The Helia Versus the Helia Evolution


Last Updated on September 28, 2020 by Amy

Starry Horizons is a Fountaine Pajot Helia 44.  We are extremely happy with her, and having sailed 30,000 nm on her, we find her a very capable ocean cruiser.

Why Refresh?

As Fountaine Pajot has done with many of its models, about halfway through the production cycle they perform a “refresh” of the model, labeling it as an Evolution and updating it to the current look.  Starry Horizons is an original Helia (hull number 77), while Julia, which we spent 35 days on sailing across the Pacific, is a Helia Evolution (hull number 150).

It’s worth noting that these changes are not just limited to the Helia Evolution.  Some of these changes we see consistently throughout the other, newer models too.

From 44 to 45

In 2018, Fountaine Pajot announced that it would stop manufacturing the Helia, and instead will start producing a 45-foot sailing catamaran, a line of which is yet to be named.  I’m sure the 45 is extremely appealing to some people, but if we were shopping now, the 45 would not make our short list, as it’s missing some things we find critical.

Of course, I’d like to encourage potential cruising boat owners to consider buying a used Helia – we will, someday, put Starry Horizons up for sale.  In the meantime, let’s look at the differences between the original Helia and the Helia Evolution.

Starry Horizons, an original Helia 44.
Itiki, a Helia Evolution.

Helia 44 Specs

  • Length: 43.5 ft
  • Beam: 24.3 ft
  • Draft: 3.8 ft
  • Unloaded tonnes: 10.8
  • Diesel: 470 l
  • Water: 375 l
  • Mainsail area: 753 square feet
  • Genoa area: 484 square feet

Maestro Layout

One of the biggest differences between the two is the layout of the Owner’s cabin in the Maestro version of both boats.  The Helia Evolution pulls the toilet out and puts it in a separate room.  It also pulls the shower back and adds a designated space for a laundry machine – a nod to the private ownership sector instead of the charter sector.  This change in the layout of the head trickles down to a few more nuanced differences in the heads.

Based on our experience, we rarely ever use the desk or the couch in our Helia.  Instead, I would rather have more storage space; not for clothes, but we do store a majority of our tools and spare parts in the main cabin.

Bathroom Floor

The Helia Evolution head floor.

The floor of the head is going to get wet, no matter what you do.  In the original Helia, the floor in front of the sink is fiberglass and gently slopes towards the shower for drainage.  In the Helia Evolution, the shower floor slopes down to the drain, but the floor in front of the sink either doesn’t slope down or doesn’t slope down enough, as the water pools on the aft side of the floor.

On the original Helia, access to under the head floor is through a removable floorboard between the laundry machine and the linen closet. This means there’s a long hose running from the shower to the sump box, which we often have to snake, even though we have a strainer over the shower drain.  However, in the Helia Evolution, Fountaine Pajot has added a removable floorboard in front of the sink, a few feet forward of where it sits in the original Helia, giving better access into the bilge.

Bathroom Door

The original Helia with the door leading to the head.

In the original Helia, the head is all one room; shower, sink, toilet, linen closet, and laundry machine.  One door closes it all off from the main cabin.  On the Helia Evolution, there is no door between the main head and the cabin.  I don’t know why you would want it, but there is no option for privacy while you shower.

All of the hatches and windows in the main cabin have curtains or shades.  However, the hatch in the head has neither, on both the original Helia and the Helia evolution.  On the original Helia, this isn’t a problem, as you can close the door.  Back on land, David and I slept in a room with blackout curtains, and we have been pleasantly surprised with how dark the main cabin can be on Starry Horizons.  On the Evolution, the hatch over the head is tinted but doesn’t have a shade.  Combined with no door between the head and the cabin, the main cabin gets really bright.  Sometimes while cruising, the sun is up pretty dang early – the sun rises in the Western Indonesia Time Zone around 5:45 am this week.

Bathroom Sink

The original Helia sink.
The Helia Evolution bathroom sink.

Our bathroom sink is a pain in my ass.  Where the bowl of the sink meets the counter is a breeding ground for mold, as it’s rarely ever dry.  This design flaw in the Helia Evolution has been eliminated, as the sink is built into the counter.

Shower Door

The shower door on the Helia Evolution does not have a latch to keep it closed and is transparent (again, what’s with Fountaine Pajot forcing us to watch our loved ones shower?).  The original Helia shower door is opaque and has a latch.

