catamaran planing speed

Catamaran Hull Speed Calculator For Beginners (Table and Free Spreadsheet)

catamaran planing speed

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Speed is important, it can get you out of harm’s way, and it makes sailing much more fun, but figuring out how fast a catamaran will be able to sail can be tricky. One important aspect is to understand maximum hull speed.

In this article, I have calculated different hull speeds for different lengths of boats; this includes both monohulls and catamarans but focuses on the latter. Here is the catamaran maximum hull speed table:

Table of Contents

Catamaran Max Hull Speed Calculator Table

Table explanation.

  • Length on the waterline (L.W.L.): Length of the boat when measured on the waterline, not to be confused with length overall (L.O.A.), which is the boat’s total length (above the waterline) including bowsprit, etc.
  • Displacement max hull speed: The max speed of a boat whose L.W.L doesn’t change when underway and where the vessel’s bow wave is the limiting speed factor.
  • Semi/Light Displacement or Semi planing hulls speed: A boat where the bow waves speed limiting factors can be partially overcome and therefore exceed the displacement hull speed. These hulls usually overcome hull speed by 10-30% .

How to use the Catamaran Hulls Speed Table

  • Choose your length on waterline in the left-most column, either in feet or meter.
  • Continue reading to your right and stop either at “Displacement hulls speed” or continue to “10,20, or 30%”, depending on your estimated hull efficiency. This will be your calculated maximum hull speed for a semi-displacement catamaran.

The Formula

First of all, we need to know the maximum hull speed for a displacement hull, and from that number, we will be able to calculate how much faster the semi-planing (or semi-displacement) hull will be. This is the formula for Maximum Hull Speed on a displacement boat:

Now we need to add the increased efficiency (loss of drag) of a semi-displacement hull, usually, this is somewhere between a 10-30% increase.

Note: “1.3” is the increase in efficiency, if you believe you are on the lower end of the scale this would be 1.2 or 1.1.

catamaran planing speed

How to Exceed Hull Speed

This calculator offers a theoretical perspective, but many other factors such as sail plan, weight, and sailor skill, of course, have a profound impact on speed. As we have seen, a semi-displacement hull can exceed maximum hull speed, but we can also see that it isn’t by much. The next step is to reduce drag even further by utilizing a planning hull.

Catamaran Hull Speed Spreadsheet

If you want more info, calculate other lengths, or see the speeds in Km/h or Mph then I suggest you check out this free spreadsheet.

Catamaran Freedom Hull Speed Calculator

Note: If you want your own copy just click, File->make a copy.

Common Questions About Catamaran Hull Design

Below I will answer some of the questions I receive concerning catamaran hull design. The list will be updated as relevant questions come in.

Is a Catamaran a Planing hull?

As we have discussed above, a catamaran can definitely have a semi-planing hull, but can it be designed in a fully planing configuration as well?

Catamarans can be configured as planing hulls, although most sailing catamarans are set up as either semi-planing or hydrofoil. Due to the high speeds needed to get a boat to planing speed, this is only possible on racing sailboats or motor-powered catamarans such as high-speed ferries.

Owner of A minimalist that has lived in a caravan in Sweden, 35ft Monohull in the Bahamas, and right now in his self-built Van. He just started the next adventure, to circumnavigate the world on a Catamaran!

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Planing Boat Speed Calculator

Planing boat speeds vary based on factors like size and design. Smaller boats around 12 feet may plane at 8-10 knots (9-12 mph), while larger 40-foot boats can plane at 35-45 knots (40-52 mph). These estimates are approximate and subject to variation due to hull shape, weight, and engine power.

How do you calculate the planing speed of a boat? Planing speed depends on factors like boat size, weight, and hull design. It generally starts around 15-20 knots (17-23 mph) for smaller boats and can go higher for larger vessels.

What is the speed of the hull of a planing boat? The speed of the hull of a planing boat is roughly equal to its planing speed, which can vary as mentioned earlier.

What is the crouch’s formula for planing speed? Crouch’s formula is a guideline for estimating planing speed and is expressed as: Planing Speed (in knots) ≈ √(Length at Waterline in feet).

How fast can a 30hp boat go? A 30hp boat can typically reach speeds of 20-30 mph (17-26 knots) depending on its size, weight, and hull design.

What speed should a semi-planing hull be? Semi-planing hulls usually start planing around 10-15 knots (12-17 mph).

Is 35 mph fast for a boat? Yes, 35 mph is considered a fast speed for a boat, especially for smaller recreational vessels.

Are planing hulls faster? Planing hulls are generally faster than displacement hulls once they get on plane.

What is the best planing hull for rough water? Deep-V hulls are often considered the best for rough water conditions due to their ability to cut through waves.

What are the disadvantages of a planing hull? Disadvantages of planing hulls include reduced fuel efficiency at high speeds, less stability at lower speeds, and a tendency to pound in rough seas.

How do you calculate critical rpm? Critical rpm is specific to an engine and not related to boat speed. It’s the engine’s maximum safe RPM, typically specified by the manufacturer.

How do you calculate surface speed? Surface speed depends on boat speed and water conditions. It’s usually close to the speed of the boat on plane.

How do you calculate speed triangle? The “speed triangle” is not a standard term in boat navigation or design. It’s possible you’re referring to the relationship between boat speed, engine power, and hull design, which is complex and not typically represented as a triangle.

Is 500 hours on a boat engine a lot? 500 hours on a boat engine is generally considered moderate use, but it depends on maintenance and the engine’s design.

What is the most efficient speed for a boat? The most efficient speed for a boat is often around 70-75% of its maximum hull speed, which varies based on hull design.

How fast is 170hp on a boat? A 170hp boat can reach speeds of 35-50 mph (30-43 knots) or more depending on the boat’s size and design.

Does a planing hull ride on top of the water? Yes, a planing hull rides on top of the water’s surface when it reaches planing speed.

Is planing a boat good? Planing allows boats to achieve higher speeds and smoother rides in certain conditions, making it a desirable characteristic for many boat types.

Can you exceed hull speed? Yes, it is possible to exceed hull speed with a powerful engine or specialized hull design, but it requires significantly more power and is less efficient.

Is 50 MPH fast for a boat? Yes, 50 mph is considered a fast speed for a boat, especially for recreational vessels.

How fast is 30 knots on a boat? 30 knots is approximately 34.5 mph (55.5 km/h).

What is considered a fast boat? A boat that can reach speeds of 40 mph (34.8 knots) or more is generally considered fast.

What is the most efficient hull shape? The most efficient hull shape depends on the specific application, but catamaran and trimaran hulls are known for their efficiency.

Does waxing a boat hull make it faster? Waxing a boat hull can reduce friction and improve its hydrodynamics slightly, potentially increasing speed marginally.

What is the most efficient hull form? A hull form’s efficiency depends on the purpose. For displacement boats, a long, slender hull is efficient. Planing boats benefit from V-shaped hulls.

What type of boat is best for choppy water? A deep-V hull is often the best choice for boats that will encounter choppy water as it provides a smoother ride and better handling.

Do flat bottom boats plane? Some flat-bottomed boats can plane, but they are generally not as efficient at planing as boats with V-shaped hulls.

What is the best hull design for speed? For high-speed performance, a hydroplane or stepped hull design is often used.

Which hull type would not be a good choice for rough water? A flat-bottomed hull is not a good choice for rough water due to its lack of stability in waves.

What is most likely to have a planing hull? Small powerboats, speedboats, and some fishing boats are most likely to have planing hulls.

What is the safest hull design? The safest hull design depends on the intended use. For offshore and rough water, a deep-V hull is often considered safer due to its ability to handle waves.

What is 1st and 2nd critical speed? 1st critical speed refers to the first natural frequency of vibration of a boat’s hull. The 2nd critical speed is the second such frequency.

What is first critical speed? The first critical speed is the lowest speed at which a boat’s hull resonates or vibrates due to water flow, potentially causing discomfort or damage.

What is normal RPM count? Normal RPM count for a boat engine varies widely depending on the engine type, but it typically ranges from 2,000 to 4,000 RPM.

What is the formula for speed per hour? Speed per hour is simply the boat’s speed in knots or mph.

What is speed formula number? There is no specific “speed formula number.” Speed is typically measured in knots (nautical miles per hour) or miles per hour.

How do you convert RPM to speed? The RPM-to-speed conversion depends on the boat’s gear ratio, propeller size, and hull design. It’s not a straightforward formula and requires specific data for accurate conversion.

What is the formula of speed with angle? The formula to calculate speed with an angle is not a standard concept in boating. Speed is typically measured without considering angles.

How do you find speed with height and angle? The relationship between height and angle does not directly determine speed. Speed calculations are based on distance traveled and time.

How do you find speed without time? Speed is calculated as distance divided by time, so you cannot find speed without knowing the time it took to cover that distance.

How many hours is OK on a boat? The number of hours on a boat engine depends on maintenance and usage. A well-maintained engine can last thousands of hours.

Why do boat engines not last long? Boat engines may not last as long if not properly maintained, operated at high RPMs constantly, or exposed to harsh saltwater conditions.

How far can a motor boat go in 6 hours? The distance a motor boat can go in 6 hours depends on its speed. At an average speed of 20 knots, it can cover approximately 120 nautical miles (138 miles or 222 kilometers).

Why don’t boats use MPH? Boats often use both knots (nautical miles per hour) and miles per hour (mph) for speed measurement. Knots are more common in marine navigation due to nautical conventions.

What is the best speed to polish a boat? There is no specific speed for polishing a boat; it can be done when the boat is stationary or out of the water.

Can a boat go faster than the wind? Sailboats can achieve speeds faster than the wind’s speed by using their sails efficiently.

How fast does a 900 hp boat go? A 900hp boat can reach speeds of 80-100 mph (70-87 knots) or more, depending on its size, design, and purpose.

How much horsepower does a normal speed boat need? A normal speed boat often requires 150-300hp for recreational use, but it varies based on boat size and purpose.

What is the best hull shape for waves? A deep-V hull is often the best choice for handling waves as it provides a smoother ride and improved wave penetration.

Why are boats V-shaped? Boats are often V-shaped (deep-V hulls) to improve stability, handling in rough water, and overall performance.

Why does my boat struggle to plane? Boats may struggle to plane due to excessive weight, incorrect trim, or engine/power issues.

How can I make my boat plane faster? To make a boat plane faster, reduce weight, optimize engine performance, and trim the boat correctly.

What is the planing speed of a hull? The planing speed of a hull depends on its design, size, and weight but typically starts around 15-20 knots (17-23 mph).

How much horsepower does it take to get the hull speed of a boat? To reach hull speed, a boat typically needs one horsepower for every 500 pounds of displacement. Estimating this, a 20,000-pound boat would require about 40hp.

What is critical hull speed? Critical hull speed is the maximum speed a displacement hull can reach without creating excessive drag and inefficiency. It’s approximately 1.34 times the square root of the boat’s waterline length in feet.

At what speed boats are most efficient? Boats are most efficient when operated at speeds below their planing threshold but above idle, typically around 70-75% of their maximum hull speed.

How fast is 25 knots on a boat? 25 knots is approximately 28.8 mph (46.4 km/h).

What is the best cruising speed for a boat? The best cruising speed for a boat depends on its design, but it’s typically around 70-75% of its maximum hull speed for efficiency.

How fast is 40 knots on a boat? 40 knots is approximately 46.1 mph (74.2 km/h).

How fast is 20 knots at sea? 20 knots is approximately 23.0 mph (37.0 km/h).

Is 50 mph fast for a boat? Yes, 50 mph is considered fast for a boat, especially for recreational vessels.

What is the best shape for a boat to hold the most weight? A flat-bottomed boat or a barge-style hull is best for holding the most weight, as it provides greater buoyancy.

What is the most efficient speed for a displacement hull? The most efficient speed for a displacement hull is typically just below its hull speed, around 70-75% of that speed.

Should I wax my boat twice? Waxing your boat twice, with proper preparation in between, can provide better protection and shine, but it’s not always necessary.

Does polishing a boat make it faster? Polishing a boat can reduce friction and improve hydrodynamics slightly, potentially increasing speed marginally.

What is the best hull design for choppy water? For choppy water, a deep-V hull design is often considered the best choice as it offers improved stability and handling.

Which is more stable, V hull or flat bottom? A V hull is generally more stable than a flat-bottomed hull, especially in rough water conditions.

What size waves can a boat handle? A boat’s ability to handle waves depends on its design and size. Smaller boats may handle waves up to 2-3 feet, while larger vessels can handle much larger waves.

Which type of hull is most efficient? The efficiency of a hull depends on the intended use. For displacement vessels, a long, narrow hull is efficient. Planing boats benefit from V-shaped hulls.

Why are flat bottom boats better? Flat bottom boats are better for certain applications, such as shallow water and calm conditions, because they offer stability and ease of grounding.

Why are boats not flat on the bottom? Boats are not flat on the bottom to improve their stability, reduce pounding in waves, and enhance their overall performance.

Can you exceed hull speed? It is possible to exceed hull speed with sufficient power, but doing so is less efficient and may result in excessive drag and fuel consumption.

What makes a boat hull fast? A combination of factors makes a boat hull fast, including its design, shape, weight, power, and hydrodynamics.

What is the most stable boat in rough water? A deep-V hull is often the most stable boat in rough water due to its ability to slice through waves and provide a smoother ride.

What is the best deadrise for rough water? A deadrise angle of 18-25 degrees is often considered ideal for boats designed to handle rough water.

GEGCalculators author

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How Fast Do Catamarans Go?

How Fast Do Catamarans Go? | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

August 30, 2022

‍ Catamarans are known for their speed, and some vessels are fast enough to break world sailing speed records.

