All You Need To Know About Catamaran Sailing

26th, April 2019

How is Catamaran Sailing Different from Monohull Sailing?

Sailing a catamaran is very similar to sailing a monohull in most aspects. If you learn to sail on a monohull, most of Catamaran Sailing Boatsthe skills are easily transferable. However there are a couple of subtle differences that one has to be aware of:

  • When tacking, you must work hard to maintain your speed throughout the tack and often need to ease your mainsheet to prevent “windvaning”. Windvaning is when the larger mainsail on a catamaran tries to turn the boat back into the wind.
  • When gybing on a monohull, you must be very careful of an accidental gybe, and so you gybe much more slowly. On a catamaran you can use the increased speed to your advantage and maintain speed while gybing to help depower the main.
  • On a monohull, as winds increase, the boat starts heeling which lets you know that you have too much sail up and it’s time to reef. On a catamaran, because they do not heel, you have to be very careful in terms of when to reef the massive main. Typically, you will throw in the first reef at 18-20 knots of wind speed (depending on the size of your vessel) and put in a second reef as the wind get closer to 23-25 kts)

 

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!

Why are Catamarans Popular?

Catamarans have exploded in popularity in the last 5 years! There are many advantages to catamarans over monohulls.Catamaran Sailing Boat - Lagoon 420 Sailing

  • Much more space on a catamaran!
  • Catamarans are far more stable than monohulls so they do not heel when sailing, and are less prone to rocking when at anchor. Making for a much more comfortable boat!
  • Catamarans have a shallow draft which allows them to enter shallower areas. In the South Pacific, most lagoons are 6-8 feet deep. This is too shallow for monohulls to enter, but a catamaran can easily enter these lagoons.
  • Speed: Often, especially downwind, catamarans are faster than monohulls
  • More light and airy living area. On a catamaran, the living space is usually up in the middle of the boat, built on the bridge deck whereas in a monohull you go down into the hull where it is darker and feels less open.
  • More storage space and room for extra systems like air conditioning, water makers, generators, larger fridges and freezers, etc… Again, having room for all these amenities makes for more comfortable living.

 

What is a Catamaran?

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).

Are catamarans safer than monohull sailboats?

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!

Are catamarans easier to sail?

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.

Can a catamaran cross the Atlantic?

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.

How fast does a catamaran sail?

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.

Categories: Catamaran
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