Sailing a catamaran is very similar to sailing a monohull in most aspects. If you learn to sail on a monohull, most of the skills are easily transferable. However there are a couple of subtle differences that one has to be aware of:
Most aspects of sailing a catamaran are very similar to a monohull, and so making the transition to a sailing catamaran is usually not that challenging of a process!
Catamarans have exploded in popularity in the last 5 years! There are many advantages to catamarans over monohulls.
A catamaran is a sailboat with two hulls. These two hulls are connected by a bridge deck. Many people will be familiar with Hobie cats, small catamarans that are popular for sailing on lakes and in calmer waters. Cruising catamarans are based on this same principle but have large hulls that can fit many cabins inside, and house large structures on the bridge deck (like a galley, salon and living area).
Great question! Catamarans are much more stable than monohulls, and so people are less likely to fall overboard, which does make them safer in this aspect. They are larger, more stable boats, and so in most situations this will make them a “safer” sailboat than a comparably sized monohull.
Catamarans also have the advantage of having 2 engines, which makes them “safer” when it comes to engine problems. On a monohull sailboat, if you have major engine problems you only have the option of sailing. On a catamaran you always have a second motor ready to help out in an emergency!
What makes monohulls harder to sail is heeling and more confined spaces. In stronger winds monohulls heel, making most tasks a little more difficult to manage. Whether you are going forward to reef, trying to winch in a sail, or move about the boat, sailing on a heeling boat is more challenging. Catamarans however, because of their extra stability and room, allow for much easier movement around the boat as they do not heel. For this reason catamarans are often considered “easier” to sail.
Definitely! Early on many catamarans and trimarans were home built from kits, and many of these boats gave catamarans a bad rap for offshore sailing. For decades now the major catamaran manufactures have been improving these amazing vessels, and now catamarans are safe, stable and fast on offshore passages.
Not all catamarans are created equal. Many of the production catamarans like Lagoon, Fountaine Pajot and Leopard are designed for cruising. This means that they are willing to sacrifice some performance in the interest of comfort for their owners and crew. These boats still are often faster than a monohull of comparable size when on a beam reach or downwind point of sail, often seeing speeds in the double digits. Upwind, catamarans do not usually have the same ability to point into the wind (as they have shorter, stubbier keels) and do not travel as quickly.
Some high performance catamarans from manufacturers like Outremer, Gunboat and HH, make incredibly fast catamarans that can achieve speeds in the high teens and low 20s under ideal conditions.