Toby Hodges and François Tregouet consider the best bluewater multihulls and look at the options for sailing the oceans in spacious comfort
What are the best bluewater multihulls for long term cruising? The one you own, or the one you can afford is the simple answer.
There is a wealth of proven designs to suit bluewater sailing and a variety of budgets. While we have focussed here on the best bluewater multihulls in production, we’ve also included some cracking pedigree multihulls which tour the planet and might occasionally pop up on the brokerage market.
If you can afford to, then pushing towards the 45-50ft length will buy you space, pace and that extra payload capacity needed to take all the items you’d want on your home afloat.
When looking at the best bluewater multihulls, the choice will come down to that perennial balance between comfort/space and speed/weight. Choosing a lighter weight performance design will obviously help you cover distance voyages more rapidly and potentially allow you to outrun weather systems. It means you can sail faster, with less sail up and less load and stress. But you’ll have to sacrifice some luxuries and need to be quite scrupulous about keeping weight down and centralised in order to maintain high average speeds.
For the majority of cruisers, however, it is the amount of space multihulls offer once you’ve reached your destination that really appeals. As well as the non-heeling living area and real estate they provide, they’re well suited to typical tradewind sailing.
If you’re considering your first or next multihull, we hope the following will serve as a taster.
Best bluewater multihulls for performance cruising
When you think of multihulls designed for bluewater cruising, Outremer will likely be one of the first names that comes to mind. Its heritage lies in building catamarans that can sail fast and are built strong enough to do laps of the globe.
The 51, the current version of which launched three years ago, is an archetypal example of what to look for in terms of blending speed and space is a dream design for a family circumnavigation.
The French yard’s new 55ft VPLP design may look boldly different from its past models, but the philosophy behind it remains the same. It is designed to match windspeed up to 12 knots and Outremer reasons that its ability to sail in 5 knots of breeze will allow it to sail for 95% of the time on a circumnavigation.
For nearly four decades the Australian Seawind brand and its founder Richard Ward have been gearing catamarans around safe bluewater sailing, including performance, protection and ease of handling. Its Reichel Pugh-designed 1600, which launched three years ago, is an elegant looking cat with relatively low, long lines and some smart solutions for fast bluewater sailing.
Seawind also launches its new 1370 later this year, a staggering 60 of which have sold on plans alone.
This first 50 is built from a composite sandwich of basalt fibre, a cloth made from volcanic rock, and PET foam from recycled plastic bottles, which helps to reduce carbon emissions by nearly 50% when compared with traditional glassfibre methods.
This new 50 footer is perhaps a more appealing and practical prospect than Rapido’s previous 60 (with its significant fixed beam), particularly as the amas on this new model can fold to reduce beam to 18ft.
Infused carbon foam sandwich construction is used, along with beams, daggerboards and rudder in pre-preg carbon to keep displacement to 8,200kg.
This OC50 is designed as a more affordable cruising alternative, than the HH models which have preceeded it. This model targets ocean sailing.
It’s still stiffened and strengthened by carbon, but built in vinylester composites with a gelcoat finish. This adds an additional 300kg or so over a full carbon HH50, but cost savings are in the region of $400,000.
The 526 launched four years ago, designed to suit short-handed sailors and families looking to sail long distances, hence it can carry large payloads and promises easy maintenance. It looks good too.
Berman’s Versahelm design is a key feature. The wheel cantilevers, allowing the helmsman to steer from outboard with clear sightlines or from the hardtop protection of the aft cockpit.
The A47 suits short-handed fast ocean sailing at an approachable size. Lengthening it to 49ft allowed for an aft cockpit. It is available as a sloop or with White’s patented MastFoil ketch rig – rotating aerofoil masts designed for easy short-handed cruising without sacrificing performance.
A combination of sharp design from François Perus and high build quality brings plenty of appeal to this sporty Italian-built cat. The first example launched three years ago with a light displacement of 10.5 tonnes, thanks to an E-glass epoxy-infused build with carbon strengthening. The yard offers semi-custom construction and full hybrid packages.
Catana 53/Ocean class 50
Catana’s performance model from 2017, sports twin aft helms (which may not suit ocean sailors), reverse bows and carbon daggerboards. The high topsides help create good bridgedeck clearance and plenty of accommodation. Its new Ocean Class 50 seems more in the shipyard’s bluewater DNA. The light weight, and dynamic and modern shape with slim hulls and a relatively short nacelle suggests a seaworthy nature and high speeds.
Best bluewater multihulls for pedigree performance
Veteran multihull designers Morrelli & Melvin designed this smaller model for the Gunboat range. It was built to be more manageable for an owner-driver yet still capable of up to 300-400 mile days.
The Gunboat 48 is something of a rare breed, just six 48s were built between 2004 and 2009. Oh, to have a spare €1.3m right now… one of them is actually on the market.
