Alicia interviews Cyrille Corlay about Garcia’s aluminum catamaran designs and more. He talks about the Explocat52 and why it was developed, how is differs from Outremer designs, and how it compares to monohull Garcias.
You can learn more and get in contact with Cyrille at:
I hope that French subscribers will enjoy the video, and that English speakers enjoy the translated transcript below.
Hello everyone, welcome back to this new episode of the CatamaranSite podcast. I am delighted to be your host for the first French episode of the podcast. I’m Alicia and joining us today is Cyrille Corlay, Vice President of Development of the shipyard Garcia Yachts.
Hello Cyrille, how are you?
Hello Alicia, I’m really well thank you.
Super! I’m delighted to be talking with you today. So, our objective is to present the shipyard Garcia Yachts and, of course, their most recent catamaran, the Explocat52.
Garcia Yachts is a shipyard based in Cherbourg. They are globally renowned for their expertise in the construction of bluewater cruising sailing yachts, both monohulls and catamarans.
The Explocat52 was announced in 2016 and has since generated a lot of excitement in the industry. Since its launch in 2020, the Explocat52 went on to win the International Multihull of the Year award in 2021.
Let’s begin with talking a bit about you, Cyrille. How long have you been in the industry? And how did you arrive in your position of Vice President of Development at Garcia?
I began in the nautical industry when I was much younger. Back in the day, I was the Harbour Master of Cherbourg from 1997 until 2001. I left the industry for a few years and then was happy to come back in 2018 as a result of a meeting with the Grand Large Yachting Group President, Stéphan Constance. I was initially employed as Marketing and Commercial Manager of Allures Yachting and Garcia Yachts, and I’ve been in my current role of Vice-President of Development at Garcia for the last two years, while still predominantly wearing my marketing and commercial hat.
So, you’ve lived through quite a complicated time for the industry and of course, for the world more broadly speaking. By that I mean the Covid-19 pandemic, of course, which affected us all and brutally impacted the yachting industry, not only disrupting land-based businesses but the preventative measures put in place by the government also prohibited cruisers from leaving port.
What impact did Covid have on Garcia? And how did you have to adapt to manage that impact on business activity?
Yes, indeed in 2020 we entered a much less stable world than the one we had previously known. Covid-19 had one very positive impact and one rather negative impact for us. As for all outdoor businesses, if not, a large majority of them, the positive impact came a few weeks following the month of confinement when lots of people had a sort of frenzied urge [for freedom]. For many of our clients this need for freedom incurred a desire to get away. The majority wanted to bring forward a life goal that might have otherwise been a bit more of a distant dream, in order to make it more tangible.
We saw a significant rise in the number of orders which meant for Garcia that at one point the delay went from 18 months to nearly 36 months. That was the very beneficial aspect of Covid 19 for us because in our industry visibility is the key to be able to invest, create new models, train our staff and hire new staff. And then the negative effect of Covid 19 was very much the same for everyone in that there was great tension placed on the supply chain. Beyond that, the confinements themselves caused some difficulty because for a while going to work wasn’t an easy feat. The supply chain was disrupted quite persistently for at least 2 years. We’re starting to see a return to something a little more normal now. We were forced to adapt the business organization like many, I think. Back then we had two or three people in sales, whereas now we have eight, and that can create an opportunity to be more efficient in that respect.
Next, we have the topic of inflation which does not only impact all the shipyards but also life in general, so that’s not good news for anyone because it entails lots of negotiations with suppliers, negotiations with our clients, and potentially also means a slowdown in sales because people will be less inclined to buy when they don’t necessarily know the final cost of what they are buying.
It’s great that you saw an increase in sales. I think it’s quite clear that everyone is more in need of fresh air and freedom.
Garcia constructed their very first catamaran in 2015, having been initially known for their monohulls and already having a line of monohulls renowned for their excellence in terms of design, comfort and performance. The SC48 was a 15m catamaran in aluminium. So, what motivated the shipyard to start building catamarans?
