Neel 65: a super trimaran
La Rochelle welcomes us on a morning with distinctly autumnal tones and low temperatures, for a “mission” in the Bay of Biscay that has a specific name: Neel 65 Evolution, the sport cruising trimaran of the French shipyard of the same name. Before we reach the French town’s marina pier, however, let’s drop by where they build these trimarans, in a shed on La Rochelle’s old harbor.
Here we find more than 50 people at work, in a workforce that is currently 80 employees and from 2019 is expected to grow to 100. The first thing that strikes us positively is that Neel is a very pink shipyard, several women work both on the production line and in management, confirming that the world of sailing shipbuilding is not and should not be all-male. Under construction, among others, is the new Neel 47, which will go into the water in 2019 and is the big news, even in form, in this family of trimarans.
Having completed our visit to the shipyard, the dark and windy Ocean awaits us, and a decidedly high-speed outing on the Neel 65 Evolution. We immediately hoist the mainsail with the massive square top as soon as we leave port, unfurl the genoa in full (the boat has a modestly overlapping genoa and a foresail, both furling), in a stable wind around 15-16 knots and a wave of about 1.5 meters .
On the Neel 65, all rigging takes place on the fly bridge, with a battery of stoppers served by three center winches plus two side winches for the headsails.
For those accustomed to monohulls, a change in the mode of a condition on a boat like this is needed. Sailing on the crosswind slack with 15 knots of wind the speed is always between 10.5 knots and over 11, this causes a significant apparent wind to be generated and definitely shifted more toward the bow. In practice, we will never sail with the sails let down, we will never have a situation of the mainsail almost colliding against the spreaders but in the situation described, the mainsail setting will instead be close to upwind even though the actual angle to the wind is between 80 and 100 degrees.
Given the sporty vocation of this Neel 65, which nevertheless has a level of comfort typical of cruising boats, the helm station has no protective superstructure and is definitely exposed to the wind.
On such a cold day it will be preferable to let the autopilot steer and take refuge inside where a 360-degree window allows us to best observe what is happening outside. Under these conditions the boat is beyond stable, and adjustments on the sails, once launched on the edge, are minimal. Remember that this is still a long or very long sailing boat, relying on a good pilot and enjoying everything else is a good strategy to experience it to the fullest.
Neel 65: Text, photos and video by Mauro Giuffrè
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