At the start of the Millennium, Catana offered fully equipped boats as standard for long distance cruising. The Catana 471 or 472 (one or two helms respectively), represented at the time the optimum in ocean-going catamarans.
Tony Grainger has been drawing fast multihulls for 35 years, including racing trimarans and the Lightwave and Chincogan cruisers. The popular Lightwave 38 has admirable performance and comfort, and the Chincogan 52 (pictured) has the length to clock high average speeds.
Outremer 45 G. Danson
With its characteristic roof, narrow hulls and daggerboards, the Outremer 45 is a standout design which has become somewhat iconic. Despite a rather spartan interior, it has been a great success with fast cruising enthusiasts. On board, family ocean crossings at an average of 10 knots are the norm.
Best bluewater multihulls for family cruising
The Lagoon 450 remains the most popular model in Lagoons already popular range. It exemplifies the VPLP/Nauta design partnership which has made these the very definition of modern mid-size cruising catamarans which can appeal to families and charterers alike.
Indeed the 450 marked the modern look of Lagoon and was the first with interior styling from Nauta. It originally launched over a decade ago as a flybridge design with central helming position (450F), before this ‘sport top’ option (450S) was offered with a starboard helm station and lower boom.
Fountaine Pajot Saona 47
The 47 has a modern shape, with straight bows and a reverse sheer line. It incorporates significant volume in the hulls below the bridgedeck to create room for the optional athwartships cabins. Cabin space is a prime selling point, particularly the owner’s suite to port, where there is also abundant natural light and headroom.
Leopard Catamarans, together with designer Simonis Voogd and builder Robertson and Caine, produce the archetypal dual-purpose owner-operator or charter boat in their modern catamaran range.
Key features of the 45 are the amount of light in the saloon and the incredible volume and space on offer in the cabins above the relatively narrow waterlines. Vast social living areas include the flybridge, saloon and dual cockpits.
Nautitech Open/Fly 46
During the 1990s and noughties Nautitech earned a good reputation for its elegant catamarans. The 441 is a timeless example and the 44 can be credited with the ongoing trend in hardtop biminis. While its acquisition by Bavaria seven years ago helped Nautitech implement industrial build techniques, the French brand has retained its DNA at its Rochefort sur Mer yard.
The modern Marc Lombard designs have tall rigs with generous square-top mainsails. Twin wheels in the aft quarters of the Open 46 offer a direct feel on the helm, however those spending long periods in the tropics may prefer the shade of the bimini-equipped flybridge option. The layout is also open, with a saloon more outside than in. Styling is clean, modern and simple, and the standard of build and finish are good.
First impressions of the Neel 51 are sure to centre on its sheer size and space inside. But as you’ll see from our review of the Neel 43 on page 83, when you sail one overriding impressions quickly centre on its performance.
These trimarans are becoming a popular mass production-built option.
The Excess 11 packs plenty of potential as the smallest yacht offered by the big production yards. A little like the Lagoon 380 of old, it presents a good value new entry-level boat for genuine cruising in a more sporty, modern and enticing design. Some may argue against aft helms for ocean sailing, but those coming from monohulls will appreciate the more direct steering they offer.
Broadblue is a UK brand which offers a distinct line of cruising and Rapier performance catamarans. Its staple 385 packs a lot of cruising comfort into its length, including generous tankage, and has been sailed all over the world. Broadblue built its first electric drive catamaran 12 years ago and offers the only all-electric production sailing catamaran under 40ft in Europe.
For those looking for maximum volume within 40ft, it’ll be hard to beat the Catspace – although it is more of a holiday apartment than a traditional bluewater cruiser. Bali’s garage style sliding aft door does help offer an enormous amount of enclosed (or open) living space.
Best bluewater multihulls for luxury cruising
Privilège 510 Signature
The 510 is designed to take a serious amount of cruising gear – up to six tonnes of it in fact. The excellent helm station now has a fixed windscreen and all lines lead to hand. Finish quality including the electrical installation is first class and Privilege’s trademark, an admirable full beam (26ft) forward cabin, is sumptuous.
Garcia Explocat 52
Garcia Yachts has cornered the market for series-built aluminium monohulls and multihulls in the last decade and this new Explocat 52 is sparking real interest. We ran a full test report in our February issue, describing it as a go-anywhere cat with an enticing combination of space, pace and rugged construction.
Built in Argentina, the Antares 44 is the ultimate evolution of a model launched 21 years ago. Entirely dedicated to bluewater cruising, it is the yard’s only model and is constantly being improved according to owner feedback.
Time seems to have no hold on this boatyard and, against the trend, the standard equipment of the Antares 44 is extremely complete
Discovery Bluewater 50
This luxury Bill Dixon design may be a decade old now and into its third iteration, but the concept behind its original appeal remains. For those used to sailing high-end thoroughbred monohulls, here is an option to consider for a comparative level of build quality and fit out when moving to a multihull.
