Bluewater Sailboat – Fountaine Pajot Helia 44

Overview

The new Fountaine Pajot Helia 44 is a fast cruising catamaran that will entice both travelers looking for roomy and fashionable accommodations and sailors.

The Orana 44 in the FP lineup has been replaced by the Hélia 44, which was created by naval architects Berret Racoupeau and the FP design studio. The Hélia has plenty of creature amenities in addition to the potential for a nice turn of speed. The dining space in the cockpit, which is the main gathering place on cats, has seating for six to eight people. On a cushioned, sculpted daybed to the starboard, you can relax in the shade of the bimini.

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Helia 44
Helia 44
  • LOA: 13.3m
  • Beam: 7.4m
  • Draught: 1.15m
  • Displacement: 10,800kg
  • Main sail: 70sq m
  • Genoa: 45sq m
  • Water tankage: 750 litres
  • Fuel tankage: 470 litres
  • Engines: 2 x 40hp diesel
  • HEADROOM: 6ft 8in
  • BERTHS: 6ft 6in x 5ft 2in x 4ft 1in (fwd and aft)
  • DRAFT: 3ft 10in
  • ELECTRICAL: 600AH (house/starboard engine); 100AH port engine
  • DESIGNER: Berret Racoupeau Yacht Design

Structure

You can tell that this boat was made well. There were some really good winds during the voyages, and you never had to worry that the boat couldn’t manage the situation. This boat is sturdy, but caution with the sail plan helps. Expect imperfect finishing here and there because it’s not an Antares, but she’s got it where it counts.

Given that Fountaine Pajot is one of the top multihull manufacturers in the world, the Berret Racoupeau design is strong and highly engineered structurally. Balsa-cored and resin-infused boat hulls maximize stiffness while weighing the layup as little as possible.

The deck is injection moulded, which again helps to reduce weight by limiting the amount of material needed to produce a sturdy construction, and a vinylester skin covering helps avoid blisters. Aluminum is used for both the mast and boom. To fly a reaching spinnaker, a fixed sprit projects beyond the forward crossbeam.

Above Deck

A covered outdoor eating area is created by the hardtop GRP coachroof that extends over the aft deck. If necessary, Multihull Solutions may install clear plastic screens to completely enclose the space. The teak table on the single-level lounge deck seats eight people, and there is also a single bench across from it with a big storage box underneath. There is another refrigerator, which is great for sundowners.

The transom boardwalk, which enables staff to move about without disturbing people relaxing on the aft deck benches, is another thoughtful architectural element.

Flush hatches on the Fountaine Pajot Helia 44 make moving about the flat decks simple, however hand support should be improved. On a bluewater catamaran, full-length coach roof rails would be preferable to the limited length seen on the port side only. Midships and the cleating are ample, and the port locker in the bow houses a Quick 1500W vertical electric windlass with plenty of room for chain.

Tall, upright hulls designed by Berret-Racoupeau provide enough bridgedeck clearance to prevent wave slap, which is the bane of many catamarans.

Long mini keels reduce leeway and enable the hulls to dry out while the underside flows smoothly to reduce resistance. The hulls are made using the most recent technologies at the La Rochelle-based yard.

Long mini keels reduce leeway and enable the hulls to dry out while the underside flows smoothly to reduce resistance. Because the La Rochelle-based yard uses cutting-edge technology, the Helia’s hulls are vacuum-bagged solid fibreglass below the waterline and sandwiched balsa core above, making them resistant to damage and insulating the interior living spaces.

The deck is made of GRP, which adds structure and reduces weight, and the finish quality was superb all around. The business made the correct decision to use injection moulding to create the bridgedeck and saloon as a single structure because lateral rigidity is crucial on a catamaran.

The 55hp Volvo Penta saildrives, which are more powerful than the 40hp conventional models, can be serviced with plenty of hull room around the engines.

Below Deck

The location of the Sailboats Galley and the amount of space allotted to the owner are frequently common variants when it comes to selecting the internal layout of catamarans. The saloon must be given up for the galley-up design, whereas sleeping quarters are always taken up by the galley-down design.

