Leopard began their sailing catamaran line-up with a cruise-worthy 45-foot catamaran. When the charter industry took notice, they requested smaller sailing cats for their fleets, so Leopard provided the 38-foot model, as well as a 42-foot model.
In 2004, Leopard partnered with designers Morelli & Melvin for their Leopard 40 model. Between 2004 and 2009, Leopard produced 136 Leopard 40s before replacing it with the Leopard 39. Then, in 2014, Leopard engaged with Simonis Voogd Design to launch a newer Leopard 40 model that is still in production today with over 210 vessels produced.
The Leopard family is known for award-winning designs, and the Leopard 40 is no exception, having earned the following awards:
- Cruising World’s “Best Overall Import Boat in USA 2005”
- Cruising World’s “Best Multihull 40 Feet and Under” 2005
- Sail Magazine´s “Best Boats 2005”
The Leopard 40 was also honored for innovative achievements by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and judges for Boating Writers International.
It may be best to talk about the features of the earlier Leopard 40 models separate from the current model due to some key changes. But let’s start with some of the similar characteristics, including:
- 30-HP Volvo Engines. The Leopard 40 holds twin 30-horsepower Volvo Penta diesels that can get you moving at 7 knots to avoid foul weather. (Note: you may find a few older Leopard 40s with 21hp engines).
- Flare Hulls for Extra Storage Capacity. While the narrow bows cut through waves with ease, the hulls flare as they move aft for extra stowage capabilities and larger cabin spaces.
- Stock Hardtop Over Cockpit & Helm Station. With stock hardtops on the L40, you can say goodbye leaky canvas biminis. An integrated window provides ample views of the mainsail without having to step into weather or a mid-day tropical sun.
- 3 or 4-Cabin, 2-Head Layout. Unlike many catamarans built for the charter market, Leopard doesn’t try to cram 4 bathrooms into their 4-cabin models. This is great for cruisers who end up with a lot of wasted space with heads they don’t need.
Both the early and late model L40s have spacious interiors with over 6’ of headroom in the salon and cockpit areas. The provide good flow from the sugar scoops to the interior making it unnecessary to step on cushions to get into the cockpit. They also come with a wide walkway between the dinghy davits and the cockpit for safe travel around the vessel or a little extra storage space for jerry cans or dive tanks.
With a bridgedeck clearance of 54 cm, one would expect quite a bit of slamming. However, clearance is not the only factor in whether a catamaran slams. According to Linda and Paul Blackbeard, who crossed both the Atlantic and Pacific in their Leopard 40, they remember only three slams during the entire trip.
Many of the features mentioned in the Leopard 38 Leopard 39 articles apply to the early Leopard 40, from the wide, flat decks, sail controls led to the helm, to the warm interior appointments. As with all Leopard models, galley is up, allowing for better chef-crew interaction. In the early models, the galley is located aft with a pass-through window to the cockpit.
When the Leopard 40 was re-launched in 2014, some notable changes were made to the overall layout, including:
- Removal of the louvered portlights in favor of a more vertical window profile and a pass-thru door to the forward deck.
- Raised helm station
- Replacement of L-shaped dinghy davits with a pivot-down stainless-steel davit system
- U-shaped outdoor seating area to replace the rounded seating area of the older model
- Opening of the salon for unfettered access from aft to forward living areas
- Increased bridgedeck clearance to 3’ – almost unheard of in cruising cats
The effect of many of these changes made the new Leopard 40 far more attractive to the charter market than to the cruising market. Let’s discuss.
What to Watch Out For
Having experienced both the old model and new model L40s, I like the visibility that the new model brings with the removal of the louvers forward. In the older models, the only place you have an unfettered view of your surroundings is in the helm station. However, the addition of the pass-through door and forward, deep sitting area gives one pause about taking the newer model offshore due to the possibility of swamping in that area. While all Leopards are said to have been delivered on their own bottoms, I would want to choose my weather windows extra carefully with the new design.
The newer model also boasts a raised helm seat for added visibility. The drawback is that the design forces the boom higher, thus reducing mainsail area, raising the center of effort, and making it difficult to wrangle the sail while underway.
As with most of the Leopard models, many vessels found on the secondary market will have been in a charter fleet at one time. Watch for excessive moisture in the hulls and deck, which are vacuum sealed with a balsa core. Rot and delamination are possible. Some owners have also complained of excessive condensation and leakage associated with the refrigeration lines. As these are located adjacent to your electrical panel, it’s not something you want to ignore.
Leopards are solid, reliable boats with a strong comfort factor combined with some decent Morelli & Melvin performance. As long as you understand how you want to use the vessel and ensure it is maintained, you will find the Leopard 40 to be a great vessel for couples and small families.