Catamaran Thoughts… | Sailing Blog - Technical Hints and Tips - Sailing Television

Catamaran Thoughts…

Down here in the British Virgin Islands we see a LOT of catamarans cruising around. Many of them look specifically designed for the charter trade with MANY cabins and heads and opening patio doors. But some are much more purposeful and look like they might make a good "Around the World" cruiser. One that has caught my eye recently is Outremer. Might this boat be good for our round-the-world journey?

Popular Caribbean Charter Cats - Lagoon, Leopard, Fontaine Pajot
Fast Cats - Outremer, Catana
Cruising Cats - Antares, Privilege
Are there more?


Comparing catamarans to monohulls is difficult. Catamarans cost more to build for the same length. Two-hulls, two engines, more accommodation, etc. so it is usually better to compare, say, a 46 foot monohull to a 40 foot catamaran, since pricing will be more similar.


Comparing boats on a price basis (rather than boat for boat same length) most monohulls will have a longer waterline length and might be better upwind. Cats might well be faster off the wind and make downwind passages faster. This is not a given though. A former charter-cat, set up for the windy Caribbean, then laden down with all the toys for cruising might be slower than the average monohull…


Monohulls heel over when sailing upwind. Although cats do not heel over they do bounce around in a seaway. Motion is different, and for some people, mono-motion is preferred. And some people prefer the motion of a cat. Of course within monohulls the motion of different boats is quite different. Although there are other factors, a longer waterline generally means a smoother motion. In my experience cats tend to have a slightly more complicated motion as you have two hulls each in different waves.


Catamarans definitely have more interior space. So if you like big spaces, the cat will be great. But be aware you shouldn't necessarily fill up all that storage space. Any boat will suffer from overloading and may even get dangerous. No boat likes to be overloaded but catamarans suffer perhaps more. Moving onboard with "all the stuff" lowers speed and performance on both mono's and cats.

Are you a Cat Person?

In some cases it comes down to what you feel is right. Do you like catamarans? I have even heard people say a catamaran is "just not a proper boat". And of course catamaran people refer disparagingly to monohulls as "half-a-cat". I have always like monohulls, but was quite happy on our week in the BVI chartering a Lagoon 380 (which we filmed in Season 5 here).

Sailing Cats

Catamarans do not heel over when sailing. Of course as the wind increases there is a point when they will lift a hull. For a racing boat this means an increase in speed, but for a cruising boat this is not recommended. Best to reef before the wind reaches the force where the boat is overpowered and "lifts a hull". For those of us used to sailing mono's there is an adjustment to sailing style. You need to be sure not to overpower the boat. Charter cats sometimes are built with shorter masts to make them safer to sail. Owner-Versions might have a higher performance rig. In either case you may need to get used to "sailing by the numbers". So if its up over 20 knots its time to put a reef in even if you're sailing quickly, since its hard to tell how close you are to the edge. In the mono, your rail would be in the water and you know its time to reef :-) Sailing by the numbers may not be for everyone.

Could Distant Shores III be a Cat?

From our quick look around the Outremer 45, I was impressed. Racy and seaworthy looking, she apparently racks up some impressive runs offshore. Who knows??

What do you think? Would a catamaran suit your cruising style?
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