Tri Hull Boat Models: Specs, Prices, and Competitors Explained

Tri-hull boats, also known as trimarans , have been gaining popularity in the boating world due to their unique design and performance capabilities. These boats come with three hulls, which provide stability, speed, and additional space on the deck compared to traditional monohull boats.

three hulled sailboat

Several manufacturers offer a range of tri-hull boat models designed for different purposes and varying budgets.

As a boating enthusiast, I've noticed an increasing demand for tri-hull boats and have decided to dive deeper into this topic. Throughout my research, I have explored various models, specifications, and price points to understand the key factors that contribute to their performance and how they stack up against their competitors.

From leisurely sailing to high-performance racing, tri-hull boats cater to a wide range of users and preferences.

Key Takeaways

  • Tri-hull boats offer stability, speed, and spacious decks due to their three-hull design
  • Models and specs vary among manufacturers, catering to different budgets and needs
  • Tri-hull boats face competition from other boat types, emphasizing the importance of comparative analysis

Overview of Tri-Hull Boats

History and Evolution

Tri-hull boats emerged in the 1960s as a popular design choice due to their increased stability, more deck space, and smoother ride on the water. They were initially used in smaller recreational boats, but eventually, the design found its way into larger ferries and warships as well 1 .

Basic Design and Structure

As the name suggests, a tri-hull boat features three hulls at its base, providing extra stability compared to other designs like monohulls and catamarans.

The main hull runs down the center of the boat, with two sponsons (smaller hulls) on either side, extending all the way to the bow. These sponsons add buoyancy and width at the bow, increasing the interior volume of the boat 2 .

In essence, a tri-hull boat combines the best features of a deep V-hull with the stability of a tunnel hull design, making it a versatile choice for various boating needs.

Some popular tri-hull boat models include the Farrier F22 Trimaran, which offers speed, compact size, and high-performance in its various series, such as the F-22, F-22S, and F-22R 3 .

three hulled sailboat

Tri-Hull vs Other Hull Types

When comparing tri-hulls to other hull types, there are a few key differences to consider:

  • Stability : Tri-hull boats offer superior stability over monohulls and catamarans due to their three-hull design; this makes them a popular choice for recreation and fishing activities.
  • Deck Space : The tri-hull design offers more deck space compared to other hulls, making it easier to accommodate passengers and gear 4 .
  • Ride Comfort : Thanks to the added buoyancy at the bow, tri-hulls provide a smoother and more comfortable ride on the water, especially in choppy conditions.
  • Speed : While not as fast as some multi-hull designs, tri-hull boats can achieve higher speeds due to their deep V-hull and tunnel hull characteristics.
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Design and Specifications

Hull Design and Materials

The tri-hull boat design features three hulls: a central hull with two outer hulls called sponsons .

Commonly made from fiberglass , these boats offer a unique combination of stability, buoyancy, and good performance.

The use of fiberglass not only adds strength and durability to the hull but also results in a relatively lightweight construction. This allows for better power-to-weight ratio and thus, better overall handling and acceleration capabilities.

Deck and Space Allocation

One of the biggest advantages of tri-hull boats over traditional ones is the extra deck space that the three-hull structure provides.

The wide beam created by the sponsons offers a spacious and stable platform , making these boats an ideal choice for various activities like fishing, cruising, and watersports.

Here are some key features of a tri-hull boat's deck and space allocation:

  • Spacious open deck for easy movement
  • A wide platform that provides stability in various water conditions
  • Ample seating and storage space
  • Room for adding fishing, cruising, and watersports accessories

Performance Factors

When it comes to performance, tri-hull boats offer a unique blend of stability, speed, and power.

Their design allows them to maintain a more level position on the water when picking up speed, which reduces drag and optimizes performance.

Here are some main performance factors to consider for tri-hull boats:

  • Stability : The three-hull design gives a wide base that aids in keeping the boat stable, even in rough water conditions.
  • Speed : Tri-hull boats are generally not as fast as comparable monohull boats; however, they still provide decent speed levels for various activities.
  • Weight : The use of fiberglass in hull construction results in a lightweight boat, thereby increasing the overall power-to-weight ratio.
  • Sailing : Tri-hull sailboats like trimarans provide a stable sailing experience even in stronger winds due to their inherent design.
  • Power : Due to a more level position on the water, tri-hull boats require less power to maintain their speed.

Types of Tri-Hull Boats

Recreational Tri-Hulls

Recreational tri-hull boats are perfect for those who enjoy spending time on the water with family and friends. These boats offer plenty of space for seating, storage, and activities.

Tri-hull pontoon boats are a popular choice for recreational boating due to their stability and spacious decks.

Another option is tri-hull deck boats, which can comfortably accommodate larger groups. These boats are designed for a smooth, stable ride and are great for cruising or water sports.

Fishing Tri-Hulls

For anglers, fishing tri-hull boats are a practical choice. These boats have the extra stability of a tri-hull design, making them ideal for fishing on lakes, rivers, and even coastal waters.

Bass boats, in particular, are popular tri-hull fishing boats, providing a stable platform with ample storage for fishing gear and increased deck space . This design allows fishermen to move around the boat easily while casting and retrieving their lines.

High-Performance Tri-Hulls

For those seeking speed and excitement, high-performance tri-hull boats are the way to go.

One example is the Farrier F22 Trimaran , a versatile, compact sailboat that comes in three series: the F-22, F-22S, and F-22R. These series are categorized as standard, standard premium, and premium models, respectively.

Tri-Hull Boat Models and Specifications

As a fan of tri-hull boats, I appreciate their unique design and stability on the water. Tri-hull boats offer more space and better fuel efficiency compared to similar-sized monohulls.

When it comes to models and specs, there are several notable tri-hull boat options in the market that cater to distinct needs and preferences.

The Farrier F22 Trimaran is a versatile and high-performance boat , available in three series - F-22, F-22S, and F-22R. These are categorized as standard, standard premium, and premium models, respectively. This trimaran is compact and known for its speed, making it an excellent choice for sailing enthusiasts.

One of the popular tri-hull boat manufacturers, Bennington , offers a wide range of pontoon and tritoon boat models. The New 2024 Bennington R Line ranges from 23 to 27 feet in length and 8.5 feet in width.

These boats are highly customizable, with outboard single engine options up to 450 HP, outboard twin engine options up to 600 HP, and an I/O (sterndrive) option up to 430 HP.

Harris Boats is another brand offering stunning tri-hull boat models for 2023. Their Standard package includes two 25" diameter tubes, a full-length keel, reinforced nose cones, rear skin kit, and a 28-gallon fuel tank.

These boats come in varying lengths and are available in different models like Grand Mariner, Solstice, Sunliner, and Cruiser.

A performance-oriented and foldable option is the Corsair Trimaran , which is known for its foldable amas. These boats offer incredible speed and reliability, making them perfect for racing and fast cruising.

Price Analysis

Price Range and Factors

In my research, I found that the price of tri-hull boats can vary significantly based on various factors such as size, model, materials used, and additional features.

For instance, the Farrier F22 Trimaran comes in three series: F-22, F-22S, and F-22R, which the maker categorizes as standard, standard premium, and premium models, respectively.

When it comes to materials, both construction and finishing play a role in determining the price.

Boats made of more advanced materials like fiberglass or carbon fiber tend to be more expensive than those made of aluminum, for example.

Additional features like electronics, sails, and rigging can also impact the final cost.

I also came across the Neel 51 Trimaran , which boasts impressive specifications like a 15.60m (51ft) LOA, 8.9m (29ft 2in) beam, and 1.50m draught. Although the specific price was not mentioned, it's safe to assume that boats like this fall into the higher end of the market.

Cost of Ownership

The overall cost of owning a tri-hull boat goes beyond the initial purchase price. One should also consider the expenses related to maintenance, storage, insurance, and potential repairs due to damage or loss.

  • Maintenance : Similar to other boat types, tri-hull boats require regular upkeep, including cleaning, painting, and engine servicing, to ensure their longevity. These costs will depend on factors like boat size, material, and geographic location.
  • Storage : Storage options for tri-hull boats include marina slips, dry storage, and mooring, with varying prices based on location and the type of storage chosen.
  • Insurance : Boat insurance can help cover potential loss or damage costs. However, the rates will vary depending on the value of the boat, location, and the coverage chosen. To mitigate risk, always remember to adhere to safe boating practices .
  • Repairs : Any damage sustained during regular usage or incidents should be factored into the cost of ownership, as repair costs can accumulate over time.

Comparative Assessment

Tri-Hull Boats vs Competitors

When comparing tri-hull boats with other boat types, it is essential to examine the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Tri-hull boats are known for their stability, spaciousness, and shallow draft, making them a popular choice for recreational and fishing activities.

One popular tri-hull boat model is the Farrier F22 Trimaran , which offers speed and versatility.