Catamarans can go between 15 and 30 knots, with the fastest achieving speeds well in excess of 60 knots. Sailing catamarans are sometimes twice as fast as monohulls and cut through the water with greater efficiency.

In this article, we’ll cover how fast catamarans can go based on factors such as size, sail area, and design category. Additionally, we’ll compare catamaran speeds to monohulls and trimarans and cover the reasons why multi-hull sailboats blow monohulls out of the water.

We sourced the information used in this article from sailing guides and hull speed calculations. Additionally, we sourced information directly from the manufacturers of common catamarans.

Table of contents

‍ Catamaran Speed by Type

Catamaran design can be split into different categories. After all, different vessels are designed for different tasks, as speed isn’t always the most important design consideration.

The fastest type of catamaran is the ultralight racing catamaran. These vessels have extremely narrow hulls and a remarkable planing ability. They’re designed to pierce waves and often achieve speeds in excess of 45 knots or greater, depending on conditions.

The second fastest catamaran variety is the sport catamaran. Sport catamarans often include a fairly good level of creature comforts in the cabin. They’re technically hybrid designs, because they are envisioned as a combination between a racer and a cruiser. Sport catamarans can achieve 30 knots or greater.

Cruising catamarans are designed primarily for safety and comfort. They’re often used for long offshore passages, where speed is important, but comfort is king. Despite their accommodations, cruising catamarans can still achieve a respectable 15 to 20 knots of speed—sometimes 50% faster than similarly-equipped monohulls.

Why are Catamarans So Fast?

Catamarans are remarkable vessels that can achieve amazing speeds. As a result of their unconventional design, typical calculations for hull speed (such as those used for monohulls) don’t always apply.

But what makes catamarans so much faster than equivalent monohulls? The first and most obvious speedy design element are the hulls themselves.

Catamarans don’t have a deep keel or a centerboard. This is because the second hull acts as a stabilizing device, and it helps the vessel track straight. The lack of a keel reduces weight (and equally important). It also reduces drag.

Additionally, catamarans behave in strange ways while underway. The hulls have a tendency to rise out of the water further the faster they go. This further reduces drag and makes it easier for the vessel’s speed to climb once it starts to move.

One additional characteristic is how the vessel’s sails point relative to the wind. Catamarans keep their sails perpendicular to the wind, which allows them to harness energy more efficiently. This is because, at a perpendicular angle, less wind energy is lost by spillage over the edge of the sails.

Are Catamarans Faster than Monohulls?

Yes, catamarans are typically faster than monohulls. They’re also a lot more stable, as their spaced-out hulls provide better motion comfort in rough seas. Catamaran hulls are narrower than monohulls, which also reduces drag and increases speed.

Catamaran vs. Monohull Speeds

We know that catamarans are faster than monohulls in most situations. But how much faster are they? Here’s a table of hull speeds for monohulls, which is a useful reference when comparing speed. Hull speed isn’t the absolute fastest that a boat can go, but it’s a good practical estimate for understanding the hydrodynamic limitations of single-hull designs.

Hull speed calculations for catamarans are more complicated. This is because catamarans have a greater length-to-beam ratio. And due to their narrow hulls and open center, they aren’t affected by the same hydrodynamic drag forces that monohulls are limited by.

For example, a 55-foot monohull sailboat with a waterline length has a hull speed of 9.4 knots or 10.9 mph. Its actual speed could exceed that in the right conditions, but rarely by more than a few knots.

Compare that to an efficient 51-foot catamaran, which can easily achieve speeds in excess of 20 knots in reasonable winds. That’s more than double the hull speed of a monohull with a similar waterline length and proves that catamarans operate under a completely different set of rules.

Wave Piercing

One aspect of catamaran design that makes them superior speeders is their ability to pierce waves. Specially designed catamarans have minimal buoyancy at the bow, which allows them to slice through waves instead of going over them.

This increases the speed at which catamarans can cover the distance. Think about it—a boat going over a wave has to use more energy to reach the same destination, as the height of the wave almost makes the distance further.

It’s like walking over a hill or on flat ground—you’ll take more steps walking up and down the hill than in a straight flat line. Wave piercing catamarans enjoy better stability, and they ‘take the flat road’ to a greater extent than monohulls.

Do Catamarans Plane?

Planing is when a boat’s hull rises out of the water due to hydrodynamic lift. This increases speed and efficiency, as there’s less drag but sufficient contact for stability. It also reduces rolling, as the bow only contacts the taller portions of the waves.

Catamarans have planing characteristics, but they generally don’t plane as dramatically as powerboats. This is still worth noting, as catamarans are specifically designed to use the phenomenon of hydrodynamic lift to gain speed and efficiency.

You’ll visibly notice a catamaran’s hull rising out of the water as it increases in speed. Compare that to a displacement monohull design (such as a classical cruising sailboat with a deep keel), which won’t rise out of the water in any significant way.

Are Catamarans Faster than Trimarans?

A trimaran is a catamaran with an additional hull in the center. Trimarans are usually less common than catamarans, but they have some of the same design benefits as other multi-hull sailboats.

At first glance, it would seem logical that trimarans are slower than catamarans. After all, they have an extra hull in the center, which likely increases weight and drag. However, there are more important factors at play here.

Trimarans are almost universally faster than catamarans. This has to do with weight distribution. Trimarans center their weight over the middle hull, using the outer hulls primarily for stability. This allows them to reap the benefits of a catamaran while increasing the efficiency of the wind power it captures.

Fastest Catamarans

Catamarans are popular for racing. There are several world records held by catamarans and numerous production boats with especially impressive speed-to-size ratios. Here are a few of the fastest racing and production catamarans ever built.

Fastest Sailboat Ever—Vestas Sailrocket 2

The Vestas Sailrocket is a specialized racing boat designed only for speed. This incredible vessel is actually the fastest sailboat ever built—and no wonder it’s a catamaran. A monohull simply can’t achieve record-breaking speeds when put head-to-head with a lightweight multi-hull.

The vessel, which earned the world sailboat speed record in 2012, has a modest 150 to 235 square feet of sail. Nonetheless, it managed to achieve a remarkable top speed of 65.45 knots in only 25 knots of wind. That’s about 72 miles per hour—in a sailboat.

Soon, a team of Swiss engineers will release their own version designed to beat the 65-knot speed record. Their vessel, which is a hydrofoil, will attempt to hit an incredible target speed of about 80 knots.

Outremer Catamarans

But what about production catamarans? How do they stack up, and how fast can they go? French boat builder Outremer Catamarans builds some of the fastest production catamarans ever built. These are not specialty racing boats—in fact, they’re average-sized cruising catamarans.

Let’s use the larger Outremer 51 as an example. This high-end cruising cat is known for its almost outrageous speed capabilities. In ideal conditions, owners of the Outremer 51 have reported speeds exceeding 20 knots for extended periods.

That’s a production catamaran with speeds that rival 20th-century warships. With such a fast boat, the world’s oceans start to appear a lot smaller. Plus, the genius design of the Outremer 51 allows it to be crewed by just two people.

But how do Outremer catamarans achieve such high speeds? The secret is in precise engineering and hull design, along with a sail plan that’s perfectly catered to the vessel. The hulls are sleek and narrow and designed to cut through the water with minimal drag.

From the bow, the Outremer 51 hulls look paper-thin. They increase in width gradually, which eliminates areas of sudden drag. These narrow hulls evenly distribute the vessel’s 21,825-lb displacement. Its low-buoyancy bows reduce drag and blast through waves instead of riding over them.

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I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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The Planing Power Catamaran: A Different Kind Of Cat


Planing powercats deliver the high speeds dayboaters and weekend anglers crave — but without so much pounding in choppy seas.

Rear view of a dual hull catamaran with two 200 horsepower outboard engines, a bimini top with fishing rods attched to it moored  in turquoise blue water

The air cushion ­created between the two hulls dramatically reduces wave impact at running speeds. (Photo: World Cat)

Powercats are different beasts than sailing cats, and the powercats you're most likely to see on your local waters are those in the 20- to 40-foot range (like my 22-foot Glacier Bay). Unlike the big cruising powercats, which are more like cat trawlers with top ends maybe a little over 20 mph, smaller cats have planing hulls that perform much like today's modern powerboats.

Depending on the engine package, there are a few cats that top out in the lower 30s, lots in the lower 40s, some in the 50s, and a few that break 70 or even 80 mph.

While a similar length monohull may have a 40-mph cruising speed in a 2-foot chop, the monohull captain will pull back the throttles and cruise at 30 to avoid being beaten up. The cat guy, on the other hand, may be able to keep on doing 40 thanks to the smoother ride. But having two hulls underfoot does create some interesting similarities in how these different types of boats react to input from the helm. So you'll see a few of the tips here mirror those used for sailing or cruising catamarans. Whatever type of cat you may be captaining, remember the following:

  • Center the wheel and use only the throttles to control the boat. Powercats have their engines exceptionally widely spaced apart, and are far more responsive than monohulls when steered via throttles. Generally speaking, turning the steering wheel will only serve to reduce the effectiveness of working the throttles. This, of course, is assuming you have two engines. There are a few rare cats with one engine.
  • At identical rpm, the engine in forward will create more thrust than the engine in reverse. So even if the throttles are set evenly when opposed, the boat will likely slide forward a bit as opposed to spinning in its own length. As a result, when attempting to speed up the maneuver it's usually best to favor giving the reversed engine extra oomph as opposed to the one in forward (assuming you don't want to move forward while turning the boat).
  • Check the speed and direction of the wind before docking , and remember that some cats, particularly those with low draft, can be blown around more easily than many monohulls as there may be less hull below the waterline.
  • When docking in a new slip for the first time with lines that haven't been preset, bear in mind that once you're docked, securing the boat can be difficult in some situations because few powercats have centered cleats. Most will have a single cleat on either side, in some cases obstructed by a bow rail and/or pulpit, which can make crossing lines difficult.
  • Never shut those engines down until all the lines are secured . Again, remember that many cats can get blown out of kilter faster than the average monohull, and if you don't have lines preset, it may take a moment to figure out how to best secure them. Many a captain has done a perfect docking job and then shut off the engines, only for a gust of wind to push the boat right back out of the slip before the lines can be tied. Keep those engines running until the boat is 100% secure so you can apply power, if necessary, to maintain position.

Why Two Hulls?

Like all boats, catamarans come with distinct advantages (smooth ride, draft), and areas of compromise (docking, turning). Regardless of design aesthetics, the first question is usually: Why two hulls?

Mike Myers, vice president of product development for World Cat explains: "Catamaran hulls experience little to no drag or resistance to get on plane, resulting in greater fuel economy. They have a steady rise in speed and fuel burn with little to no spikes in fuel consumption."Planing powercats have a unique trait — which many cat lovers consider the top advantage over monohulls — the impact-absorbing cushion of air created by a compression tunnel between hulls.

And when it comes to beam, catamarans' parallel hulls create reliable stability, which helps to avoid heeling and capsizing, and greatly reduces the vessel roll at rest and at trolling speeds.

"Many boats are primarily designed around comfort for the captain. This usually means anyone at the front or sides of the boat takes most of the jostling,"Myers says. "The catamaran-style hull delivers ride comfort, smoothness, load distribution, and stability."That stability draws anglers to powercats of typically 20 to 40 feet; and cruisers to sailing cats 40 to 60 feet and beyond.

— Rich Armstrong

Taming The Cat

When it comes to handling powercats in open waters, the most important thing to remember is that all boats are different. Just as you wouldn't lump the handling characteristics of all monohulls together, the same goes for powercats. But many have a few common traits to consider.

  • Some powercats have relatively low buoyancy in the bow compared to monohulls, as many have very narrow hull entries . As a result, in some cases, idling into a sea can allow waves to break over the bow. Gaining some headway so the bow rises a bit and packs air into the tunnel can alleviate the issue.
  • Some planing powercats will run smoother at faster speeds than slower speeds, as they compress air in the tunnel between the two hulls. In these cases, speeding up may actually provide a more comfortable ride in some sea states as compared to slowing down. Depending on your boat, its tunnel may result in other differences from the monohull that you may be familiar with. Learning about these will improve you experience.
  • Some powercats display a "snap roll,"which is a very fast righting motion that can rock the boat uncomfortably, especially when drifting in a beam sea. In these cases, people who may want to drift often (such as anglers) will sometimes deploy a drift sock off the bow to reduce rocking and rolling.

Man wearing a white long-sleeve t-shirt fishing off the bow of a power catamaran as it cruises through the water

Photo: World Cat

  • In general, powercats are often more weight-sensitive than monohulls, especially when the bow is loaded down . It's always best to be aware of how you're loading your boat, and if the tunnel is slapping or the bow is digging into waves, consider shifting weight aft.
  • Some powercats, particularly older models, lean out in a turn rather than banking in. There's no way to eliminate this phenomenon (although trimming up an outboard engine when initiating a turn may reduce it a bit), so it's important to give passengers a warning to hold on before making any aggressive maneuvers.
  • "Sneezing,"or blowing a puff of mist out the front of the tunnel that the boat then runs through (getting everyone aboard damp), is a phenomenon associated with some powercats. In many cases, trimming the bow up a bit will significantly reduce or even eliminate sneezing.

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Hull Speed Calculator

Table of contents

Welcome to the hull speed calculator . If you've ever seen a boat go so fast that its nose started rising, then you've seen the concept of hull speed in action. In this article, we'll explain what hull speed is and what it means for a ship's design. Later, we'll show you how to calculate hull speed with the hull speed formula, so that you can work out how to calculate hull speed for your own boat.

What is hull speed?

