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So why do we see more and more sailors changing from monohulls to catamarans, and almost none in the opposite direction? What motivates them? What are the arguments in favour of the catamaran?
To answer these questions, we brought together several sailors, some from the world of monohull racing, others from coastal or blue-water cruising circles. In production boats, long-distance cruising monohulls, or even aboard boats they have built themselves, they have all come to the same conclusion, that happiness afloat is inevitably found on several hulls…
Evelyne and Jean
Present boat: Lagoon 410 "Yapuka"
Monohulls: Sangria - Atch 1050, built themselves in 10 years.
Programme: Liveaboard – around the Mediterranean, then the Atlantic.
The catamaran’s ‘plus’: “I like the lack of heel; especially in bad weather, it’s very reassuring.”
Evelyne and Jean’s story began in the early 80s, when they bought the plans for an Atch 1050 from Dominique Provin, plus a few sheets of metal to build it with. In 1991, after ten years’ hard labour, the longed-for monohull was launched. After their Sangria, the Atch immediately felt much more comfortable and liveable… On the family’s menu are numerous cruises and a whole pile of memories of magnificent anchorages, sailing from their base in the Channel. England, the Channel Islands, south, north - the family has few limits and spends more than 60 days a year aboard, covering on average more than 1,000 miles a year.
In 2006, Evelyne and Jean left to cruise in the West Indies with three other couples, aboard a catamaran. To avoid having to decide who would be in charge of the boat, they decided to hire a skipper, which in addition would help them get to know an area they were not familiar with. With nine of them aboard the Lagoon 380, Evelyne and Jean discovered another way of living aboard a boat. Space, comfort, privacy: 9 people could move around a catamaran in a way that was unknown aboard their monohull. Then Evelyne, who is often seasick, discovered the joys of sailing flat… In short, they were filled with enthusiasm and this experience was to prove decisive for what followed! On their return from the West Indies, the family sailed again aboard the Atch. At the end of 2006, Jean had a few work problems and was able to envisage spending some time fitting out a boat. Yes, but which boat? Rapidly, and in the light of the programme they envisaged, the choice of a catamaran became obvious. Evelyne and Jean wanted to welcome their children aboard, as well as their young grandchildren, aged one and four and a half. All this for a trip round the Mediterranean, then the Atlantic. They hesitated for a long time, between a Lagoon 380 and a 410. Finally, they decided on a good second-hand boat, a 410 from Apaca’s charter fleet. They took possession of it at the end of the season, and after a quick preparation, set off from Hyères on 15th October 2007, to reach their home port in Brittany on 10th November. A good cruise via Gibraltar, which confirmed that their choice of a new home had been the right one. Close-hauled, with more than 45 knots of wind – ‘winter’ conditions, yet Evelyne and Jean always felt perfectly safe. Because although the catamaran’s advantage is the space it offers its occupants, the comfort and safety derived from sailing flat are also important arguments from a safety point of view. Aboard a cat, the boat remains level and is therefore much more comfortable in a rough sea. Watches can be kept from the warmth of the saloon, (from which there is a good view of the exterior), so the watchkeeper tires less – and tiredness is definitely the element which can lead to an accident…
Today, Jean is getting ready to prepare his boat seriously for ocean cruising, whilst waiting for Evelyne’s turn to retire, so they can enjoy some good sunny cruising.
Present boat: Dean 441
Monohulls: Sailing potter - dinghy - Corsaire - Cornu - ex-British admiralty launch – 23m old gaffer… Moody 42 DS
Programme: Atlantic – South America, then the Pacific.
The catamarans ‘plus’: “We sail most often as a couple, so an easy-to-handle boat is a real plus.”
Luc started sailing when he was very young…with a friend’s father, who was a fisherman in a small port in Brittany. At that time, they went every day aboard his sailing potter to catch shrimps and crabs in the Glénans area. Excellent training when you are only 6 or 7 years old! What followed logically was a sailing dinghy, then a small coastal cruiser, before, at the age of 17, he bought his first real sailing boat: a Corsaire. The first of a long and varied list, ranging from a Cornu-designed yacht to an ex-British admiralty launch and a 23-metre long old gaffer… Today, Luc sails a Moody 42DS, which is for sale (a good deal for a couple looking for a monohull!!!), as he takes delivery of his next boat next May: a Dean 441! “We are going to take delivery of the boat in South Africa, and the first long passage will be the south Atlantic, which means having great confidence in the boat, as this will be its first big trip…”
“My cruises allowed me to visit Brittany and the English and Irish coasts; I then went south to the Cantabrian coast. After testing my abilities in the Bay of Biscay and the Irish Sea, both quite difficult areas, I took the decision to stop working, live aboard and go cruising for long periods. I therefore set off for the Mediterranean in 2000.
Three years ago now, I met a companion who sails with me, and we wanted have a look further afield. After reflection, we came to the conclusion that for the programme we envisaged, (leaving for the coasts of South America, then going into the Pacific to meet some friends who had left before us), the boat which suited us best was a catamaran.”