In contrast, V-hull boats provide better handling and fuel efficiency but may be limited in terms of deck space.

For instance, pontoon boats offer similar stability to tri-hull boats and a spacious deck but may lack the speed performance of V-hull boats or trimarans. However, pontoon boats are generally more comfortable and suitable for leisure activities.

Comparatively, catamarans and trimarans - both under the multi-hull category - share stability and spaciousness advantages with tri-hull boats.

The Neel 51 Trimaran is an excellent example of a three-hulled yacht that competes in the luxury market segment.

Here's a comparison table to help illustrate the key differences:

Market Positioning

In terms of market positioning, tri-hull boats are generally priced more affordably compared to their multi-hull counterparts like the catamaran or trimaran. This positions them as an attractive choice for budget-conscious buyers looking for stability and space.

Outside of recreational boating, tri-hull boats are popular among anglers, as their stability and spaciousness enable them to carry more equipment and provide a steady platform for fishing.

However, in the luxury market, catamarans and trimarans generally dominate, with options like the Leopard 42 catamaran offering more affordable options and the Neel 51 Trimaran targeting the high-end market segment.

Usage and Functionality

Cruising and Watersports

In my opinion, tri-hull boats are an excellent choice for recreational usage. Their unique design offers more space on the deck than other boats, which is a significant advantage for family outings, fishing trips, and watersports.

The added stability provided by the three hulls also ensures a more comfortable ride, especially for those new to boating.

Top models for these activities include the versatile Farrier F22 Trimaran , which comes in three series: the F-22, F-22S, and F-22R, catering to various preferences and budgets.

One notable aspect of the tri-hull boat is how it planes on the water, lifting the bow out and making the ride smoother. This feature provides a stable platform for fishing and watersports, particularly when you need to be at a standstill or maneuvering at lower speeds.

Commercial and Industrial Use

I have observed that tri-hull boats are not just limited to leisure activities but can also serve commercial and industrial purposes. In fact, these boats are often utilized as ferries in regions like Southeast Asia. Their stability and shallow draft make them well-suited for navigating shallow waters and carrying passengers.

Moreover, various navies around the world have tri-hull warships. These boats offer numerous advantages, including increased speed, reduced hull drag, and a more stable platform for weaponry and crew operations. For instance, the Leopard 42 is a popular tri-hull commercial vessel with impressive specifications, including an LOA of 12.67m, a beam of 7.04m, and a draft of 1.4m.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Performance in Various Waters

A significant advantage of tri-hull boats is their stability in various water conditions. The three hulls at the bottom of the boat provide a wider base, offering excellent balance, especially in choppy waters. However, this design may also result in a wet ride when facing large swells or rough waves, as the wide shape tends to cause water to splash up onto the deck.

In calm waters, tri-hull boats perform quite well, offering a smooth and stable experience for recreational boating, fishing, or water sports. This is primarily due to the center hull, which helps to lift the boat up on a plane, keeping it level as it moves across the water's surface. Nevertheless, tri-hull boats might struggle more in rough, turbulent waters, where their broad profile can lead to decreased agility and increased wobbling.

Comfort and Handling

The unique design of tri-hull boats maximizes the deck space available, making them great options for on-deck socializing, parties, or group activities. The wide beam and three hulls also contribute to a comfortable ride with minimal tilting or rocking, allowing passengers to move around with ease.

Handling-wise, tri-hull boats are generally easy to maneuver, especially at low speeds. However, as with any boat, handling will vary depending on the specific model and its features.

Tri-hull boats tend to have a shallower draft than other types of boats, meaning they can navigate shallow waters more easily. This benefit is most apparent when beaching the boat or maneuvering around tight spots near the shoreline.

On the flip side, when traveling at high speeds, these boats can experience some loss of stability and may struggle to maintain a smooth ride. Due to their wide design, tri-hull boats may have a larger turning radius than other types of boats, such as monohulls or catamarans. As a result, they might not be the best choice for those who prioritize agile handling and responsive control in extremely rough waters.

Innovations and Future Trends

As an avid follower of marine engineering and design, I see several advancements shaping the future of tri-hull boats. Trimarans are becoming increasingly popular due to their unique design, offering greater buoyancy and stability compared to mono-hulls. Innovations in folding systems, hull designs, and flotation materials have made these boats more versatile and appealing to boating enthusiasts.

A key innovation in the tri-hull boat industry is the development of efficient and user-friendly folding systems like those found in the Farrier F22 trimaran. These systems enable the boat to be easily trailered and stored, which is highly convenient for boat owners with limited space.

New hull designs for trimarans, such as flat hulls and tunnels, continue to gain traction as they improve the overall performance and stability of the boat. Tri-hull boats with flat-bottomed outer hulls provide added stability for the vessel and enhance its lifting capabilities on the water surface. Additionally, the tunnels created by the tri-hull design help reduce drag, which leads to increased fuel efficiency and speed.

The use of innovative flotation materials is another aspect that will shape the future of tri-hull boats. Lightweight materials with greater buoyancy are continuously being developed to improve the performance and reduce the overall weight of these boats, as seen in the Neel 51 Trimaran .

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the specifications and price ranges for popular tri-hull boat models?

Popular tri-hull boat models, such as the Farrier F22 Trimaran , come in different series like the F-22, F-22S, and F-22R. These models vary in terms of specifications, with some focused on compactness while others boast high performance. The price range for tri-hull boats can vary significantly depending on the model, size, and features, but generally, they can range from around $20,000 to well over $100,000.

How do tri-hull boats compare with other boat designs in terms of performance and stability?

Tri-hull boats are known for their improved stability, buoyancy, and larger deck space compared to monohulls and catamarans . This is due to their unique design, which features three hulls . The increased width at the bow provides a smoother ride in choppy waters. However, when it comes to speed, tri-hull boats may be slightly slower than their counterparts.

What are the leading manufacturers of tri-hull boats and how do their models differ?

There are several leading manufacturers of tri-hull boats, each offering unique models with different features, designs, and performance levels. Some of the top companies include Farrier Marine, Boston Whaler, and Grady-White. While each manufacturer offers a variety of models, they all focus on providing boats that cater to different boating needs, such as fishing, cruising, or water sports.

Can you list some current market competitors to tri-hull boats?

Tri-hull boats face market competition from other boat designs, such as monohulls, catamarans, and pontoon boats. Each of these alternative designs offers different advantages and drawbacks. For example, monohulls provide better handling in rough waters, while catamarans offer increased speed and fuel efficiency. Pontoon boats, on the other hand, are built for stability and comfort but may lack the speed of tri-hull designs.

How has the tri-hull boat market evolved over the past few years?

The tri-hull boat market has undergone various changes over the past few years, driven by advancements in marine technology and shifting consumer preferences. Advances in hydrodynamic design and construction materials have led to improvements in the performance and fuel efficiency of tri-hull boats. Moreover, manufacturers have also been focusing on incorporating features that cater to consumers' increasing demands for comfort and safety.

What should be considered when purchasing a used tri-hull boat?

When purchasing a used tri-hull boat, there are several factors to consider.

Some of the critical aspects include the boat's overall condition, inspection of the hulls for signs of damage or wear, engine performance, and the condition of the electronics and equipment on board.

Additionally, you should verify the boat's maintenance history, ensuring the previous owner has well-maintained and cared for it.

three hulled sailboat

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  • Trimarans - Exploring the Unique Three-Hulled Sailboat

Have you ever heard of a trimaran? It's a unique type of sailboat with three hulls, and it's quickly becoming one of the most popular sailing vessels out there. Trimarans offer a special kind of sailing experience, combining the stability of a catamaran with the speed and agility of a monohull sailboat. In this article, we'll explore the history, design, and uses of trimarans, and discover why they're quickly becoming the go-to choice for sailing enthusiasts. If you're interested in purchasing a trimaran, you may be wondering about the Florida boat shipping cost . The history of Trimaran sailboats dates back to the early 19th century when they were first developed by the British Royal Navy. Trimarans are unique in that they have three hulls instead of the traditional two-hulled design of most sailboats.

They offer a number of advantages over other boat types, including increased stability in rough waters, faster speeds than monohulls, and a greater range of motion for the captain. However, trimarans come with a number of drawbacks, such as their higher cost and increased vulnerability to damage. One of the most famous trimarans is the US-built 'Defiance', which was designed by naval architect Reuel Parker and first launched in 1887. Defiance was one of the earliest trimarans to be used for recreational sailing, as well as for competitive racing. Defiance remained in service until the early 20th century and was used to set several speed records during its time.

Types of Trimarans

Trimaran construction, sails and rigging, safety considerations, the disadvantages of trimarans.