Hull speed is the speed at which a vessel with a displacement hull must travel for its waterline to be equal to its bow wave's wavelength. A displacement hull travels through water, instead of on top of it as a planing hull (like a kiteboard ) would, thereby displacing water with its buoyancy as it sails. The pressure that this displacement exerts on the water creates a wave; this wave is known as the vessel's bow wave . A slow-moving boat's bow wave might make small waves, but, as the boat sails faster, the bow wave's wavelength λ \lambda λ grows. When the wavelength meets the waterline length (that's also when the bow wave's first and second crests are at opposite tips of the waterline), the boat is said to be traveling at hull speed. Take a look at the picture below to see what we mean:

A diagram of a boat's waterline versus the bow wave's wavelength.

Why does hull speed matter?

Although it's not perfect, hull speed remains a useful concept that can help us answer questions about how fast a sailboat can go, and the optimal amount of thrust you need to keep a boat moving forward.

A boat's hull speed limits how fast it can travel efficiently. When traveling at hull speed, the boat's bow wave and stern wave have synchronized and constructive interference occurs, which allows the boat to move very efficiently. However, at speeds greater than hull speed, a vessel's nose automatically starts rising as the vessel tries to climb its bow wave. This process is called planing , and it wastes lots of energy. Trying to move faster than the hull speed will therefore require more and more thrust (whether that comes from sails, rowing, or engines) in exchange for smaller and smaller gains in speed as more energy is wasted angling the boat upwards. Hull speed can therefore be said to impose a flat limit on how fast a sailboat can go.

Shortcomings of hull speed

Although the physics behind hull speed is sound, it is heavily dependent on the hull's shape. Long and thin hulls with piercing designs can easily break their hull speed without planing. Such hulls are found on:

  • Catamarans; and
  • Competitive kayaks.

A hull's design can enable it to circumvent the workings of hull speed. It is for this reason that hull speed is not used in present-day ship design; naval institutions nowadays favor more modern measurements of speed-to-length ratio, such as the Froude number .

How to calculate hull speed

The formula for hull speed only needs the length of the vessel's waterline in feet, denoted as L waterline L_\text{waterline} L waterline ​ . With this length, the vessel's hull speed in knots can be calculated with

If you want to instead work out exactly how long your new boat's waterline must be for it to have a certain hull speed, you can invert the formula to obtain

How to use the hull speed calculator

The hull speed calculator is just as easy to use as the formula.

Enter your vessel's waterline length into the first field. This is the length of your boat's hull at the height of the waterline. Your vessel's hull speed will then be calculated and presented in the second field.

You can also use the hull speed calculator backward to work out how long a vessel's waterline must be if you know its hull speed.

You can freely change the units of your measurements without interfering with the hull speed formula.

How can I increase my boat's hull speed without changing its hull?

Load your boat heavier! If you think about a normal displacement hull, it's usually narrower near the bottom than at the deck. So pushing it down with some weight will lengthen the boat's waterline, and so its hull speed is increased. Of course, heavier boats are harder to move, so while your loaded boat now has a higher hull speed, you would need more power to move it.

Waterline length

The length of the ship at its waterline.

The speed at which the ship's waterline length equals its bow wave's wavelength.

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Catamaran Design Formulas

  • Post author By Rick
  • Post date June 29, 2010
  • 10 Comments on Catamaran Design Formulas

catamaran planing speed

Part 2: W ith permission from Terho Halme – Naval Architect

While Part 1 showcased design comments from Richard Woods , this second webpage on catamaran design is from a paper on “How to dimension a sailing catamaran”, written by the Finnish boat designer, Terho Halme. I found his paper easy to follow and all the Catamaran hull design equations were in one place.  Terho was kind enough to grant permission to reproduce his work here.

Below are basic equations and parameters of catamaran design, courtesy of Terho Halme. There are also a few references from ISO boat standards. The first step of catamaran design is to decide the length of the boat and her purpose. Then we’ll try to optimize other dimensions, to give her decent performance. All dimensions on this page are metric, linear dimensions are in meters (m), areas are in square meters (m2), displacement volumes in cubic meters (m3), masses (displacement, weight) are in kilograms (kg), forces in Newton’s (N), powers in kilowatts (kW) and speeds in knots. 

Please see our catamarans for sale by owner page if you are looking for great deals on affordable catamarans sold directly by their owners.

Length, Draft and Beam

There are two major dimensions of a boat hull: The length of the hull L H  and length of waterline L WL  . The following consist of arbitrary values to illustrate a calculated example. 

L H  = 12.20      L WL  = 12.00

catamaran planing speed

After deciding how big a boat we want we next enter the length/beam ratio of each hull, L BR . Heavy boats have low value and light racers high value. L BR  below “8” leads to increased wave making and this should be avoided. Lower values increase loading capacity. Normal L BR  for a cruiser is somewhere between 9 and 12. L BR  has a definitive effect on boat displacement estimate.  

  • Tags Buying Advice , Catamaran Designers


Owner of a Catalac 8M and Catamaransite webmaster.

10 replies on “Catamaran Design Formulas”

Im working though these formuals to help in the conversion of a cat from diesel to electric. Range, Speed, effect of extra weight on the boat….. Im having a bit of trouble with the B_TR. First off what is it? You don’t call it out as to what it is anywhere that i could find. Second its listed as B TR = B WL / T c but then directly after that you have T c = B WL / B TR. these two equasion are circular….

Yes, I noted the same thing. I guess that TR means resistance.

I am new here and very intetested to continue the discussion! I believe that TR had to be looked at as in Btr (small letter = underscore). B = beam, t= draft and r (I believe) = ratio! As in Lbr, here it is Btr = Beam to draft ratio! This goes along with the further elaboration on the subject! Let me know if I am wrong! Regards PETER

I posted the author’s contact info. You have to contact him as he’s not going to answer here. – Rick

Thank you these formulas as I am planning a catamaran hull/ house boat. The planned length will be about thirty six ft. In length. This will help me in this new venture.

You have to ask the author. His link was above.

I understood everything, accept nothing makes sense from Cm=Am/Tc*Bwl. Almost all equations from here on after is basically the answer to the dividend being divided into itself, which gives a constant answer of “1”. What am I missing? I contacted the original author on Facebook, but due to Facebook regulations, he’s bound never to receive it.

Hi Brian, B WL is the maximum hull breadth at the waterline and Tc is the maximum draft.

The equation B TW = B WL/Tc can be rearranged by multiplying both sides of the equation by Tc:

B TW * Tc = Tc * B WL / Tc

On the right hand side the Tc on the top is divided by the Tc on the bottom so the equal 1 and can both be crossed out.

Then divide both sides by B TW:

Cross out that B TW when it is on the top and the bottom and you get the new equation:

Tc = B WL/ B TW

Thank you all for this very useful article

Parfait j aimerais participer à une formation en ligne (perfect I would like to participate in an online training)

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Planing and the Need for Speed

Surfers require waves in order to move, and windsurfers certainly will hitch a ride on one if they feel like it, but windsurfers can also achieve speed on flat water. The current speed record for any sail-powered craft on water is held by windsurfer Finian Maynard of the British Virgin Islands, who maintained an average speed of 48.7 knots (54 mph) over a 500-m course in April 2005. This achievement beat the previous record of 46.5 knots set by a catamaran in 1993. The nautical mile record is also currently held by Maynard (39.97 knots), according to the World Sailing Speed Record Council; Maynard's record has recently been beaten by Bjorn Dunkerbeck, who reached 41.14 knots, though this speed has yet to be verified. Clearly, over long distances yachts are always going to beat sailboards, and the yacht speed specialists are catamarans.* Equally clearly, over short distances the sprint specialists are now sailboards. The records are falling quickly, and I would be willing to bet that the 500-m and nautical-mile records just quoted will be out of date by the time this book goes to print.

The big advantage that sailboards hold over yachts is that they can plane over the water rather than plow through it (see fig. 7.9; planing is

*You are now in a position to understand why: cats have less wetted surface and so less drag than monohulls . Less drag means more speed. Catamarans have a wider beam and hence greater initial stability, which means that they can fly taller sails without a likelihood of capsizing. More sails mean more drive means more speed.

John Jefferson Sailing Australia

also evident in figs. 7.1 and 7.4). So how does a sailboard permit planing? It is a simple hydrofoil—a wing that provides vertical lift by presenting itself to the water surface at a controllable angle of attack. This is a particularly simple type of lift to visualize; as with, for example, a water ski or a rudder, we can think in terms of momentum transfer. Water impinging on the lower surface of the board is deflected downward so that the board is pushed up. A modern sailboard with a 6-8 m2 sail will plane when it reaches a speed of 12 knots. If the sail area is increased to 10-12 m2, the minimum planing speed is reduced to 8 knots. Wide boards plane at lower speeds; they do not reach the top speeds of narrow boards because of their greater drag. Boards with a tail rocker—an upward curve at the back, which provides improved maneuverability—require higher speeds before they plane. There is a hull speed barrier to overcome before planing is attained, but this barrier is small for sailboards.

The physics of chapter 4, in which I developed a fairly simple equation of motion for fore-and-aft rigged vessels, can be taken over (with suitable adjustments) to describe sailboard movement. The parenthetic ''with suitable adjustments'' requires some explanation because of the significant differences between Bermuda-rigged yachts and sailboards. Obviously, parameters such as mass and sail area change from yacht values to sailboard values, but the differences go deeper, as we have seen. That is, I cannot just apply the equations derived in chapter 4 with windsurfing parameters substituted for yacht parameters. I must account for these facts: (1) sailboards make significant leeway—they are blown downwind because they lack a keel to resist such motion; and (2) sailboards operate in shallow water.

The island of Tiree off the west coast of Scotland is isolated, barren, beautiful, and full of windsurfers. Those of you who have been to Scotland will know that the climate there is not exactly the balmy, sun-drenched, palm-fringed paradise that windsurfers find in Hawaii, so what is it about this particular island that draws windsurfers on the 8-hour ferry ride from the mainland of Scotland? Like many of the Western Isles, Tiree is buffeted by winds during most of the short summer months, but unlike other islands, Tiree has beaches all around its coast. Consequently, it is always possible to find a beach for which the capricious winds blow onshore. This is important for windsurfers because if they drift on the ocean surface for whatever reason, they would like to drift toward a beach rather than out to sea. In more benign climates with more reliable winds, they may be reasonably sure that a chosen beach will always provide them with a safe onshore breeze (and big plunging waves, as in Hawaii), but the weather in Scotland is harsh and variable— and so Scottish windsurfers go to Tiree.

This last paragraph was not inserted at the behest of the Tiree Tourist Board but instead serves to show that, quite often, windsurfing is carried out on beaches with an onshore breeze. I will assume in my calculations that this is the case. Thus, the wind direction is pretty much the same as the wave direction—recall that waves straighten up when approaching a beach. So, waves will push our sailboard towards the beach, and wind will cause it to drift in the same direction. I can simply add these two effects when accounting for them in my physics calculations. This is most conveniently done by assuming that the effect of wind and water together cause the sailboard to drift with the wind at a speed sw. Recall that w is wind speed, so here I am saying that leeway and wave drift combine to cause the board to move with the wind at some fraction, s, of the wind speed. Of course, the windsurfer may point his board in any direction he pleases and trim his sail to provide maximum speed in this direction, but whatever he does, his board will always have an additional component of velocity, sw, in the wind direction.

When I apply the chapter 4 equation of motion to windsurfing, I must remember that the effective wind velocity experienced by the windsurfer is not w but is instead (1-s)w because of the onshore drift. This will change the apparent wind2 and will result in a different equilibrium velocity over the water (compared with the equilibrium velocity we found for yachts). To see how fast sailboards can go, however, we are interested in determining the equilibrium velocity relative to the land, not the water, and so must add the drift velocity sw to the calculated equilibrium velocity. Before, we made no distinction between velocity relative to the water and velocity relative to land because we assumed that there was no net water movement. Here, we need to account for the fact that our sailboard is on water which is moving toward the shore. Einstein the sailor would approve of all this relativity. Math details are provided in note 3 for those of you who are interested in derivations; for those of you who are not the results will soon be presented conveniently in a graph.3

Before showing you these theoretical results for sailboard equilibrium speed, I need to take into account the fact that sailboards plane. This is easy: the hydrodynamic drag is much reduced, and so I will make the simplifying approximation that it is negligible for the purposes of determining equilibrium speed. Given this simplification, which I made in chapter 4 for iceboats, we start with the equation for iceboat equilibrium speed, already determined as equation (4.4) of chapter 4:

We do not accept this equation as it stands: we must include the consequences of water movement and leeway, discussed above, before it applies to windsurfing. In addition we must use lift and drag coefficients cLD that pertain to sailboards. With a well-trimmed sail it has been found that windsurfers' sails can provide an L/D ratio of 6:1 or 7:1, so I adjust the yacht lift and drag coefficients (fig. 4.4) accordingly and obtain figure 7.10. Next, I substitute these coefficients into equation (7.1) and do the "relativity" thing: include board drift and determine the board speed relative to water and then relative to land. The results are shown in figure 7.11 for three different choices of the drift factor s.

How do I know what this factor should be? Well, I don't, and it will vary with windsurfing circumstances and with sailboard dimensions. So

Degree Angle

Figure 7.10. (a) Lift and drag coefficients CL CD vs. angle of attack (AoA) in degrees. These are the coefficient values that I adopt for my sailboard calculations. (b) A comparison with the lift and drag coefficients for yachts given in fig. 4.4 shows the increased peak lift/drag ratio. (c) Sailboard lift coefficient vs. drag coefficient.

catamaran planing speed

120 140 160 180 Heading angle (degrees)

Figure 7.11. Windsurfer's equilibrium speed (divided by wind speed) vs. heading direction, for different "drift factors'' (denoted by s). Dashed lines show the equilibrium speed relative to the water. Bold lines show equilibrium speed relative to land, which is what matters. The simple mathematical model shows that windsurfers can move faster than the wind, when on a beam reach or a broad reach. (A heading angle of 0° corresponds to downwind.) For each case plotted there is a maximum heading angle beyond which the board is effectively going backwards—in other words, the windsurfer is facing into the wind but drift is pushing him back. I assume that the windsurfer doesn't want to go there, so I won't either; I have not plotted this part of the curves.

