Boat Review: Bali 4.1KrakenSailing
Coming fast on the heels of its predecessor, the Bali 4.0, the Bali 4.1 adds a number of improvements, many of them inspired by feedback from owners and charterers. She’s an evolution of a concept that has already proven popular and very many benefits from its builder’s continued willingness to adapt and evolve.
Design & Construction
As many sailors already know, Bali is a line developed by French builder Catana that targets charter first and private ownership second—or at least that’s the way it has turned out in recent years. The brand has had great success with Dream Yacht Charter, in particular, which has, in turn, helped enhance various economies of scale for Catana and its build processes.
The foam-cored, vacuum-infused hulls have a chine that not only serves to deflect spray, but provides a bit of extra interior volume. The boat’s solid foredeck does double duty as a structural member, and the nacelle is high and carefully angled to reduce pounding when going to weather. In lieu of the daggerboards found aboard Catana’s higher-performance designs, the Bali has fixed keels attached to watertight recesses at the bottom of the hulls that also serve as graywater holding tanks.
The helm is to starboard, and although a set of steps on each side lead up to both it and an accompanying sun pad, it can’t really be classified as a full flybridge. This, however, is a good thing, as you get the best of both worlds in the form of excellent visibility forward, but a lower center of gravity. You also don’t need to carry around all that extra structure and weight.
A self-tacking solent on a furler sheets to a track just forward of the mast on the cabintop. A bowsprit serves as the tack point for a Code 0 or spinnaker. The Z-Spars single-spreader aluminum mast aboard our test boat flew 1,135ft of Elvstrøm-made canvas.
I wrote about the Bali 4.0 a few years ago when the concept was just catching on, and now the 4.1 is the smallest in the company’s fleet of no less than four models. Among the major differences between the 4.0 and 4.1 is a fixed platform aft that links the two hulls so you can walk from one side to the other without ever stepping into the cockpit. Not surprisingly, this new platform is a great place to stash groceries when arriving by dinghy or to sit and ready your snorkel gear before taking the plunge.
Be warned, though, that the boat’s davits, which raise the dinghy up onto this same platform, are a bit unusual. Specifically, you need to remove the outboard so that after being raised the dink can be stored at a bit of an angle and resting on one tube. Granted, it’s not a bad way of carrying a dinghy, especially for longer runs under sail. However, it’s not exactly ideal for short hops or charters, during which you tend to use the dinghy early and often as you move from anchorage to anchorage.
That said, the new davit system does serve to add more space aft, thereby creating room for an integrated transom seat completely outside the main cockpit area. To either side is also a nice pair of enlarged side lockers. An optional grill can be tucked into the locker to starboard locker, allowing the chef to stand out on the transom steps while cooking.
Traditionally, sailing cats have kept the forward deck light by incorporating little more than bracing beams and netting. However, Bali is now adding solid surfaces covered with cushions, in a way that is a bit reminiscent of power cats. The resulting forward lounge includes room for six to hang out. There is also a forward-facing U-shaped settee with a table that will accommodate five for cocktail hour.
In terms of the boat’s “cockpit,” it’s tough knowing where exactly to begin. The reason for this is that the lines demarcating the interior and exterior areas aboard the Bali 4.1 are truly blurred as a result of some clever design efforts intended to make the best use of the boat’s overall space.
Central to this effort is a glass and composite door nestled underneath the cabintop that lowers down to convert the forward part of “cockpit” into a saloon. This, in turn, means you can now have a single set of furniture that does double duty as both saloon settees and cockpit benches: a brilliant solution on a cat where the interior settee typically goes all but unused. The 4.1 door is also cantilevered (a bit like and old-fashioned garage door) allowing it to be operated manually, even by smaller sailors. This is all to the good, as there’s no need to rely on an electric motor or your batteries, as you easily go from open and breezy to secure, cozy and mosquito-free.
Directly forward of this “garage door” is an L-shaped dinette to port and a stand-up Liebherr fridge to starboard. Forward of that is the galley, complete with Eno stove, and a corner nav desk. In between these, and just ahead of a large double sink, is a window that can be lowered manually to create some air circulation and allow the chef can pass happy-hour necessities to the forward cockpit without ever having to leave the galley.
The Bali 4.1 offers four layout choices belowdecks, with four cabins and four heads best suited for charter. There’s also the option of three cabins and three heads or three cabins with two heads. In either case, the master suite to port in the three-cabin version is spacious, with a large double bed aft and a huge desk amidships separating the sleeping quarters from a sizable head and separate shower stall in the forepeak.
We were skunked during our test day on the Chesapeake with precious little breeze. However, I once delivered a Bali 4.3, which features a very similar hull and deck, over 500 miles in the Caribbean from Guadeloupe to Grenada and can vouch for the brand’s ability to get up and go. Midway through the delivery, we had 40-knot winds and 10ft seas, both on the beam, for four days straight. We averaged 7.5 knots under sail and occasionally surfed at 10. With the self-tacking solent, it couldn’t be easier to shorthand the boat. Even in these rough conditions, we managed easily with a single reef in both sails and the autopilot on 90 percent of the time.
Bottom line, Balis may be built for comfort, but they can also take some weather and do just fine. I would fully expect the 4.1 to average 6 knots in a breeze of 20 knots true, reeling off the miles all day long with little if any effort on the part of the crew.
Auxiliary power aboard our test boat was provided by a pair 40hp Volvo Penta diesels. On flat water, motoring speeds of 6.5 knots at 2,000 rpm are standard, and at wide-open throttle with the props turning at 3,000 rpm, you can move along at just over 8 knots. Tankage is 110 gallons of fuel and 221 gallons of water.
Evolution may not be a revolution, but that’s OK when user feedback improves on the original. In the case of the Bali 4.1, good ideas were incorporated just two years after the launch of the 4.0 to make an even better boat. When a builder listens to the market good things are almost inevitably the result.
LOA 40ft 7in LWL 38ft
Beam 22ft 6in
Draft 3ft 9in
Displacement 19,845lb (lightship)
Sail Area 1,135ft (with self-tacking headsail)
Air Draft 58ft 7in
Fuel/Water (GAL) 110/221
Engine 2 x Volvo Penta 40hp with saildrives
SA/D Ratio 25 D/L Ratio 161
What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios
Designer Olivier Poncin/Xavier Fay
Builder Bali Catamarans, Canet-en-Roussillon, France, bali-catamarans.com
Price $579,000 (sailaway)