If one of the hulls is damaged, the entire boat can become unstable and dangerous. This makes them more risky to sail in rough conditions than monohulls. Trimarans are also more complex than monohulls in terms of rigging and sailing. They require more experience and skill to operate, making them better suited for experienced sailors. Finally, trimarans require more crew members due to their larger size and additional sails. Overall, trimarans can be an excellent choice for experienced sailors looking for a unique experience on the water.

The Advantages of Trimarans

This makes them particularly attractive for competitive racing, as they can outpace monohulls in most conditions. Trimarans are also much more maneuverable than other boats, allowing them to quickly turn and change direction. In addition, trimarans offer increased space aboard compared to monohulls. This makes them an excellent choice for recreational sailing, as they provide plenty of room for multiple people and their gear.

Cruising Trimarans

Construction and rigging.

This allows for a lighter and more maneuverable sailing experience. When it comes to rigging and sails, trimarans use the same basic principles as other sailboats. The sails used on trimarans are mainly spinnakers, jibs, mainsails, gennakers, and staysails. In addition, a trimaran needs additional rigging and gear such as halyards, sheets, and running rigging.

Trimarans can also be equipped with additional equipment such as anchors, fenders, and radios. This can help improve safety and performance while sailing. In conclusion, trimarans offer a unique sailing experience due to their three-hull design. They require the same basic rigging and sails as other sailboats, but also have additional needs for extra equipment.

With the right rigging and gear, trimarans can be used for recreational sailing as well as competitive racing events. Trimarans are a unique and exciting type of sailboat that offers some distinct advantages over monohulls. They have three hulls instead of two, and provide greater stability and agility than other boat types. Trimarans are used for both recreational sailing and competitive events, and require more crew members than monohulls.

The construction and rigging of trimarans is also more complex than other boat types, and safety considerations should always be kept in mind. Therefore, if you're looking for a unique sailing experience, a trimaran could be the perfect choice. In conclusion, trimarans offer an exciting and unique sailing experience, with many advantages over traditional monohulls. They are suitable for both recreational sailing and competitive events, but require additional crew members and safety considerations. If you're looking for a unique sailing experience, trimarans could be the perfect choice.

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What is a tri hull boat

What is a Tri-Hull Boat?

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Table of Contents

Last Updated on February 24, 2022 by Boatsetter Team

Boats have three basic hull types; monohull, catamaran, and trimaran. Tri-hull boats are really a hybridization of a trimaran and a monohull boat. The design uses sponsons on either side of the main hull to add buoyancy and width at the bow , which adds interior volume. 

In essence, a tri-hull boat is a deep V hull with sponsons that are part of the main hull that go all the way to the bow in older designs. This gives them the appearance of having three separate hulls, but they don’t. Instead, the front of the boat has three individual bow sections, and the stern is one solid hull from port to starboard .

Even though the hulls are not entirely separate, as they are on many sailing trimarans, tri-hull powerboats have some of their qualities. The hull form offers more buoyancy and space; however, the triple bows tend to pound when driving into a chop on powered tri-hulls.

Popular in the 1970s and 1980s, the only tri-hulls in production today are small fishing boats of less than 18 feet and deck boats. The tri-hull design makes them stable platforms to fish or party. 

What is a Tri-hull?

Richard Cole, a Naval Architect, first designed the tri-hull boat in 1958 while employed with  Thunderbird Boats in Miami.  Also known as a cathedral hull. It was revolutionary. The early design had three distinctive hull forms and a bow as wide as the stern. This hull shape offered more buoyancy and stability than monohull boats . 

It is a single hull boat with sponsons that protrude from the hull. However, a tri-hull does not have three separate hulls. Instead, it has a deep V center hull with three distinct bow sponsons, which blend into one hull as they go aft, providing added buoyancy. 

Today, Tri hulls are used predominately for deck boats. Their wider bows offer added buoyancy and space for extra seating, giving you a large platform that can accommodate many guests. Tri hulls are also stable while anchored and underway, making them comfortable for the non-boating type.

Deck boats still use a tri-hull because they are stable and have a wide bow that offers extra seating space and buoyancy. However, the bow form of many bass boats is a modified tri-hull design. Over the years, boat builders have taken Mr. Coles’s original design and used modern fabrication techniques to perfect what he started. 

What are Tri hulls good for?

Tri-hulls make an excellent platform for deck boats because they are wider in the bow. In addition, the sponsons offer stability, so the boats are stable when sitting still and when underway. In addition, many people use their deck boats as social centers, and a tri-hull offers a very stable platform for your family and friends. 

The tri-hull has also found its way into the hearts of small boat owners. The stability of the hull form makes a great casting platform for anglers. In addition, a few small tri-hulls on the market are less than 18 feet long and economical to get on the water. 

Although most manufacturers have gone to deep V hulls, you can still see the relics of the tri-hull form in the bow of many boats. They have been highly modified since Mr. Cole designed the first tri-hulls. However, boat designers have improved the initial design since it does add buoyancy instead of doing away with it entirely. 

Most boats were still being built from wood in the late 1950s, but construction of boats from fiberglass began in earnest in the 1960s. Mr. Cole created his tri-hull boat designs from this new material, and his tri-hull plans came from a drawing board, not a CAD/CAM program. Imagine what he might have done with a computer and carbon fiber.

Who made tri-hull boats?

The original design of tri hulls tended to pound when driven into the waves, offering a rough, wet ride. In 1970, Richard Cole went to work for  Wellcraft Boats  in Sarasota, Florida, and took his tri-hull design to the next level. When the Wellcraft Airslot went to market, it was an instant success.

With the Airslot concept, Mr. Cole took the outward sponsons of his original design, shortened them, and gave them a more hydrodynamic shape. The result was a line of boats that Wellcraft sold for over two decades.

Skeeter Boats is another company that invested in tri-hull boat design and production in the 1960s. They still produce bass boats, bay boats , and deep V boats built for offshore ventures. If you look at the lines of their current fleet, you will see vestiges of the tri-hull form in the shape of their bows. 

In the 1980s, boat manufacturers found that composites allowed their imaginations to run freely, and hull shapes of today attest to those imaginings. 

What is a Tritoon boat?

Tritoon  is the brand name of a three-hulled pontoon boat. Boats with three distinctive hulls are also called tri hulls or trimarans. The third hull gives the boat the ability to carry more weight and offers more stability. The Tritoon is not the only three-hulled pontoon boat in production. However, it is the original, and has three distinctive hulls (pontoons), is very stable, and can carry quite a load.

Pontoon boats have a reputation as being rather sluggish. However, the Tritoon is the first pontoon boat with the performance of a deck boat. In addition, the third hull and the unique shape of its pontoons allow for the addition of more power than can be used by comparable tri-hull pontoon boats. The added power can get you home quicker when storm clouds gather on the horizon.

What is your boat type?

Whatever your desire to get on the water, a boat is made for you, and finding the right one may take a while. However, if you want to take a group of friends boating with you, a deck boat or Tritoon can carry a crew and enough gear to make a day of it.

Whether you want to buy a new boat and need a way to help pay for maintenance, or you would like to try different types of boats, Boatsetter has you covered . Boat owners list their boats and rent them by the hour and day, bareboat, or with you as the captain at the helm .

If you don’t want the responsibility of boat ownership yet have a desire to get on the water, you can  rent a boat from a boat owner near you . Whatever your choice, getting out on the water makes an ordinary day special.

Brandon Williams

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Wow, that was fast! Why trimarans are SO much fun to sail – and how to do it

  • Theo Stocker
  • February 13, 2024

For their size, trimarans can punch well above their weight in speed, cruising potential and fun. Monohull sailor Theo Stocker gets to grips with how to handle one

Humans tend to gravitate into tribes of like-minded enthusiasts, enjoying the encouragement, support and sense of identity, while often looking askance at others; sailors at motorboaters, cruising sailors at racers, monohull sailors at raft, I mean, multihull sailors, and everyone looks askance at jet-skiers.

Large cruising catamarans (40ft now counts as a small one) are a world apart from monohull sailing, but there’s a sub-tribe of sailors dedicated to life on three hulls and builders such as Dragonfly, Corsair, Farrier, and Astus give them plenty of choice.

I’ve been sailing a 22ft (7m) Astus 22.5 this season, with just enough space for a family of four and a minimum of creature comforts. Thanks to her VPLP-designed hulls and 650kg all-up weight, we can sail upwind at 7-plus knots and downwind at over 10 knots with ease, all on a roughly even keel, while the kids play Duplo down below. It can also be beached and is towable behind a car.

Having, it seems, caught the trimaran bug, I wanted to get better at sailing and handling the boat, but my monohull sailing experience and habits were proving something of a hindrance, so we sought advice from some existing trimaran owners, and well as the UK’s top multihull sailors.

Much of the advice will apply to all multihulls , whether two or three-hulled, while other parts are just for small trimarans. I also found that brushing-up some of my rusty dinghy sailing skills helped get my head around what we were trying to do.