I have chosen three middling values and plotted the results. If you disagree with my choice, you can substitute different s values in the equation (see endnote 3) and plot your own graph. The point is that it doesn't really matter because the plots show the same broad result; because my simple model is aimed at providing you with understandable physics, it will accept approximate answers. Figure 7.11 shows that windsurfers can go faster than the wind when heading on a broad or beam reach— in other words, when going across the wind or slightly downwind. A beam reach is convenient for those windsurfers (not a few, I suspect) who want to go as fast as possible while riding the front of a wave. Without accounting for board onshore drift, the calculations show that windsurfers' top speed is attained on a close reach—heading slightly to windward, as is shown in figure 7.11. This is not found to be the case in practice.

To summarize, we have seen here how the simple type of analysis used to gain insight into fore-and-aft yacht motion can be adapted and applied to sailboards. The adaptation is required to account for the onshore drift that we expect sailboards to encounter because they are unable to resist leeway and because they often ride waves and so drift with the water. Our results show that sailboards can go significantly faster than the wind that powers them. This observation suggests that sailboards might be able to ''create their own wind'' when on a beam reach, which in fact seems to be the case, as further calculations show.4

Continue reading here: Pumping and the Katzmayr Effect

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Catamaran sailing: expert multihull techniques

Nikki Henderson

  • Nikki Henderson
  • February 18, 2022

Moving to a performance multihull can be a leap for even the most experienced cruiser. Nikki Henderson shares expert multihull techniques.

catamaran planing speed

There has been a huge surge in the sales of performance multihulls and with them a need to know how to handle them particularly when it comes to specific multihull techniques. The market for these boats is broadening; multihull cruisers are upgrading, monohull sailors are upsizing, and even virgin boat owners are tempted.

Over the last 12 months, while coaching for Outremer , I’ve met hundreds of these owners, everyone from young families to retired couples moving aboard a new catamaran and setting sail on a circumnavigation. Handling a performance catamaran is achievable even for a novice multihull sailor. But there is a big difference between just ‘getting by’ on such a boat versus sailing efficiently, safely and in style.

The transition for even experienced sailors can be quite a step up. For a seasoned monohull sailor, the differences are obvious: increased volume and speed, and a lack of heel. Even for an existing multihull sailor, the handling and performance is noticeably less forgiving and requires a shift in focus and technique.

This winter, I set sail on a transatlantic with the new owners of an Outremer 55 . They have previously owned another less performance-orientated catamaran but invited me on board to coach them to fine tune the boat, assist with routing, and help them take best advantage of all the performance their new yacht offers. Here are a few of the topics we focussed on:

catamaran planing speed

sailing at higher speeds will change everything from manoeuvre techniques to weather routing. Photo: Robin Christol/Outremer

Most non-planing monohulls will do approximately the same speed on all points of sail. However, a performance multihull might sail at twice, three, even four times its upwind speed on a reach.

For example, the factory polars of an Outremer 55 give its average speed in 20 knots of wind with a true wind angle (TWA) of 50° at 8.5 knots, but in the same windspeed with a TWA of 110° it’s 19.1 knots. That’s more than twice as fast. How do you make the most of this speed advantage? And how do you best manage it ?

In a monohull it often pays to slog it out for days sailing the best course to windward as this normally gives the best velocity made good (VMG). A dead downwind rhumbline route is the usual strategy for longer ocean passages, rather than sailing more miles and wider angles.However, on a performance multihull it is important to prioritise reaching when route planning.

catamaran planing speed

aboard high performance catamarans, such as this TS42, you can race competitively in offshore events. Photo: Jacques Vapillon/Sea&Co

In upwind conditions on a long crossing, consider whether bearing off by even as much as 20° will result in a better VMG, even if it feels counterintuitive. In light winds bearing off to 70° or 80° TWA can be the difference between a totally stalled boat and 5 knots of boat speed .

Faster speeds open up the possibility of keeping up with pressure systems as they move around the globe. For example, if crossing the North Atlantic eastwards, ideally you’d leave the US in clear weather with a depression forecast to leave the American coast a few days later.

You could use its predicted track to decide how much north or south to add to your easterly heading, to ensure that as it catches up with you, you are sufficiently south enough of it to pick up its strong westerlies. As they approach, you will accelerate, and if you can hold the speed you can use that downwind airflow to push you most of the way across the pond.

Handling at speed

Controlling and handling the boat at these higher speeds requires a change in strategy. Increased speeds and acceleration mean that the apparent wind angle and apparent wind speed change much more frequently. So you need adaptable and flexible trimming and driving solutions.

catamaran planing speed

Use twist to balance power and control. Photo: Robin Christol/Outremer

Downwind the boat should be carving S-curves through the water to ensure it achieves the best VMG possible. If you can get this right you will attain the momentous double figure average speeds that a performance multihull offers, while also going the right direction! Instead of allowing the speed to plummet at the end of each surf, as the bow sinks into the bottom of the wave, a performance multihull can just keep on going.

How to maintain speed:

1 Sail at higher angles to build up apparent wind speed (AWS) and boat speed.

2 Soak downwind as the apparent wind angle (AWA) surges forward with the acceleration.

3 Drive the boat back slowly upwind in time to maintain the average speed and continue the surf.

In an ideal world, to achieve this the boat would be hand-steered. But realistically, no cruisers want to be on deck for two weeks straight on a transatlantic crossing. Your best compromise is to invest in a top quality, well set up autopilot, as well as good wind instruments.

Set the autopilot to sail to apparent wind angle and watch how the boat slaloms through the ocean. The quality of the autopilot will really start to show its value when the sea state starts to increase. The best ones improve over time as they collect data and learn the wave patterns. If you aren’t sure exactly which AWA is ideal, choose a day that has very consistent wind and sail in open water. Set the autopilot AWA to 90° and then systematically increase the setting by increments of 5° at fixed time intervals until you get as low as you can before the foresail is shadowed behind the main. Measure the VMG by comparing the distance travelled at each of the different wind angles, and the average A to B course over ground (COG) achieved. This will give you a good starting point, and then it will shift further depending on sea states and wind strengths.

Sail setting

Another solution if you want fast speeds but don’t want to actively sail the boat to within an inch of its life is to use twist. Twist is a compromise between having a hardened sail that stalls when the wind goes aft, or a very eased sail that luffs when it goes forward. The more changeable the conditions, the more extreme the acceleration increases are, or the rougher the sea state is, the more twist you need.

catamaran planing speed

Cats have the space and stability to hoist and douse, so keep weight low by dropping flying sails when not in use. Photo: Christophe Launay

The wide beam of a multihull allows for a long traveller, so most won’t have a vang. Sheet tension and traveller position are your primary controls to create twist in the mainsail. Begin by finding a full power setting in the main.

Set your autopilot to 35-40°AWA; most performance multis should make this upwind. Set your traveller at midships and over-ease your mainsheet so that the sail is luffing. Gradually tighten your mainsheet until the top telltale just flies. Manual winching offers better control here than electric.

Pull your traveller to windward until the boom runs down the centreline. The top telltale of the mainsail will now be flying about three-quarters of the time. If it is closer to 50% you may need to tighten the mainsheet further and then ease the traveller until you have achieved this (or vice versa). This is your full power sail shape, and your default car position upwind.

At this point some people like to mark the mainsheet (this doesn’t work with a continuous mainsheet). To begin with, just take note of the traveller position. If the conditions require more twist, ease the mainsheet, and pull the traveller to windward to keep the boom in the same position relative to the boat. You could keep a note of three traveller positions for each point of sail: full power, mid power, low power.

As the wind moves aft, you can add other ‘go-to’ traveller positions for different wind angles by easing the traveller down to leeward while keeping the mainsail shape set to ‘full-power’ mode. Once the wind goes aft of the beam, your traveller will be all the way down to leeward. Keep an eye on spreader chafe at this point.

Once you are happy with mainsail trim, you can trim the jib in a similar way, using car position and the sheet tension. Bring sheet tension in so that the leech shape looks very similar to the main: flat with a slight curve at the top. Then adjust the cars (if you can) so that the sail is not luffing, and the top telltales are also flying 50-75% of the time. Finally, walk forward to the forestay and view the slot between the sails. Do they look roughly parallel? If not, you may need to open up the slot a touch by moving the car outboard. This is your default jib car position for that point of sail.

catamaran planing speed

Sailing the angles with an asymmetric. Photo: Kinetic Catamarans

When conditions increase, don’t forget to add twist to the jib too. Initially just ease a touch of sheet. Be careful moving the car too far inboard or you might close the slot. Moving the sheet attachment closer to the foot of the clew will open up the leech and create more twist.

Think of twist as the middle ground between sailing fully powered and reefing. Multihulls are much less communicative than monohulls. You do not have the obvious signs that the boat is overpowered, like a submersed toe rail or rounding up as the boat heels.

In time you’ll get to know your catamaran and build a connection to read how aggressively the boat is accelerating, its fore-aft pitching, sounds, and rhythm. But at first it’s useful to have some number guides and wind parameters of when to add twist and ultimately when to reef.

Generally a performance cat will require a reef much earlier because it’s lighter. I’d usually put in one reef at 20-25 knots, two at 25-30 and three reefs for 30-35 knots.

On our transatlantic crossing on the Outremer 55, contrary to my advice on the advantages of sailing angles downwind, we chose instead to sail dead downwind with the symmetric spinnaker up for the entire passage.

catamaran planing speed

taking it easy dead downwind under symmetric Photo: Nikki Henderson

There are costs to taking full advantage of the speed of a performance catamaran. Averaging 15 knots boat speed is not everyone’s idea of comfortable. The hulls are so stiff that every wave that hits the hull sounds like the beating of a drum. The humming of carbon rigging, the swooshing of water screaming past the topsides, the slapping of the waves, the wind: it’s incredibly loud even when averaging 10 knots, let alone 15 or 20.

Performance multihulls are also so lightweight that they are really thrown about in a substantial sea state. Our decision to sail dead downwind rather than heating up and taking full advantage of the performance came down to the following reasons:

1. Lack of adequate autopilot We had one, but it wasn’t able to react quickly enough to the acceleration and resulting rapid change of wind angle that broad reaching would have created. It also struggled in a big seaway, so sailing with the waves square on to the stern was easier to cope with.

2. Sails We did not have a heavyweight asymmetric sail, which is what you need to sail these downwind angles (both our reaching sails were light weight).

3. Safety Akaroa II is hull No2 of a new design by Outremer. This was the first transatlantic crossing that this particular model of boat had ever done, so we were a testing ground and deliberately cautious.

Despite our conservative approach we still achieved 90% of the factory polars averaging 9.6 knots in sustained winds of 20 knots across the entire 2,700-mile route.

The trip took 11 days and 17 hours. The beauty of a performance multihull is that even if you don’t push it, you still manage brilliant speeds in the right conditions.

We calculated how much faster we would have gone, had we sailed the angles instead of running downwind. This assumes we would achieve the same 90% polars. TWA 140° appears to be the sweet spot.

catamaran planing speed

Getting the main down when reefing can be problematic – rig up downhaul lines to help grind it down if needed. Photo: Nikki Henderson

Without any power being dispelled by heeling, performance multihulls will convert additional power into acceleration. With this increased speed comes increased loads on the lines, blocks, rudders, sail cloth and rigging. Winches are upsized. Jammers are used instead of clutches. Halyards are 2:1. You may be sailing on a 50-footer, but the loads are akin to a 70-80ft bluewater monohull.

A future owner recently reminded me of this, when he opened the main traveller jammer while holding the line with only one wrap on the winch. The lack of skin on his hand was gruesome evidence of how surprising the loads can be when a multihull is really powered up.

Interestingly, comparing a standard cruising multihull with a similar sized performance multihull, the opposite is true. A boat that weighs less needs less sail area to power it. For example, a Lagoon 450 has a sail area (main and jib) of 130m2 compared to an Outremer 45 (actually 48ft LOA) at 104m2. So, for the same apparent wind speed, there will be less load on the gear.

Watch out when sailing downwind. Due to a performance multihull’s ability to accelerate and hold high speeds downwind, it is easy to hold significantly more sail area in higher true wind speeds as the apparent stays low. However, if you do hit the bottom of a wave and stop dead in the water, the sail, rigging and lines will feel the full force of that wind.

Another reason to reef earlier than you think on a performance multi is that with swept back shrouds (needed to support the mast without a backstay) and a fully battened mainsail, even with the halyard eased downwind the sail may still not come down. You should be sailing with the minimum amount of sail cloth up to achieve the polars.

Reducing sail

1. Rig up downhaul lines from each reefing point on the luff to help grind down the sail. Keep an eye on chafe on the leeward side on each of the batten pockets.

2. Use the rotating mast to open the sail to the wind more.

3. If that isn’t enough, come upwind to help get the sail down.

Multihull trim

Switching to a performance catamaran may bring new trimming options: daggerboards, a rotating mast, and fully battened square topped mainsail.

