The Argument For Or Against Bali Catamarans

Bali 4.5 For Sale

When the Bali catamaran range was launched, it created a stir in the industry, not only because the Catana catamaran owner, Olivier Poncin, launched a NEW brand, but also because he turned conventional thinking about catamarans on its head.

It has since won accolades from industry professionals and consumers alike for innovation and performance and the Bali brand is now well established.

The Bali Catamaran Range Back Story

Olivier Poncin is the owner of Catana catamarans, which has been the standard in semi-Bali catamaranscustom performance catamarans for years. Fitted with daggerboards and constructed with modern building materials such as closed cell foam cores, Kevlar for impact zones and carbon fiber for stiffness and improved sailing ability, Catana catamarans has always been in a class of its own.

While Catana is still very successful in the PERFORMANCE class, Poncin recognized a gap in the market for a faster, lighter and more maneuverable production CRUISING catamaran. He further understood that such a cruising catamaran would have to compete with the likes of Lagoon, Leopard and Fountaine Pajot, all very successful brands for sailing cruisers. The new cat had to also be luxuriously appointed without significantly compromising performance and it had to be priced competitively.

So, he redesigned the entire modern catamaran by implementing innovative design ideas and unconventional and highly controversial concepts. The result was quite a stunning and very successful range of catamarans, called Bali. They have won several international awards and they have very quickly gained market acceptance, both in Europe and in the U.S

Critique Of The Bali Catamaran Range

There have been all kinds of criticisms about the Bali, some valid (which we will discuss later) and others that are just down right ridiculous. The most illogical of them being that these catamarans are not seaworthy and slam excessively because of the solid foredeck. We have already addressed this in our article “Dealers And Their Biases”, specifically about two of their most significant and distinctive design features, the solid foredeck and the “garage door” concept.

But the biased opinions persist with competing dealers who appear to not have any personal or current offshore experience of the sailing ability and seaworthiness of Bali catamarans and base their criticisms purely on their own biases. While much criticism has been lodged about solid foredecks, like that of the the Bali design, we have a different view on the issue. Here is some history and background information.

The Evolution Of The Catamaran Foredeck & Reduction Of Weight To Enhance Performance

Prout Snowgoose 37Some of the oldest production catamarans were built by the Prout family, since the 1950’s in England. They have built around 500 catamarans and one of their more popular models was the Snowgoose 37, built mainly in the 1980s. Prout is no longer around but the Snowgoose is still a popular cruising boat even today. Looking at the Snowgoose 37, you will notice that they are designed with a solid foredeck. The Prout builders had this to say: “…although this adds a lot of weight, it provides rigidity between the hulls that a single crossbar cannot match”. Bali catamarans foredeck design

Solid foredecks were much more common in the early days of production cats like the Catalac, Prout, Gemini, etc. than they are today. While they were proven to be seaworthy, the incessant slamming in bad sea on the solid foredeck and low bridgedeck, demanded a design change. Solid foredecks were eventually replaced in modern cats by nets / trampolines as design developed because the heavy solid foredecks placed weight in exactly the wrong area and severely impeded performance.

Bali’s Foredeck Design Philosophy

Bali liked the idea of having an open solid platform from stem to stern and followed the structural strength philosophy of the solid foredeck design of old. However, they created the solid foredeck with their own new and unique box sections construction and lightweight infusion technology which allowed them to replace the netting without adding the extra weight.

The foredeck on the Bali is not just a flimsy joint between the hull and deck sections, but is actually part of the bow structure and contributes to the stiffness of the boat, making it much stronger than conventional catamarans with two bows joined by a crossbeam and netting.

The acute angle of the bottom section of the solid foredeck causes the bows to lift, rather than dive, improving performance even further. Since there is no netting the foredeck is relatively dry in most conditions but even if it does take a lot of water over the bows, the water drains efficiently and quickly. It has a very unique and clever draining system. The water drains through a big opening in the well next to the windlass down into the anchor locker. It is fitted with three backward facing scuppers, mounted in the step, which is molded into the center nacelle. This allows for a quick purging of the water with no pushback. The solid foredeck also allows for much more buoyancy forward than a conventional catamaran and in our experience does not slam any more than other catamarans that we have sailed on.

