Leopard 46 & 47
Lookalikes from coach house top to waterline, the Leopard twins can be specified with power or sail as their primary propulsion
- Generous accommodation and ample cockpit, saloon and deck space
- An en suite for every cabin makes for a comfortable cruise
- Strong performance and economy (Powercat)
- Good sailing performance (Sail version)
Leopards are built by Robertson & Caine (R&C), South Africa’s largest export-boatbuilding company.
R&C cats employ resin-infusion techniques, using balsa-cored hull and deck laminates, E-glass stitched fabric and isophthalic resins, with NPG gelcoat. The hull and lower bridgedeck structure are moulded as a unit; the bulkheads are glassed in place; then the monocoque deck and coach house moulding is lowered into place. This circumferential hull-deck join is bonded, through-bolted and tabbed to the structural bulkheads.
Both Leopard versions share major structures, but there are obvious above-deck differences: the bimini on the sailing version has a starboard-side cutout for the steering station – on the powercat it’s surmounted by a wide flybridge. The foredeck of the sailing version has the expected trampoline section, but the powercat has a solid infill, to keep spray off the coach house.
Below the waterline the sailing version has mid-hull, bolt-on keels that increase its draft and provide lateral resistance. A laminated ridge projects from each hull bottom and the fork-topped keels are through-bolted horizontally to this ridge. The powercat doesn’t have these keels, but has stubby skegs, set aft to protect the props. Powercat aft hull sections are hollowed in shape to recess the shafts slightly, and reduce their angularity. These aft hull changes extend the length of the powercat by 700mm.
The coach house roof has an ‘eyebrow’ moulding and two louvres are fitted between the A-pillars, below the brow. Vision from inside the saloon is barely affected, but the sun’s rays are effectively blocked. Ventilation is via high-set opening ports.
The cockpits, saloons and cabins of the Leopard 46 and 47 are almost identical. Cockpit differences are at the starboard forward corners, where the sailing version has a high-set steering station, with bimini top and clears, and stair access from the cockpit sole, or from the side deck. The powercat has a spiral FRP staircase to the flybridge, with lipped treads.
Below decks the powercat has forward-set engines, below lift-up island bed bases in the aft cabins and the sailing version has rear-set engines, behind the aft cabin bulkheads.
The cockpit features a U-shaped dinette to port and a lounge to starboard, with additional seating between the davits. This centre seat doubles as a diving platform when it’s lowered. Two can sit at the sailing version’s steering station and eight on the powercat’s flybridge.
Sliding doors open into the saloon, where there’s a double fridge-freezer unit to port. To starboard is a U-shaped galley, with stove top, oven, microwave and double sink.
The dinette is offset slightly, allowing for a chart table/desk and generous shelf space. Staircases from the saloon lead to the hulls, which can be laid out in three-cabin or four-cabin styles.
The charter boats we evaluated were four-cabin types, with en suite bathrooms for each cabin. A bonus with this layout is a kid’s bunk, in the port bow section. The starboard bow is fitted with lift-up pipe cot and a head, intended for crew on skippered charters.
A three-cabin, owner’s version boat retains the aft starboard bed, but has a larger, forward bathroom, with separate shower and house-style toilet. In between is a lounge, buffet and study module.
We spent two nights aboard the Leopards and found them both very comfortable.
The lines of the Leopard 46 were drawn with sailing performance in mind and then modified for power operation.
The Leopard 46 sailing cat sports a raked mast that’s not as rigidly rigged as most cats. Single, swept-back spreaders have upper and lower diamonds, the aft-angled cap and lower shrouds lead to chainplates. The forestay is tacked to a triangulated-support cross beam and fitted with headsail furler.
A telescopic vang supports the boom, which is aft-sheeted to a bimini-top traveller that runs almost full width and bolts to the sturdy bimini support posts. Mainsheet and jib sheets lead to the steering station and the boat is pre-rigged for a screacher, with turning blocks fitted to the bimini.
As with most cats the Leopard 46 was a cinch to manoeuvre out of tight berths, playing the throttle levers against each other. Vision on the starboardside from the helm position was excellent, but the offset steering position meant it was necessary to have a portside assistant in the tight bits. The offset winch position also means that while starboard jib sheeting is straightforward, the port sheet turns through two right angles.
A single-block halyard halves the load on the winch, but it was still hard work at the mast, because the fully-battened, ‘roachy’ main is generous in size. (The trick, we’re told, is to run the halyard around the mast winch and down to the anchor windlass).
Charter cats are notorious for being slugs, but the Leopard 46 is different. With only 10kts of breeze on hand the fat cat reached at seven-plus knots and could be balanced nicely by playing the sheets.
On the wind, the Leopard maintained speed while pointing about five degrees worse than you’d expect from a monohull. Unlike most big cruising cats the Leopard didn’t make much leeway, even in the strong current.
The 46 steered happily through the wind, provided the helmsman bore away slightly before the tack, to build up speed and took a generous arc. Port jib sheeting is heavier than starboard, so rapid tacks arn’t on the menu anyway.
On return, the jib reeled in as quickly as it came out and the main proved much easier to drop than to hoist.
The power difference between the 46 and the 47 becomes obvious as soon as the twin engines are lit: the test 47’s twin Volvo D4 225s emitting a growl once we were clear of the marina. However, they were docile while manoeuvring, with excellent throttle control. From the flybridge, vision of all four corners is ideal for easy positioning.
We reckon the Leopard 47 could make a fishing charter platform, if the davits were deleted from the specification, because the helmsman is clear of the action, yet can see what’s going on below and the rear deck is free of clutter.
The Leopard 47 felt very comfortable at 3000rpm and 16kts, with the downside of this brisk performance being a combined fuel usage of 63lt/h. WOT speed is 22kts, but you don’t want to look at the fuel-flow meters then! Dropped back to a governed 10kts, the two-engine consumption figure dropped to a much more respectable 21lt/h.
Read in-depth boat reviews in the latest issue of Trade-A-Boat magazine, on sale now.
Specifications Leopard 46 sailing cat
Engines 2 x 40hp Yanmar with Saildrive
Holding tanks 170lt
Sail area 134m² (total)
Specifications Leopard 47 power catamaran
Engines 2 x 150hp Cummins (with shaft drive)
Holding tanks 170lt
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