It needs to be said that there is a predecessor to the Explocat52, the boat we are talking about today. So, the Garcia shipyard has been in business for just over 45 years, and they’ve been specializing in the construction, as you say, of aluminium monohulls since the beginning. We’ve also undertaken the construction of good-sized custom builds of up to 90 or even 110ft. I think it’s really around that that the sort of “legend” of Garcia came to be, that all our builds are designed for blue water cruising, and they have travelled the seas of the world and have logged an impressive number of nautical miles, with ventures into the higher latitudes for example, some truly incredible voyages have been sailed and thankfully, our clients continue to explore them today.
The first catamaran that we built in aluminium came to fruition from a meeting for a custom-build. We had a client who wanted us to build him an aluminium catamaran, which was then duplicated because, once we had finished the first model, we had another client who wanted to build the same boat with a few modifications. And this second boat was launched on the World ARC and went on to win numerous legs. So, this made us recognize that we had the possibility to make a rather performant boat out of an aluminium catamaran, because aluminium is relatively light, not forgetting that racing boats, going back just over 30 years before they turned to composite, were built from aluminium. Also, aluminium offers greater strength in the platform, which is another factor towards the boat’s enhanced performance in comparison to polyester boats.
When Pete Goss sailed the Explocat52 he relayed to us that when under sail and reaching around 20 knots the leeward stays remained under tension. That is a really great sign of the platform’s rigidity, and therefore of the boat’s performance capability.
Yes, and all of that corresponds perfectly with the Garcia promise, “There is no where you can’t go”, that’s to say that you offer sailors the possibility to explore from the most northern latitudes to the warmest of waters.
Yes, absolutely. The main topic for catamarans is to be able to deliver the utmost security, but also to have enough speed to be able to play with a low-pressure system. We deem this boat to be capable of maintaining an average speed of 10 knots with a light breeze, which means it can cover more than 200NM a day. With a reliable weather forecast of three or four days, it’s able to cover 600 to 800 NM and therefore be able to escape a strong low-pressure system. On a monohull, or in any case, a Garcia we’re accustomed to saying when you encounter serious bad weather, you secure the hatches, lower the sails, lift the daggerboard and you wait it out inside.
A cat doesn’t work that way at all. The security of the boat is more active, more dynamic, you need to be able to escape a strong low-pressure system if need be. It is a boat of excellent nautical performance but even still people won’t want to find themselves in 50knots of wind with a 12m wave. For this reason, the Explocat52 is capable of outrunning, or rather, of playing with a low-pressure system. I like Pete Goss’s explanation of the Explocat52, “stretching the boundaries”, which means that for a catamaran the sailing ground would usually be around the tropics alone but with this boat we can discover places a little further afield in higher latitudes.
The Explocat52 has been a great success, notably for its speed as you’ve just mentioned, it’s design and performance. However, since its launch the SC48 has also completed a circumnavigation. So, what I’d like to know is what differs the Explocat52 from the SC48, with the obvious exception of their size?
We consider the SC48 as a great working basis because we had a very performant boat. We knew from our exchanges with Outremer that the world of catamarans was open to blue water sailing for the benefits that multihulls offer for blue water cruising, notably at anchor, a catamaran is exceptionally spacious for a live-aboard. And so, we thought that it would be interesting to give our offer of the Exploration range over to a small series production of aluminium multihulls. What was missing from the SC48 was most notably on the aesthetic front and a little on the length. We worked with Pierre Delion who is the naval architect to create a slightly larger boat of 52ft instead of 48ft in which we have 2m of headroom throughout, so that’s an additional height that we needed to respect as well. And then we also worked a lot with Franck Darnet who designed both the interior and exterior of the boat, which allowed him to refine the boat’s lines resulting in a beautiful aesthetic, while offering great interior liveable space with significant headroom.
This is really a compromise that we have chosen, and it’s the same for every boat, it’s a compromise between weight/performance in relation to the interior beam/BOC, where you would also have to try to reduce in size. This boat really has a perfect balance between an extremely heavy boat and on the other hand, a very lightweight, performant boat. The Explocat52 sits perfectly in the centre, with a very comfortable average speed, and still offers exceptional comfort underway.
You’ve mentioned that you have used the SC48 as a working base for the Explocat52 and you have innovated in many ways on the Explocat52. So, for example, there’s the pendular helm which allows you to navigate from two positions. What else would you like to add regarding the innovations to be found on this boat that differentiate it from the SC48?
