Sunsail ambassador and sailing hero Dee Caffari MBE weighs up the pros and cons.
In the news these days we see coverage of Sir Ben Ainslie and his Land Rover BAR team looking to challenge for the coveted America’s Cup Trophy in 2017. These amazing catamarans fly above the water on foils. The Extreme Sailing Series have followed suit, with the recent change from Extreme 40s to GC32s. These foiling catamarans are getting people excited with their speed and their close racing. The MOD 70 trimarans are racing over long distances at immense speed, with only minutes separating them even after days of sailing. The Ultimes are huge monster multihulls that make it possible to sail these beasts solo across the oceans, in search of the ultimate accolade of being the fastest person around the world.
So why on average in the UK do we in the UK insist on sailing monohulls so much?
Well, there are a number of small factors that all add up to our preference for one hull. If we look at the UK alone, it is more a case of lack of space. Our marinas and coastline are busy places, and are often full with waiting lists. Multihull berths take up huge amounts of space, especially as a cruising catamaran is nearly as wide as it is long.
The other aspect to consider is performance. Our average a cruising catamaran is not going to go upwind very well, compared to a sleeker monohull. So if we are racing or trying to sail at a high level, then a monohull is preferable. However, as I have now discovered, sailing is not all about racing performance.
What else does a multihull bring to the table?
There is more than enough space for people to live aboard without constantly trying to squeeze past each other amid cries of ‘excuse me’ and ‘oops I’m sorry’. There is ample living space for families and large groups to enjoy the holiday together, even without encroaching on each other’s space. Storage space is impressive and allows you to carry toys easily without impacting on any daily work space.
2. Easy Sailing
Everything is low stress and easy to set up. All sail controls are easy to access for shorthanded sailing, allowing a keen sailor to take a more novice sailor away with confidence. There’s even a chance non-sailors could be converted to this relaxed side of our sport.
3. Heel - or lack thereof
On a downside there is very little feel when sailing a multihull, and it is tricky to feel when you are overpowered. The upside to that is the boat does not heel. If you put your drink down, it stays where you put it without sliding to leeward. You can sit without the need to be wedged in, you can walk around without having to hang on, and you do not fear that walk to leeward, as you are no closer to the water on the leeward side than you are on the windward side. It is possible to eat and drink while sailing, and to do so in comfort, which is a major plus if you are cruising with a family, where some things just cannot wait.
If your cruising ground involves shallow areas, reefs and sheltered bays, then the shallower draft of a catamaran makes it easy for divers and snorkellers to explore the new areas with confidence. You can go places a monohull simply cannot.
5. Sun Protection
Yachts notoriously have very little shade. By contrast, on a cruising multihull it is easy to remain out of the sun’s harsh rays. This makes a catamaran great for children and the fairer-skinned!
The stable platform of a multihull gives confidence to new and novice crew, and families trying sailing for the first time. In my mind this is worth its weight in gold. It builds water confidence and sailing confidence quickly, often helped by the destination’s great climate, with fair winds and sunshine every day.
So when booking your next yacht charter, don’t just go with what you know. Consider the options, weigh up the benefits, and maybe try a multihull. I think you might just be pleasantly surprised. I certainly was.
- Dee Caffari MBE
To find out more about Dee and all her inspirational endeavours visit www.deecaffari.co.uk/