The galley-up is popular with couples who like to cruise because it makes cooking more social and makes it easy to serve food to outdoor diners on the rear deck.

On the Fountaine Pajot Helia 44, clever internal design makes for a very livable space with the lounge ahead and the roomy chart table next to it, while the galley is dispersed across the aft section of the saloon. A mid-floor seat that supports the cook in a rough seaway and provides workspace is a significant advance over the Orana. Most preferences should be catered for by a three-burner gas stove with a separate oven and an optional microwave. A useful feature aboard our test boat was the Helia 44’s ability to convert the saloon table into a daybed using adjustable table legs.

The Fountaine Pajot Helia 44 is a three-cabin Maestro model with a large owner’s stateroom that occupies the entire starboard hull and is closed off by a sliding door. The four-berth version has identical hull designs for charter, but each has a slightly larger aft cabin.

Stepping down into the starboard owner’s stateroom reveals a really pleasant area with soaring headroom, lighting from two huge oval portlights, and ventilation that’s enough even without air conditioning thanks to multiple opening skylights. Additionally, there is a view to the rear due to a rectangular window over the substantial island bed and an opening porthole for ventilation while at anchor.

You enter a similarly nice space with twin en suite bathrooms and roomy double beds when you climb across to the guest quarters in the port hull. The front bunk, which is equipped with the escape hatch required on all bigger multihulls marketed in Europe and highly recommended for any offshore sailing, is an option for the anxious catamaran sailor.

Performance

The Helia isn’t the world’s fastest boat, but she’s also not the slowest either. Many purists would argue that because dead downwind sailing is slow, you shouldn’t attempt it, but gosh, is this a simple point of sail. When the AWS is 15 knots or less, wing on wing configurations have had a lot of success, first with the main and genoa and more recently with the genoa and screecher. The Helia 44 is so wide that it doesn’t require poles and has experienced wind gusts as high as 160 degrees AWA while maintaining full sails.

The Fountaine Pajot Helia 44 can truly come to life when the wind dies down a bit. On a reach, the main and genoa typically produce 7-8 knots. The screecher produces 8 to 9 knots. When the circumstances are ideal, boat speeds of 10 knots or more have been recorded. The 209-nm day had the ideal combination of modest waves, the optimum wind angle, and just enough wind to allow us to maintain full sails. Normally, you wouldn’t push yourself this hard out in the wide ocean for comfort reasons. I’m not a world-class racer, so let me preface this by saying that there are a few drawbacks to the sail trim on a Helia.

When sailing in deep wind angles, the genoa track cars are too far inboard to be very helpful. By rigging up a block at the shrouds to be utilised with an additional line linked to the sail’s clew as an outboard jib lead, you can find a solution to this issue. This has been successful.

The coachroof is almost fully covered by the mainsheet traveler. The main let should be far out when sailing downwind. The spreaders and shrouds, however, are in the way. When fully extended, the mainsail may rub against the rigging.

Fair enough, you would probably experience these problems with cats in general, not specifically Fountaine Pajots, but you still need to take that into consideration. The Helia is a genuinely simple boat to sail.

With the Fountaine Pajot Helia 44, we are able to almost single-hand the boat, which was crucial to both of us in case something occurred to the other. The mainsail may be easily raised with the electric winch, however when reefing or raising by yourself, it can be annoying to constantly return to the helm pod to adjust the autopilot. It is simpler to perform this with two persons.

Quick Notes

The Fountaine Pajot Helia 44 is an excellent illustration of why sailing catamarans are becoming more and more well-liked. With acres of deck space and a cutting-edge design that performs on all points of sail, the Helia 44 offers apartment-style living that rivals that of larger motorboats without the astronomical fuel costs.

It is understandable why Fountaine Pajot has garnered numerous major industry honors in the multihull division over the years. The Helia 44 offers full blue water sailing capability and may be the best combination of performance and comfort.

A guided tour of this boat should dispel any questions about why catamarans have performed so well in the market over the past few years. The Helia 44 is an excellent choice for sailors who want to sail in luxury.

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