Performance Catamaran Comparisons

Performance cruising cats are becoming more popular and mainstream. A lot more brands have become available on the market over the last 10 years. Some of the most popular and well known performance cat brands are Catana, Outremer, HH Catamarans, and Balance. These boats’ popularity is not only driven by their amazing sailing abilities but also by YouTube channels like Sailing La Vagabond with their Outremer 45 and Gone with the Wynns who recently bought an HH 50 OC.

We Joined the Performance Catamaran Enthusiasts!

Catamaran Guru acquired a Catana Ocean Class 50. We take possession of the boat in September 2022 at the Cannes Yachting FestivalAfter a hiatus for a few years to focus on the Bali range, Catana released in 2022 their Catana OC 50 that has the industry abuzz including ourselves. Its new bulkhead helm station, the open plan design, the comfort, interior spaciousness, and the affordability convinced us to take the leap and buy one. Read our review here>>

Let’s Look at Some Fundamentals

Of course, before we bought the Catana OC 50, we did a little research on the most popular performance catamarans. We wanted to see how these boats compare in performance. One of the big factors that determines performance is Power-to-Weight ratio (or sail area to displacement ratio). We calculated the Bruce number and SA/D for the Catana OC 50, HH 50 OC, HH 50 Performance, Balance 482, and Outremer 51. This is not the be-all and end-all but one do get a good indication of performance for these boats in steady sea conditions.

But before we dive down into it, let’s heed this advice from two veterans in the industry. Measuring a multihull’s performance is a complex issue that we all tend to want to boil down to a simplistic solution, which it is not. In the words of Tony Grainger: “…as a species hard wired for optimism, we’re prone to magical thinking, especially in the hands of marketing pros and advocacy scientists delivering theoretical solutions to complex problems.” As he says, “Prediction of performance and actual Observation are two very different things”. Phillip Berman from Balance Catamarans concurs: “Even the most accurate input, polar performance numbers on cruising catamarans are seldom achieved”. So, take this for what it is, simply numbers on a spreadsheet.

Some definitions:

  • Bruce Number – a power-to-weight ratio for relative speed potential for comparing boats. It takes into consideration the displacement and sail area of main and jib (100% fore triangle only), no overlapping sails. Light boats are more easily driven than heavy boats and more sail gives you more drive.
  • SA/D (sail area / displacement ratio): indicates the power of the sail plan relative to the displacement of the boat, regardless of the length. 

We used the Bruce-SA/D calculator  to calculate the SA/D range of values:

  • 16 to 18 Heavy offshore cruisers
  • 18 to 22 Medium Cruisers
  • 22 to 26 Inshore cruisers, racing boats
  • 26 to 30 Extreme racing boats

Catamaran Measurements

Points of Consideration

  • We used the published numbers on the manufacturers’ websites to do the calculations and some of those numbers may be slightly off. We tried to verify but have not received feedback. Any input is welcome! 
  • We used only the mainsail and jib area on all the boats to get an apples to apples comparison.
  • The “Lightship Displacement” quoted in each of the manufacturer’s specifications was used in the Bruce number calculation. Note there is an anomaly in that the Outremer, which is the biggest boat with the least carbon fiber, is quoted as being the lightest boat of the group. We think the lightship displacement quoted on the Outremer website might be inaccurate because it is unlikely that a predominantly E-Glass boat would be lighter than a full Carbon boat such as the Balance or HH performance. If anyone has reliable numbers for Outremer, we would love to hear from you! *We have received new information and have updated the weight of the Balance with new actual published numbers.

Some Observations and Conclusion

For performance cruisers there is a fine balance between speed and comfort and they are not for everyone. Speed does not always make for comfort. Operation of daggerboards, bigger and more powerful rigs and more complex running rigging require more skill, making them not suitable for the average cruising sailor. The conclusion we drew from this exercise is that all these boats are essentially very similar cruisers with very similar performance characteristics, except for the Balance, which stands out as the real performance boat. *Updated information shows that this boat is very similar now to the other boats. We believe that most of these boats are capable of good performance in light conditions, which is of course the beauty of a performance cat. These are our observations:

  • The measurements for these boats are all very similar.
  • Balance is the lightest boat (full carbon) at 25,353lbs 29321lbs with a big sail plan at 1,432 sq ft. These boats are super light and fast and moves in very light air.  *We updated the Balance weight with new actual published numbers. 
  • According to the SA/D numbers, the Balance is rated in the “extreme racing” category at 26.549 and a Bruce number of 1.292.  The Balance turns out to be very similar to the other boats SA/D “inshore cruisers / racing boats” category like the other boats
  • The rest of the cats all fall into the SA/D “inshore cruisers / racing boats” category. So, these boats should all perform similarly and sail well even in light conditions.
  • The Catana OC 50 (carbon deck and bulkheads) and the HH 50 Performance (full carbon), surprisingly are rated very similarly. The Catana is heavier but has a bigger sail plan and thus has similar performance to the HH.
  • The HH 50 OC has mini keels rather than daggerboards and will likely not have the same performance to weather as the daggerboard boats.
  • The Catana is the heaviest boat at 31,164lbs with the biggest sail area at 1469 sq ft.
  • The Catana has the highest load carrying capacity of 10,723lbs – great for cruising and living onboard.
  • The fuel tanks on both the HH catamarans are 4 times the size of the water tanks which is curious and nearly double the size of any of the other cats. That seems a little odd, but we could be wrong.
  • Fuel capacities vary greatly between the boats, with Outremer having the least fuel capacity at 88 gal.
  • Water capacity varies slightly, also. Catana and Balance carry around 210 gals while the others carry around 100 gals, which is a bit small for live aboard in our opinion.

We also concluded that while these stats are interesting data, they should not be the overriding factor when choosing a boat in the performance cruising category. Other factors to consider include quality, comfort, livability, equipment, safety, resale value, etc. Price is also a very big consideration. Balance (South Africa) and HH cats (China) are way more expensive than the French-built cats, Catana and Outremer, partly because the Balance and HH Performance are full carbon boats while the others have carbon infused deck and/or bulkheads. We believe that the Catana’s interior volume and comfort make it an extremely livable boat while still having the performance benefits of an express blue water cruiser and it is extremely affordable at around $1.5 million.

Having said all that, with the advancement of technology, more people will be able to sail these performance cats safely and will be able to afford them as more hulls are built and costs come down.

Here is another very interesting analysis Sailing into Freedom. The top 10 performance catamarans – Dazcat 1495, ORC 50, Odisea 48, Balance 526, Outremer 45, Outremer 51, Catana OC, HH 50, OC 50, Balance 482, HH44, Seawind 1370, Seawind 1600, Slyder 49, Privilege, Windelo 50. We would love for everyone to join the discussion. Let us know what you think in the comment box!

Learn how to sail a performance catamaran

Seaschool winching

Our sailing school facility in Fort Lauderdale will start training on the Catana OC 50 with certified RYA instructors in March 2023. Contact us for more information about our sailing school dates and pricing.


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