St Francis 50 MKII
With this latest version of its original model, this experienced South African builder has optimised a catamaran cut out for the unforgiving seas of the Indian Ocean and the South Atlantic. The MKII allows for an increased load capacity, an important point in long distance cruising.
Intelligent features on the X5 include the protected helm station with glass windscreen, integrated rainwater catcher, UV-protective glass and generous tankage.
Best bluewater multihulls for size & speed
The MC50 (now MC52) was the first and promises some high speed sailing, but it’s the open plan main living deck which will attract the majority. It incorporates an intelligent centreboard system, which hardly affects interior space, but arguably its exposed helms at the aft end of the flybridge will not suit serious ocean cruising.
HH in Xiamen is building some really impressive large, luxury fast cats up to 90ft. This was its second model to launch, a high-end, high performance Morelli & Melvin design capable of rapid passagemaking speeds and enjoyable regatta sailing. Features include C-shaped boards and central or aft helms.
Ocean Explorer 60
If Nautor’s Swan made catamarans, they may look like this… The Ocean Explorer 60 uses the same designer in German Frers and some of the same builders who worked at the famous Finnish yard to produce this world cruiser. The resultant quality shines through. A new OE72 is due soon.
A young company with plenty of experience, Kinetic produces custom fast ocean cruisers, which can occasionally race. Its 62 is a serious performance vessel with carbon hulls, rigs and rigging, daggerboards or centreboards. With fast bluewater cruising the goal, carbon is used to minimise weight so features/toys can still be added. The swim platform and hardware on the newly launched 54 weighs just 90kg, and the generous sized tanks are all in carbon too. Views from the saloon and forward cockpit also look special.
Best bluewater multihulls for ultimate performance
Marsaudon TS4/ORC 42
Few catamaran builders produce genuine performance cruisers at this ‘smaller’ size: this one is kept minimalist and light weight (around 6 tonnes) – the yard’s philosophy is ‘simplicity, then add lightness.’ The 42 is a cruiser-racer with the ability to outpace most yachts across the Atlantic, win a regatta and still offer some space for island hopping. Standard tankage is minimal however. Marsaudon recently rebranded its TS range to Ocean Rider Catamarans (ORCs) and has an ORC 57 in build.
Dazcat builds fast, seaworthy cats from its Multihull Centre in Cornwall. The 1495 is a true ocean cruiser-racer, which is stiff and rewarding to sail, with direct steering linked to carbon rudders. The 1495 can hit 20+ knot speeds with relative ease, but it is the consistent high average speeds which will attract those looking to cover serious miles. Weight is centralised including engines, tanks, and systems all located amidships to help reduce pitching. Dazcat has a semi-custom build approach and creates all sorts of weird and wonderful craft for all abilities.
Dragonfly trimarans are known for their high quality construction and ability to delight sailors with their ease of planing speeds. For those who can live without the space of similar length cats, the new flagship 40 is large enough to offer cruising space, while folding outriggers and retractable appendages mean you can dry out where others wouldn’t dare.
Looping 45/Freydis 48
These two designs by Erik Lerouge both offer a high-performance vision of ocean cruising. The Loopings were built individually and the Freydis in small series, and on both you can sail as fast as the wind in complete safety. Interior quality depends on whether finished by an amateur or by a shipyard.
An attractive combination of luxury, comfort and performance, the S48 is a stiff, go-anywhere premium cat that is easy to manage single-handed. The lightweight build (11t) is in epoxy infusion with carbon reinforcement.
Jeff Schionning has catamaran design in his blood. His designs exude performance and seaworthiness with flowing, even aerodynamic lines. On all tradewind routes you’ll find a G-Force (models from 12m to 23m) or an Arrow (12m to 15m) sailing more quickly than the rest. His latest venture is with Current Marine in Knysna, South Africa.
Best bluewater multihulls for pedigree cruising
The long-time best-seller from the world leader in catamarans, with more than 1,000 produced over almost 20 years from 1999. With its characteristic vertical windows, the 380 and its big brother the 410 made the purists scream when they were presented. But the 380 proved a pioneer of its kind. Safe bow volumes and light displacement (7,260 kg) helped its seaworthy behaviour. The high number of boats on the market makes this the most affordable bluewater cruising multihull for its size, even if price range is as wide as condition is variable.
Between 44ft and 46ft depending on the year of construction and the length of its transoms, the Casamance was an impressive catamaran on launch in 1985. The design by Joubert/Nivelt offered good volume and load capacity. Of the 490 units produced, many joined the charter fleets. The exterior of the Casamance is dated, but the interior in grey ceruse oak has retained plenty of charm.
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