Bathroom Storage

In the original Helia, we have medicine cabinet-style storage behind our mirror.  In the Helia Evolution, there is no behind the mirror storage, but there is twice as much linen closet space directly opposite the sink.

Light Switches

Helia Evolution light switches.
Original Helia light switches.

The light switches have been changed aesthetically from a metallic finish to a white finish.  Personal preference: I like Starry Horizon’s better.

Cabinet Hardware

Original Helia cabinetry knobs.
Helia Evolution cabinetry knobs.

Fountaine Pajot changed the handles for the cabinets from a flush, push button type handle to a handle that you grip on one side and pull towards you.  They are not flush with the cabinet, and I think they are too susceptible to getting caught on things and breaking.


Original Helia stairs.
Helia Evolution stairs.

The stairs on the Helia Evolution have been redesigned to eliminate excess space on either side of the steps themselves.  In the Saona, that gap is completely eliminated, which is a big improvement because between the stairs and the wall is hard to clean and gets so gross.

Original Helia. The non-skid strip coming out of its home. It will not go back in.

The non-skid is now taped onto the step instead of a plastic attachment that slides in place.  It’s really hard to describe, but I think it’s an improvement over the original Helia.

New Saloon Hatches & Windows

Helia Evolution.
Original Helia.

The Helia Evolution has a redesigned the front facing window.  I think it looks great except for the logistics of covering the forward window. I am still absolutely in love with our window shades, and this method (or the option to put shades on the exterior) is not possible on the Evolution due to the new hatches in the front window.  Also, a few original Helias have installed a small hatch under the brow in the fiberglass to improve ventilation when it rains, and that is no longer an option.

Lounge Deck Ladder Drainage

Helia Evolution.
Original Helia.

On the original Helia, water often gets trapped in any of the metal pipes we have throughout the boat.  We’ve had to drill holes in a lot of places to get water out of those pipes.  The example above is the stairs from the helm to the lounge deck.  Fountaine Pajot has fixed that on the Helia Evolution by creating a large hole at the base of the handrail.  It looks better than the hole that we did ourselves, but you are still dumping water into the helm and cockpit.

Lounge Deck Seat

The backrest of the lounge deck seat has been raised.  I have seen several Helias do that themselves either by raising the hardware or by inserting a hard back into the cushions.  The Helia Evolution is an improvement.


Original Helia.
Helia Evolution.

The Helia Evolution has different cleats.  We assume they are better cleats.  One of our forward cleats bent while we were in Las Palmas, so we hope the new cleats are sturdier.

Couch Cushions and Armrest

Cockpit cushions on the Helia Evolution.

The couch cushions on the Evolution are so much better than ours!  Ours are firm and angular, while the new ones in the Evolution are soft and rounded.  The only thing I didn’t particularly care for on the Helia Evolution was the fabric of the couch.  Our fake leather couches have been easy to clean and haven’t stained at all.  These cushions are consistent on the Saona 47 too.  If we keep Starry Horizons after our circumnavigation, number 1 on my to-do list is replace our cushions!

This is actually a picture from the Saono 47. It’s the same as on the Helia Evolution. Our armrest is maybe 3 inches tall.

The armrest also got raised a few inches, making it much more practical.  While on Starry Horizons, if you are sitting at the end of the couch, the armrest is too low to use.

Escape Hatch in Master Cabin

This one is kind of weird.  The escape hatch for the master cabin is in a cabinet, behind a panel.  It’s not very easy to get to in an emergency.

Dinghy Davits

Helia Evolution. Photo thanks to Fountaine Pajot.
Original Helia. Photo thanks to our friends on Maple Cookie.

The design of the new dinghy davits on the Helia Evolution lets the dinghy sit slightly higher.  This is something we complained about from the beginning – our dinghy does, occasionally get hit by waves.  This is a much-needed improvement over the original Helia.  You can see that they also added a bend, which makes the dinghy sit in the davits better.


Yes, the portholes in the side of the boat are designed slightly different.  Supposedly it adds 30% more light…although I wonder if that includes the forward porthole in the maestro version, which is a fake window.

Stern Light Placement

The factory installed the stern light on our Helia on the metal support pole, inside the cockpit.  When in use, the light reflects off the enclosure and lights up the whole cockpit!  Not great when you need to preserve your night vision.  While in Florida, we moved the stern light out to the very end of the dinghy davit.  That is the factory-installed location of the stern light on the Helia Evolution.

Moxie, a Helia Evolution.
Starry Horizons, an original Helia.

Which is Better?

