BOAT REVIEW Excess 12

October 2021 Yacht Reviews
Words by Kevin Green. Photography supplied.
OUR RATING
4 STARS
Performance
Economy
Handling
Value
Build Quality
Specification
MODEL DETAILS
MODEL Excess 12
DESIGNER VPLP, Patrick le Quément and Nauta
BUILDER Beneteau Boats/Excess
PRICE AS TESTED AU$848000
SPECIFICATIONS
LOA 11.73M
BEAM 11.46M
DRAFT 1.35M
DISPLACEMENT 10300kg
ENGINE 2 x Yanmar 29hp saildrive
Mast & Rigging Aluminium and SS
Sail Area 82 SqM
ACCOMMODATION 3/4 cabin
HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lively handling and direct controls makes sailing fun
  • Simple sail plan with the option of a bowsprit and Code Zero for better performance in the light
OBSERVATIONS
  • Modest size but generous interior dimension and versatile layout options

Market differentiators in the burgeoning cruising catamaran market can be difficult to find, yet this is what industry leader Beneteau-Lagoon has achieved with its Excess models, which deliver a livelier and more responsive range.


The 2019 debut of Beneteau Group’s new catamaran brand Excess, built by CNB/Lagoon in France, caused quite a stir among marine journalists and other builders. Given the vast research and development of Beneteau, who own CNB/Lagoon, there was considerable expectation. But company executives, including commercial director Thomas Gailly, were modest about the first Excess 12 and 15 models when we met in Cannes in 2019. The new models used the same nacelles as Lagoons and were described as slightly livelier versions of the company’s long-standing brand.
In 2021 the Excess range comprises model numbers 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 measuring 37 to 50 feet (11.3m to 15.3m) in a roll-out only the vast sheds of CNB’s Bordeaux yard and nearby sister yards, all of them skilled in high-volume catamaran manufacturing, could possibly deliver.

Sanctuary Cove
The Excess 12 made its Downunder public debut at the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show in May 2021. Having been aboard the range overseas, it was interesting to watch the Australian public’s reaction to the three-cabin, 39-foot hull. Ideally priced and sized for entry-level catamaran sailors, the Excess 12 held wide appeal.

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The Excess range represents the brains trust of CNB’s 35 years of catamaran expertise, combined with the credentials of leading design house VPLP, Italian interior experts Nauta Design and car guru Patrick le Quément, who added flair.
I discussed the multihull scene – and specifically the Excess design – with the prolific VPLP duo of Vincent Lauriot Prevost and Marc Van Peteghem in France. “While there are extreme performance versions, most catamarans are centred around being comfortable, but we conceived Excess as occupying the middle-ground,” Van Peteghem told me.

Alfresco concept
Creating a more open air and lively feeling catamaran without creating an overpowered monster is laudable. Given that cruising catamarans are built more for comfort than speed, a modest evolution of the proven Lagoon brand clearly made sense for the company and probably its customers too.


Built like a Lagoon to minimise costs, yet with a more open deck layout, the appeal is clear. Competitors such as Nautitech have been doing this style of boat for some time, and in lighter hulls, while speedsters such as Outremer have perfected performance versions of this concept. With Excess, they’ve tweaked Lagoon’s old philosophy of “building from the inside out,” creating a more rounded concept.
In Australia the grey-painted Excess 12 with its shapely hulls and the alfresco deck-layout clearly showed this evolution. However, the same blunt cabin-top clearly identifies it as a Lagoon cousin, and of course provides ample usable interior space in the saloon. Although one of the smallest mass-production cats on the market, the Excess 12 can have up to four cabins, while an optional performance sail plan brings some thrills and, more importantly, gets the hefty hulls moving in lighter airs.

Excess catamaran 12.

In Miami last year, I asked Brand Director Thibaut de Montvalon, an experienced Lagoon 380 sailor, for his thoughts: “What I really like about the Excess concept is the sensation you get from the helms, which are outboard. And of course, the movable bimini, so you can see the sails as you steer.”
Our review boat came with a solid fibreglass bimini but a folding soft-top is available. Retracted via a hand-crank, it completely opens up the aft deck. The downside with the soft-top is a lack of solid walking space to the boom end.

Open deck
Outboard helms and a more open deck concept enliven the sailing experience in a cruising catamaran – among the primary design objectives for the Excess range. Twin helms give clear views forward along flat decks while untinted windows allow vision across and through the boat as well, even at night. Twin (somewhat flimsy) canvas-backed helm seats flip up and there’s a bimini option for each helm. Helm response from the spade rudders was good when I turned the composite wheels – their proximity to the rudders means only short linkages. Raymarine instrumentation and Yanmar engine gauges can be easily seen without stooping and a second set of instruments at the port helm is an option.


Like the Lagoon, the Excess 12 is a functional boat. For example, the running rigging comes back to the helms and a bank of jammers with a Harken winch on each side, so short-handed sailing is quite feasible. Mainsheet control is good via a simple twin-block arrangement on the transom, where a pair of sturdy davits hoist the dinghy well clear of the water. Moulded steps give good water access from each hull for swimming and using the tender.


The cockpit provides plenty of daytime entertaining space and there’s a corner dinette table (removable for party time) with surrounding benches and transom bench/storage. There’s more locker space underfloor and a liferaft slot outside on the transom.
Walking forward is unimpeded, thanks to the single outboard shroud and low-profile deck hatches with a handrail on each side of the saloon. At the bow, the anchor, mounted on the crossbeam, is easily accessible. This layout keeps it clear of the hull when the boat swings, but the cost is weight higher up. The vertical windlass and chain sit exposed on the longitudinal centre beam, so watch the toes when deploying the anchor. A rather flimsy second roller was also fitted to the review boat.