At this stage, I think it’s important to add that when we wanted to introduce the Explocat into the Garcia Exploration line, we referred to the specifications issued to us by Jimmy Cornell back in the day. The creation of the Exploration line is intimately connected to the experienced sailor, Jimmy Cornell’s project.
I don’t know if I need to explain a little bit more about him, he navigated over 200 000NM, and in 2014 or 2013 he came to see us to construct a boat specifically for his project of sailing the Northwest passage. At the time, he was one of the first to sail the passage, now there are quite a few who have done it, including Allures and Garcia boats since, but at the time he was one of the first to navigate it. Jimmy dictated specifications to us for a boat with exceptional comfort and security, so for the most part, we’ve adapted these specifications to the Explocat52, not all because we can’t tick every box on a catamaran.
And then another noteworthy point about this boat would be the balance we have found between a heavy boat and very lightweight boat. We’ve produced a boat that sits perfectly in the middle ground. It is both fast and comfortable, with a forward cockpit (which is an important point), as well as a watertight door onto the forward deck. When navigating in light winds, or at anchor with a heavy chain the door provides incredible airflow. So that makes up the significant advantages of this boat, but we also have the panoramic windows which provide great luminosity and interior visibility. Then there’s the possibility of heavily equipping the boat because Garcia boats provide this possibility for blue water cruising.
And then I’ll finish with the lightweight quality of the boat which we were able to work on together with Outremer, another company of our group Grand Large Yachting. There were two essential points for this, so the forward longitudinal pillars and the Outremer 5X pillar in composite that we were able to use for this boat, which means that we have something both rigid and light. And then, the furniture onboard is built with veneered composite which has enabled us to save around 250kg of weight inside the boat.
All that comes from the suggestions of the Outremer design office, which has assisted us in building a game changing boat, to use Pete Goss’s expression when he sea trialed the Explocat52.
We’re going to come back to this point of the synergy between Garcia and Outremer, but before that what I’d like to ask you is, how many boats have you now delivered please?
So, we’ve just delivered number four. We also made the decision, following the success that we saw with this boat, to double the manufacturing speed of this model from our initial forecasted production time. So, we introduced the process of laying aluminium sheets which enabled us to increase our production speed. This boat requires quite a lengthy construction period, it takes us almost 18 months to build, well 15-16 months construction time spent, in the main, on the metalworks.
It’s really a large boat, and the one inconvenience of aluminium is that we have to start from the ground up every time. We begin with a delivery of aluminium sheets, unlike with composite or fiberglass boats where you can rebuild from a mould which can be easily replicated with a short production time. But despite that, we have been able to increase production by using the method of laying aluminium sheets, and we’re lucky to have 16 orders of the boat, 4 of which have already been delivered. But now we’re going to move to a delivery speed of 2-3 per year as was initially forecasted.
Great, ok and who is the typical buyer of this boat?
The typical buyer of this boat is really the typical buyer of Garcia boats, generally a couple around their 50s who have a rather busy professional life, who have been able to realise some of their assets, and decide to leave for a new life, a different, a very different life. They don’t just leave for a holiday but to travel the world and have a desire to discover the world. We’re talking about quite long travels, our clients will spend 10 years or so travelling. And then there’s another sector of our client base because on this boat we offer an option of 4 cabins, or 5 cabins including the captain’s cabin, so we have two boats which also head into a little bit of charter usage as well.
Are there any owners who have already ventured to the four corners of the world?
With the Explocat52 you mean?
Yes, it has already been 2 years since Number One was delivered, so that boat has already gone up to Sweden and Norway and sailed Iceland last summer. They’re hoping to go back to Sweden and Norway this new season to explore a little further North. So, that’s already quite a cold voyage. Number 2 is a boat that was in the Mediterranean and made a transatlantic crossing last winter, they’re now in the Caribbean. They are spending the end of this season in The Antilles exploring the entire ARC, so to speak, as there’s only a few weeks or a few months remaining before going to explore new horizons. Number 3 is a boat which sails the Mediterranean, it is is currently based in Dubrovnik. Number 4 is a boat that intends to spend a first season in the Med as well, a second season in the Caribbean, and then the owner, who is from Quebec, is planning a few different colder passages like Le Saint Laurent, Québec to be a little closer to his hometown as it were, and then heading on to more warmer voyages.
