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  • Writer's pictureHeath Tredell

004 Another try @ La Grande Motte

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

After the expensive debacle that was our trip to Miami, and the fact that we never got to see Hugh Howey’s St Francis 50 Mk2, we thought we’d try a nearer show…

The Multihull Boat Show at La Grande Motte first started in 2010 and has grown to be a very popular show. As it specialises in multihulls it is not necessarily a huge show, it did however afford us the time to see and get on board a number of catamarans. The attraction was the new Xquisite X5…

La Grande Motte is a small area of land outside Montpellier that has a lot of boating and architectural interest. It is the brainchild of visionary architect Jean Balladur. He was commissioned to design a sea resort on a marshy wasteland in the 1960s and built an exceptional site with white pyramid residences inspired by Mexico's Pre-Columbian temples and the sea world. It is the only French town to be approved as "20th century heritage" in its entirety and every detail at La Grande Motte, including the urban furniture, electrical transformers, traffic lights, light fixtures, and signage all follow his vision.

We had hired a car and I was delighted to recognise a camp site I had visited 20 years earlier called Camping La Petite Camargue Yelloh! Whose memory will always stay with me for the nightly entertainment shows put on that would finish with a 30 minute audience participative dance that left you feeling like you’d just been to the gym. My children still have the CD! If you ever go to this boat show, and I would recommend it if you are interested in catamarans, take a trip to Tours et Remparts d’aigues-mortes. It is a great place to chill, look round a unique town set in old castle ramparts and eat some lovely food.

The problem with boats is there is always one a little nicer… and you can trip up if you start dreaming. I think I’d have loved to have thought to myself “This is a dream boat.. do NOT get over excited and think you can indulge. You can’t. Live with it.” Instead I think we probably didn’t do ourselves many favours by looking at and walking around what was the very first Xquisite X5 sailing catamaran. It wasn’t that the other boats were no good, it just left you wanting more than your lesser than X5 budget could afford.

The X5 is a tweeked version of an older Dean 5000 catamaran. It is not to everyone’s taste looks-wise but I didn’t mind the curved rear bimini stays. I liked the tech and the fact that spares were all logged and photo’d, servicing and maintenance records included advice on how to do it and also reminded you of when it needed doing. But it was the interior for me. I found it a lovely place to be and we thought it would be an ideal vessel. My only worry at the time was that it might not sail well. Having no experience really, but having a mind for getting a good sailing cat I asked. Tamas sent me an email in which he stated that “ thought you might be interested of some details from the sea trials we did with Multihulls World magazine yesterday. We sailed 7 knots SOG with 11 knots of TWS, and 10 knots SOG with 18 knots of TWS.” Which didn’t sound too bad at the time but now I’m a little less sure. What’s more, we couldn’t actually afford an Xquisite X5 and would be sailing a Dean 5000… and they were probably a little less agile even than the X5.

After we’d seen the X5, we looked around Lagoon, Fontaine Pajot’s Helia (which we still liked) and Bali catamarans. One cat we did like (as it definitely appeared to offer quite healthy sailing performance) was the Nautitech open 46. The one and only thing we couldn’t get our brain to say yes to were the helm stations set aft and out to the side. Despite them saying you could have a little pop-up tent (something akin to having a camping WC tent stuck on each side, we really couldn’t see us enjoying sitting in the sun.. or rain whilst sailing. The protection of the helmsman is in my opinion a very important part of sailing long distances and helms in the weather are a no no… so it didn’t really excite us when they said that they were due to launch a flybridge version. That in my head was even worse (out in the elements AND up high). My other pet hate is not being able to manage the sails should anything not go right, and most flybridge boats mean you either need to be a monkey and climb up, or 6.5ft tall (we are neither).

We had a great time in La Grande Motte and would go back for the right boat.

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