As they sail as a couple more often than not, and conscious that at around sixty, they were no longer as supple as when they were 20 years old, Luc and his companion chose the catamaran for its comfort of course, but also for its ease of handling. And taking into account their cruising programme (the Pacific), they will spend a lot of time at anchor, and Luc hates, but really hates, the way a monohull rolls…
“After having looked around at what was available on the market, we opted for the Dean, as it gave us the possibility of having customised accommodation at a reasonable price, for a comfortable and seaworthy boat.”
Present boat: Polo Frère catamaran - "Bahia"
Monohulls: wooden lifting keel coastal cruiser, 7.2m long - Samouraï - Aïkido - Trismus - Endurance 35.
Programme: Mainly living aboard, coastal and semi-offshore cruising, either singlehanded or as a couple.
The catamaran’s plus: “Our boat’s accommodation was thought out for a couple. The deck plan is excellent for both manoeuvres and relaxing, the wheelhouse is intelligently designed and we could almost get a table tennis table in the cockpit!”
Guy began his nautical ‘career’ in the mid-70s, with a small wooden coastal cruiser, 7.2m long, with a lifting keel… Since then, he has not stopped sailing, in races, training, organising charters or sailing lessons aboard his yachts (Trismus, then Endurance 35), and aboard other boats as skipper or delivery crew. In short, we could say that he has covered a lot of sea miles…
When it was time to buy a boat again, Guy spent a long time looking for another Endurance 35, to replace his sorely-missed previous boat. But all those he visited were either too expensive, or didn’t have the same deck plan… Until one day, he understood that he was looking for a ghost, and that with his boat, a part of his life had disappeared which it was futile to want to re-create. “It was at that moment that I started thinking about a catamaran. Not through any idea of what was fashionable, but to turn the page and move on to something really new. In addition, once I had tasted the delights of a deck saloon, I no longer wanted to live ‘in the cellar’…” His eventually chose a catamaran built by the Polo Frère company in Le Ciotat, to a Pappon design - a comfortable, atypical catamaran which he bought in 1998, and aboard which he lived all the year round for four years, roaming the wild anchorages (there are still a few!) in the Mediterranean. What Guy understood clearly was that sailing a catamaran was not the same as sailing a monohull: the catamaran’s shallow draft, the ability to beach the boat and remain level and its comfort, both at sea and at anchor, were undeniable ‘plusses’.
“After several years living aboard permanently, and without going as far as to say ‘monohulls – never again’, I know that looking back through my log, there is one sentence I have used several times: ‘Thank-you Bahia…’, for its very shallow draft (daggerboards) which allowed us to visit remote places with no problems; for its stability at anchor (when I see the others rolling from side to side), and for allowing me to read a book or sip my beer in the cockpit, with the boat level, whilst sailing to windward.
To be honest, I must also mention the maintenance (annual paint maintenance, scrubbing off, expenses for the 2 engines), and above all the price of harbour berths (to be avoided as much as possible) which clearly increase the budget, compared to a monohull of the same size (37’). However, when comparing volume for volume, there is no contest!”
Present boat: Outremer 45 "Obedient"
Monohulls: Westerly Cruisers 22 and 26, Sigma 362, then 30’ racing cat, Dazcat 30’, Corsair F31R.
Programme: Discovering the most beautiful place in the world to sail: the west coast of Scotland.
The catamaran’s ‘plus’: We can live aboard comfortably for 2 weeks (or for ever?), and it takes us to the most beautiful cruising area in the world: the west coast of Scotland!”
"We can live aboard very comfortably for two weeks (or for ever?), and it will take us to the most beautiful cruising ground in the world, the west coast of Scotland"
Gordon’s case is different: after having worn out his oilskins racing a monohull on the west coast of Scotland, he changed to a multihull, to go faster and further… His father’s Westerly cruisers were followed by a Sigma 362, then a 30’ racing catamaran, a 30’ Dazcat, a F31R trimaran and finally an Outremer 45… A real selection of multihulls. It must be said that his racing programme is serious (Scottish Islands Peaks Races - UK Three Peaks Race…), and that his racing catamarans or trimarans have done very well. Today, Gordon finds that his catamaran offers the perfect compromise between good sailing, fast passages and comfort… Although the helm has less feel when sailing to windward, performance is just as good, and sailing downwind is a real pleasure. When asked what his next boat would be, he immediately replied: “I have the perfect boat; I hope not to change it!”
Present boats: Freydis 49 - Dragonfly 920 Extreme
Monohulls: Flying Dutchman - Star – Mini Tonner - Half Tonner - Quarter Tonner - ILC 25 - Platu 25 - J24.
Programme: Enjoying the Caribbean.
The catamaran’s ‘plus’: "the stability (no more heeling!), the speed (not all, but mine – yes!), the quality of life aboard at sea and at anchor, the safety, the shallow draft, the ease of handling.”
