Multihulls are the newest class at Skandia Cowes Week and a welcome addition to the regatta, Hannah Emanuel reports

Tradition excluded the multihull class from Skandia Cowes Week until 2004 and although the class can bit of a mixed bag – due to the massive difference in the specifications of each boat – it is producing close racing at Skandia Cowes Week 2005.

I visited two of this year’s crews at the top of their class.Carbon Tiger 2an Australian built trimaran, skippered by Brian Haynes andRooa catamaran, skippered by Ben Goodland.

Haynes started sailing a multihull around 20 years ago and has never looked back. The crew aboardCarbon Tiger 2have been doing consistently well and their win in the Multihull Class at Skandia Cowes Week in 2004 encouraged them to return and defend their title.

So why choose a multihull when Skandia Cowes Week is dominated by monohulls? Haynes explains “I started sailing on a multihull and have never wanted to sail anything else, it’s just the route I went down. I particularly choseCarbon Tiger 2as a compromise between the fastest boat we could get, and one I can also use to go cruising with the family.” With a top speed, so far, of around 26 knots, it doesn’t sound like too much of a compromise. The boat is named after a carbon fibre rowing boat used by the British Olympic team of 1976. Thirty years on,Carbon Tiger 2is not entirely carbon, but includes carbon beams, foils and masts. The two-year old trimaran was designed by Ian Farrier as a custom build and was launched for the 2004 season.

Within the class there is the catamaran/trimaran debate, the general consensus is that the tri’s are best in light and gale force conditions and the cat’s sail best in mid winds. The top two boats so far at this year’s Skandia Cowes Week are one of each, Ben Goodland, skipper of catamaranRoodiplomatically explains: “In light winds the trimarans do well, when the wind gets up the catamarans come into their element and we’ll zoom off into the distance.” Australian designer, Tony Granger designedRooand Goodland has been sailing the boat just eight months. He bought the ex-demo boat in Florida and had it shipped across in a container late last year. So what makesRooso special? “It has very big bows with a lot of buoyancy and this really helps when you pick up speed. Sometimes with multihulls, because of their small bows the buoyancy just isn’t there”.

After a disappointment on Saturday when the crew missed the first race looking for the right VHF channel, they have certainly made up for it with three wins in as many races. The class is almost won for the four-man crew aboardRoo. It will be very interesting to see how the newest fleet at Skandia Cowes Week develops in the years to come.