Brush up on your fundamentals of sail trim so that you have a solid foundation to build on. When you first start sailing the boat, to avoid getting overwhelmed (which tends to result in people under-sailing their boat), begin by finding a base setting for all points of sail. Forget the rotating rig for now, but find enough twist in the sails that gives you enough height without too much power. Set the daggerboards as you would on a dinghy: down for upwind, up for downwind, mid-way for a reach. Then you fine tune.

catamaran planing speed

Set performance cat daggerboards as you would for a dinghy at first: down for upwind, up for downwind, mid-way for a reach. Photo: Nikki Henderson

When adjusting daggerboards, make sure you have your GPS track switched on. See if dropping a little more daggerboard helps with the COG upwind. Downwind, if you feel like you are on an ice-skating rink, try dropping a little board for better grip. If on autopilot, take note of the rudder angle. If it’s taking the helm from full starboard to full port then it might need some more grip, if not then a reef.

Be cautious of the risk of ‘tripping up’ in big seaways. In sea states much over 3-4m, it’s safest to lift the daggerboards and allow the boat to glide over the waves rather than risk one of the boards digging into a wave and destabilising the boat. While exceptionally unlikely to happen, if a daggerboard digs in, the worst case scenario would be a capsize. If you see any slick in the water that suggests the boat is sliding sideways over a wave, or an increase in heel, or significant water over the deck – these are signs that it’s time to lift the boards all the way up.

Finally, play with the rotating mast. At a basic level, try to get the mast in line with the foremost sail position and curve. The easiest way to see this is actually to stand forward of the mast and look down the line of the sail. It is in itself a foil and when in the right position can add the equivalent of as much as 10% more sail area. In the same way, you can use it to depower by reducing the angle.

catamaran planing speed

With a rotating mast you’ll generally be trying to get it in line with the foremost sail position and curve. Photo: Nikki Henderson

When fine tuning sail trim I’d recommend marking all your tracks and angles of mast rotation, and once you are confident you could mark the sheets and halyards themselves. This is an exercise for the detail-orientated and it pays to be specific. Keep a notebook at the helm station to record your learnings, and over time build up not just ideal trim settings for wind and waves, but also polars.


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catamaran planing speed

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Learning a performance catamaran’s sensitivity to weight can be a real learning curve. Compared to cruising catamarans, performance cats tend to be half the weight (or even less). Meanwhile, compared to a monohull the main difference is in the areas where the weight is most concentrated. A monohull’s weight is predominantly in its keel. Almost the entire weight of the boat is concentrated in around 15% of the boat’s length. Conversely, a multihull has no keel, so without that pendulum effect its centre of gravity is higher and less stable. On a multihull the weight is distributed along almost 90% of its length.

In practice, this means that what you carry, both below and above decks, has a big impact on the boat’s performance and safety. The first step is to become minimalists. Summon your inner Marie Kondo and ask yourself “Does this bring me joy? Does this keep me safe?” of every single item that moves from dock to boat. If it doesn’t – don’t take it.

catamaran planing speed

Performance cats are weight sensitive so streamline your possessions onboard. Photo: Carl Newton

Step two is to arrange your belongings evenly around the boat. Ensure you don’t list the boat to port or starboard. Try to keep weight amidships and ideally low down. Avoid loading up the bow lazarettes or aft areas with too much weight.

When sailing, don’t forget that the worst kind place for weight is aloft. Without the keel, you significantly reduce the stability of the boat by having a furled Code 0 (for example) hanging around up the rig. It’s inconvenient to drop it every time, but it’s worth it.

Higher speeds, bigger loads, a lighter boat and higher centre of gravity don’t sound like the safest characteristics, and they aren’t if poorly managed. But you can also use them to your advantage. Being able to sail faster means you sometimes have an option to run away from bad weather.

But there are other safety drills that are worth thinking about ahead of time. What is your MOB recovery plan? With cats’ high freeboard, some owners plan to reverse up to the casualty and pick them up from the steps at the back. But how many have practiced that? Will it involve dropping the mainsail? Could the props injure the casualty? How does the back of the boat behave in a significant sea state? I’d recommend practising this until you have a plan that works for you on your boat with the equipment you have. The same should be said for plans to evacuate the boat, or deal with a fire on board.

If you enjoyed this….

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Better Sailing

How Fast Do Catamarans Sail? Average Sailing Speed of a Catamaran

How Fast Do Catamarans Sail? Average Sailing Speed of a Catamaran

In most aspects, sailing a catamaran is very similar to sailing a monohull. If you learn to sail on a monohull then most of the skills are transferable. But, there are a couple of subtle differences that we will analyze further in this article. A catamaran is generally more balanced on the water and can be faster than a multi-hull vessel. And, cruising on a sailboat with a cat hull will be much faster than cruising on a sailboat with a monohull. Therefore, a catamaran hull is able to achieve the speeds of a racing monohull and is also more comfortable to sail on.

A tri-hull is even much better as they’re designed towards the performance end of the spectrum. And that is why they double the speed of a racing monohull. So, let’s analyze this subject further in this article and see what’s the average sailing speed of a cat. Follow me!

Catamaran Vs Monohull Speed: Are Cats Faster than Monohulls?

Not all cruising cats are always faster than an equivalent length monohull. But, many well-designed and balanced multihulls can easily surpass the speed of their monohull cousins. And, it’s not fair to mass all cats into one example, but performance cruising catamarans like the Nautitech or Neel trimarans distinguish from others. Their narrow waterline beams, hull chines, deep and fine keels, and rudders as well as efficient sail plans will typically be faster than the average cruising monohull.

“The fun of sailing is proportional to the speed of sailing”, as an American designer, L. Francis Herreshoff, said. And, it’s basically true because when we sail and see another boat heeling in the breeze, we also feel we want to do the same. This is because for many sailors speed means much more than just fun. You should, however, consider keeping your cat as light as possible if you want to maximize speed. I know that keeping your sailboat light is difficult but it’s of importance if speed is your main goal.

Keep in mind that a boat’s speed has won wars and has also been a contributor to safety. In the past, a fast warship was able to outmaneuver its adversary or escape from a boat with more firepower. And just as proven in history, the speed of a sailboat is important and provides a faster boat with more options.

Monohull VS Catamarans Differences

  • When tacking, you must work hard to keep your speed consistent in the tack and always ease the mainsheet to avoid “windvaning.” When the larger mainsail on a catamaran attempts to turn the boat back towards the wind, this is known as windvaning.
  • On a monohull, you must be extremely cautious about an unintended gybe. Meaning that you must gybe much more slowly. On a catamaran, you can take advantage of the increased speed and sustain it while gybing to help depower the main.
  • On a monohull, and when winds increase, the boat starts heeling. This automatically informs you that you have too much sail up and it’s time to reef. And, as catamarans don’t heel, you have to be very careful when to reef the massive main. Most of the time, you will throw in the first reef at 18-20 knots of wind speed. The second reef will be put as the wind gets closer to 23-25 knots. The above-mentioned always depend on the size and type of your vessel.

Wind as a Main Factor for Speed

Thanks to tech evolutions in radar, satellite, and computer technology, a five-day forecast is as accurate as a two-day forecast was back in 1980. A multihull’s higher speed also contributes to easier and safer planning of ocean passages around weather windows since exposure time will be less. Moreover, meteorological prediction for shorter periods is far more accurate. Keep in mind that when sailing faster you also introduce the concept of apparent wind to the strategy of efficient sailing.

Multihull speed upwind? Sailing upwind, the catamaran usually experiences more apparent wind across the deck since it’s sailing faster. Therefore, the sails will feel more pressure, which will make the boat perform even better. And, of course, the concept of apparent wind contributes to the joy of sailing, as it adds another dimension to it. When sailing towards a downwind destination, fast multihulls are able to sail at smaller wind angles. Subsequently, this brings the apparent wind forward of the beam, hence optimizing the angle of attack on the sails.

While cats will fly gennakers, code-zeros, or asymmetric spinnakers, monohulls mostly set symmetric spinnakers to the poles. And most importantly, their boat speed will often cancel out the true wind and will reduce the apparent wind and performance. The faster the multihull is the more it is able to take advantage of the apparent wind and tack downwind towards its destination. Although it might be sailing twice the distance, it will arrive at the downwind mark quicker because its Velocity Made Good (VMG) will be faster.

>>Also Read: How Fast is a Laser Sailboat? Laser Sailboat Top Speed

Performance Characteristics

Bear in mind that cats require four times the power to double their speed. But, a mono-hull vessel requires eight times the power to double the speed. This is due to the fact that a cat has less resistance in the water. However, this is great in terms of conserving and using less energy. Catamarans are also more stable in the water. This stability is effective at resisting heeling or capsizing. In other words, a multi-hull vessel requires four times the force to capsize as a similar-sized mono-hull vessel.

Most of the time, sailing in a catamaran is smoother and facilitates activities that are not always possible on a mono-hull sailboat. In addition, as catamarans have less water resistance, they are generally faster than mono-hull vessels. As their hulls are smaller, this means that they have a smaller bow wave to fight. The bow wave is a wave created by the displacement of water by the bow of a ship. After a certain speed, the boat has to start hauling itself over its own bow wave. Meaning that the larger hull a boat has, the larger its bow wave will be and the more power will be required in order to fight it.

Since catamarans have two small and narrow hulls, they don’t have much of a bow wave. This is one of the reasons they are normally quicker than a monohull vessel of comparable size. Catamarans can travel at speeds of up to 30% faster than monohull boats. Catamarans have the disadvantage of taking longer to transform than monohulls.

Lastly, the thing that makes monohulls harder to sail is heeling and smaller spaces. In stronger winds, monohulls tend to heel. This results in making most tasks a bit more difficult to perform. Whether you’re heading forward to reef, trying to winch in a sail, or move about the boat, sailing on a heeling boat is always more difficult. However, cats have extra stability and room, and this allows for much easier movement around the boat as they do not heel. And, for this reason, catamarans are often considered easier to sail.

Average Sailing Speed of a Catamaran

How Fast Are Catamarans Compared To Other Boat Types?

There are two main factors that determine the speed of ships. The first one is the hull type. There are hulls that stay beneath the water more or less than others. But, keep in mind that the less the hull is underwater, the faster it can go. This is due to the fact that the less of the hull underwater, the less the drag created when sailing. The other factor is the length of the boat. And, reasonably, the longer the boat, the faster it can go. Every boat has a maximum hull speed that can’t be exceeded. This can only happen in case the boat can plane on the water’s surface or be lifted on hydrofoils. For most boats, the longer the boat, the higher the maximum hull speed is.

Sailing catamarans typically average about 10 knots while pontoon boats average about 16 knots. As for powerboats, they can average anywhere between 30 and 50 mph. Most average sailboats are designed with monohulls and they average from 6 to 9 knots depending on wind conditions. Generally, sailboats average between 8 and 12 mph, again depending on weather conditions. This includes mono-hull between 6 to 8 mph and cats or trimarans between 9 and 10mph.

Speed and Comfort Considerations For Cats

You have a lot of choices if you choose to buy a catamaran. You have the option of prioritizing speed or comfort. After you’ve decided to buy a catamaran, the type of catamaran you can consider is determined by where you’ll be using it and what you’ll be doing with it. In addition, make sure that you look at what type of water you will be traveling in, your crew members, and what type of speed you want to achieve.

Storage is an important consideration to make before purchasing a catamaran. Due to the beam, or width, of a catamaran versus a regular mono-hull vessel, you are often charged for two slips if you wish to store your boat in a marina. Moreover, catamarans are a great option for those who get seasick because they have a more stable ride and more open air space. You have more windows and visibility since the living quarters are not within the hull and below the water’s surface.

Sailing and power catamarans are both great choices. In addition, for low winds or conditions such as docking in a marina, sailing catamarans may be equipped with backup power engines. Twin-engine catamarans can have more power and precision than mono-hull vessels.

>>Also Read: How Fast Can Sailboats Go?

Main Advantages of Catamarans

  • Space! If you want to opt for more interior and exterior space then the two separate hulls of a catamaran can often double the amount of social space than a monohull of the same length.
  • Catamarans are far more stable than monohulls. For this reason, they don’t heel when sailing, and are less prone to rocking when at anchor. This factor also contributes to comfortable sailing.
  • Catamarans have a shallow draft which allows them to enter shallower areas. Keep in mind that in the South Pacific, most lagoons are 6 to 8 ft in depth. This depth doesn’t allow for monohulls to enter, but a catamaran can easily enter these areas.
  • Stability is another big plus of cats. A cat isn’t that susceptible to the effects of wave action and it also doesn’t heal the way a monohull does. Therefore, it’s much easier to walk around on deck and within the interior of the cat while underway.
  • In terms of speed, and mostly for downwind sailing , cats are faster than monohulls. This particularly applies to downwind runs, reaches, and broad reaches.
  • More light, customizable, and airy living area. On a catamaran, the living space is usually situated in the middle of the boat and built on the bridge deck. But, in a monohull you go down into the hull where it is darker and less airy.
  • More storage space and room for extra systems, provisions, and general sailing equipment. These may include air conditioning, heaters, oven, watermakers, generators, larger fridges, and freezers, etc. And, if you’re a liveaboard, then living on a cat is far more comfortable than living in a sailboat. You have more interior, exterior, and storage space as well as stability and speed in terms of sailing performance.
  • Many modern cats have flybridge helms. And of course, no monohull achieves this visibility from the helm provided on most modern catamarans.
  • The galley, main salon, and cockpit are all located on one level , above the waterline.
  • Because the majority of living space is above the waterline , there’s a better flow of ventilation on a cat making the need for air conditioning somewhat less important during the daylight hours.
  • When you plan to set sail, you almost never have to rush around stowing stuff or using bungee cords to hold things in place. Except in relatively rough waters, most things stay put.
  • Since catamarans lack a large, heavy keel filled with lead, they can float even if they’re holed. Production cats are constructed with so much buoyancy that sinking them is nearly impossible.
  • Catamarans are usually easy to dock because you have two motors and two rudders. Additionally, there’s also no need for a bow thruster.
  • Most catamarans are able to turn 360 degrees within their own length.

