Alex Stone with the story of a remarkable re-fit in Auckland

Dulcinea. She’s the imaginary recipient of the chivalrous love of the ever-hopeful Don Quixote. You know, from the famous 1605 novel, where our hapless hero and his sidekick Sancho Panza sally forth to tilt at windmills, among other equally madcap adventures.

But Quixote’s love for Dulcinea, the epitome of perfection, was forever unrequited. And we all know that a beautiful yacht can also be a demanding mistress. And one who offers rewards of a richness beyond imagining.

And so to the remarkable story of the impressive catamaran Dulcinea, and her make-over in Auckland. All in the time of the Covid in that city.

But to go back a little: Matt Thomas, the skipper of Dulcinea fills me in. “The owner of this cat is a very experienced sailor, based in the Greater Seattle area, who has owned a similar-sized catamaran, a Morelli Melvin/Westerly Yachts design called Gizmo, currently in Indonesia.

Skipper Matt Thomas, left, and Angelo Lavranos at the helm station.

“Having sailed through large portions of the Pacific, he was offered what he thought was a fair price for Gizmo and sold her, thinking that he’d possibly stop sailing, but within a year he was looking for another cat.

He looked at a number of catamarans, many of them larger, but felt that what he wanted was something around 65ft (20m) that would be more cruising-orientated than his previous carbon fibre cat, but it had to be a good sailing cat.”


Having previously owned a smaller Erik Lerouge catamaran, he was immediately attracted to the only 65ft Wildcat catamaran on the market at the time. After some negotiation, he purchased the vessel in the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. Lerouge is also known for his very impressive Pulsar range of trimarans.

Built in Latvia and previously named Wildcat, the yacht had been used for day charters in the Baltic and Caribbean.

“After the purchase, the re-named Dulcinea was sailed to French Polynesia where the family enjoyed a number of trips, but at the onset of Covid the decision was made to ship the boat to New Zealand for a full refit, at Orams Marine Services in Auckland,” Matt continues.

Which is where our story begins.

Dulcinea’s saloon.
Lots of beam, and the spacious galley in the starboard hull.

“The hull is 12 years old and the vessel has already completed multiple ocean crossings, and as part of the repainting a number of cracks were found. While these presented no major concerns it was decided that further investigation would be worthwhile and, in that regard we engaged Pure Design & Engineering ( to oversee any structural concerns and to develope any required solutions.

Additionally, Gino Morelli of Morelli Melvin ( came on board to offer additional comments on any issues and solutions.

Erik Larouge ( the original yacht designer was also engaged to ensure that all parties had access to the original design philosophy. Erik was also there to comment on any changes to be made to Dulcinea during the refit. Which evolved into a $4 million investment into the Westhaven-based boating industries, at a time when they needed it most.


“While it was clear that after 12 years of sailing and multiple ocean crossings there was some wear and tear, there were a number of structural elements that would benefit from refitting. Sail gear and systems have been completely upgraded to current technology and associated areas have been reinforced as required.

Unusual elevated steering position, dubbed the ‘Popemobile’.
Dulcinea’s battery bank – 12 200Ah lithium phosphate batteries, running a 24V system.

“At times we felt as if we were employing the whole of Westhaven,” Matt jokes. Indeed, the makeover’s cast reads as a who’s who of the best in New Zealand’s recreational maritime industry:

Overall contractor and project management – Orams Marine Services

• Orams Project Manager – Henry Murchison

• Interior design – Donna Maree Yacht Interior Design

• Structural design and updates – Pure Engineering (Andrew Corkery), with consultation from Gino Morelli and Erik Lerouge

• Boat building – Orams Marine Services


• Painting – Orams Marine Services

• Carpentry – Orams Marine Services

• Sailing systems – GT Yachting

• Rigging and mast Service – RigPro/Southern Spars

• Plumbing, water-maker, sewerage, engineering Centro Marine

• Mechanical engineering, new motors and genset Marine Propulsion

• Sails service and repair – Evolution Sails NZ

• Electrical system design and installation – Attest Marine

• Hull wrap and signage – Signcorp

• Fastenings and equipment – Auckland Engineering Supply

• Equipment and sailing Gear – Fosters Chandlery

• Upholstery and enclosures – Boat Covers

Plenty of solar energy on tap when the sun shines.
The helm is equipped with the latest electronics technology. An electronics refit was an integral part of the project.

And not forgetting, coffee and breakfasts from Johnny Wray’s Coffee.

“I’m hoping I haven’t left anyone out…” says Matt.

New sails were bought from Elvstrøm.


Angelo Lavranos, an old friend and noted yacht designer, and I went for an early sail trial on Dulcinea. Matt reminded us “what you got to see and experience was the result of 16 months of hard work by a large team of contractors.”

Some noteworthy elements to Dulcinea. For most cruising yachties, I imagine it’s hard to visualise the generous extent of a bridgedeck saloon in a cat that’s 10.5m wide. Suffice to say, Matt and his makeover team have utilised this space with grace: no clutter or overt furnishings. The for’ard part of the saloon was re-purposed to accommodate a huge battery bank, hidden under a (very) wide, hinged shelf. At the same time, this created an additional strengthening box construction under the mast. This space contains 12 x 200Ah lithium phosphate batteries, running a 24V system.

Also, most cruising catamaran sailors, perhaps used to less spacious boats, have become used to the ‘galley up’ configuration. The starboard hull of Dulcinea has space for a fine galley down, complete with a full-on, stand-up fridge/ freezer. She’s a big boat in every respect.

Unusually for a cat of this size, Dulcinea has a single, midships steering station. But the elevated steering position (called a ‘Popemobile’ in less flattering circumstances) is streamlined, and well-integrated into the profile aesthetics of the yacht. Visibility is fine from here; and with the powerful bow thrusters Matt can do fine manoeuvring too.

New motors were installed in Dulcinea: two Yanmar 110hp. And, as Matt says, “An electronics refit was an integral part of the project.

“About the only original things still there, are the shell and the wingmast.”

Which created a challenge for David Minors of DM Marine Electronics, who installed the all-new, integrated B&G Zeus system. The radar and wind sensors, mounted on that rotating mast need constant, real-time re-calibration to deal with the changing angles of their moving base. But no problem – all sorted.

Last word to Dean Kennedy, Principal Surveyor of Marine Survey New Zealand Ltd (MSNZ) who conducted the survey: “Dulcinea is in many areas of superyacht standard and has greatly benefited from a professionally run re-fit from a very competent captain. The re-fit work has been expertly completed by a world-class yard to the highest of standards.

“It is the undersigned’s opinion that relative to her age, Dulcinea is in as-new condition cosmetically. Structurally, the vessel is in very good condition. The vessel was a pleasure to survey.”

As I write this, I learn that Dulcinea is making her way to Fiji, sailing upright, stable and safe, effortlessly doing 12.5knots under reduced canvas.

A pleasure to sail too. A fine ending to our story of Love in the Time of the Covid. BNZ