French catamaran builder Fountaine Pajot has introduced the Helia 44, the 19th design in its 30-year history. The 44-foot bluewater sailing catamaran combines good looks with practical livability, and is a collaboration between the Fountaine Pajot team and Berret Racoupeau naval architects. Together, they have created a completely new boat that replaces the FP Orana 44 sailing cat with one that incorporates the best features of other models.
If I remember my Greek correctly (which I rarely do), Helia means “of the sun” or “ray of sunshine.” The FP44 is well-named since it floods the main cabin with light from numerous large windows, opening vertical hatches and overhead ports. The Helia is offered with four cabins/four heads or three cabins/three heads, where the entire starboard hull is dedicated to the owner’s retreat. The cockpit is on the same level as the saloon, which brings the interior together with exterior in a nice, easy flow. The U-shaped galley to port has everything within reach including two-drawer refrigeration at the entryway and a sliding window to easily pass food and drinks. To starboard is an L-shaped settee that also forms the seat for the outboard-facing nav station. Indirect lighting in the cabintop and under the counters creates a nice ambience in the contemporary interior. Altogether, it’s a compact and airy space, with everything in its proper place for intuitive living.
The cockpit, which is entirely covered by the hardtop, divides into a large port-side dinette that will seat eight and a lounge to starboard that the French call a fainting sofa. I’ll skip the fainting, but it is a comfortable spot to curl up with a book. Steps lead up to the flybridge with a triple helm seat, 360 degree visibility and everything within reach for single-handing.
Fountaine Pajot designs multihull trawlers as well, and they’ve brought the flybridge concept over to the sail side by incorporating a seating lounge and a double sunpad in an area that is sure to be the social spot for sunset cocktail hour. The helm is low enough to mount a canvas Bimini overhead and still have room for the boom to clear, so there’s protection when it’s needed.
The decks are clear with good handholds along the aft end of the hardtop. The anchor is midway back under the trampoline, which keeps the weight off the bows and makes for easy launch and recovery. The only thing that is odd on the foredeck is the lack of steps between the deck and the cabintop, making for a difficult transition when the hatches are open and in the way.
Having spent a bit of time on cats, I’ve seen how people use them and I can say that clearly, Fountaine Pajot has been listening to their owners as well and picking the best of their competitors’ features to incorporate into the Helia. For example, there’s no need to drag cockpit cushions onto the cabintop since there’s already a sunpad there as well as separate lounge seat for those who want to get away from the group. And there are no worries that the helmsperson will be left out of the conversation in the cockpit, since there is a direct connection between the two. Also, the slider in the galley makes serving food easy and increases ventilation in the process.
Good tankage means that water (198 gallons) and fuel (125 gallons) are plentiful for extended cruising, and both can be increased for bluewater passage-making. Six hundred amp hours in the house batteries keep everything powered up, and a pair of 115 alternators on the two engines make charging easy. The optional solar panels on the aft end of the cabintop and the use of LED lights keep the boat energy-efficient too. This boat just makes sense in every detail, and it will be a pleasure at the dock or at sea.
-For more information, visit Fountaine Pajot.