Average Sailing Speed of Catamarans

How fast do catamarans sail – the bottom line.

Bear in mind that not all catamarans are created equal. In other words, catamaran speed is relative. The most important benefit of the speed of a multihull is the ability to outrun bad weather. Meaning that you’re able to average 9-10 knots on a catamaran rather than 6-7 knots on a monohull. Subsequently, this will give you more options in your strategy to avoid bad weather. In general, sailing catamarans typically average about 10 knots. Higher maximum and average speeds are what makes cats distinguish as well as their stability. These are the most important characteristics which makes many sailors prefer cats rather than monohull boats.


Peter is the editor of Better Sailing. He has sailed for countless hours and has maintained his own boats and sailboats for years. After years of trial and error, he decided to start this website to share the knowledge.

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A Case for Displacement Power Catamarans

Article by Malcolm Tennant as published in Multihulls Magazine

In our Premier Issue, Malcolm Tennant, one of today’s foremost power catamaran designers, discusses the principles of planing vs. displacement catamarans. In this article he makes clear his choice of the displacement cat.

For some fifteen years now our office has been designing powerboats that combine something of the old and something of the very new. To make a leap forward in comfort and economy we looked back to the close of the 19th Century and the early years of the 20th. We have taken the powerboat wisdom of that time and used it in the designing of very modern power catamarans that can have much more living space than their monohull cousins, and that easily surpass them in comfort and economy. Current thinking has it that to go fast in smaller craft it is necessary to plane. This is because the usual monohull displacement craft are restricted to a speed of approximately 1.34 times the square root of their waterline length (Froudes Law).

To drive a normal displacement vessel faster than this requires an inordinate amount of horsepower and may even lead to foundering in their own bow and stern waves, or by rolling the gunwales under from the enormous torque produced. Planing is a way to circumventing Froudes Law by getting the vessel to plane on top of the water where the wave making drag is no longer a restriction on their performance. However, planing craft do need to be relatively light, i.e.: have good power-to-weight ratios, and planing surface-area-to-weight ratios; are very inefficient when they are not planing, and are not as economical to run at some speeds as the displacement craft.

So we seem to have two distinct type of boats: a. One that is fast, but uneconomical at slower speeds and can have a bone-jarring ride in a seaway; b. The other, that is economical and comfortable in a seaway, but is slow. Is it then even possible to get a craft that combines the best features of both these types? A boat that has reasonable, ­ even good ­ performance with excellent accommodations and is still economical to build and run and has good seakeeping capabilities: ­ or is this just one of those designers’ pipe dreams?

One quite successful attempt to achieve this dream was made by Tom Fexas with his Midnight Lace series of monohull designs, in which he used long, light, semi-displacement hulls to improve economy without compromising performance too much. These boats were, in fact, a compromise (aren’t all boats?) and, to me, only partially successful by reason of his definition of a slim hull which was, of course, forced on him by the need for stability, accommodation and sea keeping. To Tom Fexas a slim hull was one that had a length-to-beam ratio of four (the waterline length was four times the waterline beam). This was certainly narrow by contemporary planing boat standards, but was unexceptional when compared with earlier boats, or with types of hulls that I am proposing should be used.

Before the improvement of the power-to-weight ratio of the internal combustion engine, and the development of the hard-chine, low-deadrise hull that allowed boats to plane, there was only one way to go fast: building long-and-slim, and in the first decade of the 20th Century we find boats such as Slim Jim, that were achieving speeds of 15 knots from a 15 HP engine driving just such long hulls in 1905. Typical of the early boats was Defender: 16.2m (53′) long, having a maximum hull beam of 2.28m (7’6″). Headroom under the flush deck was only 1.45m (4’9″) and she slept six in berths only 500 mm (18″) wide. In anything of a seaway it would have been incredibly wet and uncomfortable.

The boat had a great deal of grace and elegance to her lines, but her rolling at sea, and lack of accommodations, would be totally unacceptable today except for one small detail: a 48 HP motor propelled this 16.2m boat at 16.5 knots! Is it possible, then, to reconcile these old, easily driven, but incredibly uncomfortable hull forms with the current, ever increasing demands for more interior space and more home comforts that can be the downfall of many a well-designed planing craft? I believe the answer is: catamarans! By joining two of these long, slim hulls together and surmounting them with an extensive superstructure, we are able to provide even more than the currently desirable amount of accommodation and at the same time stabilize the hulls so that rolling is no longer a problem.

So it would seem that all we have to do is to make power catamarans with long, slim hulls, and then we will have speed, economy and accommodation. The potential is there, but is it really that simple? The answer, of course, is “no” ­ not quite!

Even a very cursory look at sailing catamarans will show that they are not restricted by Froudes Law. Their very fine hulls place them on a very different part of Froudes’ wave making continuum, and results in their having a very much higher hull speed than he ever envisioned from his observations ­ in the order of 30+ knots is not unusual for these boats. Certainly the boats with this sort of performance are very lightly loaded racing craft, but even the more heavily laden cruising boats do not have much trouble breaking the 1.34 barrier. If these sorts of speeds can be achieved under sail, than it should be much easier under power.

Towing tank tests of long, slim hulls with high prismatic coefficients (fine hulls with a fairly even spread of displacement from bow to stern), such as our displacement powerboats exhibit, have shown no catastrophic increase in wave drag at speed/length ratios above approximately 1.4 ­ such as occurs with “normal” displacement hulls. These high prismatic hulls have a higher displacement hull speed than is “normal.” This test data is further supported by the precisely measured performance tests of such boats as the Zenith-47 Antaeus, the Awesome 2000, the Mako-61, the Jaybee and the Icarus 46 in the full-sized ocean test tank. All these boats have prismatic coefficients greater than 0.66 and all easily exceed their theoretical hull speeds, while returning exceptional fuel economy.

So it would seem that all we have to do is to make power catamarans with long, slim hulls, and then we will have speed, economy and accommodation. The potential is there, but is it really that simple? The answer, of course, is “no” ­ not quite! If we compare a sailing catamaran with a keelboat, we will see that the catamaran has one immediately obvious advantage. It is lighter because it is able to eliminate the lead keel upon which the keelboat depends on for its stability. In the case of the powerboat, there is no such advantage. The catamaran may, in fact, be heavier than the monohull because of its increased area. All is not lost, however, because while the skin area is increasing by the square, the interior volume is increasing by the cube! This possible increase in weight may be a problem with planing catamarans because of their limited planing surface, but it does not mean that our dream is impossible.

The displacement catamaran is not as susceptible to overloading as is the planing craft. The hull speed of the displacement boat is largely dependent on the L:B ratio of the hulls and this does not change very much with modest overloading. This does, however, bring up one of the limitations of the displacement boat. To work successfully, the L:B ratio of the hulls should be in excess of 10, and preferably higher. Consequently, if high displacements and length restrictions force short, fat hulls on the designer, then the displacement approach will not be successful. In this situation the only recourse is to lengthen the hull until the requisite L:B ratio is obtained, or to use a planing hull form.

It will be apparent from this, that the displacement concept would seem to have little place in boats shorter than 10m (32′), unless they can be built light ­ or a very modest performance is required. I have designed smaller displacement boats that achieve quite credible 15-knot cruising speeds from very small horsepower (43 HP per side) engines. But if performance on par with planing vessels is required, then the displacement boat must be able to have long, slim hulls, preferably without the planing boats’ low deadrise, submerged chine sections, as this increases the drag substantially, and even more if the chines break the surface. This, then, is the approach we have taken with a lot of our power catamaran designs: long, slim, easily driven round-bilge, minimum wetted surface hulls that give performance on a par with planing craft, but with considerably better sea-keeping capability and better fuel economy.

It is, of course, possible to question whether these boats really are displacement craft. Current theory says that for vessels of this length, to go this fast, they must be planing. In fact, if we accept the usual definition of planing vessel, namely: that it has a speed/length ratio of more than 2, then these boats are clearly planing. However, a boat is said to be planing when most of its mass is supported dynamically by the downward directed thrust of the water. A vessel that is planing will typically have a bow out trim and will have bodily risen out of the water. The waters are muddied a little by the fact that there is no sudden jump from displacement to planing. It is a continuum and somewhere in the speed/length ratio range from 1.5 to 2 the craft would be considered to be in a “semi-displacement” mode. We have now designed a large number of displacement power cats exemplifying the “long and slim” approach of powerboat design.

The Zenith-47 displaces 13 tons fully loaded, and motors at 20 knots maximum ­ much more economically at 16 knots ­ with only two 122 kw (160 HP) pushing hulls with a 24.5 knot hull speed. A monohulled displacement boat of this length would have a hull speed of about 8.5 knots. The smaller Nomad and Cortez powerboats also have a similar hull speed but are optimized more for economy with slower speeds with small engines. The Icarus-46 has a top speed of 25 knots from two 150 kw (200 HP) turbo-charged diesels. At the upper end of the scale is the Mako-61, an 18.6m (61′) game fishing boat with a hull speed of 37.5 knots which would yield an easy 30 knots with around 500 HP per side. In the interest of economy, this boat is intended to cruise at 16 knots ­ with a maximum of 20 knots ­ using twin 150 kw

These performances are very much faster than those of the traditional displacement boats of comparable size and are on a par with that of a planing boat of similar displacement, but with lesser power requirement and subsequently greater economy. I believe the performance of these designs demonstrates the potential of the displacement power catamaran to be that very elusive and ephemeral animal; the best of all possible worlds: combining excellent accommodation, comfort, and economical performance with good old-fashioned seaworthiness. It seems to me that there is no reason why this old “long and slim” principle should not be applied to lightweight boats with less superstructure and even finer hulls, to produce 30 or even perhaps 40 knots of fuss-free performance from quite modest horsepower.

In fact, this belief has been partially tested with two offshore designs: the 17.5m (57′) Red Diamond II, designed for a Japanese client, capable of a top speed of 33 knots (cruising at 24) from twin 320 kw (430 HP) Yanmar diesels; and the 20m (65′) Awesome 2000, which has a top speed of 28 knots, and an open ocean cruising range of 3,000 miles at 15-knot speed. This craft has made the trip from Long Beach, California to Hawaii using only her internal tanks. Although these displacement cats may not be the fastest things around in flat water, they have demonstrated an ability to maintain much higher average speeds than most other craft regardless of sea conditions. In situations where the high-speed planing monohull is forced to drastically reduce its speed, the displacement catamaran is able to continue on with very little reduction in performance.

This ability is displayed day in and day out by the rapidly expanding commercial catamaran ferry fleets whose operators recognized the economic advantages of this concept early on. It has often been pointed out that many people with displacement boats try to push them too fast and, consequently, would be better off with a planing boat. For these people there is now another alternative: displacement boats with the performance of planing craft and the frugal thirst and smooth comfort of the traditional displacement boat.

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High Speed Catamarans and Multihulls pp 423–475 Cite as

Other High-Speed Multihull Craft

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  • Huan Zong Rong 4  
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In previous chapters we introduced catamarans of a displacement or semiplaning type with some information on resistance for the planing hull form as used mainly by wave piercers. We explained that, owing to the catamaran demihull’s slender length/beam ratio aimed at reducing wave-making drag, such craft would not operate in the planing region as the Froude number Fr l remains below around 0.75, even for high service speed (Table 1.1 ), so the hydrodynamic lift proportion would not be more than 20% of displacement, even if a hard chine demihull form is used. In this chapter we will discuss other design alternatives for high-speed vessels, including those targeted at speeds above Fr l  = 1.0.

  • Planing Hull
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Sail Away Blog

Learn How to Sail a Catamaran: Beginner’s Guide to Mastering Catamaran Sailing

Alex Morgan

catamaran planing speed

Sailing a catamaran offers a unique and thrilling experience on the water. Whether you are a seasoned sailor or a beginner, understanding the essentials of catamaran sailing is vital to have a safe and enjoyable journey. In this guide, we will explore the different aspects of sailing a catamaran, from its advantages to the essential equipment, basic sailing techniques, advanced maneuvers, and navigation and safety tips. Let’s dive in and discover how to sail a catamaran like a pro.

Introduction to Catamarans: Catamarans are multi-hulled vessels that have gained popularity in the sailing world for their unique design and capabilities. Unlike traditional single-hulled sailboats, catamarans feature two parallel hulls connected by a deck, offering stability and spaciousness. The design of a catamaran allows for enhanced performance, comfort, and versatility.

Why Choose a Catamaran for Sailing? Before delving into the specifics of sailing a catamaran, it is important to understand the advantages that these vessels offer:

1. Stability on the Water: Catamarans are known for their exceptional stability, which is attributed to their wide and buoyant hulls. This stability makes them less prone to heeling or tipping over, providing a smoother sailing experience.

2. Spaciousness and Comfort: With their wide beam, catamarans offer ample space and room for movement both above and below deck. The spacious interiors often feature multiple cabins, a large saloon, and a well-equipped galley, providing comfort and convenience during extended trips.

3. Shallow Draft: Catamarans have a shallow draft, meaning they require less depth of water to operate. This allows them to explore shallower areas and navigate closer to shorelines, expanding the cruising grounds and opening up new destinations.

4. Speed and Performance: Due to their design and reduced drag, catamarans are renowned for their speed and performance. They have the ability to reach higher speeds, making them perfect for those seeking an exhilarating sailing experience.

By understanding the advantages of sailing a catamaran, you can appreciate why these vessels are a popular choice amongst sailors. In the following sections, we will delve into the essential equipment needed for catamaran sailing, basic and advanced sailing techniques, as well as navigation and safety tips to ensure a successful and enjoyable catamaran sailing experience.

