What do you do when you are “stuck” in Sydney for winter and your beautiful Helia home (ITIKI) is waiting patiently in Greece?? Well you go and take a sneaky look at the new FP Elba 45 of course!
We really enjoyed following LARRIKIN’s epic journey of just over 90 days from Europe to Australia, the latter part of this tainted somewhat by the prospect of returning to civilisation in a Covid-gripped world. It seems a lifetime away when we caught up with Gordon and Lou in January in Sydney with other FP owners – little did we know what was in store for us!
It was a real treat to step aboard the Elba 45 and take a good look around this beautiful boat, to welcome home Gordon and Louise, as well as catching up with the MHS team - and most importantly to see what all of the Elba hype is about! I was especially keen to see how the Elba compares to our Helia Evo of course, quietly hopeful of convincing myself that we don’t need to upgrade and start all over again…
So first impressions? – WOW ITS BIG!
The ELBA45 is actually 13.45m long compared to the Helia at 13.3m, its beam is 7.55m compared to Helia’s 7.4m, not much in it! The volume, however, seems to be significantly increased. The hulls are wider and taller and everything has been tweaked and massaged to create so much more space and light. This is something that FP are very good at as they progress through the development of new models. The size and layout of the Elba compares well to the larger Saona and Saba models.
So what are the top 5 reasons for a Helia owner to suffer “Elba envy”?
1. Well if size (and space) matters to you, that would be numero uno. The most obvious change for me was the cocktail deck! It’s set back further than the helm seat creating a much larger almost u-shaped area at the back. Room for a serious cocktail party indeed, or perhaps a smaller affair with social distancing… We use our cocktail deck quite a lot both at anchor and underway (motoring or downwind sailing). The only downside I could think of is having to stow all of those cushions when it rains! The cockpit area seems bigger too and the rear seat is more "useable" than the Helia's.
2. Another big one is the addition of a foredeck seating area with a foot recess and 4 folding seats over the anchor locker. This is an area we used a lot on our Lipari (with retrofitted cushions) as there was no cocktail deck. It was really popular with our charter guests on Sydney Harbour, especially in winter when you want to seek out the sun’s rays and take in the gorgeous views. On the Helia, with the cocktail deck and mainly 2 (max 4) on board, it’s not really an area we have felt is lacking. The cushions do hamper access to the anchor well, genset, watermaker etc. We are thinking this will be a popular feature on charter boats with more people on board, and for those who have more family and friends than us.
3. Owner’s suite on the port side – it’s kind of obvious really when you think about it so it’s perhaps surprising it has taken so long to work its way into the design model. With the helm on the starboard side you are much more likely to be coming starboard-side-to alongside a dock in a marina, meaning the owners cabin looks out onto a concrete dock and you sleep beside a squeaky fender. The port-side placement also avoids having the noise of the hydraulic arm of the auto-pilot by your head as you sleep underway.
4. Light – While Helia means light and the boat certainly lives up to its name, there is just that little bit more streaming into the Elba. The 2 opening hatches in the windscreen of the Helia Evo have been replaced with one long outward-opening centre window so there is a little less solid stuff in this area to block out light. The shelf-area over and around the entrance to the guest cabins is gone allowing more light into area below. Also the “fake” in the hull window (Evo model) is gone - all of the hull windows are real and have a small opening section.
5. Owners bathroom – Love it! The wider hulls mean there is room for a walk around shower screen instead of the swinging door. The shower has a real window with an opening section. The owners' loo is now in the forepeak instead of the washing machine with the latter being relocated into the guest quarters on the starboard side – a big improvement (albeit a little further to walk to the loo in the night). Having to access my beloved washing machine by stepping into a (usually wet) shower well, negotiating 2 swinging doors, plus the washing machine door, is a right royal pain! Particularly when underway!
So what about the galley layout? This has been a major change and a somewhat controversial one for FP owners who are following the launch of the new model. Swapping the nav station to the pantry area over the fridge and extending the kitchen along the port side of the saloon seems to have some pros and cons. Having the entrance steps to the owners’ hull in the middle of your galley looks problematic to me, particularly if you are cooking whilst underway. I think some kind of removable barrier is going to be needed for full-time cruisers to prevent the risk of falls, but for a boat in charter that’s most likely only cooking at anchor (if at all) it would seem less of an issue. The white bench-tops look nice too!
On the Helia we both use the seat at the nav. table a lot, not necessarily just to “navigate” but to work on the computer etc. so losing that spot means using the table in the cockpit or down in the owners’ cabin. Standing desks have certainly become “a thing” of late, although you are not going to make yourself popular standing in front of the fridge for a long time, especially if that is where you keep the wine!
There are lots of other little touches of course - additions, deletions, modifications - as there always are. I don’t want to spoil the surprises, but wait ‘til you see the coffee table! Pretty cool! And don’t worry, fans of the built-in bench-top garbage bin will not be disappointed. Overall the Elba is a really beautiful boat and I have no doubt that Elba owners will absolutely love it, just as much as we love our ITIKI. So to any Helia owners out there who are feeling a touch of envy, banish those thoughts from your head! The Helia is a still a fantastic cruising boat with a lot going for it and we are certainly in no hurry to trade ours in. Now if only we could get to Greece and get back on board…
Lynda is slowly getting used to the transition from working to not working and racing to cruising.