Fountaine Pajot Lucia 40 and Athena 38 catamaran foredeckForedecks On Other Modern Cats

The development of the modern catamaran has been meteoric in recent years and with the evolution of modern lightweight design and infusion technology, netting is no longer a necessity for weight reduction up forward on some designs of cruising catamarans. Therefor trampolines on modern designs have become much smaller and today, catamaran designers are increasingly encroaching on the foredeck to create more interior space and in fact, they are almost completely designing the trampolines out of some of the boats.

Good examples would be the Fountaine Pajot Lucia 40 (see the picture of the Lucia 40 vs the earlier FP design, Athena 38) in which the designers moved the living spaces forward in the Lucia 40 to create a bigger cockpit. In order to do that, they had to reduce the size of the trampolines. This holds true in other cats like Xquisite Yachts, the Leopard catamaran range, the Fountaine Pajot Saba 50 ,and many others. With this in mind, we predict we will see more catamarans with solid foredecks coming onto the luxury yacht market.


The Bali catamaran range is a young brand that stems from an esteemed background. It has a few teething issues but In our opinion there are no problems with the solid foredeck of the Bali that we can see at this stage. We are certainly open to hearing different opinions from informed sources and would be happy to update current information as it becomes available. So far Bali has proven to be strong, fast and seaworthy and it is a fun sailing boat.

Catamaran foredeck


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Dealers for Bali Catamarans in USA

Catamaran Guru, through its sister company, Ocean Multihulls, has been appointed the exclusive Dealer for Bali Catamarans in Texas & for Charter Management fleets worldwide. Contact us directly for specifications, pricing, and a concierge-level buying experience.

Bali Catamarans Systems & Interior Improvements

Bali 4.0 catamaranWe owned and lived aboard a Lagoon 450 SporTop but when we were looking at the available choices, the Bali 4.5 was on our short list. We loved that the Bali catamaran range is such a new and innovative catamaran design and we are excited to see where this range will go in the market. Two major points for the Bali catamaran:

  • Bali separates itself from other cruising cats like Fountaine Pajot, Leopard and Lagoon by using the more expensive closed cell foam for the core in the hull versus balsa wood core with the other three builders.
  • The other difference is that the Bali has the rudder far back and aft of the propeller which makes it track very well and is in keeping with the emphasis on performance versus the Lagoon and Fountaine Pajot who have moved the propeller aft of the rudder which is not ideal for performance but allows for a nice big engine room – in catamarans everything is a compromise.

However, one of the negatives for us was definitely the stark interior of the Bali catamaran range. While it is very functional and wearable, it just did not have that “luxury” feel that you would expect in a cruising cat like that of a Lagoon or an Xquisite. Many of our clients also remarked on the fact that the fittings and finishes are lightweight and somewhat minimalist. While “lightweight” is Bali’s intent for improved performance, the market requires a more luxurious and cozy interior.

We passed this feedback on the manufacturer and they decided to address that issue with the new “Premier Interiors” that were launched at the Cannes show in September 2017. This is a big improvement as it has had a great reception from the sailing community.

There were a few other small things that needed to be addressed like systems and quality control. From what we have heard from the sailing public, it seems that Bali has done a nice job on improving their quality issues. We will attended the Cannes Boat Show to view the new Bali interiors to keep on the pulse as the product evolves.