Key takeaway:

  • Stability on the water: Catamarans offer excellent stability, making them a preferred choice for sailing. The two hulls provide a wider base, reducing the risk of capsizing and providing a smooth sailing experience.
  • Spaciousness and comfort: Catamarans offer more living space compared to monohulls, providing comfort for passengers and crew. The wide beam allows for spacious cabins, lounging areas, and enhanced privacy.
  • Speed and performance: Catamarans are known for their speed and performance. With two hulls and reduced drag, catamarans can achieve higher speeds and offer thrilling sailing experiences to enthusiasts.

Why Choose a Catamaran for Sailing?

When it comes to sailing, why should you choose a catamaran? Well, for starters, they offer unparalleled stability on the water. Not to mention, their spaciousness and comfort make for an enjoyable and relaxing sailing experience. Catamarans have a shallow draft , allowing you to explore shallower waters that other boats may not be able to reach. And let’s not forget about their impressive speed and performance . So, if you’re looking for a thrilling and comfortable sailing adventure, a catamaran is the way to go!

Stability on the Water

Stability on the Water is crucial when sailing a catamaran. Catamarans have twin hulls that create a wide and stable platform, distributing weight evenly and reducing the risk of capsizing. The catamaran’s wide beam also enhances stability, resisting tipping.

Catamarans offer increased comfort and safety on the water. Passengers can move freely without losing balance or feeling seasick. The stable platform also allows for activities like sunbathing or dining, making for a pleasant experience.

Catamarans have better handling and maneuverability , thanks to their stability. They maintain a level sailing position even in rough waters, providing a smoother and more comfortable ride. This stability also enables higher speeds, perfect for those seeking excitement .

It is important to note that external factors like wind and waves can still affect catamarans’ stability. Proper sailing techniques and safety protocols are essential for optimal stability.

Spaciousness and Comfort

Catamarans offer ample space and comfort, making them ideal for sailing enthusiasts. The large living areas and wide hulls provide plenty of room to relax and enjoy the water. The trampoline between the hulls is a comfortable spot for sunbathing and taking in the views.

The spaciousness of catamarans translates to comfortable interiors with multiple cabins, bathrooms, and a well-equipped galley. This allows for privacy and convenience, perfect for extended sailing trips or larger groups.

With their dual-hull design, catamarans offer excellent stability on the water, reducing the likelihood of seasickness and providing a smooth sailing experience.

The wide beam of a catamaran minimizes motion, creating a stable and enjoyable ride. This is beneficial for those sensitive to motion or seeking a relaxed sailing experience.

Shallow Draft

The shallow draft of a catamaran allows it to navigate in shallow waters, which other types of boats cannot access. This advantage is especially helpful when exploring coastal areas, lagoons, or cruising around sandbanks or coral reefs.

The catamaran achieves a shallow draft by designing the hulls with reduced depth. This allows the boat to float in shallower waters, reducing the risk of running aground and enabling access to secluded anchorages and coves. In addition, the shallow draft enhances maneuverability in tight spaces, such as narrow channels or smaller marinas.

Compared to deeper-draft monohull sailboats, catamarans with a shallow draft also have less vulnerability to underwater obstacles like rocks or coral, making sailing safer. It’s important to note that each catamaran model will have its own specific shallow draft measurement provided by the manufacturer.

When planning sailing routes and exploring areas with limited depth, considering the shallow draft of a catamaran is crucial for a safe and enjoyable experience on the water.

Speed and Performance

A catamaran is well-known for its exceptional speed and performance on the water, which makes it a preferred choice for sailing enthusiasts.

Due to its ingenious dual-hull design, a catamaran experiences minimal drag in the water, resulting in the ability to reach higher speeds compared to monohull sailboats.

The wide beam of a catamaran not only enhances its stability but also reduces the risk of capsizing, enabling faster sailing in stronger winds.

With its lightweight structure and sleek shape, a catamaran effortlessly glides through the water, maximizing its speed potential.

Catamarans consistently maintain higher speeds, making them an ideal option for lengthy sailing trips or competitive racing.

Catamarans have a reduced wetted surface area, which minimizes resistance from the water and leads to improved efficiency and performance.

Another advantage of a catamaran is its shallow draft , allowing it to navigate shallower waters with ease, thereby increasing its versatility and suitability for coastal exploration.

Catamarans boast a spacious deck layout , providing ample room for passengers to move around comfortably and accommodating various amenities and recreational activities.

Catamarans offer a smooth and stable sailing experience, even in choppy or rough sea conditions, ensuring optimal comfort for all those on board.

Essential Equipment for Sailing a Catamaran

When it comes to sailing a catamaran, having the right equipment is crucial. In this section, we’ll dive into the essential gear you’ll need for a smooth sailing experience. From the sails and rigging that harness the wind’s power to the rudder and steering controls that guide your vessel, we’ll cover it all. We’ll also explore the importance of anchoring and docking techniques , as well as the safety gear that ensures you’re prepared for any unexpected challenges on the open water. Get ready to gear up and set sail!

Sails and Rigging

When it comes to sailing a catamaran, understanding the importance of sails and rigging is crucial. The sails power the boat and enable it to move through the water, while the rigging supports and controls the sails. Here are some key points to consider about sails and rigging:

1. Sail design: The design of the sails, including their size, shape, and material, plays a significant role in the catamaran’s performance. High-performance racing catamarans often have larger, more efficient sails that generate greater speed.

2. Rigging setup: The rigging on a catamaran consists of the mast, shrouds, and various lines and controls. Proper tensioning and adjustment of the rigging ensures correct sail positioning and overall balance of the boat.

3. Sail controls: Catamarans have several controls for adjusting the sails while sailing. These include the mainsheet, which controls the main sail, and the jib sheets, which control the jib sail. Learning how to trim and adjust these controls optimizes performance.

4. Sail handling: Proper handling of the sails is crucial for smooth sailing. This involves hoisting, lowering, and reefing the sails in strong winds. Understanding safe and efficient sail handling techniques is essential.

Now, let me share a true story to illustrate the importance of sails and rigging. During a sailing race, a catamaran led the fleet due to its well-designed sails and properly rigged mast. The crew efficiently adjusted the sails using the various controls, allowing the catamaran to effectively harness the wind’s power. As a result, they maintained optimal speed and maneuverability, securing victory in the race. This highlights how understanding and utilizing sails and rigging can significantly impact sailing performance.

Rudder and Steering

When it comes to catamaran sailing, the rudder and steering are crucial for maneuvering the vessel efficiently. Here are some key points to consider:

  • The rudder is an important part of a catamaran’s steering system. It is usually located at the rear of the boat and controls the vessel’s direction.
  • Catamarans typically have two rudders , one on each hull, which provide improved stability and control.
  • Steering a catamaran involves using the tiller or wheel, depending on the type of steering system. The helmsman turns the tiller or wheel to adjust the direction, which in turn moves the rudders .
  • When sailing upwind, it is necessary to steer slightly higher into the wind to maintain speed and prevent excessive leeway.
  • Downwind sailing requires adjusting the course to downwind angles, allowing the wind to fill the sails from behind.
  • Proper rudder and steering adjustments are essential for maintaining balance and preventing excessive heel or capsizing.
  • During tacking and jibing, it is important to have the rudder in the correct position to maneuver the catamaran smoothly without losing speed or control.
  • Regular inspection and maintenance of the rudder and steering system are crucial to ensure functionality and prevent any issues while sailing.

By understanding and utilizing the rudder and steering effectively, catamaran sailors can confidently navigate the waters and enjoy a safe and enjoyable sailing experience.

Anchoring and Docking

When anchoring and docking a catamaran, it is important to consider the following factors:

1. Choose a suitable anchor for the size and weight of your catamaran , taking into account the seabed type and prevailing weather conditions. The plow anchor is widely favored due to its strong holding power and versatility.

2. Lower the anchor gently and gradually, allowing it to settle properly on the seabed. Pay attention to the water depth and use a scope ratio of 7:1 (7 feet of anchor rode for every foot of water depth) to ensure sufficient holding power.

3. Secure the catamaran by attaching the anchor rode to a cleat or designated anchor attachment point on the boat. Make sure to apply proper tension to prevent excessive movement.

4. When approaching the dock, do so slowly and cautiously, taking into consideration factors such as wind , current , and nearby boats. Use your engines and rudders to maneuver smoothly.

5. Employ appropriate docking techniques based on the type and design of the dock. Consider utilizing spring lines or fenders to assist in securing the boat and protecting the hulls.

Pro-tip: Regularly practicing anchoring and docking maneuvers will improve your skills and give you confidence in handling your catamaran under different conditions. Proper technique and experience will greatly enhance your overall sailing experience.

Safety Gear

When sailing a catamaran, having the right safety gear is crucial. Here are some essential safety gear items for catamaran sailors:

  • Life Jackets: Wear properly fitting and Coast Guard-approved life jackets for everyone onboard.
  • Throwable Devices: Keep easily accessible throwable devices, such as life rings or cushions, for emergencies.
  • EPIRB: An Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) helps rescuers locate you in emergencies.
  • Flares: Carry a set of marine flares to signal for help in low visibility or emergency situations. Check the expiration dates regularly.
  • Fire Extinguishers: Have at least one marine-grade fire extinguisher onboard to quickly put out potential fires.
  • First Aid Kit: Keep a well-stocked first aid kit onboard to treat minor injuries or provide initial care before professional help arrives.
  • Navigation Lights: Ensure your catamaran has properly functioning navigation lights for visibility during low-light conditions.
  • VHF Radio: A VHF marine radio is essential for communication with other vessels and contacting emergency services if needed.
  • Anchor and Rode: Carry a reliable anchor and sufficient anchor rode for safe anchoring when needed.

Remember to familiarize yourself with the operation and use of all safety gear onboard your catamaran to be prepared for unexpected situations.

Basic Sailing Techniques for Catamarans

Mastering the art of sailing a catamaran requires a solid foundation in basic sailing techniques. In this section, we’ll dive into the essential skills you need to navigate the waters with confidence. From understanding points of sail to mastering tacking and jibing , we’ll cover the maneuvers that will enhance your catamaran sailing prowess. We’ll explore the crucial aspects of sail trim and balance , as well as maneuvering in different wind conditions . Get ready to set sail and embrace the thrill of catamaran adventures!

Understanding Points of Sail

Understanding points of sail is crucial for successful catamaran sailing. It refers to the different angles at which a sailboat can sail relative to the wind. Different techniques and adjustments are required for optimal performance based on the point of sail. The main points of sail are:

1. No Sail: When the boat is not under sail and the sails are completely down.

2. Close Hauled: Sailing as close to the wind direction as possible, typically at an angle of 45 degrees or less.

3. Beam Reach: Sailing perpendicular to the wind direction, with the wind coming directly from either side of the boat.

4. Broad Reach: Sailing with the wind coming from behind the boat at an angle.

5. Running: Sailing directly downwind, with the wind coming from directly behind the boat.

To effectively sail a catamaran, it is crucial to understand how to adjust and trim the sails, as well as steer the boat based on the current point of sail. Practice and experience will enhance your proficiency in handling different wind conditions and making the necessary adjustments for optimal speed and performance.

Remember, prioritize safety while sailing. Familiarize yourself with navigation rules, weather patterns, and emergency preparedness to ensure a smooth and enjoyable catamaran sailing experience.

Tacking and Jibing

Tacking and jibing are vital sailing techniques for catamarans . These maneuvers allow you to change direction and navigate effectively. Below are the step-by-step instructions for tacking and jibing:

1. Tacking:

– Direct the catamaran towards the wind until the sails start to luff . – Release the jib sheet and ensure it smoothly crosses the boat, avoiding any entanglement. – Turn the bow of the catamaran into the wind, managing the mainsail as it fills with wind on the opposite side. – Adjust the jib sheet on the new leeward side to capture the wind and maintain speed. – Make any necessary adjustments to the heading and sails to resume your desired course.

– Prepare the catamaran by getting the jib and mainsail ready for the change in direction. – Steer the catamaran away from the wind, ensuring that the mainsail is backed by the wind. – Release the mainsheet and swiftly swing the boom across the cockpit to the opposite side. – Trim the mainsail and jib to harness the wind from the new direction, effectively maintaining control and speed. – Adjust the heading and sails as needed to resume your desired course.

By mastering these techniques, you can skillfully maneuver your catamaran, enhancing the enjoyment and efficiency of your sailing. Always consider the wind direction and adjust your sails accordingly to maintain control and optimize efficiency throughout your journey.

Sail Trim and Balance

Sail trim and balance are crucial for effective catamaran sailing. Proper sail trim ensures optimal performance and speed , while balancing the sails evenly distribute the pressure between them and prevent excessive heeling of the boat . Adjusting the angle, tension, and position of the sails in response to wind conditions is essential for achieving the desired sail trim and balance.

One way to achieve sail trim and balance is by adjusting the position of the traveler , which controls the lateral movement of the mainsail. Moving the traveler to leeward allows the sail to take in more wind, improving the sail trim, while moving it to windward reduces exposure, compensating for gusts or changes in wind direction.

In addition, adjusting the tension of the halyards and sheets can further fine-tune sail trim and balance. By tightening or loosening these lines, you can optimize the shape and curvature of the sails , ultimately improving their performance.

It is important to continuously monitor and make adjustments to sail trim and balance while sailing. Being responsive to changing wind conditions and making timely adjustments will enhance overall performance and ensure a smoother, more enjoyable sailing experience .

Keep in mind that mastering sail trim and balance takes practice and experience . Paying attention to these factors will significantly improve your catamaran sailing abilities.