Super! That’s some real marketing there, it demonstrates that this boat really is capable of long-range cruising.
It is capable and our clients are capable of it too!
Ah yes, that’s important too! Yes! So, we’re going to come back to a point that you made previously: the synergy between the businesses Outremer and Garcia. How much do the businesses coordinate?
Outremer, like Garcia and Allures Yachting, RM and Gunboat are all shipyards under the group Grand Large Yachting which specializes in boats built for blue water sailing, that’s what unites us all. So, the synergy that we have between us, I’ve explained about the design office, and sales/supply as well, but for me, the principal synergy that we have is really in the client service that we deliver. Since the beginning, with the creation of the Allures shipyard 23 years ago, the two founders of the Grand Large Group Stéphan Constance and Xavier Desmarest have wanted to take the client A-Z.
From the original idea, we offer a seminar that we generally organize in April, which leads into a training course – we have a training school called Escale Formation Technique which provides modules over 2 or 3 days covering long-distance voyages, electronics onboard, mechanics, sea survival, and safety equipment. Then, at the delivery stage, we take the client through their own boat, the guarantee and the after-sales process. We have the Grand Large World Rally which allows clients who want to embark on an accompanied project to sign up for a 3-year rally around the world. The first left in November 2021, the second will set off in November 2025 with the option to either undertake a rally around the world or a few small loops, be it the Atlantic or other.
And then we also offer boat refit at the end of our clients’ travels, at the 10–12-year mark, and assist with brokerage on the second-hand market. So we have a full client service package across all five brands, which really enables us to stand out because we are able to take on a very highly experienced navigator who has already completed one or two circumnavigations and wants to embark on a very technical project in the Arctic or Antarctic, just as we are able to accompany a client who has a deep-rooted desire to set sail on a great voyage but who has zero nautical experience because he’s worked like a dog for 30 years and has only chartered twice in the Antilles to get away from his loaded working life. In this case, we have our A-Z client journey offering that will enable the client to have sufficient knowledge to begin their voyage and take charge of their boat with more ease to be able to go off sailing for 5 to 10 years, and who will more than likely go and see some icebergs in Greenland or even further afield once the sun has caressed them for a little too long.
I think it’s great that across all five brands, you have created the possibility to really support your clients in the process from the start right to the end of their journey. It’s an excellent quality for Garcia, I think.
Now, I’d like to ask the question of how would you define the difference between an aluminium boat and a fibre-glass boat? And what makes a catamaran a better choice over a fiberglass catamaran like an Outremer?
I’ll distinguish between a polyester and composite catamaran, the latter being much lighter first and foremost. So, for Outremer we’re talking about boats that are much more evolved and which offer a quality of lightweightness in comparison to a construction in pure polyester. And in my opinion, what really makes for a blue water cruising boat is its gross tonnage.
We consider a boat to be a blue water cruiser if it is capable of motoring 6 to 7 days with quite a good cruising range if there is absolutely no wind, and to be able to heat the boat because in the most northern latitudes we enter an anticyclonic area which is why we often see photos in the Northern Latitudes with generously bright sunshine, partial cloud coverage, but nevertheless generous sun. Since, between a few low-pressure systems, there are still long periods of good weather, and you would generally be using your motors to be able to avoid the ice sheets around you. So, to have a notably large fuel capacity is a true distinguishing factor between a blue water cruiser and a production boat, in my opinion. However, a generous fuel capacity requires optimum weight distribution, so the fuel tanks are located in the depth of the hull which is obviously the case on an Explocat52.
Then another difference between a GRP catamaran and an aluminium catamaran is the resistance to shock. Aluminium will deform in the case of an impact, a bit like car bodywork which would incur a dent but not a hole. The difference is between encountering cosmetic damage which would be a problem, and a nightmare if we have water infiltration. Keeping in mind that in blue water cruising we can come across what we call flotsams which are containers, whales, etc., but we also need to be aware that we are also in areas that are less or poorly mapped on charts. To impact something is obviously not advised but there are things that can arise during a voyage because again, we’re in much more unchartered waters, unlike somewhere in Europe, for example, where charts are more up to date. If we enter a lagoon where there is generally just enough depth, around 2-3 meters with coral reefs, we are advised to only enter with good visibility such as with the sun ahead of us. Despite that, there can be times when we do have impact, and a collision with something on an aluminium boat while it’s again not advised, but generally speaking it will be ok if we aren’t going too fast, whereas with a GRP boat it would quickly become a very big issue.
