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Living tradition.


Frenchman Henri Amel, who founded the La Rochelle yacht brand of the same name, was a man of firm convictions. He designed and built a line of distinctive, practical cruising yachts that were presented to the market on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

Rather like Henry Ford's dictum that you could have a Model T in any colour as long as it was black, Amel's offerings came as complete packages with virtually no additional options or deviations available from the yard.

With the exception of two sloops, the Amel lineage has a number of consistent characteristics: ketch rigs; well-protected centre cockpits, with steering position offset to port and companionway to starboard; solid stainless steel guardrails right around the deck; powered sail-handling systems; a skeg-hung rudder and a well-protected propeller.

These safety and ease of handling measures were at least in part a response to Henri Amel's own particular requirements. As a result of wartime injuries sustained fighting for the French Resistance, he was severely disabled in one leg, had lost one eye and was partially blind in the other.

If the yard's philosophy seemed somewhat dictatorial, it was nevertheless a formula that found a solid and devoted following. The yachts came out of the yard well built, fully-equipped down to the smallest detail and proved competent and reliable offshore passage makers.

The 14-metre Mammu, the 16-metre Mango, and later Super Maramu ketches, became the signature yachts of the brand, with hundreds sold worldwide. In all, Amel have sold more than 2,000 yachts.

With the death of Henri Amel in 2005, the yard turned to the Jean Berret and Olivier Racoupeau design studio to carry on the marque with two new models, the 55 and 64. More contemporary in their aesthetics and offering some flexibility in interior layouts, these yachts still remain true to Amel's fundamental tenets.

The first of the 64s has now arrived Down Under and is attracting considerable attention. Tulasi, owned by Swiss couple Manfred and Anneliese Stoll, sailed into New Zealand's Bay of Islands in November to reach the halfway point of a circumnavigation.

In many respects, Manfred and Anneliese are typical Amel owners. Now retired, they are into their fourth Amel, having owned a Kirk 11-metre sloop and two 16-metre Super Maramus before. "You could certainly say we are loyal fans," smiles Manfred. "These yachts are very comfortable and the quality is outstanding."

This almost cult-like following is not unusual. "Some of our owners compare us with drug dealers," jokes Boris Compagnon from the Amel marketing team, "because they say our boats are addictive."

With their previous yachts, Manfred and Anneliese had cruised extensively in the Mediterranean. With ambitions to expand their horizons, they took delivery of Tulasi in 2011 and embarked on a circumnavigation.

In 2012, they crossed the Atlantic with the ARC rally as far as the Caribbean, before taking a diversion up to the US Eastern Seaboard, where they allowed Amel to display Tulasi at the Annapolis boat show.

Then, they rejoined the ARC for its Pacific leg as far as Fiji. They plan to spend most of the summer in New Zealand, before heading to Australia and then across the Indian Ocean to Cape Town, before closing the circle back in Europe.

Keen to help spread the Amel gospel, they were gracious hosts to a stream of media and prospective clients in Auckland, braving a bout of atrocious pre-Christmas weather, which then gave way to hot, humid conditions and very light airs.

Tulasi's protected wheelhouse/ centre cockpit configuration proved its worth in all these conditions.

The aesthetics of this arrangement are not always easy on the eye, but Amel has always managed to avoid the trap of a chunky, top-heavy appearance. Certainly, the 64-foot length of this flagship model is well capable of supporting the central wheelhouse in a pleasing, nicely balanced low profile.

In keeping with Amel tradition, the helm station is on the port side, with a comfortable helm seat, steering wheel and full array of monitors, engine, bow and stern thruster controls, as well as push-button sail handling controls easily to hand.

Behind the helm seat is a comfortable lounging area with a centreline cockpit table. The hardtop wheelhouse roof has a push-button extension that projects back as far as the mizzenmast to cover the entire seating area. The 10-millimetre glass forward and side windows provide excellent all-round visibility, while soft side and rear clears can be attached to fully enclose this area.

Although the yacht is air-conditioned, Manfred and Anneliese use the facility sparingly. "I prefer fresh air," says Anneliese. At rest in the tropics, they suspend covers over the deck, which provide shade and rain protection but allows the 10 hatches and nine opening ports to be left open to capture the breeze.

The interior features the saloon, separate dining area, navigation station and well-equipped galley in the mid section, with the owners' suite forward and two guest suites aft. This is the standard layout, but slight variations, including a two and four-cabin layout are offered.

The interior joinery is beautifully executed in American chestnut, but walnut, mahogany and blonde oak options are also available.

All the interior joinery is glassed into the hull, so it forms part of the structure. The galley features white corian countertops and Miele appliances, including three fridge-freezers, while a Miele laundry is cleverly concealed behind the shower wall in the bathroom just off the aft companionway.

This serves both as a day head and a head for the twin-bed starboard aft guest cabin (the beds can be joined to make a double). Alongside it, on the port aft quarter is a second guest suite, with double bed and ensuite bathroom.

Tulasi has opted for a transom garage for stowing the 3.4-metre RIB tender. To accommodate this, the ceiling in the twin-bed cabin is somewhat compromised by the intrusion of the tender well. An alternative option is to carry the tender on aft davits.

