Luxury high-end cruising cats with high-performance DNA have occupied an established if somewhat rarified niche in the sailboat market ever since Peter Johnstone launched the first Gunboat in South Africa just over two decades ago. Kinetic Catamarans is an interesting new player in this field. An American company also building boats in South Africa, it launched its first model, a 62-footer, in 2019. The company’s latest offering, the slightly smaller Kinetic 54, designed to appeal to active sailing couples, is a highly attractive, thoughtfully designed craft that snagged a nod from SAIL as Best Large Multihull in our 2022 Best Boats compilation.
Design & Construction
As is de rigueur for boats of this type, the design and construction of the Kinetic 54 tips straight out of the world of go-fast racing. Its hulls are narrow and svelte, with sharply angled wave-piercing destroyer bows. The bridgedeck is set high to reduce resistance from passing seas and is cut back toward the middle of the boat, with only a light forward crossbeam and a central longeron carrying headstay loads. Construction is at the cutting edge of lightweight strength—all carbon everything, including interior furniture, cored with foam and vacuum-infused with epoxy resin. Even the toilets on this boat are built of carbon fiber.
That said, there are also some important variations on the theme. Where daggerboards are normally favored so as to maximize performance to windward, Kinetic offers centerboards, which are much less vulnerable in groundings (with daggerboards as an option if an owner prefers). Also, like many modern performance cats, the Kinetic 54 boasts a forward working cockpit just ahead of the cabinhouse, but has its carbon mast-mounted outside the cockpit aft, with the maststep set on the very forward end of the coachroof.
The heart of the boat systems-wise is a sophisticated 24-volt C-Zone distributed power system designed by Cay Electronics of Rhode Island. This automatically balances high loads and feeds juice to a bank of lithium batteries from a large coachroof solar array, a DC genset (which fires up on its own as needed) and high-output engine alternators. It includes online diagnostics that allow for detailed remote tech support.
The Kinetic can be controlled from three different helm stations. The primary station is inside at the front of the bridgedeck saloon just behind the working cockpit. From here you can easily access the winches and running rigging by stepping through a nearby forward-facing door and also operate engine controls, navigation electronics and board controls. A large moon-roof directly above the wheel allows you to easily keep an eye on mainsail trim.
The other two wheels are aft, one at the back of each hull, with full sail controls and a B&G multifunction display at each station. The Jefa steering system linking the three different stations is segregated with clutches, so that only the wheel being used is actually connected to the rudders. When the autopilot is engaged, no wheels are connected. The break-default mode, which engages automatically when anything goes amiss, connects all wheels to the rudders. All sail controls, including the furlers, and the board controls are push-button powered systems, with load sensors to prevent over-tensioning and breakage.
Unlike many catamarans with aft decks dominated by long mainsheet travelers, the Kinetic’s traveler is mounted atop the back of the long coachroof, with a nicely curved track that carries sheet loads more efficiently. This saves lounging guests from accidentally tangling with the mainsail controls and creates a convenient space for an outdoor electric grill and fridge. It also allows for a unique fold-down transom that connects the back ends of the two hulls and transforms the rear of the boat into an immense swim platform spanning its entire breadth.
As we’ve come to expect with modern catamarans, the Kinetic is available with two basic layouts: a four-cabin/four-head plan with double berths in the back and front of each hull; or a three-cabin/three-head plan, where one hull is given over to a vast owner’s stateroom. The most important space, as on any cruising cat, is the bridgedeck saloon. On the Kinetic this truly does have wrap-around views of the outside world, thanks to the absence of the mast forward. The galley is to starboard, with an electric Miele induction stove and oven (gas is optional), a three-drawer Vitrifrigo fridge system, loads of storage and a very useful island. A dinette and settee are to port, and the nav station is forward, just to the right of the inside helm station.
Finish quality throughout is superb. Though the furniture is all foam-cored carbon to save weight, it is mostly covered with attractive wood veneers. The joinery includes hardwood inserts for fastener attachments and on the corners. The countertops are fine thin-milled ceramic porcelain. A range of treatments can be selected when you order the boat.
I sailed the boat on Chesapeake Bay off Annapolis in about 10 knots of true wind in sumptuous circumstances. There was a large party of prospective buyers and journalists aboard, and we were feted with wine and delicious hors d’oeuvres throughout our excursion. Despite these distractions, I did spend some time focused on the boat’s performance.
Our test boat was equipped with the standard North 3Di sails and rig. This features a fixed carbon Marstrom mast supported by fiber stays and an in-boom mainsail furler. A taller racing rig is also available, as is a rotating mast, which will broaden the range of wind angles at which the in-boom main can be deployed and retrieved. For Luddites who like to actually handle their sails, a conventional main can be specified if desired. However, I suspect the builder will discourage this. The Kinetic is designed to be a push-button boat.
In spite of the very moderate breeze, at no point during our sail did we experience single-digit speeds. We ranged easily up to a 40-degree apparent wind angle under a full main and a solent jib, accelerating the apparent wind to 20 knots apparent and the boat up to 14 knots over the ground. Bearing away with an A-sail flying at angles varying from 85 to 125 degrees we moved along nicely at 12 knots. Sailing a deep broad reach, we still managed to maintain 10 knots.
Steering the boat I found a bit more friction in the system than I expected, but this was not intrusive. As with any cat, it took me a little while to get the feel of the boat. But once tuned in, I found the helm was quite responsive, and I had little trouble finding a groove and staying in it.
Auxiliary power is provided by twin 80hp Yanmar diesels turning a pair of three-blade Gori props on saildrives. We easily maintained 10 knots of speed running both engines at 2,100 rpm. At 2,600 rpm our speed rose to 12 knots, at a cost, I was told, of two gallons of fuel per hour per engine. More economically, we could move at 8 knots motorsailing under the mainsail with just one engine turning at 2,250 rpm. The fuel came from two 132-gallon tanks, one in each hull, that are inter-plumbed, so go-juice can be transferred between them. (The water tanks are similarly arranged.)
As for close-quarters maneuvering, this is handled by a Dockmate remote joystick system that can put the boat most anywhere you want controlling the engines alone. For even more agility, a drop-down bow thruster can be specified.
At a price point this high, you expect to get a superb vessel, and the Kinetic 54 certainly delivers! It is as well thought out as any luxury performance cat on the market and has several unique features that should make it attractive to buyers looking for boats of this type.
LOA 54ft 2in LWL 53ft 6in Beam 27ft 8in Draft 4ft 6in (boards up); 10ft 6in (boards down) Displacement 35,825lb (light ship) Sail Area 1,593ft2 Fuel/Water (gal) 264/264 SA/D Ratio 23.45 D/L Ratio 104 Engine 2 x 80hp Yanmar diesel (saildrive) Designer Simonis Voogd Yacht Design Builder Kinetic Catamarans, Knysna, South Africa, kineticcatamarans.com U.S. Office Bow, WA, 310-308-8422 Base Price $3.1 million
MHS Summer 2022