Maneuvering in Different Wind Conditions

Maneuvering a catamaran in different wind conditions requires specific steps for optimal control and performance. In order to achieve this, it is important to assess the wind direction by observing nearby objects or using a wind indicator. Once the wind direction is determined, adjust the sails based on the wind direction. For downwind sailing, set the mainsail and jib on opposite sides, while for upwind sailing, position the sails closer together.

Next, it is crucial to trim the sails properly to maximize lift and minimize drag. In lighter winds, the sails should be loosened, while in stronger winds, they should be tightened. Using the mainsail traveler to adjust the position of the mainsail sheet can optimize sail shape and control in different wind angles.

To steer the catamaran, adjust the rudder accordingly. Smaller course corrections should be made in light winds, while larger adjustments are necessary in stronger winds.

In gusty conditions, it is important to react to gusts by depowering the sails. This can be done by easing the sheets or heading up into the wind, which helps maintain stability.

It is essential to be aware of wind shifts and make necessary adjustments to the course and sail trim.

Practicing sailing techniques such as tacking , jibing , and sailing close-hauled or downwind can significantly improve proficiency in handling the catamaran in various wind conditions.

By following these steps, catamaran sailors can confidently navigate and maneuver their vessel in different wind conditions, ensuring a safe and enjoyable sailing experience.

Advanced Catamaran Sailing Techniques

Ready to take your catamaran sailing skills to the next level? In this section, we’ll dive into the thrilling world of advanced catamaran sailing techniques . Get ready to learn about the exhilarating art of spinnaker sailing , the adrenaline-pumping experience of flying a hull , the secrets of performance tuning , and the challenges and strategies of handling heavy weather conditions . Brace yourself for an adventure on the high seas as we explore the exciting realm of catamaran sailing like never before.

Spinnaker Sailing

Spinnaker sailing is a vital technique used in catamaran sailing to optimize speed. The spinnaker , a balloon-shaped sail, is strategically flown in front of the boat while sailing downwind. By harnessing the wind from a different direction, the spinnaker empowers the catamaran to sail faster and with greater efficiency.

To set up the spinnaker, the crew skillfully hoists it up the mast using a halyard and securely attaches the corners of the sail to the spinnaker pole . Once elevated, the crew precisely trims the sail by adjusting the sheets , controlling its shape and angle. This requires coordination and expertise as the crew works together to steer the boat and fine-tune the sails for optimal balance and speed.

Maintaining awareness of wind conditions is crucial to adapting the spinnaker and avoiding excessive power or loss of control. Spinnaker sailing significantly enhances the performance of a catamaran, enabling it to achieve remarkable speeds and maximize downwind navigation.

When honing spinnaker sailing skills, it is advised to commence in lighter wind conditions and progressively advance as proficiency accrues. Proper training and diligent practice are imperative for a safe and gratifying sailing experience.

Flying a Hull

Flying a hull is a technique used in catamaran sailing. It involves lifting one hull out of the water, allowing the boat to glide on just one hull while the other remains elevated. This technique, known as flying a hull , is commonly used in high winds and requires practice and experience.

To fly a hull, the sailor must position their weight on the windward hull, leveraging their body weight to lift the hull out of the water. This creates less resistance, increasing the catamaran's speed and performance. It can be an exhilarating experience, as the boat skims across the water.

Flying a hull is not without risks and should only be attempted by experienced sailors. It requires a good understanding of the catamaran's dynamics and stability. Proper sail trim and balance are crucial to maintain control and prevent capsizing.

When flying a hull, be prepared for sudden gusts of wind and rapid changes in boat speed. Constant adjustments to sail trim and weight distribution are necessary for stability and control. Prioritize safety, wear appropriate gear, and always be mindful of your limits and the current conditions. With practice and experience, flying a hull can be a thrilling and rewarding aspect of catamaran sailing.

Performance Tuning

  • Maintain and inspect all systems and equipment regularly. This includes checking rigging tension , inspecting sails for damage, and ensuring proper alignment of rudders and steering system .
  • Clean hull regularly to remove marine growth that can create drag and slow you down.
  • Maximize speed through proper sail trim. Experiment with adjustments to find the perfect balance between power and efficiency. Adjust mainsail and jib sheets to achieve desired sail shape and angle to the wind.
  • Distribute weight evenly throughout the catamaran for stability and performance. Balance passengers , equipment , and supplies evenly on both hulls to prevent unnecessary drag.

Frequent performance tuning will help you get the most out of your catamaran, allowing for faster and more efficient sailing. A well-tuned catamaran can significantly enhance your sailing experience and give you a competitive edge in races.

Fact: Performance tuning can improve catamaran speed by up to 10%, allowing for swift gliding through the water.

Heavy Weather Sailing

In heavy weather sailing, taking proper precautions is crucial to ensure the safety of both the crew and the catamaran. Follow the steps below when sailing in challenging weather conditions:

1. Check the weather forecast: Before heading out, always check the forecast for potential storms or strong winds. This will help you decide if it is safe to sail.

2. Reef the sails: Reduce the exposed sail area in strong winds. Partially furl or lower the sails to maintain control and stability.

3. Ensure proper ballast: Distribute weight in the catamaran to maintain balance and stability. Shift crew members or equipment to the windward side to offset strong gusts.

4. Monitor the sea state: Pay attention to the sea condition and adjust your course accordingly. Avoid large waves or swells that may cause the catamaran to broach or capsize.

5. Have appropriate safety gear: Carry essential safety equipment like life jackets, harnesses, and tethers. Ensure all crew members are familiar with their use.

6. Maintain constant communication: Keep in touch with other boats or shore stations to report your position and receive important updates or warnings.

7. Stay vigilant: Continuously monitor weather and sea conditions, making adjustments as necessary. Be prepared to make quick decisions and react to environmental changes.

To sail a catamaran safely in heavy weather, proper training and experience are important. If you are a beginner or unfamiliar with heavy weather sailing, seek guidance from a qualified instructor. Remember, safety should always be the top priority when facing challenging weather conditions at sea.

Navigation and Safety Tips for Catamaran Sailing

When it comes to sailing a catamaran, navigation and safety are of paramount importance . In this section, we’ll discover essential tips and techniques that will help you navigate channels and obstacles with ease . We’ll also uncover the mysteries of understanding weather patterns for a smoother sailing experience. To ensure safety, we’ll delve into the art of mooring and docking safely . And finally, we’ll touch upon emergency preparedness , equipping you with the knowledge needed to tackle unexpected situations. Let’s set sail and explore the fascinating world of catamaran sailing!

Navigating Channels and Obstacles

When sailing a catamaran and navigating channels and obstacles, it is important to follow certain steps to ensure safety and efficiency.

1. Plan your route: Take the time to study charts and navigation aids, identifying the safest and most efficient route. Pay attention to potential hazards such as sandbars, reefs, or underwater obstructions.

2. Stay within marked channels: Stick to designated channels and be vigilant about watching navigational markers that guide boats safely through the area.

3. Maintain a safe speed: Slow down when navigating through narrow channels or around obstacles to have better control and quicker reactions if needed.

4. Keep a lookout: Assign a crew member the responsibility of actively watching for boats, buoys, and obstructions. Good communication among the crew is crucial in ensuring everyone’s safety.

5. Use navigation aids: Make full use of onboard GPS systems, charts, and radar to accurately determine your position, marker distance, and potential hazards.

6. Communicate with other boaters: In busy channels, it is important to use VHF radio or visual signals to communicate with other boaters, helping to avoid collisions and ensure safe navigation.

7. Be prepared for changing conditions: Keep in mind that channels can be affected by tides, currents, and weather. Stay updated with the latest information and adjust your navigation plan accordingly.

To successfully navigate channels and obstacles, it is important to practice safe and vigilant sailing techniques. Always prioritize the safety of your crew and vessel, and never underestimate the importance of proper navigation.

Understanding Weather Patterns

Understanding weather patterns is crucial for safe and successful catamaran sailing. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Study weather forecasts: Regularly check weather forecasts before your sailing trip. Look for details such as wind speed, wind direction, and any warnings or advisories.
  • Learn about local weather patterns: Different locations have unique weather patterns. Understand the typical wind patterns, temperature changes, and seasonal variations in your sailing area to anticipate potential weather changes.
  • Recognize signs of changing weather: Keep an eye out for signs of changing conditions while on the water. Signs may include darkening clouds, shifting winds, sudden temperature drops, or changes in wave patterns.
  • Be prepared for different weather conditions: Have necessary gear and equipment for various conditions. This includes proper clothing, safety gear, and navigation tools. Prepare for storms, high winds, and other challenging weather situations.
  • Adjust your sailing plans accordingly: Based on the forecast and observations while sailing, make necessary adjustments to your route, timing, and activities. Safety should always be the top priority.

Understanding weather patterns will help you make informed decisions and ensure a safe and enjoyable catamaran sailing experience. Prioritize safety and consult with experienced sailors or local authorities when in doubt. Safe sailing and smooth voyages!

Mooring and Docking Safely

Mooring and docking safely are crucial when sailing a catamaran . Here are the steps to follow:

1. Approach the dock or mooring area carefully, considering wind and current conditions.

2. Assign crew members to handle lines and fenders for a smooth docking process.

3. Use fenders to protect the hulls of the catamaran during mooring and docking safely.

4. First , secure the bow line to prevent the catamaran from drifting away.

5. Attach the stern lines after securing the bow line to ensure mooring and docking safely while keeping the catamaran aligned with the dock or mooring.

6. Communicate with the crew to ensure everyone knows their roles and responsibilities during mooring and docking safely.

7. When leaving the dock or mooring area, untie the lines in reverse order, starting with the stern lines and finishing with the bow line.

Suggestions for mooring and docking safely include:

– Practice docking and maneuvering in different conditions to improve skills.

– Consider using spring lines to control the catamaran’s movement while mooring and docking safely.

– Be mindful of nearby boats, obstacles, and other watercraft to avoid collisions.

– Invest in high-quality lines, fenders, and docking equipment for stability and safety.

– Stay updated with local boating regulations and guidelines for mooring and docking safely in specific areas.

Remember, practicing and having a well-prepared crew can make a significant difference when it comes to mooring and docking safely with a catamaran.

Emergency Preparedness

When catamaran sailing, emergency preparedness is crucial for everyone’s safety. Here are some essential tips for handling emergencies on a catamaran:

  • Always have a well-stocked first aid kit on board, including bandages , antiseptic ointments , and seasickness medication .
  • Have a reliable communication device , like a VHF radio or satellite phone , to call for help in emergencies .
  • Practice regular safety drills with your crew to familiarize them with emergency procedures , including man overboard drills and fire drills .
  • Understand basic navigation techniques and be prepared to use navigational aids, such as GPS or charts , in case of equipment failure .
  • Carry extra safety equipment, like life jackets , flares , and a life raft , for rough weather or if the boat becomes disabled.
  • Keep a strong anchor and anchor line on board to use in case of engine failure or other emergencies that require quick anchoring.
  • Stay updated on weather conditions and be prepared to change course or seek shelter if severe weather is forecasted.
  • Foster good communication and teamwork among your crew to ensure a coordinated response to emergencies and to maintain calm in stressful situations.

By prioritizing emergency preparedness and taking necessary precautions, you can enjoy a safe and enjoyable catamaran sailing experience.

Some Facts About How To Sail A Catamaran:

  • ✅ Understanding a Catamaran: A catamaran is a multi-hulled water vessel with two parallel hulls and sails. Small catamarans, also known as beach catamarans, are the focus of this guide.
  • ✅ Essential Parts of a Catamaran: The essential parts of a catamaran include the hull, tiller, rudder, keel, mast, mainsail, foresail, and boom. Each part plays a crucial role in the catamaran’s operation.
  • ✅ Common Sailing Terminologies: Some important sailing terms to know include point of sail, port, starboard, bow/stern, tack, jib, heeling, windward, leeward, aboard, halyards, and sheets.
  • ✅ Learning How a Small Catamaran Works: The wind is what propels a catamaran. By raising and trimming the sails, you can capture the wind’s power and move the catamaran. The tiller is used to control the rudder and steer the catamaran in your desired direction.
  • ✅ Getting Equipped: Before setting sail, it is important to have the right sailing gear. This includes fitting shoes, sailing gloves, polarized sunglasses, a windbreaker, a logbook, a compass/GPS, a first aid kit, a phone and power bank, and enough food and water.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the advantages of sailing a catamaran over a monohull.

Catamarans offer several advantages over monohulls, including more living space, greater stability, and less likelihood of causing people to fall overboard. Catamarans also have two engines, providing increased safety in case of engine problems.

What is the process for learning to sail a catamaran?

Learning to sail a catamaran requires hands-on experience. Nautilus offers week-long live aboard courses in various locations, providing an intensive course where individuals can gain practical skills. Successful completion of the course earns ASA certification, allowing them to charter catamarans internationally.

What are the essential parts of a small catamaran?

The essential parts of a small catamaran include the hull, tiller, rudder, keel, mast, mainsail, foresail, and boom. Each part plays a crucial role in the catamaran’s operation.

How do I trim the sails on a catamaran?

Trimming the sails involves adjusting their positioning to control the catamaran’s movement. Tighten or loosen the sheets to achieve the desired sail shape and maximize the catamaran’s performance in different wind conditions.

Where can I find top-quality catamarans designed by renowned boat builders?

The Moorings offers exclusive access to top-quality catamarans designed by Robertson & Caine, a renowned South African boat builder. They provide a range of options for sailing vacations and ownership yachts.

Are catamarans safe for offshore sailing?

Catamarans have undergone significant design improvements and are considered safe and stable for offshore sailing. They offer greater stability, duplicate navigation systems, and reduced risk of capsizing. It is still important to adhere to safety protocols and consider weather conditions for a safe voyage.

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