Who said the one true cruiser-racers are monohulls? A suprising product from a sleepy Cornish yard, this dazzling, cutting-edge catamaran will turn heads whether cruising or racing, says Toby Hodges
Is this the catamaran equivalent of a monohull cruiser-racer like those from J-Boats or X-Yachts? The Dazcat 1495 differs from other modern fast cats in that, as well as being a comfortable platform for cruising, she offers genuine offshore racing potential. She was a runner-up in the multihull catedgory of European Yacht of the Year.
The second Dazcat 1495, Apollo, is in build for seasoned IRC racer Nigel Passmore, a past J-Boat and TP52 owner, a telling indication of the current interest in offshore sailing in greater comfort. And just as with cruiser-racer monohulls, Dazcat owners choose how Spartan or comfortable to make their cats, depending on which end of the cruising or racing spectrum they prefer.
The Dazcat 1495 has a uniquely identifiable profile. Her reverse sheerline is mirrored by a curved coachroof and her hulls have pronounced tumblehome that reduces to slim waterline beams ending in reverse stems. This produces a muscular effect like a big cat.
Wild cats need pace to overhaul prey. The Dazcat weighs a nimble 6.7 tonnes which, for a 48ft catamaran, is rather light. Combine that with substantial sail area, set from an aerodynamic carbon rig, and her speed potential starts to look rather exhilarating.
Yet one of the most surprising things about her is that she has emerged from a sleepy creek’s end yard belonging to designer Darren Newton – the ‘Daz’ in Dazcat – in Millbrook, Cornwall.
Stiff, light and direct
As we surged out of the mouth of the Tamar river, we were hit by 25-knot gusts. I was struck by how stiff and light the Dazcat is. Her cable steering is linked to carbon rudders, joined by a tie-bar. This helps to make her feel direct and light, like a performance monohull.
Another factor that quickly becomes apparent is that the combination of boat speed, wind speed and helm height, makes for a breezy position from which to steer. It’s like sticking your head out of a sportscar’s sunroof.
As the Dazcat strode into a 9.5-11 knot upwind pace, the Plymouth Sound where I’d spent so long sailing dinghies as a child now seemed more like a pond.
Once we hit 17.5 knots reaching on our first wave in towards Cawsand Bay, my craving for more was like being a child all over again.
No tantrums needed
Hissy Fit is the first 1495, a demo boat built for Dazcat director Simon Baker. Our test conditions were typical for the West Country, with a big swell (3m+) rolling in around Rame Head. We gybed back and forth across the waves, in and out of Cawsand, to allow the photographer’s RIB some protection. Speeds remained modest, but with a kindly motion as the keels and boards provided enough grip on the wave face to maintain stable traction.
“The dart-shaped keels move the lateral resistance further aft when you hoist the boards,” explains designer and builder Newton. “This knocks out a lot of yaw and makes it easier to steer. Daggerboards can be tricky to handle in waves, which is also why we put big rudders on – it’s got to be able to take the rough stuff.”
When given the chance to surf then, the 1495 won’t jump onto waves as shorter, lighter designs might – no bad thing for offshore cruising – rather she rides waves in a stable and reassuring manner.
The adrenalin ride of the day came when the asymmetric was hoisted in flatter water. Our run parallel to the breakwater to leeward ensured we kept a hot angle. Hissy Fit took off and felt alive, intoxicating even as we reached at 15-19 knots, occasionally nudging 20 knots.
It was the ease with which these speeds are reached that most impressed me. When sailing large multihulls at such speeds in the past, I have found that vigilant hands and eyes are needed on the sheets and traveller.
Yet aboard Hissy Fit, speed was echoed by stability, something you can feel through the direct helms. Should you need to depower quickly, the sheet winches are located close beside both helms and the traveller winches just behind. The Dazcat 1495 is designed to be easy to manage short-handed.
I drew out the high-octane stuff for as long as possible as we gybed back inside the Sound, unaware that the Dazcat had another surprise in store: her rewarding ability to sail and tack well upwind. Hissy Fit proved easy to keep in a groove sailing upwind in a swell, but it was when short-tacking her into the confines of the Tamar’s mouth that this facet shone.
