Hugo LeBreton’s SIG45 cat concept has been around since 2005, but thanks to early financial issues and years of teething pains, the first hull didn’t splash until 2009, and only this year did we see hull # 2 hit the water in the hands of a new (and very private) owner.  Now it’s in San Francisco, and Paige Brooks jumped aboard to give us her impressions while the AC45s were practicing nearby.

Hugo LeBreton has been drawing pictures of boats since he could hold a pencil, and a few years ago, he decided to draw his dream boat.  And then he built it.  It’s a racer/cruiser, and thanks to its size and quality, it’s really the only boat of its kind on the market.  It also capitalizes on the sailing public’s new AC-driven focus on fast catamarans – and 45 feet is a familiar number right now for true enthusiasts of fast multihulls.  LeBreton worked with VPLP and Bruno Peyron on much of the design, and it was a challenge to get exactly the balance between aesthetics, comfort, and outright speed that he was looking for.  

Gunboats pioneered the luxury catamaran market, and their popularity makes them a useful point of comparison with the SIG. Stepping aboard, the Gunboat provides a comfy ‘living room’ sheltered by structure and windows, while the SIG is all deck and trampoline, a huge open space that just screams ‘let’s go to the Caribbean or Med’ at you.  The deck is as environmentally friendly and clever as it is gorgeous; the cork composite doesn’t get hot underfoot, it’s easier to clean than wood, takes dramatically less maintenance, and costs thousands less than a comparable teak deck. 

Down below are three double bunks; one big one for the owner to port and two to starboard.  The owner’s side gets a galley and a small saloon, port gets a nav station and L-shaped seat, and heads with showers are on both sides.  And both interiors are absolutely stunning, Philip Starck-esque pieces of functional art with major attention to detail.  The minimalism doesn’t let you forget that this is an ultra-light rocket, but you can’t escape the luxury statement that it makes, either.

I am first to admit that I am a multihull newbie, and in fact this was my first non-Hobie sail on a catamaran of any sort of size or speed, so there was a huge learning curve for me.  The boat, upwind or down, has the apparent wind so far forward that trimming the boat or thinking about where the wind is coming from is a complete 180 from much of the traditional monohull sailing I’m used to. Going 18 knots, Hugo took me out to the sprit where we sat in the netting and watched the bow cut smoothly through the light chop in the bay as we sailed from Sausalito to Point Bonita.  This is a trip I’ve done dozens of times, and it usually takes an hour and a half or so on most 40-footers.  It took us less than 30 minutes.

They gave me the helm after we’d hoisted the gennaker, and I hit 21 knots – the absolute fastest I’ve ever driven a sailboat.  Then the guys got all serious and we started dashing back and forth across San Francisco Bay, teasing and taunting the AC45s for a lineup. We hit 25 knots around then, and it took us 9 minutes and 30 seconds to run from Blackaller to Angel Island.  If you know the bay, you know that is crazy fast.

I came off the water with a major high on the speed we’d done.  The surreal part is that you can’t feel it; your only cues (besides instruments) are the gale in your face, the water rushing underneath you, and the speedboat wake you leave behind. It wasn’t till we passed a boat under full sail that I felt any real concept of just how fast we were moving; it almost seemed anchored.  

When we finally got to line up with a playful AC45, we gave them a run.  They definitely had us, but at least in my own myopic view, not by much.

(Did you know there is a new Sig 60 in the works? – ed)