To try out our expert tips we went out sailing to see what difference they made. On the day, we got a solid Force 4-5 southwesterly, averaging 16 knots, but fluctuating between 12 and 20 knots true.

three hulled sailboat

Blasting about on a sporty trimaran is a whole world of fun, but is much calmer than it looks

Trimaran sail trim

One of the biggest differences between a cruising monohull and a multihull is how the mainsail is trimmed. Leech tension on a yacht is often largely controlled by the kicker and the backstay, while the mainsheet sheets the mainsail in and out, predominantly controlling the angle of the boom to the centreline, and there may be a short traveller.

On a mulithull, however, there’s more than enough space for a good, wide traveller. Those who sail on performance monohulls will also be used to this. The sail shape is mainly controlled by the mainsheet, and the traveller then moves the boom towards or away from the centreline.

This is exaggerated on a multihull which has wide shrouds, swept well aft with no backstay, making space for a powerful square-top mainsail with full-length battens. There’s no backstay to bend the mast and flatten what is anyway a pretty rigid mainsail.

three hulled sailboat

The mainsheet purchase creates enough power to control the leech of the square-top mainsail

Depowering a trimaran

Sailing on a monohull, heel and weatherhelm and eventually a broach give loads of warning that you’re pushing too hard. With straight hulls and little heel, those warning signs don’t really apply to multihulls.

In reality, however, there are a host of warning signals that it’s time to back-off; they’re just a bit different. Even then, there’s still a large safety margin before you get close to danger.

By way of reassurance, with the boat powered up on a beat, Hein, from Boats on Wheels, the boat’s owner, stood on the leeward hull and lent on the shrouds. Even as his feet got wet and the wind gusted at the top of Force 4, the boat didn’t bat an eyelid, thanks to the huge buoyancy of the floats.

three hulled sailboat

Even with a person on the leeward float the boat was extremely stable

On the water – sail trim

My first inclination was to point the boat as high upwind as possible, pin the sails in and go for height. Doing that resulted in a not-terrible boat speed of 5-6 knots and a good pointing angle.

Free off by a handful of degrees however, and ease the sails just a smidge, and the speed leapt up to 8-9 knots – over 50% more; a huge increase. So, don’t pinch. If you had a decent chartplotter on board, you could find your optimum speed to angle using velocity made good (VMG).

I was also tempted to pinch in the gusts, but it’s better to hold your course and let the speed increase until the main needs easing.

three hulled sailboat

On the wind, it’s time to get the boat fully powered up

If that’s the case, drop the main down the traveller an inch or two or ease some twist into the mainsail and it makes all the difference in the world, but not so far that the top battens fall away and invert – that really isn’t fast. Push too hard and the boat will slow down, largely from the drag of submerging the leeward float and crossbeams. If you’re still overpowered and the main is luffing, it’s time to reef. Downwind is different, but we’ll get onto that later.

After we put a reef in the main, our boat speeds upwind remained largely the same, and the boat was much happier. I came away feeling reassured that even a little trimaran like this would be pretty difficult to capsize, and there were always plenty of warning signs telling me to take my foot off the pedal a little.

Article continues below…

three hulled sailboat

Catamaran sailing skills: Mooring and anchoring a multihull

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As former editor of Yachting World, David Glenn has plenty of experience of both monohull and multihull cruising. Here he…

Tacking and gybing a trimaran

Everyone knows that multihulls don’t tack as well as monohulls. Straight hulls and wide beam don’t lend themselves to turning, especially when coupled with the displacement and fixed keels of big cats. Trimarans are a little easier, with a single central daggerboard to act as a pivot, and one or other of the floats will generally be clear of the water. On the downside, light displacement means that there isn’t much momentum to keep you going through the turn and plenty of windage to stop you.

three hulled sailboat

On a trimaran the central daggerboard helps the boat to turn by providing a central pivot point that catamarans lack

Speed is your friend. Build speed up before the tack to give you as much momentum as possible. The helm needs to steer positively into and through the turn, and if necessary, keep the jib backed on the new windward side to help the bow through the wind. Don’t worry about scrubbing speed off, but you don’t want to get stuck in irons.

When it comes to gybing, speed is again key. The turning bit isn’t going to be an issue as you’ll be scooting along, but the faster you’re going, the less load there will be on the sails. The more you slow down, the more the true wind will pile up.

Trimaran sailing skills

Tacks took a bit of practice. It felt plain wrong to jab the tiller across the boat, slamming a big break on in the water but I ended up putting us through the tacks far too slowly, losing a lot of speed. A more aggressive approach worked better. On the Astus, the traveller was between me and the tiller, so the tiller extension needed to be swung around the stern behind the mainsheet onto the new side.

Similarly, old habits of controlling a gybe needed to be modified. With the asymmetric set, we were planing at well over 10 knots, and the ideal is to stay on the plane. Heading dead downwind and centring the main lead to a more violent manoeuvre than flying into the gybe as fast as possible and, as the boom was never that far out thanks to the apparent wind angle, it didn’t need much extra controlling.

Coming up onto the wind after the gybe helped the asymmetric around the front of the jib and to fill on the new side. Stay too deep and it’ll get blanketed by the main. Once we had built up some apparent wind, we could bear away again.

three hulled sailboat

You’ll be on a course deep downwind before you know it, hitting speeds in the double digits

Downwind in a trimaran

Upwind cruising may be fun in a multihull, but bearing away and going with the wind is what it’s all about. Easily-driven hulls, a generous sailplan and light weight mean you can be up and planing, leaving displacement boats wallowing in your wake.

The big difference comes from apparent wind. If you’re in a boat that can do 15 knots downwind in 20 knots of true wind, the resulting wind angles can really mess with your head.

To get going then, says Brian Thompson, ‘Use those leech tell-tales again when sailing downwind and reaching to set the correct twist through the mainsheet, and use the traveller to set the correct angle of the whole sail to the wind.’

As the wind and your speed builds, bear away and trim the main accordingly.

In theory, you shouldn’t need to ease the traveller at all, but you may need to if you want to sail deep downwind. As the gust fades, you’ll find the boat slows down, so you can come back up towards the wind a little to pick up some more breeze, and then bear away as you accelerate again.

three hulled sailboat

Bear away as the boat accelerates. Your course will be something of a slalom as you look to keep a consistent wind angle

This results in something of a ‘slalom’ course, and will also be accentuated if you’re sailing down waves, but that’s all quite normal for apparent wind sailing. Ultimately, you’re looking for a consistent apparent wind angle, even if the resulting wake isn’t straight.

It’s worth remembering that apparent wind reduces the felt effect of the wind, so you need a sailplan to suit the true, not apparent wind speed.

I found that the boat was more sensitive to having a balanced sailplan and trim downwind than upwind, largely because you’ve got almost double the canvas up, with the bowsprit as an extra lever. When weather helm built, I needed to ease the mainsheet to increase twist to depower so that I could bear away. I must admit, getting the boat balanced, sailing fast and light on the helm at 15 knots was something I came away feeling I needed more practice at.

Reviewing the images, I suspect the asymmetric was sheeted in too hard, with too much twist in the main.

three hulled sailboat

Getting a float fully submerged is when it’s time to back off

On the water

Unfurling the gennaker worked best on a beam reach, giving plenty of airflow over the sail to help it fully unfurl. This was also roughly the fastest point of sail, ideal for getting up some speed for apparent wind sailing. We mostly had the sails set for a close reach, even when we were beyond 120º off the true wind on a broad reach.

It was possible to soak deeper downwind, but lose the apparent wind benefit downwind and our speed dropped off dramatically, prompting us to point a bit higher to find some more speed.

As the boat powered up, it paid to hold a slightly higher angle than I would have done in a monohull for the boat to properly take off and get up into double digit speeds – topping out at 15 knots. Lymington to Cowes would have taken us just half an hour at that speed. It’s easy to give yourself a heck of a beat back!

We were sailing on a pretty flat day, so didn’t have to contend with any waves to speak of. On the recent RTI this is what caused the capsizes of at least two multis, a sobering reminder that you need to sail much more conservatively in lumpier conditions.

three hulled sailboat

The bows want to point downwind, so a stern-first approach works with rather than against the boat

Coming alongside

A 650kg boat with no draught and plenty of windage feels dreadfully skittish when manoeuvring in confined spaces. Straight hulls with no forgiving curves and fragile-looking sharp bows make berthing tricky. You’ve got a couple of advantages on your side, however. In the Astus, the floats are at pontoon height making stepping off easy.

Whether you have an engine in each hull of a cat, or one in the central hull of a tri, there’s also a lot more leverage to play with to turn the boat and drive her on or off the pontoon. A steerable outboard gives you even more options.

