LIGHTWAVE 38 GUARANTEED 100% ‘AUSSIE’!
Seen from Europe, or the United States, we don’t always appreciate the real attraction of the Australians for the sea, and particularly the nautical industry. However, in the country of the kangaroo, there is an exceptional expertise as regards boat building, and a particularly large number of multihull specialists. A visit to one of their most talented representatives, the Lightwave 38, whose latest version shows an intact motivation looking for perfection.
In the southern hemisphere, times can also be hard for the builders, even in the privileged little world of multihulls. The limited (22 million inhabitants), an Australian dollar which is up and down like a yoyo, more often low than high, quite restrictive regulations and some of the most expensive labour costs, and you quickly find yourself one of the last production catamaran builders remaining in a country where sailing is nevertheless one of the national sports. Proportionally, the percentage of boat owners in the total population is actually twice as high as that in Europe.
But when, just like a whole nation, you are hanging on grimly to this passion, and above all this amount of talent, you don’t give up that easily. And although talent can’t be bought, some people have masses of it. Firstly, Tony Grainger, whose drawing board has seen the creation of all the Lightwaves. He is responsible for the fluidity of their lines, and the brilliant (in all senses of the term) idea of the ‘intermediate deck’. A double level of portlights, an architectural trick limiting the difference in level between the saloon and the hulls. Slim lines, headroom and light in the hulls, allowing you not to feel ‘in the basement’ when in the galley (which is in the gangway) but on the contrary offers an exceptional view of the sea; these are the first obvious advantages of this concept which allows the ‘Aussie’ architect’s designs to be identified at first glance. You just feel quite high up with respect to the guard wires which run along the stanchions, fixed at deck level.
But the designer’s work would be nothing without a particularly talented builder, in this case, Roger Overell, known as ‘Rog’. A past as a racer on the fastest catamarans of the country-continent, an obsession with good work, a wife who was understanding about the working hours, and in 1996, he launched his own boatyard. Of course it was three years before he could pay himself his first salary, but as soon as the opportunity presented itself, he went on a sabbatical year with his family. Just to validate the relevance of his concept in a real-life situation: cats which were certainly fast, but were intended above all for a clientele of ocean voyagers. Thus in the debate which was still being discussed recently in the columns of Multihulls World, between the supporters of dagger-boards and those in favour of fixed stub keels, Roger decided…not to decide! Wanting the best of both worlds, he opted for fixed stub keels, with integral centreboards. A bit like the lifting keel boats which were relatively popular in the 80s, but without the ballast!
The stub keels are there to protect the saildrive and rudders, whilst allowing safe beaching. The centreboards allow owners to benefit from a still-shallow draft, better pointing angles to windward and less resistance once raised, downwind or in rough seas, a guarantee of safety.
A NEW 38’
On the new version of his 38’ which we were able to see at the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show, there is one thing that hasn’t changed, as the name of the series suggests, the light weight: 5 tonnes and not a gram more; the boss won’t depart from his principles! Because the priority is performance. The construction therefore remains completely in foam sandwich. Elsewhere, everything has developed by small touches, looking for perfection, listening to the owners, whether they are cruising round the world or tackling the difficult Tasman Sea close by, whose reputation is anything but exaggerated.
The steering position was first of all raised. This extra height offers multiple advantages. The first is an uninterrupted view of the sails and the four corners of the boat, which is very reassuring when tackling marina manoeuvres. The second is to clear the area in the cockpit, which thus becomes more convivial. Finally, the control lines are more easily centred around the helmsman, thus making the shorthanded sailing inherent in a long-term programme easier. Settled on the very comfortable double helmsman’s seat, you very fortunately remain shaded from the burning antipodean sun, thanks to a rigid dodger, integrated as well as is possible, and which can be equipped with side panels to protect you from the spray or the rain…
Inside, head-linings are almost absent from the Lightwave 38, to avoid any mould, which is normally inevitable in a hot, wet climate. We admired even more the finishing work (we daren’t imagine the hours of sanding) necessary for this white-lacquered finish which is ideal in a tropical environment). The untreated wood has crept in, in small touches to make the whole boat warmer; the varnished finish of the high gloss pays homage to the light wood species chosen, and participates in the overall impression of high quality. Particular care has been taken with the interior design; the rounding of each angle has visibly been calculated with the greatest care. The port forward cabin, with a transverse ‘island bed’, is also a new feature, and a concession to modern comfort. Just like the superb aft bathroom in the same hull, with a large separate shower, thus forming, from forward to aft, a superb owner’s suite. The guests share the starboard hull, whose two cabins and forward bathroom are separated by the galley, in the gangway.
We especially noted in the galley the very large refrigerated volumes, which, along with the inevitable barbecue in the cockpit, are signs that we really are on an Australian boat! The height of luxury on a 38-footer, a quite respectably-sized washing machine has been intelligently hidden under the aft double berth. But the obsession with weight is never far away, and real enthusiasts will appreciate the fact that the cupboard doors also serve as cabin doors. Two functions for one object is 50% less weight!Finally, a boat which is indeed the minimum size for a long voyage, but whose coherence and overall elegance are not lacking in appeal.