This 137-year old concept, revived by the 2013 America’s Cup and accelerated by limitless budgets and rapid innovation and technology, is propelling catamaran popularity into the general sailing community with spectacular speed.
Nathanael Herreshoff registered the first US patent for a catamaran design and introduced it to the sailing world in 1876. He raced his catamaran, Amaryllis, in the Centennial Regatta held on June 22, 1876, at the New York Yacht Club. Amaryllis changed from being a mere curiosity to being the outright winner of the Regatta and was described as "A Revolutionary Yacht." Unfortunately, monohulls competitors protested the Amaryllis and she was disqualified from the race and catamarans were barred from organized racing. This decision stopped the further development of multihulls for decades.
Only in the1950’s did people like Woody Brown, the Prout brothers and James Wharram, to name but a few, start making strides in racing and crossing oceans in catamarans of various designs. In the twentieth century the catamaran inspired Hobie Alter to introduce the sailing catamarans to the masses with his highly successful Hobie 16, remaining in production with more than 100,000 made in the last three decades. The development of the modern catamaran, from simple ocean going catamarans such as the Polynesian double canoe, two logs bridged by planks, to some of the most impressive multihulls on the planet, such as the record breaking trimaran Hydroptere and the foiling catamarans that impressed the world at the latest America's Cup, is meteoric.
This evolution has been unleashed with limitless budgets for innovative designs, building materials and technology. Tom Weaver the former CEO of an America’s Cup program comments in an article by Rob Almeida in gcaptain.com: “In the next 15 years, if you are not racing a cat, you will be racing “classic” boats.” This is becoming increasingly true for cruising catamarans also. People are getting over the prejudices of traditional problems with catamarans with advancement of technology and design. Nothing can beat the comfort, speed and safety of a well designed catamaran as a cruising yacht.
Bridgedeck clearance on a catamaran invites a wide difference of opinion among sailors. But what we all agree on is that good clearance is very important for the seaworthiness and comfort of a catamaran. See what Stephen has to say in the video at right.
Avoiding slamming or pounding of waves against the underside of the bridgedeck, can make all the difference for the comfort of the crew and safety of the vessel. The slamming phenomenon can both be nerve wracking for the crew and damaging to the boat.
As a rule of thumb, we believe that clearance of between 5 and 6% of the LOA of the catamaran is good.
According to Sackville Currie, bridgedeck clearance (the height of the bridgedeck above the water) is crucial. Read his article that explains why the bridgedeck clearance is so important.
In its 137-year history, the catamaran has always garnered passionate devotees. But technological innovations in agility and speed and the foiling catamarans' spotlight in the 2013 America’s Cup have expanded its appeal and popularity to a wider audience of sailing enthusiasts. The development of the modern catamaran from the simple ocean-going Polynesian double canoe to the most impressive multihulls on the planet has accelerated even more, with all the latest innovations in structure and composite materials. Tom Weaver, the former CEO of an America’s Cup program, comments in an article by Rob Almeida of gCaptain Maritime & Offshore News: “In the next 15 years, if you are not racing a cat, you will be racing “classic” boats.”
The celebrity of the catamaran is not only swelling in racing, but also for cruising catamarans. At their conception, the atypical design enabled cats to sail faster and in shallower waters with less wind and crew than other sailing vessels. But for years the unorthodox design met with skepticism, leaving the catamaran with little commercial success. Additional challenges to adoption of early versions of cruising cats were the small, very cramped interiors by modern day standards, was heavy and lumbering handling abilities. Many sailors used to say they “were built like tanks and sailed like bricks”.
We are often asked if production catamarans like Fountaine Pajot, Lagoon and Leopard can actually cross oceans and perform well. The answer is a resounding YES! The safety factor for production catamarans may have been an issue about 10 or 15 years ago when these vessels were still very new in production but that has completely changed with all the advances in modern technology.
"Galley up or galley down?" I have been asked this question more often than any other about catamaran cruising life. The only answer in my opinion, is galley up. When at sea, every meal comes from the galley, so live-aboards spend a lot of time in the galley and many cruising couples and families find that the separation is not ideal. Therefor, in modern catamarans, the most popular galley design option is galley up which makes it a focal point of the main living and entertainment areas.
It makes it easy for the chef/cook to be part of the social activities while keeping an eye on the food. It is also a safety issue when at sea. Having the galley on the same level as the serving area and cockpit is less tiring and safer than hauling hot food up the stairs. Ventilation is better on the bridgedeck than down in the hulls which makes cooking a lot easier when prone to seasickness.
The downside of the galley up design is less privacy for the cook and it can significantly impact the size of the saloon seating area, specially on smaller cats. For me, the most important feature for any galley on any boat is its functionality when at sea. A well-designed galley should be safe, well-ventilated and functional. The wrap-around or U-shape galley is ideal in my opinion. It allows for loads of counter space and offers the ability to brace oneself on the high seas. You need that even in a catamaran from time to time!
Read more here about my recommendations for catamaran galley designs. These posts, "Choosing your Catamaran Galley: Things To Consider" and "Galley Design Issues On A Catamaran" will give you all the information needed to choose your galley layout, design and and the pros and cons of each design.
- By Sackville Currie of Multihull Design
Bridgedeck clearance (the height of the bridgedeck above the water) is crucial for catamaran's seaworthiness and crew comfort. Because bridgedeck clearance can be seen at a glance, and is easily measured, even an inexperienced sailor can evaluate it.
Why does a catamaran need high bridgedeck clearance? First, ocean waves need headroom to pass between the hulls. Second, each bow creates a bow wave; these V-shaped waves meet under the bridgedeck and increase the clearance needed. What happens when bridgedeck clearance is inadequate? The one-word answer: Pounding. Visit our article on bridgedeck clearance on catamarans to see a video explanation of the importance of bridgedeck clearance by Stephen of Catamaran Guru as well as a video between the hulls of a Lagoon 450S in heavy following seas with moderate gale force winds.
Pounding causes three problem areas:
The potential of the catamaran hull form, which is so impressive when sailing at 8 to 10 knots in 20 knots of breeze in protected waters, can be quickly reduced to 5 knots by pounding. Yes, a very low bridgedeck cat can lose 3 to 4 knots of boat speed with a major pound. Contunuing reading Bridge Deck Clearance>>
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