Over the past few years there has been a growing trend for owners to choose a multihull for bluewater cruising. What is going on? Toby Hodges investigates
Russ Owen, Nexus
The Owens were monohull sailors until they bought their first catamaran, a 45ft Leopard in the Moorings crewed charter fleet, for family cruising with growing children. When planning a circumnavigation, they looked seriously at monos and multihulls, before settling on a Nexus (Nexus/Balance 600), “primarily for safety and comfort reasons”.
Russ Owen has a particular issue with balsa-cored cats, which he advises you to avoid as they get waterlogged and rot. A used charter boat with many years of service will be a full-time maintenance and repair hobby – but the price should be commensurate with that condition.
For long-term cruising, he would recommend at least one metre of bridgedeck clearance to reduce slamming in waves, advising you to consider a boat with significant load-carrying capacity without sacrificing performance. “Test-sail a loaded cat and determine her average speed capability on different points of sail – every knot of speed you lack is 24 fewer miles every day on a voyage.”
Saildrives are more problematic than shaft-drive transmissions, Owen believes – shaft-drives move the weight closer to the centre of the boat, which is good. He also thinks mechanical steering systems, with dual rudders linked by a cross shaft, give the best wheel feedback and provide redundancy in the event of having to use an emergency tiller.
Daggerboards give better windward performance, he says, but are easy to ground, can hole the boat on a hard grounding and consume a great deal of valuable interior space.
All exterior openings on bluewater cats should be able to be solidly dogged down and sealed. “Forward-facing stowage compartments with hinged lids can be bashed off by large waves or pulled off by lines, and flood the boat.”
Replace or rebuild everything you are worried about or is “mission-critical” before you begin your voyage, says Owen. “The most valuable thing you have in those exotic destinations is your time, so don’t spend it fixing your boat!”
Canvas modifications that can get you completely and comfortably out of the weather are a good idea, and Owen rates his Ullmann Sails (South Africa) custom-built 80 per cent gennaker with a 35-knot wind rating for downwind sailing. “You can leave this up day and night, and sail downwind in most squalls, make most of the average passage speeds you need, and still sleep well. For downwind passages, it will be your go-to workhorse.”
Multihulls in the ARC
The most popular brand of multihull to take part in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers in recent years has been Lagoon, followed by Fountaine Pajot, Catana, Outremer and Privilege.
No of multihull entries in the ARC
2013 31 (builders: 10 x Lagoon, 5 x Catana,
3 x Outremer/Privilege/Fountaine Pajot).
Average year of build: 2007
2014 36 (builders: 14 x Lagoon, 6 x Fountaine Pajot,
4 x Outremer). Average year of build: 2010
No in the World ARC
How much multi for your money
To some extent multihulls fit into certain categories, much like monohulls. Below we have identified some of these categories, as a means of comparing multihulls against monohulls of a similar price. How much boat do you get for your money? (All prices are standard base prices ex VAT).
For a similar price you could get a Beneteau Sense 50 or Bavaria 55.
Lagoon 450ST: €350,000.
For a similar price you could get a new Jeanneau 53 or Hanse 575.
Corsair Dash 750: £47,000.
Dragonfly 25: €69,900.
For a similar price you could get a Pogo 30
Outremer 5X: €975,000
For a similar price you could get a Solaris 58
Gunboat 55: £1.3m
Dazcat 1495: £600,000
For a similar price you could get an Xp55
Luxury bluewater cruiser
Catana 47: €579,000
For a similar price you could get a Wauquiez 57
For a similar price you could get an Oyster 575; Hallberg Rassy 55; Contest 57CS; Gunfleet 58, Discovery 58 – all between £1.1 and £1.3m.
Neel 65: €1,880,000.
Similar-priced monohull: CNB 76
Ocean Explorer C-60: €3,200,000.