It is the first time I’ve enjoyed tacking a catamaran. With the aid of a self-tacking jib, the 48-footer has the agility to avoid ferries and small craft nimbly. Her steering is direct enough to be playful and her stiff, lightweight construction makes sailing fun at most angles.
The exposed helmsman’s position may be the one thing that will make you reluctantly pass on the helm. It is also quite a high position, which helps little with the awkward movements monohull sailors tend to associate with cats.
Scrupulous attention is paid to weight during the build of a Dazcat. Lombardini engines were installed on Hissy Fit, as they are the lightest models (by 15kg). It is particularly loud down below under engine, however, even if motoring time may be limited thanks to her sailing performance. The lack of sound insulation makes it more comparable to a raceboat, particularly when winches are used.
“It’s a cruising boat built like a raceboat, so the downside is acoustics,” admits Newton. The hulls are built using infused vinylester with the wet deck laminated into both. The deck is hand-laid and includes lots of unidirectional carbon fibre.
You might think the Dazcat is a little Spartan below. But stick with the comparison to monohull cruiser-racers and you will realise that comfort is offered only where required.
For a small yard that produces just two or three yachts a year, costs were capped for the demo boat. The resin is merely painted down below, for example, rather than faired smooth, and no linings are used. But future interiors can include gelcoat, timber and lined surfaces.
The second 1495 for Nigel Passmore looks stunning in white and black and has a plethora of optional extras. She has a two-cabin, two heads layout, but Hissy Fit has a long, thin third cabin forward, with a second heads shoehorned in. Owners can add all the creature comforts they desire (within reason), but at the obvious detriment to weight and performance.
The centralisation of weight is also critical to the layout, which is designed to reduce pitching motion. The soles are raised at the centre of each hull to create room for the engines, tanks and systems amidships. “The effect of lowering the centre of gravity of the boat is analogous to the ride you would experience in a low down mid-engine sports car compared with a 4×4,” explains Newton.
The accommodation layout is unusual. The saloon is particularly large, because the galley is in the starboard hull. The domed shape to the coachroof restricts vision through the windows so views of the horizon are reserved for when seated in the saloon – or standing at the galley.
The siting of the galley down a level in the starboard hull is a practical design seen on Dazcats for many years. This has benefits for the cook, who experiences less pitching at sea and benefits from good horizon-level views, is at the same eye-height as those seated in the saloon and has substantial worksurface space inboard and stowage space outboard. It also helps keep the coachroof height low.
The practicality of this layout and convivial interaction between galley and saloon is one I can vouch for after a storm-bound evening spent aboard in La Rochelle.
Systems have been kept simple aboard Hissy Fit – a single 100ah lithium-ion battery, topped up by solar panels, provides enough domestic power for family cruising. Optional extras range from generators and air conditioning to mast and sail configurations.
At first glance, Dazcats seem expensive. But the hand-built quality and super-strong, stiff construction is highly reassuring, so rather say that the Dazcat hits a reliable combination of performance and value for money. “We want a boat that does the job it’s intended to do,” says Darren Newton. “If you have to beat to windward in 40 knots it can do it; if there’s a Force 10 offshore the boat will look after you.”
Dazcats are connoisseur’s yachts. They are for experienced sailors, whether in multihulls or monohulls, who still seek the thrill of sailing fast, but in spacious twin-hulled comfort.
The prospects of combining ocean cruising and racing become distinctly more appealing with this new model. Think ARC and Caribbean 600-type events, followed by Caribbean cruising. And with the imminent launch of the second 1495, Apollo, Hissy Fit will have the perfect sparring partner too. I wonder if they need crew?
The Dazcat 1495 is large enough to appeal to those who sail anywhere, whether fast cruising or offshore racing. Finally here is a series-produced cat that is sure to challenge the conventional philosophy that the only true cruiser-racers are monohulls.
LOA 14.75m/48ft 5in
LWL 14.60m/47ft 11in
Beam (max) 7.55m/24ft 9in
Draught 2.20m-0.80m/6ft 3in/2ft 7in
Disp (lightship) 6,500kg/14,330lb
Sail area (100% foretriangle) 106.4m2/1,145ft2
Engine Yanmar 3YM 30hp
Sail area:disp 31.1
Price ex VAT £696,850
Design Darren Newton