I’m biased and like the original Helia!  But, seriously, I think the two major changes are the head layout (which I like better in the original) and the davits (which are an improvement in the Helia Evolution).  Neither of these things would be easy or cheap to change on the boat.  Everything else, for the most part, doesn’t make a major difference.

Did I miss any differences?  Drop me a note in the comments!

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  1. Hi there ~ great blog! We have been looking for a Helia for almost a year now with no luck. We were really leaning towards an Evolution, but now a 2014 has come on the market and we are trying to decide what to do. The biggest thing is that it has 2 40hp motors… we are watching some of your videos now. You guys got the upgraded 55hp? Did you do that after you bought the boat? Interested to know costs and some other info. Do you still have your Helia?

    1. Hi! We got the upgraded engines directly from the factory, so I am not sure what it would take to swap them out. We do still have the Helia – you can see updates on our social media accounts. 🙂

    2. We have 2 D2 40HP engines in our 2014 Helia and love them! We get 2L to the hour per engine and have never needed to go any faster or need any more power. Most of our friends who bought Helias at the same time got 50 or 55HP engines but we feel they are a waste of fuel!

      1. hello, may i ask what’s the speed you get on 2300 rpm assuming clean hull and calm sea with no currents? thank you!

        1. Hi! We don’t run our engines at 2300. We run them between 1800-2100. As to no wind and no current…I don’t think we’ve ever had that. We usually motor somewhere between 6 – 6.5 knots.

  2. I know this is a response to an older post however thank you to Amy and yourself for this comparison. All the points are a great reflection on two great Helia 44′ options. We have the Evo version since that is all we knew and was available at this size and more importantly price point at the time we bought. A late 2018 model (#228) hence at delivery you could no longer buy the Evo, as the Elba 45′ was the listing. We like the master layout. Yes the head is a little small but you can jam yourself in at sea! The shower door on later EVO models is frosted and latched (they listened I guess). The escape hatch on the master side is stupidly covered but I’m pretty sure if you ended up needing it doors could be ripped off and sheet of wood pulled out. The davits are better but you do have to have the strops short so that the dinghy engine is clear of the wash under the hulls. The rest we love.
    As I have said previously our main frustration has been the AC seawater cooling pumps. the MARCH pumps are not designed to dry run so air lock of blockage (filter or thru-hull) leads to full failure and leak. It happened to us twice lucky we were on board and the bilge alarm and pumps caught it. We added the valve to flood the pump after filter cleaning as you recommended. I still advise any Helia or other owner to use https://www.pumpcatalog.com/koolair-pumps/. These are designed to run dry and not fail. I have replaced all three of our AC pumps and have a spare for the generator also.
    One final question does anyone have a layout for the cockpit enclosure. We are looking to have one made for the cockpit and bimini to full enclose, (no hard screen and wiper blade David!). Would like any layout plans to see how it would run. I’m interested to see how the set up runs across the transom area. Is it to floor or on top of the transom in at the davit level?
    Thanks again and happy sailing.

    1. Hi Douglas! We are so glad you like your boat. Good advice on the AC seawater cooling pumps. As for the layout question for the enclosure, we have not made up any plans, but you might want to ask around on either cruiser’s forum or one of the Facebook groups for Helia or FP owners. On SH, the enclosure panels go down to the top of the transom, behind the dingy davit windlass.

  3. I love my original Helia, the dinghy davits on the evolution appear to be much improved. I think the separate toilet is too small and I cant see the real benefit. Unless it is for a charter operator. Their is a closing door to the bathroom section on the original Helias. I was unimpressed with the new laundry location accessible through the shower. If you put your washing on the floor in a wet shower then you have wet dirty washing. The trade off for this new area is a safety hatch that is not easily accessible easily in an emergency. I have found the lounge in the owners suite very useful, it is a good space to escape from guests at times, good to sit on to put your shoes on. We use ours a lot and made a conscious decision not to replace with cupboards. We have lots of tools etc, that get stored in the front waterproof hatch, and in the outside saloon area. This has not been an issue for 6 years of cruising.
    I think the outdoor cushions have improved and will be interested to see how they last, I will probably copy that idea when I recover in a few years.

    All changes are usually made to sell to new customers, new designs, new ideas sometimes replace good old ones. Evolution is the marketing ploy. I guess if you have nothing to compare to you can’t see the differences. Different users always have different requirements, charterers, day users, liveaboards, etc… and opinions.

    1. Absolutely right. It’s funny the little things we notice when we’ve been living aboard one boat for so long.

      I look forward to redoing my cushions someday soon. They are my least favorite part of the boat and getting worse every day!

