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Test of the Aura 51 “comfort without compromise” by Vela e Motore

15 June 2023

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#Comfort without compromise

Paolo Portinari, a boating expert passionate about his subject, got the opportunity to undertake a full test of the Aura 51 where he explored all the features and the performance of this exceptional catamaran in detail. He shares with us his impressions of the boat’s sailing abilities, her comfort and her interior layout. Thanks to his expertise and his experience, Paolo offers us a very detailed insight into the Aura 51, giving you a better take on the advantages and features of this remarkable catamaran.

The Aura 51 in a few words:

  • Very spacious outdoor living areas such as the cockpit, the flybridge and the foredeck.
  • A wide choice of interior layouts ranging from four to six cabins.
  • 15-metre catamaran that sets herself apart from the rest by her ability to welcome guests in absolute comfort.
  • With fair winds, owners looking to cover many miles with minimal effort certainly won ‘t be disappointed.
blue-water-sailing-catamaran-aura-51-Fountaine-Pajot

Comfort without compromise

With a solid background in the catamaran construction dating back to 1976, Fountaine Pajot today offers a range comprised of four (soon to be five) power models from 40 to 67 feet and no less than seven sailing models from 40 to 67 feet, with an 80-footer that has been announced for September 2023 at France’s Cannes Yachting Festival. The latest model launched by Fountaine Pajot, the Aura 51 is the largest multihull that remains accessible to owners before they get to the stage of requiring a professional crew. She replaces the Saba 50, a catamaran which has seen huge commercial success and has paved the way for designing even more accomplished boats destined for an increasingly sophisticated and exacting clientele.

Over the years, the quality of construction and assembly, as well as the attention paid to the details, has improved steadily. This latest model, a 51-footer, embodies the very best in design and attention to detail on board. Here is a yacht offering spacious living areas that have been designed to provide absolute comfort, even on long passages at sea. Yet she doesn’t neglect the ability to sail efficiently and maintain good average speeds.

This is the first model in the range to offer customers the option of an electric drivetrain, in the “Smart Electric” version. This solution includes two battery banks that are rechargeable with a large area of solar panels on the coachroof, totalling 2000W, and with a hydrogeneration system, as well as a back-up generator if required. A future system for generating electricity using a hydrogen fuel cell is also in the development phase, in partnership with EODev.

More space in the saloon and cockpit

Compared to her predecessor, this 51-footer offers greater habitable volume in each of the living areas, while featuring more pleasing lines, with greater coherence between the different areas of the boat. The harmony between the glazed surfaces, the overall structure of the boat and the hull form has also been improved, now with inverted bows, as found on the rest of the range. The boat’s architecture is imposing, with large windows, and a flybridge equipped with sunloungers and a C-shaped sofa from which you can enjoy a privileged view around the entire horizon. There’s still plenty of space for solar panels, fitted directly on the coachroof that are capable of generating a peak power of 2 kW.

blue-water-sailing-catamaran-aura-51-Fountaine-Pajot
blue-water-sailing-catamaran-aura-51-Fountaine-Pajot

Among the available layouts is the Double Maestro, with twin symmetrical owner’s hulls: two huge cabins with private bathrooms and direct access to the aft cockpit (see photos below) plus a further two other double cabins for guests. The Full Maestro version, on the other hand, features a 100% owner’s hull with a bathroom forward, and the guest hull which has three cabins and the same number of bathrooms. There is also a five or six-cabin cabin version, with five or six bathrooms, two of the cabins being accessible from the cockpit. The saloon (see photo above) remains the same.

blue-water-sailing-catamaran-aura-51-Fountaine-Pajot
blue-water-sailing-catamaran-aura-51-Fountaine-Pajot

The deck layout has been designed to create continuity between the cockpit and the saloon. Part of the window can be opened wider, between the two areas, allowing better communication between the galley and the cockpit table. This solution also increases the perception of space, giving an impression of volume.