Massimo seems to have been born on a boat: he has been racing since 1966 (Flying Dutchman - Star - Minitonner - Half Tonner - quarter Tonner – and still, aboard a J24…), but this racing experience has not stopped him cruising since 1976 aboard a good half dozen different monohulls. Then in 1999, he changed to a cat, and had a Mattia 56’ built (12 tonnes – carbon mast - daggerboards: a very fast cat), then in 2007 a Freydis 49 (see the test of his boat in our last edition). Meanwhile, he has also acquired a Dragonfly 920 Extreme with which to have fun on the Côte d'Azur, when he isn’t aboard his cat… Why a catamaran? After a ‘marvellous experience’ aboard his Vallicelli 65’ in the West Indies, he decided to stay in the area and take his many friends, their families and sometimes his clients, sailing. To do this, there is nothing better than a catamaran, for its stability (no more heeling!), its speed (in any case, Massimo’s was fast!), the quality of life aboard at sea and at anchor, safety, the shallow draft, the ease of handling…
When we talked to him about his future boat, Massimo, who is soon to be a grandfather, hesitated. Then his eyes lit up: “Who knows? Perhaps…another trimaran, a bit bigger, to replace the present multihulls? But the present cat has to last a few years more. We’ll see!”
Present boat: Dragonfly 920 - "Tri Heol"
Monohulls: 420 - Ponant - Challenger Micro - Ovni 32
Programme: coastal or offshore cruises in Brittany – singlehanded, with friends or as a family.
The trimaran’s ‘plus’: “Fast cruising, a lively, sensitive boat, and what’s more, it is beautiful!”
Jean-François’ approach is completely the opposite to that of the others: he did a big trip aboard a monohull, and has bought himself a multihull for his coastal cruising… In 1995, after many cruises in Brittany, Jean-François bought an Ovni 32 with a view to a long voyage. In 1998, when he reached retirement age, he left for a singlehanded trip round the North Atlantic: Scilly, Ireland, Scotland, the Shetlands, the Faroes, Iceland, Canada (sailing up the St. Lawrence), canals to the Hudson, New York, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Bermuda, West Indies, Yucatan, Florida, Bermuda, Azores, Gibraltar, Corsica, and return via Gibraltar, Portugal, to La Rochelle – all in 16 months. “After this trip, I turned towards a more coastal programme; I have three grandchildren, who sail dinghies with their parents and get a little bored on the Ovni! So I started to look for a lively boat, with a shallow draft: I was tempted by a multihull, but after I’d spoken to the harbourmaster in the port where I have a berth (Port Haliguen), he said ‘forget it, I haven’t enough space.’ Whilst looking, I discovered folding trimarans - Corsair, Dragonfly, etc... Sold the Ovni, 110,000 euros, and for 10,000 euros more, I found a superb second-hand Dragonfly 920…”
“I brought this boat back from Denmark singlehanded in April 2005, in about fifteen days, (Kiel Canal, then Zealand, Belgium, the Channel, to Port Haliguen). Since then, I sail all the year round: short day sails or a few days alone or with friends - in 2006, Channel Islands, Scillies, Ireland in May and June, singlehanded; during the last holiday, a cruise around Brittany with my three grandchildren, very good memories!”
And when he is asked about the advantages of his present boat over the monohulls: “fast cruising, a sensitive, lively boat; the DF 920 is very well-designed, very easy to handle singlehanded, easy to beach, and what’s more, it is beautiful…”
Present boat: Outremer 55' "Kappa"
Monohulls: 30 years sailing monohulls. A trip round the Atlantic on a Levrier 14.
Programme: to sail round the world as a family.
The catamaran’s ‘plus’: “Incomparable speed, which allows you to distance yourself from bad weather, and a shallow draft, which gives access to unique anchorages.”
Maurice has solid offshore sailing experience, as he has already sailed around the Atlantic aboard his monohull (a Levrier 14m). He lived this adventure in an original way, as he regularly had to ‘abandon’ his boat and return to France to work. From this experience, which he found ‘frustrating’, he drew two conclusions: firstly, his next trip would be carried out without the need to return regularly to work, to live his dream to the full, and secondly, he would leave…aboard a cat! Yet his last experience of catamarans was a few trips on a Hobie 16 during his holidays at the seaside… But today he is convinced: the space, the comfort and the saloon on the same level, which offers exceptional comfort and safety. Yet a few months before his departure, Maurice, coming from an aluminium monohull, has a few doubts about the catamaran’s robustness in the case of accidental grounding (he has hardly sailed his Outremer 55). Even though he is aware that to touch the bottom with an 80cm draft, he would have to be really looking for trouble… And he is certain that speed (10 knots average; 240 miles per day) is the irrefutable safety argument for getting out of a difficult situation.
He will soon be leaving then, aboard his Outremer 55, with his wife and their 3-year-old child, for a round the world trip which he hopes will be as long as possible: “if our voyage lasts a long time, this means our dream has succeeded…”
This article was taken with permission from Multihulls World
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