  4. Nice comparison of the two vessels. We had a Lipari Evo before ITIKI and can also see some of the changes from that to the Helia evo.
    The shower screen on our Helia Evo has latches to keep it closed, they are the same type as on the “laundry” door which have already fallen off!
    Agree with the comments on the cabinet handles, they are the exact height the pockets in my shorts and regularly get caught!
    Don’t be too envious about the bathroom sink. Water pools in the lowest point of the sink and the drain sits 2-3mm above that so it never completely drains and you cant put a plug in it!
    I quite like the separate toilet, I don’t mind watching my partner shower but there are other things one prefers not to see 🙂
    Interesting photo of the drainage from the lounge deck, this looks like something done post production as ours is not like this. The lounge deck is very efficient at funnelling water into the helm station and cockpit, via the bar fridge. Need to do something about that!
    Anyway all “first world problems” as overall the Helia is a fantastic boat and we love ITIKI. Having looked at the new 45 I am pleased we got in when we did as there are some more major design changes that I don’t think I would like.

  5. I am very interested in your opinion of the new 45. Which features that are missing that would make it a boat you would pick to own. Thanks

  6. Great blog post, Amy. I think you fairly describe the two vessels. We have an Evolution Maestro.

    Personally, we really like having the washing machine space hidden behind / in the shower and have no use for the sofa. The whole setup in the Evo Maestro is extremely efficient and a good use of space. So that’s a plus in the Evo column for us.

    The separate head, on the other hand, was initially attractive to me, but I’m no longer sure it’s a big deal and, frankly, it’s a bit claustrophobic in that small room. There’s also no door-stopper installed so you really have to keep the door closed while underway, etc., and I like to air it out a bit. To fix this, we initially used a bungee cord to keep it open, but we have since added a magnetic door-stopper like there are on other doors in the Helia and that works fine.

    I do appreciate the improved davit system on the Evo and personally like the aesthetics of the forward salon window resign too, but your comment about the shades got me thinking. We have interior curtains and they do an excellent job of keeping the salon cool and dark, but I like your set up too. We also have an exterior Textaline shade and it actually has a separate panel to allow you to open those forward windows … all in all, I think this is a bit of a draw on the windows, however.

    I agree with your assessment of cabinet hardware on the Evo. I’ve snagged on those drawer-pulls, so win for original Helia there. Also, is there any difference on the sliding door to the owners’ cabin on the Evo? I don’t think they’ve improved that, have they?

    One other thing, I know there’s different steering mechanisms on older Helias and some FP boats — older models have the push/pull pully system and newer models have (superior) hydraulic systems. That would be important to me in evaluating a boat.

    Ultimately, however, I agree with your reviews of the Helia and FP workmanship. We love our Evo and take pride in owning an FP vessel. We also love your website, the advice and insights you and David share, and your chutzpah. We have a mess of children, some about to go to college, so we are still locked to our life in Arizona for the time being, but we have plans to follow in your footsteps in the future.

    1. Hey Geoff! Good points. As for airing out the head, we still have the same problem as you: our head door has the magnetic stopper, but it is often not strong enough. If we forget to close the door it’s likely that the door will bang around, so we typically keep it closed on passage. One thing I have seen in the Outremers is a vent installed in the door to the head. It’s a really good idea but with our mirror on the back of the door we can’t do it.

      I don’t think there is any difference in the sliding doors. Ours is a pain sometimes, I would be interested to see an improvement.

      Our original Helia has the hydraulic steering. I am not sure where in the line they made the switch but it was pretty early before the Evolution.

      Thanks for following!

  7. I too think the davits appear to be an improvement. The head though might be a different story. While the addition of space for a washing machine is great for a cruising boat, the new head layout seems a bit odd. We love the little Panada washer in the shower idea personally. An actual washing machine is always of course a dream come true. Something else I have to say is that I truely do not like hatches or portholes mounted within plexi. This is flimsy and leads to issues with the windows. The stress starts to crack the windows over time as well as hinges, etc cracking the plexi around them. This design is nuts, but the only solution catamaran makers can seem to come up with to appeal to the aesthetic tastes of people that want clear sight lines. I think this is especially dangerous in lower cabins in the hulls. The structural integrity of these window port light additions creates a situation where there could be failures in heavy seas at some point. I like what appears to be the hatches inset in fiberglass on your Helia forward. This is a much more sensible approach which should hold up better over the long haul.

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