The cockpit is fully protected and covered overhead right the way aft, while the sunloungers are located forward, where there is also a proper lounge area. The helm station is located to starboard, raised up at mid-height between the main deck and the flybridge. As for the helm station, this is a small area designed to seat two people, and it can be completely protected with a bimini and fabric enclosures. It’s also the only point of access to the flybridge.

When it comes to storage space, this is very generous. There are several lockers in the aft cockpit, as well as a deep technical locker at the front of the boat, beneath the sunloungers. This locker has a large volume making it capable of storing not only two gennakers but is also home to the generator.

The Aura 51 is a catamaran designed for passage-making, with an emphasis on the use of the autopilot. The boat’s hydraulic steering doesn’t give great feel, but with an established breeze of over 10 knots, she is capable of maintaining very good performance, as the main photo on this page clearly shows. The sail handling console is located up on the starboard side, and the proximity of the winches and clutches makes sail trimming very straightforward.

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blue-water-sailing-catamaran-aura-51-Fountaine-Pajot

Unlimited space

Offered in four configurations, with a choice of four to six cabins, the layout of the spaces has been carefully balanced to offer both the necessary privacy and quick access to the social areas.

The space available in the different sections is remarkable. The fluidity of movement between the cockpit, where the dining/cocktail area is located, and the interior saloon, completely does away with the formal boundary between inside and outside.

Inside from the saloon-cockpit space, the galley occupies a central position, with an island offset to port, and it becomes a wonderful friendly area outside mealtimes too. The large lateral windows offer panoramic views, and opening a large forward hatch allows air to circulate, contributing to a very pleasant quality of life in this part of the boat.

blue-water-sailing-catamaran-aura-51-Fountaine-Pajot
blue-water-sailing-catamaran-aura-51-Fountaine-Pajot

Storage includes two refrigerators with drawers, offering generous dimensions despite their proximity to the port hull companionway, requiring one to be on the staircase to access them. The fridges, like the furniture, have a few sharp edges and aren’t fitted with solid wood inserts, which gives the impression that they might damage easily. However, to be fair, the catamaran we tested had already undertaken some long passages and was showing no signs of wear and tear.

Our test model was the Full Maestro configuration, with the port hull dedicated exclusively as an owner’s suite. This suite is designed to maximise every available space: there is a dressing area opposite the spacious wardrobes, an office area and a forward bathroom with separate shower. The most fascinating feature is the direct access to the aft cockpit from the companionway next to the double berth.

The starboard hull was configured with three cabins, of which the aft cabin enjoys direct access from the cockpit, while the other two, situated further forward, are accessible from the interior along the passageway. All three cabins have a private bathroom with separate showers.

The cockpit is directly adjacent to the galley, creating a vast open space. To starboard, the forward area is equipped with sunloungers and a central support serving as storage and a coffee table. More areas for relaxation areas can be found up on the flybridge…

A catamaran built to swallow up the miles

A boat of this type and size isn’t particularly designed to generate enthusiasm for helming, notably as the hydraulic steering system provides little feedback. In reality, a boat of this nature is designed for passage-making, where the steering is entrusted to the autopilot, making it possible to cover good distances at respectable speeds.

The navigation electronics can be controlled from the helm station, and all sail handling manoeuvres are easily accessible. Visibility forward and aft is good, but given the helm’s asymmetrical location, the view to port is not always optimal when on starboard tack.

With the big gennaker, you can sail fast enough even with little wind, from as little as four knots. However, it’s in windspeeds of 10 knots and above that this boat starts to find her rhythm, sailing consistently between 7 and 10 knots. These are precisely the averages that you want to maintain on longer crossings, as sailing any faster compromises comfort and demands greater attention to sail and navigation management.

In true wind speeds between fourteen and sixteen knots, the Aura 51 achieves a peaceful, reassuring boatspeed of between 9 and 10 knots, with good stability, allowing you to sail without having to worry too much about trimming. Engine noise is low, and with the option of 75 hp motors instead of the standard 60s, you can cruise at 8 knots at 2,000 rpm with fuel consumption of 4 to 5 litres an hour.