If the boat has a lifting keel or daggerboards, put them down if there’s enough depth to give you a pivot and to resist drifting. Think about getting corners onto the pontoon, rather than putting the boat alongside. On tris, you won’t be able to get to the bow to fend off as it’s too narrow. You can rig a fender up forwards on a line, and two fenders are enough on the flat sides.

three hulled sailboat

Steering with the outboard towards the pontoon will drive the stern in more; steer away to drive the bow in more

Offshore wind

Coming onto the pontoon with wind blowing off, it worked well coming in stern first. If there’s a tide running, you’ll want to be heading into the tide, so find a spot down wind and down tide to start your approach so you come in at an angle.

On our first attempt we had a bit of tide under us to start with so we came in at a much steeper angle, almost 90º, although this worked out OK in the end.

The crew could then step ashore, taking a line from the stern quarter round a cleat.

Drive forwards against the line and the bow will obediently drive up towards the pontoon, bringing you flat alongside. Getting off was simple, releasing the bowline, and allowing the bow to swing out the before slipping the stern line.

three hulled sailboat

Coming in astern and stopping upwind of the berth meant the bows blew towards the pontoon far to quickly

Onshore wind

Getting onto and off a pontoon with onshore wind proved rather trickier. On our first attempt we came in stern first. The issue was that once we were just upwind of our desired berth and stopped, we lost steerage and the bow immediately blew off with alarming speed towards the pontoon.

Going ahead would only increase the force of the impact, while going astern only increased the bow’s sideways drift. I managed to back out without smashing the bow, but only just, and ended up awkwardly stern to the wind with the bows pointing at the pontoon.

On our second attempt we came in bows first but having aimed at the berth, I had to motor the stern to leeward to stop the bow hitting, making for a rather forceful coming alongside.

On take three, I came in forwards and began ferry gliding towards the berth early, keeping the bows to windward of the stern. Being able to steer with the outboard meant I could go ahead to keep the bow up, and go astern with the engine pulling the stern down toward the pontoon. In this way, it was possible to come in pretty well controlled and parallel to the berth.

three hulled sailboat

To get out, motoring astern against a bow line pulled the entire boat clear before slipping the line

Leaving was a different proposition all together, as I didn’t want to drag the bow along the pontoon, or to drive hard onto it to spring off. Instead, we rigged a slip-line from the forward cross beam. Going astern against this, and then turning the engine towards the wind, I could pull the stern, and the rest of the boat, out and away from the pontoon.

Keeping power on astern, once we’d reached a decent angle, we slipped the line and went astern, finding steerage way almost at once, with the bow following obediently in our wake with more control than I had anticipated.

Whether the wind is blowing onto, or off the pontoon, you want the engine to be driving or pulling the boat off the pontoon with a line on the corner you are going away from. That way you avoid point-loading fine ends where it’s hard to fender.

three hulled sailboat

You’ll want a bridle to reduce swinging, but keep the pick up lines on the bow as backup

Anchoring and mooring a trimaran

While mooring a catamaran is complicated by the lack of a central bow, things should be simpler on a trimaran, and they are, mostly. Picking up a mooring buoy from the main hull bow with a low freeboard and dropping the pick-up line onto a cleat is easier even than a monohull.

The bow may be narrow, but for any lines that pass through a ring on the buoy, you still need to take it back to the same cleat to avoid chafe. That should be it, but windage from the two extra bows and the lack of keel mean the boat can dance merrily around the mooring buoy in a breeze.

three hulled sailboat

Rig the bridle so the buoy sits to one side to stabilise the boat

In practice, we found that a trimaran benefits from a mooring bridle in the same way that a catamaran does. It can’t be rigged from the floats’ bows, as there are no mooring cleats, so a line passed around the outboard ends of the forward beams gave a pretty good angle, again with long lines passed through the mooring and back to the same side. The main pick-up lines stay as a safety backup.

The other trick is to rig the bridle asymmetrically so that the buoy sits to one side or the other, just enough to not be dead head to wind, making it much more stable in the wind.

On the plus side, the lack of draught or keel means that you’ll nearly always be lying head to wind, so the cockpit remains nice and sheltered whatever the tide’s doing.

We ran out of time on the day to try anchoring, but rigging a bridle, effectively a long snubber to a point on the anchor chain in a similar way wouldn’t be tricky.

If you needed not to swing, or to behave more like deeper boats nearby, hanging a bucket over the stern can help, or there’s always anchoring with a kedge, either out ahead in a V, or in line astern.

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17 Sailboat Types Explained: How To Recognize Them

Ever wondered what type of sailboat you're looking at? Identifying sailboats isn't hard, you just have to know what to look for. In this article, I'll help you.

Every time I'm around a large number of sailboats, I look around in awe (especially with the bigger ones). I recognize some, but with most of them, I'll have to ask the owner. When they answer, I try to hide my ignorance. The words don't make any sense!

So here's a complete list with pictures of the most common sailboat types today. For each of them, I'll explain exactly where the name comes from, and how you can recognize it easily.

Gaff rigged white schooner

So here's my list of popular sailboat types, explained:

Bermuda sloop, sailing hydrofoil, dutch barge, chinese junk, square-rigged tall ship, in conclusion, how to recognize any sailboat.

Before we get started, I wanted to quickly explain what you should look for when you try to identify a sailboat.

The type of sailboat is always determined by one of these four things:

  • The type of hull
  • The type of keel
  • The number of masts
  • And the type of sails and rig

The hull is the boat's body. There are basically three hull types: monohull, catamaran, and trimaran. Simply said: do I see one hull, two hulls (catamaran) or three hulls (trimaran)? Most sailboats are monohulls.

Next, there is the keel type. The keel is the underwater part of the hull. Mostly, you won't be able to see that, because it's underwater. So we'll leave that for now.

The sail plan

The last factor is the number of masts and the sail plan. The sail plan, simply put, is the number of sails, the type of sails, and how the sails are mounted to the masts (also called rigging ).

Sailboat are mostly named after the sail plan, but occasionally, a sail type is thrown in there as well.

So now we know what to pay attention to, let's go and check out some sailboats!

Row of sailing dinghies in golden hour at the dock

Dinghies are the smallest and most simple sailboats around.

They are your typical training sailboats. Small boats with an open hull, with just one mast and one sail. Perfect for learning the ways of the wind.

On average, they are between 6 and 20 ft long. Mostly sailed single-handed (solo). There's no special rigging, just the mainsail. The mainsail is commonly a Bermuda (triangular) mainsail. Dinghies have a simple rudder stick and no special equipment or rigging.

Dinghies are great for learning how to sail. The smaller the boat, the better you feel the impact of your trim and actions.

How to recognize a sailing dinghy:

  • short (8ft)
  • one Bermuda sail
  • open hull design
  • rudder stick

Common places to spot them: lakes, near docks

Three Bermuda Sloops in bright blue water

If you'd ask a kid to draw a sailboat, she'll most probably draw this one. The Bermuda Sloop is the most popular and most common sailboat type today. You'll definitely recognize this one.

How to recognize a Bermuda Sloop:

  • triangular mainsail (called a Bermuda sail)
  • a foresail (also called the jib)
  • fore-and-aft rigged
  • medium-sized (12 - 50 ft)

Fore-and-aft rigged just means "from front to back". This type of rigging helps to sail upwind.

Any sailboat with one mast and two sails could still be a sloop. Even if the sails are another shape or rigged in another way. For example, here's a gaff-rigged sloop (more on the gaff rig later):

Gaff Rigged Sloop in white in front of coastline with flat

If you want to learn all about sail rigs, check out my full Guide to Understanding Sail Rig Types here. It has good infographics and explains it in more detail

The Bermuda sloop has a lot of advantages over other sailboat types (which is why it's so popular):

  • the Bermuda rig is very maneuverable and pretty fast in almost all conditions
  • it's really versatile
  • you can sail it by yourself without any problems
  • it's a simple setup

Common places to spot a sloop: everywhere. Smaller sloops are more common for inland waters, rivers, and lakes. Medium-sized and large sloops are very popular cruising boats.

Cutter motorsailor against sun in black and white

Cutters have one mast but three or more sails. Most cutters are Bermuda rigged, which means they look a lot like sloops.

How to recognize a cutter:

  • looks like a sloop
  • two or more headsails instead of one
  • commonly one mast
  • sometimes an extra mast with mainsail

Cutters have more sail area, which makes them faster, but also harder to sail single-handed. There's also more strain on the mast and rigging.

Common places to spot a cutter: everywhere. Cutters are very popular for cruising.

They mostly have a Bermuda rig, which means triangular sails. But there are also gaff cutters and naval cutters, and some have two masts.

Here's an example of a two-masted naval cutter with an extra gaff mainsail and top gaff:

Dutch naval cutter with top gaff sail

The Hydrofoil is a pretty new sailboat design. It's a racing sailboat with thin wing foils under the hull. These lift up the hull, out of the water, reducing the displacement to nearly zero. The foils create downforce and keep it from lifting off entirely.

