BOAT REVIEW Excess 15 Binx

January 2022 Yacht Reviews
Words by Sarah Ell. Photography and video by Roger Mills.
OUR RATING
4 STARS
Performance
Economy
Handling
Value
Build Quality
Specification
MODEL DETAILS
MODEL Excess 15
DESIGNER Patrick le Quément
BUILDER Beneteau Boats/Excess
PRICE AS TESTED $POA
SPECIFICATIONS
LOA 14.76M
LENGTH (Waterline) 14.31M
BEAM 8.03M
DISPLACEMENT 18400kg
ENGINE 2 x Yanmar 57hp diesel
FUEL CAPACITY 1040L
WATER CAPACITY 480L
Mast & Rigging Aluminium and SS
ACCOMMODATION Four cabins
HIGHLIGHTS
  • Simple interior but with personalised touches
OBSERVATIONS
  • Great combination of comfort, space and performance
  • Autopilot does much of the work of sailing – ideal for long passages

If you want to find out how good your new boat will be as a long-range offshore cruiser, there’s one sure-fire way to find out: sail her to New Zealand from Europe.


That’s exactly what the owners of this Excess 15 sailing cat did, picking her up from the factory in Bordeaux (Excess is a brand under the Beneteau umbrella) and bringing her back across the Atlantic, through the Caribbean and Panama Canal, and down through the Pacific Islands – in the midst of a pandemic. By the time she got home, she already had 15,000 trouble-free nautical miles under her hulls.
Binx – named after the magical cat Thackery Binx in the 1993 movie Hocus Pocus – departed from Europe in October 2020 and arrived at Opua in the Bay of Islands in June this year. She has been based out of Auckland so far, but her owners have plans to get back up to the islands as soon as possible. While she’s a great platform for cruising local waters, she’s designed and set up for some for serious bluewater adventures.

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Her owners had previously owned a Beneteau Oceanis 58 monohull, but decided to take the multihull route in order to gain more liveable space and room to cruise with family, without compromising too much on performance. This 14.7-metre (48-foot) cat has six roomy cabins and four heads – more than enough space to cruise with quite a crew.
The Excess 15 is a new model for Beneteau, part of its range of performance-orientated cruising cats. There’s an 11 (11.4 metres LOA) and a 12 (11.8 metres LOA), with a 13 and a 14 in the works. Binx is the only one to make it to New Zealand so far, though local agents 36 Degrees are expecting an Excess 12 here next year, for a syndicate of owners.
The Excess range is designed by French race-yacht designers VPLP to offer decent sailing performance while still offering plenty of space and comfort. While Binx has just the standard twin swept-spreader alloy rig and a minimal sail wardrobe of mainsail, one furling jib, a gennaker and a code zero, the boat can be specified with a sportier Pulse Line rig.


But these owners weren’t looking for a race boat: they wanted something simple and reliable which can take them on long, gentler-paced adventures, as well as making reasonable passage times. Much of the time the boat is sailed by the autopilot – even on our test-sail day it does most of the work – and the owners estimate around 14,000 of the 15,000 miles she’s done so far have been on auto, with the crew instead spending time enjoying the space and comfort the boat has to offer.


And there’s plenty of both those things, inside and out. The large cockpit creates an outdoor living area which proved very popular on the boat’s trip home through the tropics, with the addition of mesh screens to keep the mozzies out (custom-made when the boat was in Antigua). This area can also be enclosed with clears.
Under the hard cockpit top, there’s a portable folding table to port around an L-shaped seating area (with some cool sailcloth director’s chairs sourced from France), and a wide single sofa to starboard, aft of a little outdoor galley station with sink, fridge and storage. There’s a long settee across the transom, and seats for the helmsperson fold down on both sides, over the walk-throughs at the back of each hull. The pair of 57hp Yanmar diesels are accessed through hatches back here too.


The twin helm stations are positioned well aft and outboard, to avoid the need for a forward driving ‘pod’. This gives good visibility both up to the mainsail and forward. The main lives in a stack-pack with lazy-jacks, and the jib is on a furler, so there’s no need to make a trip to the bow. Putting the sails up and down does involve some manual work but that’s what the owner wanted – they want some hands-on stuff and simple systems.
On the starboard cabintop there’s a pair of winches, one powered and one manual, for halyards, sheets and sail controls, and a single manual winch to port for the spinnaker lines. The traveller, which runs across the transom, is controlled by a flush-mounted Harken FlatWinder electric winch.
The cabin side steps up immediately forward of the helm stations, providing a wide side-deck running forward to the bow, which has a seating area on the wing-deck and a small trampoline area. Right up in the bows are a pair of very large, deep anchor and storage lockers.
Hanging off the transom on a davit between the hulls is the OC Tender, named Thackery. It’s also had a big journey: the owners were so impressed with it, they shipped it to France to make the trip home with the Excess.

Inside the sliding doors from the cockpit, the galley and saloon spread out across the wing-deck. The interior is kept simple, with some personalised touches added. Instead of the standard fixed table, the owners have opted to supply their own custom Valdenassi wooden table for the saloon area.The very large galley area is ranged athwartships along the aft cabin wall, with sink and large four-burner cooker to port, and plenty of bench space and storage to starboard. The fabric drawer-pulls are a nice touch.
The main seating and saloon area is slightly elevated, providing great views out the wraparound windows, with further storage built into the bulkheads around it, and a chart table area forward on the port side. There are no big screens; navigation on this boat is done by a network of connected iPads.


The two hulls handle all the accommodation. Instead of having one hull entirely reserved for an enormous ‘owners’ suite’, here the hulls are mirror-images of each other, with double cabins fore and aft, each with their own en suite head and shower, and a third cabin each side built in under the saloon. When not being occupied by crew or guests on longer passages, these internal cabins make great storage spaces.

In order to have as few things to go wrong as possible, the owners decided against air conditioning and a generator, which saves on space and need to carry heavy fuel. Ample power for refrigeration and other functions is provided by the large array of solar panels on the cockpit roof, and a bank of lithium ion batteries. The boat also has a Watt & Sea hydrogenator fitted, which can create power from an in-water turbine when passage-making. Having no generator and associated equipment means more storage space, and the boat certainly has plenty of that: there’s masses of it in both hulls, accessed from the accommodation areas but also under the cockpit, and the boat can carry nearly 500 litres of water and more than 1000 litres of fuel.


The day of our test sail it’s forecast to be a bit fresh, but that’s no problem for Binx and its owners – a southwesterly gusting over 20 knots on the Waitematā is small potatoes for the ocean-hardened Binx. And she proved to be unbothered by the conditions, even when the wind rose a little – a few adjustments here and there, a reef in the main and a partial furling of the jib and we were cruising along no worries.


The other great pleasure of having a multihull, of course, is that the ride remained completely flat and smooth, with the hulls slicing through the chop and no heeling when the pressure came on. We reached along comfortably at around 9 knots, a little over half the 17-knot top speed the owners have experienced. What’s also interesting is the lack of noise: once inside the saloon with the sliding door closed, wind and wave noise are almost completely banished.
After even just a short sail, it’s easy to imagine what a safe and comfortable feeling Binx would provide on a long passage across open ocean. She’s spacious, stable and stylish – a magical cat indeed.

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