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Ocean Magazine reviews the Amel 64

Here is an exciting new review of the Amel 64 published by Ocean Magazine during January 2017.

 

classic improvement

Revamping a classic is never easy, writes Ocean Magazine’s Kevin Green, but the Amel 64 strikes a fine balance between modernizing these bluewater yachts while retaining the quality for which their French builder is known.

Images C Breschi

 

Henri Amel has been producing quality cruisers from his renowned yard in La Rochelle on the rugged west coast of France since 1968, when he created an easy-to-sail yacht that would encourage his wife onto the water. There are now more than 1,400 models sailing, including the two current models, the Amel 55 and the flagship 64.

Thanks to local dealer Vicsail, several Amels have passed through Sydney. An Amel 55 attracted a lot of interest at the Sydney International Boat Show, but the yacht that put the yard on the map was its popular 16-metre (53-foot) Super Maramu, which numbers 500 and remains a sought-after cruiser. I boarded one in the Pacific many years ago, and was impressed with its clever features such as lockable deck hatches and the ketch rig.

Even after Henri Amel gifted the company to his 132 employees, his ideology and in-house build philosophy continued in the later models, as I found when sailing the Amel 55 from its Mediterranean base in Hyères on the beautiful Côte d’Azur, and then boarding some of the 64 models in Hyères and also at La Rochelle.

When it comes to bluewater cruisers, waterline length is critical to covering ocean miles, but the concept behind these ketch-rigged yachts ensures that a sailing couple can still manage the larger vessel as well as the smaller Amel 55. The logistics behind this are in the powered in-mast furlers and their centralized cockpit electric controls.

Amel continues to move with the times. The company has done several interior revamps since the 64 launched in 2010, and is up to hull number 22, which is under way at the La Rochelle yard. These are handcrafted yachts that require many thousands of man-hours, so the yard does well to produce about a dozen yachts annually.


Comfortable living space is essential to bluewater cruisers and [is] one good reason why the late Henri Amel sailed his own boats for lengthy periods.

A MODERNIZED LIGHT, INTERIOR

Comfortable living space is essential to bluewater cruisers, where any nuance or inconvenience will soon become annoying after months at sea, and one good reason why the late Henri Amel sailed his own boats for lengthy periods.

For 2016, Amel offers both its classic layout and a new, more open design. Improving the living space was a good reason to use the expertise of the interior designers at Berret Racoupeau, who had already penned the hull.

Given its more open-plan design, the 2016 layout and light oak design of the Amel 64 is a nod to modern living, rather than purely life at sea. Instead of furniture bulkheads in the middle of the saloon, there is now open space. The port-side, U-shaped dinette dominates the 2016 model and the chart table behind it, but the navigator can still unroll full-sized charts, refer to the B&G and Furuno electronics onthe side bulkheads, and stand up to look out of a rectangular port light or simply glance aft from the nearby companionway.


Roomy chart table with port light and lustrous rosewood.

Opposite the navigation table, the functional galley remains in the same position. It has undergone a number of changes, however, as it is now finished in a combination of wood and composite (rather than the lacquered white used in older models I’ve seen in France).

Another modernist effect is the removal of a longitudinal bulkhead that had enclosed the galley. Gas burners have been replaced by a four-plate ceramic hob. There’s a brushed-steel microwave nearby, and hidden below the Corian® worktops is a dishwasher and plenty refrigeration (there’s a 180-litre upright refrigerator and a 130-litre upright freezer plus a second 30-litre freezer option).

Other essential cruising fixtures on the Amel 64 are deep, double sinks and a large, opening skylight. Ahead of the galley is the cocktail lounge with drinks cabinet and low-slung table for coffee (or something stronger).


Note the ample opening port lights, which are ideal for the tropics.

PRIVATE OWNER'S SUITE

The semi-custom design offers several layouts and two- or four-cabin options are possible. The two-cabin has large suites fore and aft, plus a small skipper’s bunk near the transom.

Alternatively, the model I boarded had the owner’s suite forward, with a small skipper’s bunk adjoining. The aft contained a double cabin plus a smaller one alongside with bunks, ideal for the kids.

This comfortable cruising yacht had three bathrooms, with two aft. The owner’s cabin had a large island bed and spacious ensuite with separate shower area. There is even more space below when the dinghy garage isn’t included.

The final big-ticket item the Amel 64 scores is a walk-in engine room. Here I found space to inspect the Steyr six-cylinder, 150hp, 3.2-litre engine and marvel at the very clever engineering done in-house by Amel. The latest models now use a 180hp Volvo.


The owner’s cabin has a large island bed and spacious ensuite with separate shower area.

CENTRAL COCKPIT CONTROLS

The Racoupeau design incorporates features that are core to Amel’s popularity with bluewater cruisers: a central cockpit, covered helm and ketch rig. The deep cockpit has all lines running into it through gutters to the electric winches for headsails, mainsail and the mizzen.

The main console bristles with joysticks that control the furling of all sails and the thrusters at both bow and stern are ideal for handling this long-keeled hull. My own handling experience on the 55 was at first challenging due to the long keel, but once I’d mastered the fore and aft thrusters, I easily berthed this yacht in a very tight marina space at Hyères. Under sail with the 55, I hoisted all plane sail in a mere five minutes from this functional cockpit. Impressive.

