Thursday, February 21, 2008

Multihull designs... Well sort of.

What's up with multihulls these days? Why is this guy not sailing on a perfect 15 knot beam reach?

Back in the early 80’s in those good old days when the yachting press was writing editorials about how unsafe and dangerous multihulls were, we were building a Wharram catamaran and we understood the appeal of cats and trimarans. Though I never signed on to the whole “multis-are-better-than-monohulls” fascism that some seem to adopt, cats and tris are certainly as seaworthy as monohulls (given that the designer is not an idiot) but they are not better... they are just different. Good multihulls that is...

Over the years I have come to a whole different view of what my sailing needs are than they were when I was younger/dumber. Comfort is more on my want list these days than it used to be and it surprises friends that in my short list for the next boat that there are very few multihulls in the list. ESPECIALLY as cats are so much more comfortable, sexy and faster than monohulls seems to be the question.

I like multis but something has happened to multihulls which gives me some cause to wonder...

Of course now days the yachting press loves multihulls. It is not because they are safer or make any more sense than they did in the early eighties but there is a lot of advertising revenue from multihull related concerns these days... especially from the bareboat charter companies. Hell, I might even wax eloquent about how wonderful a South African cat built like a tank with six inches of bridgedeck clearance was a wonderful thing if my employer was getting big bucks for advertising and I was getting a free charter as well. I might even use words like “multihull performance” as we motor sailed from one anchorage to the next in some tropical paradise as
long as the rum runners kept flowing AND as long as I did not have to pay for it!

Sadly this sort of press also influences designers who turn around and design more boats which will get great reviews whether they deserve them or not as long as someone is buying lots of advertising in whatever yachtie publication is up at the trough...I'm sure they will even find a way to suggest that the semi-immersed bridgedeck on this one is in fact a positive feature!

We spent a couple of weeks in the BVI and USVI this past November to attend a couple of charter shows and the whole time we were there we did not see a single cat sailing without its motor on. Now what is wrong with that picture? Actually it was such a rare sight to even see a cat with its foresail out that it attained the same sort of wonderment and excitement that a pod of whales might engender.

So what is wrong with multihulls that no one sails them? Well, it could be there are some real dogs out there or maybe the mindset of the sort of people who actually want to be on the multihull condos that claim to be performance sailing machines! Don't get me wrong there are some wicked quick performance cats around... (Can you spell GUNBOAT for instance?) but a whole lot of what is plying the waters simply don't perform as advertised (there is that advertise word again) and if truth be told, the performance margin between the bulk of cats these days I 'd bet on monhulls as having the edge.

Anyway... so the fact of the matter is I'm not really attracted to overpriced boats that don't deliver and for multihulls it still seems like if you want a cutting edge boat (and are not really rich) you still have to build your boat and there are a lot of great choices out there in excellent multihull designs.

Fact is it is not all about performance... and of late with all of the crap floating around in the oceans (the yearly average for containers lost overboard is 3500) I'm not so sure that I really want to be sailing a boat capable of twenty knots through a moonless night!

As for my shortlist cats...I 'm still going to wait for a while on sharing that part of the list as I have a few ideas that might make it more of the sort of boat that does make sense that I'd like to run by the designer...