New Premier Interiors For Bali Catamaran Range

Bali catamarans premier interiors Bali premier interior

The New Bali 5.4 Catamaran Model

Bai 5.4 catamarans

Quite honestly, the Bali range is a joy to sail. We have tested these cats in all weather conditions and we believe that Poncin stayed true to his performance roots with these catamarans. We love this boat so much, we bought our own Bali 5.4 to liveaboard. Here’s why:

  • Impressively large flybridge
  • Bali’s Signature swing / garage salon door
  • Direct access from salon into forward cockpit area through opening door
  • Bali’s Signature solid foredeck with large living space
  • 4, 5, 6 Cabin layouts
  • Dining area seats up to 12 people
  • Self tacking jib and is set up for short handed sailing
  • Access from aft cabins directly onto the aft deck
  • Huge water and fuel capacity (315 gallons each)
  • Central island beds
  • Hydraulic tender lift platform with remote control

Bali 5.4 Specifications & Brochure>>

Bali 5.4 Layouts

Bali 5.4 catamaran layout BALI 5.4 Pont

Bali 5.4 catamaran layout BALI 5.4 5cab 1twin


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29 thoughts on “The Argument For Or Against Bali Catamarans”

  1. Very positive comparison , Good teaching tool for the sales people. With each new Bali we receive I am seeing the differences in the quality getting better. I also see the dedication of the Manufacture in improving to make this the best in the industry.

    1. Catamaran Guru

      Thank you Mike. I’m glad this can help. I just wanted to put the foredeck issue to rest once and for all. The disinformation going around is disturbing.

      1. You are so right! This mythology was passed on to us by so many seasoned sailors that we struck Bali off of our list at one point. We did a lot more unbiased research and the reality became clear. The prejudices and ignorance surrounding Balis is palpable. We just took ownership of a new Catspace and we are deeply in love!

        1. Congratulations Sylvie! We wish you many wonderful adventures. Please check in with us and let us know how you guys enjoy the boat and the places you visit!

    2. Great review and commentary. Do you intend to review the Bali 5.4 with Premium Interior? I’d be very interested to read that. Thanks!

  2. Jean-Jacques Astier

    All of us, including Labrador dog, are fully satisfied with SPOT, the Bali 4.0 our family bought late spring. A pleasure to confirm every point. 🙂

  3. Mitchell Taylor

    Very impressed with the Bali Stephen. Hopeful to place my order later this year for the 4.5. Any chance that they may update the stateroom hull portholes into something larger like the Helia rectangular windows with portholes inside? That’s my only real criticism. Love that they’ve provided so many but just need to be larger on the lateral hull and transom for my taste. Are they’re structural limitations?

  4. We loved loved loved the interior layouts of the owners version we were on. Here were my negative findings. The rear door motor was not reliable in being able to completely life the weight of the rear door and it took two men two strong tall men to complete the locked and engaged position. Lastly and most important, she was extremely hard to steer st thr helm when motoring at 7 plus knots. The boat actually made 9 knots a couple times. I attribute her good ride and speed to thr high freeboard and the core makeup, but as soon as I took it off auto pilot it was like wresting an elephant . She could not be safely controlled without autopilot above 7.5 knots. I attributed it to thr props being so far from the rudders although I am not an engineer and can not confirm this. She was easy to sail and the self tacking jib is nice for single handing. I would love to own a bigger version, with corrections I’ve noted

    1. Catamaran Guru

      Jeff, Thanks for the reply! The motor for the garage door has been replaced and is now only a mechanical system that easy to operate. We opened and closed it several times at boat shows and all but the littlest lady had no problems pulling the door down and lock it. As for the steering problem, I have no idea why you would have ah that problem. Again, we have been on several sea trials and did not experience that. I will ask around to see if other had that issue.

  5. Thank you for the excellent article. Works you have any further comments on how this design would fare in blue water and rougher seas? Any major limitations or hesitation for this design versus others for possible crossings?

    1. Catamaran Guru

      Mark, the Bali is as blue water capable as Lagoon, FP, Leopard and Nautitech. All are cruising catamarans and of very similar construction. Many of the Bali’s have been sailed across the Atlantic for deliveries in the US or Caribbean and they have all fared as well as any of the other designs. Like every manufacturer, they have had issues with the first few models, i.e. a leaky window, but as far as safety and performance, they are good boats. No worries there!