Deck gear includes Harken winches and blocks. Jammers are on many lines, which allows multiple controls, and of course, the ketch rig spreads the sail area across the genoa, staysail, mainsail and mizzen.

Electronics include a powerful B&G Hydra H5000 computer that runs plotters at the console and the navigation station, plus a second autopilot, Lewmar chain counter, engine controls and more, such as a primary Furuno autopilot and radar.

The rest of the cockpit is devoted to relaxation with a U-shaped, cushioned bench and elongated table plus plenty of under-bench locker storage.


The deep cockpit has all lines running into it for easier handling when cruising. Image by Kevin Green.

EASILY HANDLED KETCH RIG

Looking at the ketch rig with its Swiss alloy spars specially made for Amel, the genoa and staysail have quality Reckmann electric furlers with manual overrides by winch handle. The electric main mast furler system can also be manually operated by unbolting two fixings to allow non-electric operation. (This manual-override is a feature on several parts of the Amel 64).

Other good points include halyard locks on the mast that create a tidy base without the Dyneema lines flailing around.

Line lockers around the aft decks also add to the tidiness that features throughout the Amel. Other clever touches include the boom doubling as a davit, thanks to a strong pully integrated into its end so it can lift heavy outboards and other gear (including rescue crew). The large aft deck has sun pads, and beyond are hatches to the dinghy garage.

Unusually, Amel has used composite, molded deck material called Amel Teak, which is integrated into the topsides. Unlike teak, it won’t require replacement. It felt sure underfoot, yet even more security is available from the tubed, stainless-steel handrail when walking forward.

At the bow, there are large double rollers with an integrated water system for cleaning the rode and twin two-kilowatt windlasses with capstans. For trade-wind sailing, a carbon bowsprit can fit into the port roller. Like most things on the Amel, the cleats are oversized, including amidships.

Behind the windlasses lurks an enormous lazarette with collision bulkhead in front, which houses the drop-down bow thruster. The hawse pipes ensure that the anchor chain won’t catch on anything.

The ketch rig and staysails spread the sail area, and allow the Amel 64 to be handled by a couple.

LONG KEELED HULL

Prolific French designer Olivia Racoupeau has created a sleek hull with tall topsides to maximize volume while retaining the trademark integrated keel gearbox system unique to Amel. Construction is solid GRP, and the mast shrouds use tie rods to connect to the GRP/wood hull grid for rigidity. Watertight bulkheads run throughout the hull, including the walk-in engine room. All major furniture bulkheads are integrated into the hull to increase rigidity.

Similar to the Nautor Swan philosophy, the Amel is fitted out as standard with many live-aboard essentials such as generators (19.5kVA Ona), water maker, washing machine and ancillaries. Electric power is both 24V and 12V, and ancillary power now comes from a Volvo D4 180hp, which is connected to a unique gearbox system that runs through the keel. On the Amel 55 this initially felt clunky, but worked fine nevertheless.

For strength, both the skeg and keel-fin are part of the mould  with the cast-iron bulb added later. This gives a rather modest ballast ratio of 25 percent, which is in keeping with the conservative sail plan of these sturdily built and well-proven bluewater cruisers.

Model Amel 64 Specifications

Year of build 2017

Builder Amel Yachts

Country of build France

Naval Architect Olivia Racoupeau

Designer Berret Racoupeau

Interior design Berret Racoupeau

LOA 19.6 meters

Length at waterline 17.2 meters

Beam 5.6 meters

Draft 2.4 meters

Displacement 37.5 tons (fully laden)

Hull Construction GRP monolithic

Superstructure GRP Balsa core

Classification A

Engines 1 x Volvo D4

Output 180hp

Speed max 10 knots

Speed cruise 8 knots

Range 700nm (estimated 15L/hour at 2,100rpm)

Fuel capacity 5,000 liters / 5,500 liters

Freshwater capacity 900 liters

Blackwater capacity 120 liters

Greywater capacity 120 liters

Propellers Volvo folding

Drive train Amel integrated shaft drive

Gear box Amel

Generators Onan

Gen-set size 19.5kVA

Thrusters Maxpower 20hp

Winches Lewmar

Navigation electronics B&G Hydra H500 and Furuno Navpilot

Depth Sounder B&G

Radios Garmin VHF

Entertainment systems Bose

Galley appliances Miele electric plate 220V, Miele microwave, Miele fridges (180 litre and 130 litre units)

Owner Forepeak island bed with ensuite

Guest berths 2 x twin guest, 1 x aft VIP guest

Crew Bunk at transom

Maximum people on board 12

Tenders RIB in garage

Windows / Hatches Amel

Deck gear Harken, Antil

Keel structure GRP/cast iron

Rig/mast type Amel custom

Furler Reckmann 1200 24V

ISP Genoa 87 m²; Mizzen sail: 36 m²

Sail area (fore) Stay sail: 38 m²

Sail area (main) Main sail: 64 m²

Total (Calc) sail area 225 m²

DL ratio 185.5

SA/Disp 21.5

www.vicsail.com

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