For someone who is hesitating between the Explocat52 or a Garcia monohull, what important points should they keep in mind making their decision?
That’s a huge debate which we could spend a whole day discussing. Generally speaking, our clients come to us with quite a firm decision on what they’re looking for. They’ve already reached a decision between a catamaran and a monohull. There are lots of things to consider, the first is agenda, that’s an obvious one, what do I want to do with my boat? Generally, that first question will conclude in a decision on a boat in the large sense of the word.
The second is lifestyle, and what we’re looking for and not looking for in a boat. The advantages of a catamaran are well known, almost 60% of catamarans are appreciated for their comfort at anchor, speed as well, and stability of course. A catamaran is a boat that can reassure certain people who are sometimes not very experienced sailors, and sometimes helps ease sea sickness because it heels less. The lifestyle can also sway people as well.
The advantages of a monohull, in my opinon, are that we have much better security. In very rough seas, we’re able to lower all the sails, batten down the hatches, take coverage under the rigid bimini, lift the daggerboard, and then wait it out. The comfort on a monohull can also be much better in rough seas because there’s no bridgedeck for the waves to strike underneath, which brings with it quite a bit of noise and causes a little discomfort. And then a monohull is also easier to store.
Sometimes some of our clients want to sail for three years non-stop, so in this case a catamaran would work well. On the other hand, some want to sail for 5, 8, or 10 years but sail 6, 8, or perhaps 10 months a year but stop for 2, 4 or 6 months, and for them, the question of where to store their boat on water or on the hard will come up pretty much anywhere in the world, as it is much easier to find a berth for a monohull than for a catamaran.
What are your (Garcia’s) future projects? Does the shipyard envisage growing the catamaran line?
Yes, thankfully we always have projects and ideas. We’ve just completed three models out of the 7 in the line, if we combine Allures and Garcia who work in the same field. We have the Allures 51.9 and the Garcia 52, Exploration 60 which is the largest model of the line for the last 3 years. It was a good idea to execute in a market where clients want new models because it offered us the opportunity to launch ground-breaking models, like the Explocat52, for example, which has exceeded 15 models. We’re in a phase of optimising the launches of these boats.
And to respond to your question about the Explocat, I don’t know yet if we will build another model; we have two routes. We won’t launch anything smaller, that is for certain, since the aluminium structure necessitates a small reduction of space, so if we were to reduce the size it wouldn’t make much sense for the interior volume of the boat. Therefore, it would be more likely another Explocat52 of the same size but perhaps a slightly different version, or why not a second launch of the boat with a simpler design? I don’t know, it needs to be confirmed. And then maybe also increase in size, why not a 60ft? The bigger we go, the more advantages aluminium holds in terms of rigidity and lightness, since with a polyester boat the bigger you go the more material and thickness is required, but in aluminium it is not the case. We have an equivalence of lightweight material as we go up in size.
I think everyone is eagerly awaiting news from the Garcia shipyard.
For those who want to learn more, how can they get in touch with you please, Cyrille?
Rather easily, so we have a Garcia website that I invite anyone listening to visit. We have a YouTube channel as well which allows you to discover quite a few of our boats. I think that that’s already two good options. On the website there’s a standard contact button which will get you in touch rather directly with either me or Olivier Devinck, who is the commercial manager at Garcia, that has both our email addresses and telephone numbers.
We’ll respond very quickly to anyone who wants to contact us from a distance, either by conference call which we do with clients overseas because 80% of our clients are abroad, or by shipyard visits which also extend into sea trials when they’re nearing the end of the decision-making process. So, getting in contact with us is rather easy, I can leave you a phone number and email address at the end if you want to discuss but via the website you can get in contact rather easily.
Super! Thank you so much. Have a great day, Cyrille.
Thank you, Alicia. Have a great day too.