Why choose a catamaran?
The catamaran has been used by sailors for thousands of years from Polynesians crossing oceans to remote islands through to fishing communities in coastal areas such as India as well as transporting an obelisk along the Nile River by the ancient Greeks.
Today, the catamaran has risen to popularity through its inherent advantages to both the cruising sailor and the racing sailor. Cruising sailors looking for a versatile craft to serve the dual purpose of living accommodation and safe passage maker will look towards the catamaran instead of a monohull yacht. The Racing sailor is looking for the fastest vessel to cross lakes, local seaways and oceans. After 50 years of modern multihull design improvement and testing the official race of yachting – the Americas Cup has moved to a multihull (catamaran) as its vessel of choice and the 2013 Americas Cup will be raced using 72’ catamarans.
Cruising in a catamaran offers many advantages to the ocean going sailor – be it a couple or a family:
- Comfort under sail without the excessive heeling of a traditional monohull yacht
- Open deck plans with wide flat areas to work from or to sit at
- Abundant accommodation below with room for multiple berths
- The ability to provide a user friendly galley for the cook
- Comfort at anchor without the continual rocking of a mono-hull
The endless variety of Catamarans for sale demonstrates the designer’s ability to offer a multitude of options in design to suit the needs of the individual. There are luxury catamarans for sale with all the comforts of home as well as a price tag equivalent to a large house right through to basic seagoing designs to suit the home-builder with the dream of sailing the seven seas and circumnavigating the globe.
The earliest catamaran circumnavigation of the world belongs to David Lewis who sailed most of this with his family in the famous Rehu Moana. After starting the trip sailing solo in the single handed trans-Atlantic race in 1964, he collected his family and begun their circumnavigation sailing through the Straits of Magellan, across the South Pacific and around the Cape of Good Hope. This journey was documented in his books – ‘Daughters of the Wind’ and ‘Children of Three Oceans’. Lewis, a legendary adventurer when on to document the navigational techniques used by the Polynesians who sailed their catamarans across the South Pacific using ancient methods such as ‘Star Walking’, swell patterns and observations of birds to navigate. This journey he documented in the book ‘We, the Navigators’.
Some critics of the catamaran cite safety concerns such as capsize for choosing to continue sailing with the monohull design despite the incredible amount of monohulls that have sunk over the years. For example, by 1983 the waters of New Zealand were littered with 1,800 recorded shipwrecks – a minute amount (if any) being catamarans. In essence, the safety of a sailing vessel is directly related to the seamanship of the captain – be it either catamaran, monohull or otherwise. The catamaran offers many advantages for the safety of its crew that far outweighs the risks associated with capsize. For example:
The easy motion allows the crew to remain well rested in heavy weather sailing
The accommodation provides opportunity for off-watch crew to sleep in comfort
These advantages are well described in the book – “Catamarans for Cruising” by Jim Andrews (1974).
While many monohull sailors will continue to cite safety as a reason to not go to sea in a catamaran, the famous James Wharram, designer of Wharram Catamarans cites in his ‘Wharram Design Book’ that no full size Wharram has been known to have capsized.
Probably the most common and popular catamaran of all time is the small and practical Hobie Cat. Created in the late 1960s by Hobie Alter, the Hobie Cat proved a fast affordable day sailor for the small boat owner. The most famous design – the Hobie 16 has remained in production for over 30 years with possibly over 100,000 having been built.
As indicated by the Hobie ‘Beach Cat’ popularity through to the evolution of the Americas Cup 2013 using the new AC72 catamarans, this tried and tested boat design is ever evolving and capable of meeting the needs of any sailor. The AC72 catamarans for 2013 will include groundbreaking technology such as solid wing sails with an increased efficiency of over 30% over traditional cloth sails, as well as hydroplaning foils. The underwater hydrofoils will lift the AC72 Americas Cup 2013 catamarans up and out of the water – the hulls will ‘fly’ clear of the water resistance and may add another factor of 30% to the efficiency of the vessel through the water. To view the AC72 in action watch the YouTube video below:
By David Anderson