  6. Anyone out there actually purchase and use a Bali 4.5? I’m looking at one for purchase and would really appreciate input from someone who’s actually sailed extensively, not just reviewed at a dock. Thanks! Mark

    1. Mark, it would be good for you to join the Bali owners group on Facebook. They are an active group and give you some input. We have sailed the Bali 4.5 a few times ourselves. What is it that you would like to know?

  7. I’ve heard earlier Bali cats did not have quite the quality they now do (interior construction, and perhaps some structural). Around what timeframe did the quality improvement take place?

    Thanks for the excellent article and site!
    Jim K

  8. I am interested in the new Bali Catspace design. interesting use of interior volume to change position of forward berths. Is this a design that Bali is planning on expanding beyond the current 40 foot model

  9. One of the important factors differentiating Bali from the others is while Seawind, Nautitech and many others have an opening bulkhead to the saloon, what they are doing is making the open air cockpit larger. Bali in contrast with its rear door allows you to close off the cockpit, making it part of the saloon. Put another way, Nautitech, Seawind and Bali with their doors open have one big space for beautiful outdoor elements, but in rain, at night, in cold weather, when there are mosquitoes or bugs, or when you simply want privacy, ONLY Bali allows you to retain all of that cockpit space as protected, private space. Having lived aboard a catamaran now for over 20 years, I NEVER have wanted a bigger cockpit approach, I don’t want flies crawling over my dishes in the saloon and galley all the time. But the thought of having my saloon extended so that I can have now more space, and all of the things that go with that such as three different groups having a conversation without stepping on other, is priceless. Now my son can do class, I can work and my wife can work all at the same time. Now, let’s talk about Bali’s other key feature, their large refrigerator and freezer. It used to be the rule of thumb that over provisioning was a bad idea, simply eat what the locals eat. But now with Covid we see the unfortunate truth, a host country does not need to let you in, and your 2 or 3 week passage could always, at the sole discretion of that host country, turn into a 6 week round trip. To accomplish the provisioning you for that possibility, you need freezer capacity, and Bali’s has triple the freezer capacity of any other sailboat, regardless of size. It also used to be a fact that you needed to conserve power and things like large refrigerators and freezers were the domain of power yachts with huge generators, but now with solar panels costing less the $1 per watt, even the most frugal cruiser can afford to have solar panels large enough to keep this huge refrigerator and freezer going. 10 years ago, this wasn’t the case. With these two features, unique to Bali, I think they are in a leadership position in the industry.


  10. We chartered a Bali 5.4 recently in the Bahamas and absolutely loved it. The garage door opening at the rear of the saloon is the bomb! And the standup refrigerators were to die for – just ask the numerous Lagoon charterers who stopped by and raved about our refrigerator/freezer space compared to theirs! One issue, however, was the lack of fresh air in the sleeping cabins. One of the cabin air conditioners went out (as can happen on a sailboat) and there was no way to catch air from outside and get it into the cabins since there are no deck hatches. It was NOT possible to sleep in that cabin and one of the couples on our trip had to sleep in the saloon area for the bulk of our trip. We are considering buying a smaller cat, but won’t consider the Bali until/unless they can fix this problem.

    1. Estelle Cockcroft

      Earl, thank you for the feedback. If you had the 5 or 6 cabin version, then I have to agree. It is a problem. We have a 4 cabin Bali 5.4 with a crew cabin and in that case we have enough ventilation. But we are working with a company to help with scooping air into the cabins. I think it will be a great improvement. Stay in touch. I will post updates.

        1. Estelle Cockcroft

          Hi Ross the mold was done but I dont know if Etienne has manufactured any scoops yet. Let me check and get back to you.

  11. Where can i find polar diagrams for all Bali catamarans. Very interested in the design but would like some info on performance.

  12. Everything is very open with a clear explanation of the challenges.
    It was really informative. Your website is very helpful.
    Many thanks for sharing!

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