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Fact from Fiction: Catamaran Myths Busted
Everyone knows sailing a catamaran is fun, but some people interested in taking it up hold back due to bias and ill-informed hearsay. Here are some of the more popular catamaran myths I’ll cover:
o Dockage Difficulty
o Cats Don’t point; Need dagger boards
o Capsizing – Not possible for Cruising Cats
o Cats Don’t Seem Popular in Some Locations
o Windage of Flat Windows
o Fly Bridges are too High
Myth #1 – Poor Dockage Availability
Catamarans are synonymous with ‘comfort’ – especially with regards to extended cruising – because of how much living space they afford above and below decks. However, a catamaran’s accommodating ‘width’ has also been associated with restricted dockage availability. While this may have held some truth in the past, catamarans have seen a tremendous increase in popularity and what marina would choose to ignore that kind of market?
What you’ll find is that whether you’re coastal cruising or ocean voyaging, you are generally offered berths on the outside of ‘T’ docks, which doesn’t present a problem for catamarans. They can even occupy slips that are often too shallow for other yachts. Additionally, many new marinas often have large slips or alongside tie ups for large power boats that will work equally well for a catamaran. All and all, this just isn’t the problem you might think it to be. Our satellite offices alone offer prime dockage in Annapolis, Fort Lauderdale and Tortola, BVI. If you are seriously looking for dock space in your area you will find it, and we can help.
Myth #2 – Sailing Performance – Multihulls don’t point; need dagger boards
This myth is thought to stem from older multihulls that didn’t upwind very well simply because a lot of them didn’t have dagger boards. In general, most cats will point as high, if not higher, than an equivalent cruising monohull. However, if a catamaran is sailed 5 – 10 degrees off of a close-hulled point of sail its boat speed will be higher than an equivalent monohull. For this reason, you’ll typically find a catamaran that will be sailed several degrees off the wind and maintain a faster VMG to a point upwind. (See Dennis Connor’s ‘Stars and Stripes’ victory at the America’s Cup in San Diego over KZ-1, the world’s most radical 90ft. monohull)
Good upwind sailing performance really just comes down to the design of the hull and keel sections. In the past, older first generation hull designs really needed dagger boards to perform well up wind. That is not the case today with third generation hull and keel design cross sections, which are more efficient through the water.
Myth #3 – Catamarans capsize easily
Prospective buyers that have never experienced a cruising catamaran most likely develop their fears of capsizing from watching those little beach cats zip along the shore on one hull. After a while, it is inevitable the sailor will lose control and over it goes.
Cruising catamarans are in a class of their own. The power-to-weight ratio is greatly lower on a catamaran that is 34’+. Here’s an example: a Lagoon 380-S2 carries 850 square feet of sail on a boat that weighs 15,344 pounds and is over 21’5 wide. This is a lot different from a beach cat that may only have 400 feet of sail on a 400 pound boat that is only 8′ wide.
Most multihulls will not capsize even under intense conditions. A catamaran in extreme conditions will round into the wind, much like a monohull. Thereby in actuality it is not possible for a cruising catamaran to capsize from extreme wind conditions. Any extreme stress to the rig can be easily avoided by simply reefing and slowing down. Catamarans offer a very safe margin for secure offshore family sailing and performance.
Catamaran designs are notorious for their excellent safety record due to their enormous stability, conservative rigs and unsinkable hull from many separate watertight compartments and no heavy ballast.
Myth #4 – Catamarans don’t seem popular in some locations
Often we will have prospective catamaran owners from locations in the states that don’t often see catamarans in their local area and feel that there may be a reason for this phenomenon. California is one such location. We have seen many catamaran owners from California who desire to do their sailing in other locations and don’t keep their yachts in their home waters location.
In general the catamaran market is quite young and the ratio of catamarans to monohulls in more established sailing markets is skewed in favor of monohulls.
Don’t let this put you off. Currently there is high demand for catamarans and limited supply– that protects catamaran owners with very good resale values for well-cared-for late model catamarans.
Myth #5 – Windage of flat windows will slow down the catamaran
Several years ago we used to hear this very often from buyers new to the catamaran market. The fact is that the flat sections of the forward facing or side facing windows have a very marginal effect on performance. Most sailing catamarans’ max speed is under 20 Kts, this limits the wind resistant effect that is multiplied with boat speed.
Many older catamaran designs have slanted windows that are curved over the top while the modern designs with flat windows curve around the side and the top, above the flat section.
No one can argue the old style slanted windows don’t look sexy. But the situation is akin to some minivan automobile designs in which their large, sloping windows generate excessive heat in the sun, while only creating “acres” of marginally usable dashboard surface.
By comparison, a salon with vertical windows allows you to enjoy more interior volume by maintaining your headroom as you move forward in the salon; they prevent the salon from inferred heating by the sun and have a great panoramic view without the need for sun covers over the windows.
Myth #6 – Fly bridges on catamarans are too high
The 44ft plus range of new 3rd generation catamarans, which entered the market about two years ago, are now being built with fly bridges by leading catamaran manufacturers. We have been asked, “is this a safe place to be in foul weather” or “the fly bridge raises the center of effort too high”.
In practice it has been proven that being on the centerline of the yacht and elevated improves safety because of better visibility and you are least likely to be splashed by a wave breaking over the deck. The added feature of a bimini with a clear window adds additional protection from foul weather. In the event of nasty weather the yacht can also be maneuvered from the highly protected interior helm station option.
The fact is that the fly bridge is not just an add-on but is a key feature of a totally new design of catamaran. In-fact the fly bridge, like on the new Lagoon 44 and 500, is a completely integrated design that is incorporated into the coach roof of the salon and flows seamlessly into the hardtop bimini. As a result this design does not affect the lines of the yacht nor does it raise the boom and sail plan any higher than 3ft over an older designed equivalent sized catamaran.
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