This makes the hydrofoil extremely fast and also impressive.

The hydrofoil refers to the keel type. There are both monohull and multihull hydrofoils.

How to recognize a hydrofoil:

  • it flies above the waterline and has small fins

Common places to spot a hydrofoil: at racing events

Cruising catamaran at dock in blue waters

Famous catamaran: La Vagabonde from Sailing La Vagabonde

A catamaran is a type of cruising and racing multihull sailboat with two hulls. The hulls are always the same size.

Most catamarans have a standard Bermuda rig. The catamaran refers to the hull, so it can have any number of masts, sails, sail types and rig type.

How to recognize a catamaran:

  • any boat with two hulls is called a catamaran

Common places to spot catamarans: coastal waters, The Caribbean, shallow reefs

The advantages of a catamaran: Catamarans heel less than monohulls and are more buoyant. Because of the double hull, they don't need as deep a keel to be stable. They have a smaller displacement, making them faster. They also have a very shallow draft. That's why catamarans are so popular in the Caribbean, where there's lots of shallow water.

Catamarans are nearly impossible to capsize:

"Compared with a monohull, a cruising catamaran sailboat has a high initial resistance to heeling and capsize—a fifty-footer requires four times the force to initiate a capsize than an equivalent monohull." Source: Wikipedia

Trimaran in green-blue waves

How to recognize a trimaran:

  • any boat with three hulls is called a trimaran

Trimarans have three hulls, so it's a multi-hull design. It's mostly a regular monohull with two smaller hulls or floaters on the sides. Some trimarans can be trailered by winching in the auxiliary hulls, like this:

Extended trimaran hull

This makes them very suitable for long-term cruising, but also for regular docking. This is great for crowded areas and small berths, like in the Mediterranean. It sure is more cost-effective than the catamaran (but you also don't have the extra storage and living space!).

Common places to spot Trimarans: mostly popular for long-term cruising, you'll find the trimaran in coastal areas.

Gaff rigged white schooner

Gaffer refers to gaff-rigged, which is the way the sails are rigged. A gaff rig is a rectangular sail with a top pole, or 'spar', which attaches it to the mast. This pole is called the 'gaff'. To hoist the mainsail, you hoist this top spar with a separate halyard. Most gaffers carry additional gaff topsails as well.

Gaff rigs are a bit less versatile than sloops. Because of the gaff, they can have a larger sail area. So they will perform better with downwind points of sail. Upwind, however, they handle less well.

How to recognize a gaffer:

  • sail is rectangular
  • mainsail has a top pole (or spar)

Since a gaffer refers to the rig type, and not the mast configuration or keel type, all sailboats with this kind of rigging can be called 'gaffers'.

Common places to spot a gaffer: Gaffers are popular inland sailboats. It's a more traditional rig, being used recreationally.

White schooner with two headsails

Schooners used to be extremely popular before sloops took over. Schooners are easy to sail but slower than sloops. They handle better than sloops in all comfortable (cruising) points of sail, except for upwind.

How to recognize a schooner:

  • mostly two masts
  • smaller mast in front
  • taller mast in the back
  • fore-and-aft rigged sails
  • gaff-rigged mainsails (spar on top of the sail)

Common places to spot a schooner: coastal marinas, bays

Ketch with maroon sails

How to recognize a ketch:

  • medium-sized (30 ft and up)
  • smaller mast in back
  • taller mast in front
  • both masts have a mainsail

The ketch refers to the sail plan (mast configuration and type of rig). Ketches actually handle really well. The back mast (mizzenmast) powers the hull, giving the skipper more control. Because of the extra mainsail, the ketch has shorter masts. This means less stress on masts and rigging, and less heel.

Common places to spot a ketch: larger marinas, coastal regions

White yawl with two masts and blue spinnaker

How to recognize a yawl:

  • main mast in front
  • much smaller mast in the back
  • back mast doesn't carry a mainsail

The aft mast is called a mizzenmast. Most ketches are gaff-rigged, so they have a spar at the top of the sail. They sometimes carry gaff topsails. They are harder to sail than sloops.

The yawl refers to the sail plan (mast configuration and type of rig).

Common places to spot a yawl: they are not as popular as sloops, and most yawls are vintage sailboat models. You'll find most being used as daysailers on lakes and in bays.

Clipper with leeboards

Dutch Barges are very traditional cargo ships for inland waters. My hometown is literally littered with a very well-known type of barge, the Skutsje. This is a Frisian design with leeboards.

Skutsjes don't have a keel but use leeboards for stability instead, which are the 'swords' or boards on the side of the hull.

How to recognize a Dutch Barge:

  • most barges have one or two masts
  • large, wooden masts
  • leeboards (wooden wings on the side of the hull)
  • mostly gaff-rigged sails (pole on top of the sail, attached to mast)
  • a ducktail transom

three hulled sailboat

The clipper is one of the latest sailboat designs before steam-powered vessels took over. The cutter has a large cargo area for transporting cargo. But they also needed to be fast to compete with steam vessels. It's a large, yet surprisingly fast sailboat model, and is known for its good handling.

This made them good for trade, especially transporting valuable goods like tea or spices.

How to recognize a Clipper:

  • mostly three masts
  • square-rigged sails
  • narrow but long, steel hull

Common places to spot a clipper: inland waters, used as houseboats, but coastal waters as well. There are a lot of clippers on the Frisian Lakes and Waddenzee in The Netherlands (where I live).

Chinese Junk sailboat with red sails

This particular junk is Satu, from the Chesapeake Bay Area.

The Chinese Junk is an ancient type of sailboat. Junks were used to sail to Indonesia and India from the start of the Middle Ages onward (500 AD). The word junk supposedly comes from the Chinese word 'jung', meaning 'floating house'.

How to recognize a Chinese junk:

  • medium-sized (30 - 50 ft)
  • large, flat sails with full-length battens
  • stern (back of the hull) opens up in a high deck
  • mostly two masts (sometimes one)
  • with two mainsails, sails are traditionally maroon
  • lug-rigged sails

The junk has a large sail area. The full-length battens make sure the sails stay flat. It's one of the flattest sails around, which makes it good for downwind courses. This also comes at a cost: the junk doesn't sail as well upwind.

White cat boat with single gaff-rigged sail

The cat rig is a sail plan with most commonly just one mast and one sail, the mainsail.

Most sailing dinghies are cats, but there are also larger boats with this type of sail plan. The picture above is a great example.

How to recognize a cat rig:

  • smaller boats
  • mostly one mast
  • one sail per mast
  • no standing rigging

Cat-rigged refers to the rigging, not the mast configuration or sail type. So you can have cats with a Bermuda sail (called a Bermuda Cat) or gaff-rigged sail (called a Gaff Cat), and so on. There are also Cat Ketches and Cat Schooners, for example. These have two masts.

The important thing to know is: cats have one sail per mast and no standing rigging .

Most typical place to spot Cats: lakes and inland waters

Brig under sail with woodlands

Famous brig: HMS Beagle (Charles Darwin's ship)

A brig was a very popular type of small warship of the U.S. navy during the 19th century. They were used in the American Revolution and other wars with the United Kingdom. They carry 10-18 guns and are relatively fast and maneuverable. They required less crew than a square-rigged ship.

How to recognize a brig:

  • square-rigged foremast
  • mainmast square-rigged or square-rigged and gaff-rigged

three hulled sailboat

How to recognize a tall ship:

  • three or four masts
  • square sails with a pole across the top
  • multiple square sails on each mast
  • a lot of lines and rigging

Square-rigged ships, or tall ships, are what we think of when we think of pirate ships. Now, most pirate ships weren't actually tall ships, but they come from around the same period. They used to be built from wood, but more modern tall ships are nearly always steel.

Tall ships have three or four masts and square sails which are square-rigged. That means they are attached to the masts with yards.

We have the tall ship races every four years, where dozens of tall ships meet and race just offshore.

Most common place to spot Tall Ships: Museums, special events, open ocean

Trabaccolo with large yellow sails

This is a bonus type since it is not very common anymore. As far as I know, there's only one left.

The Trabaccolo is a small cargo ship used in the Adriatic Sea. It has lug sails. A lug rig is a rectangular sail, but on a long pole or yard that runs fore-and-aft. It was a popular Venetian sailboat used for trade.

The name comes from the Italian word trabacca , which means tent, referring to the sails.

How to recognize a Trabaccolo:

  • wide and short hull
  • sails look like a tent

Most common place to spot Trabaccolo's: the Marine Museum of Cesenatico has a fully restored Trabaccolo.

So, there you have it. Now you know what to look for, and how to recognize the most common sailboat types easily. Next time you encounter a magnificent sailboat, you'll know what it's called - or where to find out quickly.