The engine room is situated low in the hull, just aft of the keel to concentrate all the major weight in the centre. It is well laid out with good access to service points. Propulsion is from a Steyr 150 horsepower diesel unit, although newer models will feature 180 horsepower Volvo engines. The engine is mounted facing aft, with a three-stage drive system directing power via two right-angle joints to an integral drive leg projecting through the back of the keel. The propeller is protected close under the hull and the thrust is perfectly horizontal. Motoring is quiet and vibration-free.

With many of the sailing functions electrically driven, a powerful array of batteries and an Onan 19.5kW genset is provided. Power is distributed via 24-volt and 220-volt boards.

The Stolls also run twin hydrogenerators, which bolt to the transom and are very efficient. "When we are running offshore at around 8 to 9 knots, we only have to use the genset every second day," says Manfred.

Limiting every possible way for water to penetrate the hull has been an Amel hallmark and the 64 has six watertight bulkheads distributed through the interior. Seawater cooling for the machinery and onboard systems is all fed from a single through-hull fitting.

On deck, the sailing systems are all electric with manual over-rides. The headsails are cutter-rigged with electric furling systems, while the main and mizzen sails furl into the masts, which are designed and built by Amel. The electric drive units for the in-mast furlers can be disengaged to allow manual furling if power is lost.

In-mast furling is not to everybody's taste, with more weight and windage aloft than in-boom systems and the sail area reduced by the need for hollow-leech shapes. But, Boris points out the advantages are the ability to furl on any point of sail and the fact that a single furl reduces the longest side of the sail for quick reefing.

In any event, comfort, security and ease of handling take precedence over out-and-out performance on these yachts. That said, however, they are no slouches on passage. Having completed half a circumnavigation to New Zealand. Manfred reports that with just two on board they achieve between 160 to 220 miles a day offshore.

And they do it with great ease and comfort in a stylish yacht that draws admiring looks everywhere it goes.

Despite his near-blindness, Henri Amel was a visionary man with strict ideas about what constitutes a 'proper' cruising yacht. He also had firm ideas about business and quality, choosing to concentrate on producing just one or two models at a time and sticking with them for long periods. He was not one to chop and change for the sake of fashion or whim.

Although conservative in one sense, he was also progressive, making his workforce shareholders in the company, and therefore invested in its success.

In keeping with those values, Amel's skilled workforce now only produces the 55 and 64-foot models. "We build three 645 a year and a dozen 55s," says Boris. "We are about to launch number 18 in the 64s and number 38 in the 55s."

One suspects that Henri Amel, or Le Capitaine as he was often known, would be proud of the way his legacy is simultaneously moving forward and being preserved. /

Amel is represented in Australia by Vicsail International and in New Zealand by Orakei Yacht Sales.

MODEL                                                    Amel 64
BUILDER                                      Chantiers Amel S.A.
COUNTRY OF BUILD                                          France
YEAR OF BUILD                         Launched in September 2010
DESIGNER                                     Chantiers Amel S.A.
NAVAL ARCHITECT                              Chantiers Amel S.A.
LENGTH OVERALL                                      19.60 metres
WATERLINE LENGTH                                    17.21 metres
BEAM                                                 5.60 metres
DRAFT                                                2.40 metres
DISPLACEMENT                               37 tonnes fully laden
HULL CONSTRUCTION                       Glass reinforced plastic
ENGINE                                         1 inboard engine,
                                                  Steyr M0156K25
OUTPUT                                                    150 Hp
PROPELLERS                              1 Autoprop H6 feathering
GEAR BOX                                ZF45.1 hydraulic gearbox
DRIVE TRAIN                          Amel "U-shape" drive system
JIB AND STAYSAIL FURLERS                        Reckman 1200W24V
MAIN AND MIZZEN SAILS FURLERS               Amel in-mast furling
                                   and boom reefing systems with
                                         Leroy SOMER IP66 motors
                                                     (700W 24 V)
FUEL CAPACITY                                       1,400 litres
FRESHWATER CAPACITY                                 1,000 litres
GENERATORS                                          1 Onan MDKBV
GEN-SET SIZE                                             19.5 kW
THRUSTERS                            1 x 20hp Sleipner Max Power
WINCHES                              8 (of which 6 are electric)
NAVIGATION ELECTRONICS               Radar (NAVNET 3D Black box+
                                           MFD 12 repeater), VHF
                                   (Garmin), GPS (FURUNO GP-30),
                                         navigation central unit
                                            (B&G Hydra 3000 with
                                         Sonic Speed), autopilot
                                           (Furuno Navpilot 711)
ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEMS                  48" 3D LED TV, BluRay DVD
(TV-AUDIO)                           player, radio-CD-MP3 player
                                                  with acoustics
GALLEY APPLIANCES                    Fridge and deep-freeze unit
                                     (FRIGOBOAT W50F), microwave
                                      (Miele 7496900), gas stove
                                          (Miele), electric oven
                                    (Miele H 5145BP), dishwasher
                                                (Miele G1235 SC)
OWNER                                Forward cabin with en-suite
GUEST BERTHS                      2 cabins aft, one with a large
                                    double bed and en-suite, and
                                    one with 2 single berths and
                                    bathroom in the passage way.
CREW                                               Skipper cabin
MAXIMUM PEOPLE ON BOARD                                       12
PRICE                              From Euro 2.15 million ex tax
                                        or AU$3.7 million landed
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Title Annotation:AMEL 64
Author:Wilkins, Ivor
Publication:Offshore Yachting
Date:Oct 1, 2015
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