape anymore, but this is no disadvantage: I remember the great owner´s cabin and aft guest cabin in the Excess 11 where there´s also a bed that covers all of the area: In heavy, choppy seas there is no chance of falling out of bed. Plus, in the aft cabin, you could lay yourself down either longitudinal or transverse to the ship´s forward direction.
The fore cabin is the least attractive in the Excess 14: just plain white panels, no other colors. A bit boring. But still, big and light-suffused, much, much standing height and sufficient stowage. The designers could have invested a bit more love to this cabin I´d say. Both guest cabins have their own dedicated bath as opposed to the Excess 11 where both guests share a bath. One could say that´s a handful of valves less to maintain, others would state that an own bathroom is indeed one of the main issues defining comfort. Or even luxury.
Spending weeks and months
I proceed back on deck where admittedly most of the time will be spent by the occupants of the boat. Down below, as much as we tend to look and analyze the cabin-size and all amenities, down here we are either taking a dump or being unconscious, meaning, at sleep. So we shouldn´t overvalue the details down below. Most imported is how the catamaran feels up because this is where he action takes place.
Apart from the usual lounge area in front of the central house and on the nets securing the space between the hulls in the bow, the main lounge area is the cockpit in the back. The Excess 14 offers next to the two-seater wheel-stations a loooooong settee in the aft, an L-shaped settee around the cockpit-table to port side and a tw-person chaiselounge to starboard side right next to the cockpit fridge. Multiple seating options for owners and crew, at sea and whilst mooring.
A specialty of Excess is the so-called skylounge. The roof, when not used for solar panels, can be equipped with a GRP-“pool” that is placed in a roof-cutout. This is essentially a trough where cushions are fitted all around. These cushions have nice backrests. So, when mooring or at a pontoon, the boom of the mainsail can be put to starboard and easy access via ladder from the front invites the crew to a rooftop sundowner up here. I liked it quite much, I shall say.
A perfect 44-feet cruising catamaran
So, is this the perfect quick cruising catamaran as promised in the ads? I´d say that the design of the Excess 14 is absolutely holding up to what the glossy prints have made us hungry for: The 14 is a true beauty, sports a modern, aggressive design. The design is a consistent, fluid whole and I am sure that this boat will make many people fall in love with her. As I said, I cannot say anything about her sailing capabilities yet, but judging from what the smaller Excess 11 was doing, the 14 will surely be quite a nice sailing boat.
My first impression of the Excess 14 cabins “down below” is predominantly positive although I must say that this 3-cabin-version would not be my boat of choice for reasons I´ve stated. A catamaran that big used by just 2 persons is for my taste too big. The walk-in closet or butterfly-cabin is a nice idea but merely a makeshift from the 4-cabin-version. But this is just my personal taste.
Seeing the new Excess 14 moored next to her smaller sister, the 11, makes me think. If I had the money to buy a 14 (for me and my partner, some occasional guests) I would opt for the 11, of course. Take the money left over from the 14-budget and invest it in a great trip around the world. The Excess 14 is surely a great boat – but she is a big one too. As orders of this boat start to come in, I am curious of how many units will go to charter-use and how many will be used by real cruising couples or families. For me, an Excess 11 a little bigger, say a new 12 or 13 would do the trick. Well, let´s see, I´d say, the yard is not yet done with presenting a complete range of products.
You might also find interesting to read these related articles:
VPLP´s trick: Asymmetric hulls for the Excess 14 catamaran
Sailing qualities: Excess 11 in the Race of Alderney
How to escape a capsized catamaran