Pinterest image for 17 Sailboat Types Explained: How To Recognize Them

I loved this article. I had no idea there were so many kinds of sailboats.

i have a large sailing boat about 28ft. that im having a difficult time identifying. it was my fathers & unfortunately hes passed away now. any helpful information would be appreciated.

Jorge Eusali Castro Archbold

I find a saleboat boat but i can find the módem…os registré out off bru’x, and the saleboat name is TADCOZ, can you tell me who to go about this matter in getting info.thank con voz your time…

Leave a comment

You may also like, guide to understanding sail rig types (with pictures).

There are a lot of different sail rig types and it can be difficult to remember what's what. So I've come up with a system. Let me explain it in this article.

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Everything You Need To Know About The Tri-Hull Boat

Boats come in all shapes and sizes. From V-hull boats, pontoon boats, flatboats, and bass boats. However, have you ever heard of the tri-hull boat?

Similar to other boats, a tri-hull contains the typical ‘V’ hull button, however, it also has two additional hulls on either side.

Due to this particular design, these boats have greater stability than other ‘V’–bottomed boats. Although, since there is an increase in the bow’s surface area; it makes for a rougher ride on choppy water.

This tri-hull boat design is most common in boats ranging between 10 to 12 feet in length – with shorter boats taking advantage of the design’s stability. These small, dinghy still boats are typically used by recreational fishermen on peaceful lakes.

With all this in mind, this article will be exploring everything you need to know about tri-hull boats: the advantages, the disadvantages, and why they may not be as popular as they once were.

Let’s get straight into it.

Tri-Hull Boat

If you’re unfamiliar with the world of boating, then you may be surprised to know that some boats contain two hulls, such as the catamarans, let alone three! While you may believe this to be overkill, it is a popular design choice when it comes to boats.

Essentially, tri-bulls boats are the same as ‘V’-hulled boats, although they constrain two additional hulls on either side of the middle ‘V’ hull. If you’re looking directly at a tri-hull boat, you’ll notice that the bottom is shaped like an ‘M’.

This design enhances the stability of the boat. Although, as previously mentioned, due to the bow’s larger surface area; it makes for a rougher ride on choppy conditionals.

The boat’s smaller, dinghy design makes it more suitable for lakes – ranging between 10 to 12 feet in length.

Tri-hull boats are also commonly referred to as Tunnel and Cathedral hull boats and are very popular among sport boat enthusiasts and recreational anglers. The design of the boats makes them more stable and buoyant which allows them to get on planes quicker.

Although, at greater speeds, these boats are more prone to pound when encountering choppy water conditions. Therefore, making it unsuitable for non-flat water. On the other hand, they’re ideal for placid lakes and calm bays.

Additional Description Of Tri-Hull Boats

As their name suggests, these boats are known as tri-hulls for containing three hulls located at the bottom of the boat.

The original designs were based on the traditional double-outrigger hull watercraft found in East Indonesia and the Philippines and can be found in other cultures such as the Austeroesian parts of Southeast Asia.

Tri-hull boats are also known as trimarans. Typically, these are constructed for sports and tournament use, as well as fishing and recreational boating (see also our guide to converting a Jon boat to a bass boat ). Many years ago, the design of these boats was also used when building ferries and warships.

The combination of later developments and modern technology has vastly improved the design of the tri-hull boats, enhancing their buoyancy, performance, and speed.

As a whole, these boats are known as multi-hulls boats, found in the same category as the catamaran and tri-hull pontoon boats.

Tunnel Hull Boats

They are also sometimes known as tunnel hull boats since when running on the water, these boats form large tunnels at their bottoms. They are extremely similar to V-hulled boats, although they constrain a more pronounced bottom shape.

Due to the boat’s particular hull design, less contact is made with the water, producing less drag and more buoyancy. This makes them faster than traditional sailing boats with the original hull design.

As they contain three hulls at the bottom, these boats generally have more deck space. Moreover, boaters can expect improved stability with these boats.

Advantages Of Tri-Hull Boats

Tri-hull boats contain many different advantages that you won’t be able to receive from conventional hull boat designs. Below, you will find some advantages of tri-hulled boats:

About The Tri-Hull Boat

They Sail Faster

As opposed to typical boats that only contain one hull, these boats contain three. This ensures even distribution across the three hulls as opposed to just one.

Compared to more conventional boats, the hulls found on tri-hull boats are higher up from the water.

This ensures that most of the boat remains above water, which, in turn, reduces the amount of drag.

Therefore, allowing the boat to go faster than more traditional boats. The tri-hull designs ensure that less force is used to cut through the waves, providing a more seamless and fast approach.

The Sail Flatter

The boat’s three-hull design ensures that the boat sails flatter. Even when making turns, the boat won’t heel. In sea conditions that would sometimes make a monohull boat roll, the tri-hull boat will remain flat.

They Have Greater Stability

Tri-hull boats are known for their flat and wide hulls. This means that they have enhanced stability. When boarding a traditional boat, you may have noticed a slight wobble; however, you don’t have to worry about this with tri-hull boats.

As a matter of fact, you could walk around the entire perimeter of the tri-hull deck and you won’t experience any tipsy or wobbling movements. This enhanced stability benefits pleasure boaters, skiers, and weekend fishers.

They Won’t Sink Easily

Unlike conventional one-hull boats, the three hulls located on a tri-hull boat are lined with floatation materials, such as closed-cell foam.

This ensures that if the tri-hull boat were to be flipped, it wouldn’t sink as easily as other mono-hull boats.

They Have More Space

When compared with other boats, tri-hulls provide more deck space. Naturally, this is the result of containing three hulls at the bottom of the boat.

Consequently, this design made them a trendy boat in the 60s.

Moreover, the design was also utilized by the government to build large ferries and warships at the time.

They Have Greater Buoyancy

On the deck of a tri-hull boat, you’ll notice a greater buoyancy when compared with other boats.

This is chiefly due to the middle hull; providing up to 90% of the boat’s buoyancy. Whereas the two opposite hulls on either side ensure the boat’s stability.

The narrow and long middle hull provides two functions: get the boats onto the plane much faster than other boats and keep the boat afloat. If you were to step on the metal, the tri-hull boat would zoom past and quickly reach the plane.

Ensuring that the boat reaches the planning or plane is a task. When revving the engine, the boat will either level on the water or go up on the plane. When traveling on top of the place of the water, you’ll notice the boat’s bow lifted above the water.

They Are Cheaper To Own and Operate

On a whole, these boats are generally cheaper to own and operate. While they may contain a different hull design, they are much cheaper than boats that are around the same size.

Likewise, as opposed to other hull designs, tri-hull boats require much less power to operate, which means you will need less fuel, too.

They Weigh Less But Can Carry More

As opposed to larger boats, these tri-hulls contain a smaller cross-deck. This ensures that they don’t need many supporting structures in order to make up the structural integrity.

Consequently, they are able to carry or hold more weight while simultaneously weight much less than boats containing a singular hull.

Disadvantages Of Tri-Hull Boats

While the tri-hull boat may be incredibly buoyant and stable, it still has its share of disadvantages. In the next section, we will be exploring all the disadvantages of the tri-hull boat. Here are the main disadvantages:

Wet When Running

When the boat is running, you may experience some showers, to say the least.

Therefore, if you’re anywhere near the upwind side, then make sure to pack your raincoat. Each time the hulls are slapped hard on the water, you’ll receive more than a little spray when standing on the deck.

Not Great For Fishing

While tri-hulls may offer the required stability for barbecues or parties on the deck, some believe them to be not fishing-friendly.

On the other hand, others believe a tri-hull fishing boat to be perfect for an angling platform, especially when used with families and small children.

They Are Not Ideal In Choppy Water Conditions

Tri-hull boats aren’t ideal for use in choppy water conditions – no matter the speed. Although, the pounding can be minimized when running at ‘bow high’.

Although, having said that, you should remember that once you are out of calm water, the boat will shift to and fro – making those with sea sickness wish they were on land rather than out at sea.

Not Great For Open Waters

Unfortunately, in the open sea, tri-hulls don’t fare well. Typically, they will offer a choppy ride that will frequently get those on board extremely wet.

As a result, this is chiefly the reason most tri-hulls, especially smaller ones, are used on rivers and calm lakes.

Why Are Tri-Hulls No Longer Popular?

In the 1960s, tri-hulls were extremely popular; however, this is not the case today. By the 1980s, these boats began to lose their popularity, and quickly.

You may be wondering why this happened. Well, there are a few different reasons why this happened. In this section, we’ll explore some of the reasons why the tri-hull boat has depleted in popularity since the 1960s.

Their Incredible Buoyancy Was Their Unmaking

While tri-hulls are incredibly buoyant on flat, calm waters, this couldn’t be considered the same when on choppy waters.