From the bow, a retractable step gives access up to the blunt coach roof for sail handling. The review boat had the optional bowsprit fitted for a Code 0, a wise choice if you prefer the sound of rushing waves to the chug of diesels when winds are light.

Simple sail plan
This Australian boat came with the Pulse Line performance package upgrade, which has a metre taller mast and a larger sail area with grey tri-radial laminate Incidence sails, including a square-topped mainsail. Lazy jacks allow easy sail handling.
As standard, the basic sail plan is ideal for catamaran newbies: the self-tacking jib, in a large fore-triangle, is nicely balanced with the slab reefed mainsail. Its boom is fairly near the coach roof, for a low centre of effort, and is easily man-handled. The two-spreader alloy mast is further aft than earlier Lagoons, so offers a more balanced sail plan with plenty of space to deploy the Code 0 for off-the-wind runs. All the reefing lines run aft in a slightly convoluted fashion, making control from the helms easy when short-handed.

Spacious saloon
Compared to one of my favourite Lagoons, the 380, the Excess 12 really has great space in the saloon, even with the large galley included on the port side. A deep sink, three-burner hob/oven and sizeable fridge, plus oodles of cabinet space, make the Excess 12 more than a mere weekender. Those vertical external bulkheads are where the volume comes from, so you may dodge around with windage at anchor, but inside there’s an airy atmosphere no matter the weather – especially when the two large front windows are opened. There’s even a corner navigation station adjoining the main couch that surrounds the dinette table.


The upgraded finish on the review boat included white-lacquered timber, leather trimmings, upgraded upholstery, increased storage, deluxe cushions and Corian bathroom surfaces.

Owner’s version
The three-cabin owner’s version reviewed here uses the entire port hull for the owner, with two double cabins starboard. The four-cabin version can have up to two bathrooms in each hull; or two located between the cabins.


Stepping down into the voluminous hulls is a light-filled experience, thanks to opening skylights and elongated portlights. The owner’s cabin has a spacious layout. There’s an athwartships bed filling the stern hull with vanity desk nearby and a spacious bathroom in the bow. The upgraded interior has less glaring white gelcoat than the standard boat and is easily wiped down. Overall, the owner’s accommodation is impressive for a 39-foot catamaran – a major plus, especially for those buyers considering the liveaboard life.


Over in the port hull, two double cabins enjoy similar volume, including useful wardrobe space, and a large bathroom between them ensures privacy.

Hull and systems
Like the Lagoon, the Excess hull design has twin mini keels, rudders behind sail-drives and flared topsides to maximise volume in living spaces above the waterline. Also similar is balsa coring in the GRP hull above the waterline. Vacuum infusion is used for the hull and deck and injection moulding on the roof to minimise weight.
The Excess design has minimal structure forward with large trampolines to reduce weight and windage. Below, the nacelle is shaped to deflect waves, which is good given the vessel’s modest bridge-deck clearance, especially aft. Safety is also good with glass escape hatches in each hull.

Excess catamaran 12

Rudder shafts are connected via Dyneema line to the nearby steering wheels – a simple solution that offers more feel. Blunt bows maximise the waterline length while tall hulls provide generous interior volume. Volume is also evident in the two engine compartments, each housing an upgraded 45hp Yanmar engine with sail-drive. The battery is elevated but the box’s open grain plywood ends could soak up water. The review boat came with Flexofold propellers to maximise sailing performance.

Gold Coast sail
The shallow Gold Coast Seaway is an ideal catamaran habitat. So, with the Excess 12’s mini keels skimming over the sandbars, Australian Excess representative Micah Lane and I hoisted the performance mainsail as I pointed the hulls into a strong southerly wind. This was easily done – I simply pressed the button on the electric winch and the lazy jacks guided the tri-radial sail up the tall mast. Prior to that we had reached 8.2 knots under motor, so plenty of power when required.


Under sail with propellers folded, the Excess 12 was in its element, surging ahead in 15-knots of wind as I steered us through the Seaway entrance and out into 1.2m ocean swells. Once clear of the entrance, I bent down near the helm to release the jib-furler line and a short pull of the leeward sheet deployed the self-tacking sail, which was then sheeted.
By this time the wind had cranked up to 18 knots, causing the Excess to jump around a bit, so I was glad of the deck-level helm position. From here, views were clear forward and to the sails. So, just like on a monohull, I watched the tell-tale tapes on the jib and mainsail while enjoying lots of feedback from the helms. Whenever the helm became heavy, I eased the mainsail to quickly balance the sail plan.
The Raymarine showed a nippy 7.5 knots as we surged upwind at about 50o. ‘Lively and fun,’ I jotted in my notebook. I tacked slowly at first, but without any worry of stalling – the hulls spun round smoothly as I walked across the clear deck to the new windward helm. Easily done.
Alongside us was a larger cruising catamaran which we overhauled doing 8.5 knots as the wind built to 22 knots. Ideally, you’d put in the first of the two reefs before this stage, but we were about to turn for home – which was a good reason to gybe.
The self-tacking jib meant only the mainsail was our concern, so it was winched in via the twin sheets before I turned our transom through the wind and put us on course for the sheltered Broadwater. I’d have preferred to simply ease sheets and run north towards the tropical isles for which the Excess 12 is so ideally suited!

Overall, the Excess 12 is a capable coastal cruiser from a company with a proven pedigree. It’s sold at a reasonable price point, making it ideal for buyers wishing to enjoy the thrill of their first multihull.

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