Once moved away from sheltered waters into exposed and open choppy waters, you’ll experience a bob and wobble along every slight wave you may encounter on your tri-hull.

Their narrow and long center hulls allow these boats to float on top of the water. This ensures an extremely comfortable ride along peaceful and calm waters, however, it’s a completely different experience on rough and choppy waters.

With every large wave that comes your way, the tri-hull will bob and wobble on the water. Over the years, the constant up and down motion becomes unbearable to many tri-hull owners. Therefore, opting for more comfortable boats.

They Have Been Over-Modified

Over the years, the traditional design of the tri-hull boat had been heavily modified and altered to become a multifunctional boat. This resulted in the loss of the original tri-hull design which people had begun to know and love.

Consequently, a newer and more modern tri-hull design replaced the original – which was unwelcomed by many.

The wet ride is another reason why tri-hulls aren’t as popular as they used to be. If you’re looking to ride in rough conditions, then you should be prepared to get extremely wet.

Consequently, for this reason, many people tend to avoid tri-hull boats, since it doesn’t make for much of a pleasurable boating experience.

Since these boats aren’t V-hulled, they aren’t able to cut through the waves effectively. When hit by powerful waves, the water slams against the amas or on the two outriggers on either side of the boat which results in a spray all over the boat’s deck.

To prevent this from happening, boating manufacturers modified the tri-hull design. Therefore, rather than having rigid amas, they installed foldable ones to ensure a better experience when fared with rougher waves.

Due to this modification, the tri-hulls can easily be modified into a monohull or V-shaped hull. However, this also resulted in the loss of the classic tri-hull design.

The Unmasking of Tri-Hull’s Limitation

The exposure of the tri-hulls’ potential limitations inherently influenced the boat’s future marketability.

If you’re a boating enthusiast, you would be made aware of the tri-hulls underperformance in rough and choppy waters. Therefore, interest in these boats dispersed and eventually disappeared over the years.

Anglers and pleasure boaters don’t want to be limited to only one type of water condition: calm, flat water. Thus, they want a boat that will allow them to explore and enjoy the ocean.

Hence, investing in a boat that is only limited to calm waters could be seen as a losing proposition for many.

Not Worth The Investment

The cost of a boat can sometimes be comparable to the cost of a house. Therefore, it’s an investment that requires careful deliberation and thought.

Hence, investing in a boat that is only capable of riding on smooth, calm waters, wouldn’t be considered making the most out of your money to some people.

Final Thoughts

Essentially, a tri-hull boat can be described as containing a traditional ‘V’ hull, although with two additional hulls on either side. When compared with other ‘V’-bottomed boats, the tri-hull has greater stability in its design.

However, since they have a larger surface area located on the bow section, it creates an unfavorable boating experience on choppy and rough waters. Hence, the reason why they lost popularity in the 1980s.

Hopefully, this guide has informed you on everything you need to know about tri-hull boats.

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Clue: Three-hulled sailboats

Referring crossword puzzle answers, likely related crossword puzzle clues.

  • Three-hulled boat

Recent usage in crossword puzzles:

  • Universal Crossword - Oct. 4, 2019

Nomadic Sailing

The Definitive Guide to Sailboat Hull Types


If you’ve ever been on a sailboat or any kind of boat, one of the first parts of the boat you saw was its hull and you might not have even known it.

Simply put, the hull is the bottom part of a boat that rides in and on top of the water. When a sailboat is underwater, it’s accompanied by the keel and the rudder.

Just like knowing the different types of sails , knowing the hull type on your sailboat means you’ll have a better understanding of how your boat operates while it’s out on the water.

All in all, the hull of any boat is meant to keep the boat afloat and to ensure minimum resistance against the water while being propelled forward. Now let’s dive into the different sailboat hull types and even some other types of hulls in boats in general!

Main Sailboat Hull Types

There are two main hull types that we’ll be looking at that encompass the many other types of hulls that vary from these two main types.

Depending on the type of boat you have, you’ll be floating around with one or the other. We’ll take a look at what you can expect if your boat has either of these hull types.

Displacement Hulls

The most common sailboat hull type you’ll find out there is the displacement hull, which is very effective at pushing the water aside and powering through it during forward propulsion.

A displacement hull is often found not only on sailboats, but also fishing, freight, cruise, and other larger boats.

All boats that have a displacement hull will be limited in their speed based on the waterline length of the hull. Regardless of how much power you use, whether it’s from the wind or motor, the maximum speed can’t be increased.

This is why you’ll see people mention the waterline length of a boat’s hull when putting them on the market to sell.

The big advantage of having a displacement hull is that they require far less power to get moving across the water compared to the other main hull type; the planing hull.

What this means is that your boat will be able to cruise for a long time with the same amount of energy, which also allows you to carry more items on board.

Planing Hulls

It’s almost guaranteed that your sailboat won’t have a planing hull since they’re most commonly found on powerboats and personal watercrafts (PWCs), like jet skis.

Planing hulls allow the boat to lift itself out of the water, reducing drag and increasing the speed of the boat.

Almost any boat that’s equipped with a planing hull will be able to attain a speed much greater than a boat with a displacement boat.

The main reason for this is the lift that’s produced when traveling at high speeds which reduces drag on the water.

The maximum speed of a boat with a planing hull is dependent on the horsepower of the engine and how much of the hull can be removed from the water while still cruising.

The biggest advantage of having a planing hull is that your boat will be able to pick up speed quickly and reach a greater maximum speed.

This allows for shorter journey times. However, there needs to be a source of all that energy, which comes directly from a combustion engine. The faster a boat with a planing hull goes, the larger the cost of fuel will be.

How Planing Works

The way planing works is actually pretty interesting, so I thought I’d dive into it a bit. Even though a sailboat is virtually guaranteed not to have one, it’s always nice to know how other boats operate while out on the water.

1. Displacement

Before a boat with a planing hull actually planes, it starts out acting like a displacement hull.

As a matter of fact, a boat with a planing hull needs to reach a certain speed before it starts to produce lift. Before that happens, it’s essentially a displacement hull.

While a boat with a planing hull is picking up speed and lifting itself out of the water, it’s in a plowing mode.

You’ll know when a boat is in plowing mode when the bow of the boat is elevated and the boat is throwing a relatively large wake. The goal, however, is to move from plowing mode to planing mode, which requires further acceleration.

Once the boat with a planing hull reaches a certain speed, it’ll leave plowing mode and enter planing mode.

As I already described, planing is when the hull is gliding across the water with a smaller amount of the hull dragging in the water when compared to the previous modes. Different boats will start planing when reaching different speeds.

Common Sailboat Hull Styles

Now that we’ve gone over the two main types of hulls you’ll find in sailboats and other types of boats, we have a good foundation for the hull styles you’ll commonly see when out on the water.

There are three main hull styles that you’ll see quite often, so let’s take a look at those.

three hulled sailboat

By far the most common hull style you’ll see on sailboats is the monohull, which is simply a single hull.

Traditionally, a sailboat will have a monohull and they can be found all over the place. It’s probably the style of hull that comes to most peoples’ mind when imagining a sailboat.

Monohulls on sailboats are virtually all displacement hulls. As we went over previously, this allows your sailboat to cruise for long stretches and has a greater efficiency compared to planing hulls.

However, most boats that exist on planet earth are monohulls, including powerboats, which can also be of the planing hull type.

When it comes to a monohull on a sailboat, the only way it can keep its stability is to have a proper keel attached to it.

A keel is a wing-like object that sticks out of the bottom of the hull in the water and provides a sailboat with ballast for stability. It’s important to understand how a keel works when operating a sailboat with a monohull since it’s one of the main reasons a sailboat can move forward without tipping.

three hulled sailboat

There are certainly a lot of monohull sailboats out there, but there’s no doubt that you’ll also see your fair share of catamarans.

Catamarans are sailboats with two hulls and operate quite differently than their monohull cousin. Catamarans are known to be fast and are likely to outrun most monohull sailboats.

Unlike monohull sailboats, catamarans can be fitted with displacement hulls as well as planing hulls. However, even if they have a planing hull they can still produce a relatively good amount of cruising time and do so rather efficiently.

Catamarans are a bit different than monohulls in the sense that they can reach greater speeds. There are several reasons for this. For one, a catamaran doesn’t need a ballast for stability since the broad stance between the two hulls provides enough stability.

This means there’s no need for a large, heavy keel. Second, they’re often built out of lightweight materials that allow the boat to reach a higher maximum speed compared to heavier sailboats.

Also, if a catamaran has a planing hull, it’ll have the ability to produce lift resulting in reduced drag on the water and even greater speeds.

Unfortunately, catamarans do have the disadvantage of being more likely to capsize in unwanted high-wind situations.

Also, it’s very difficult for a catamaran to recover from capsizing as opposed to a monohull sailboat that has a good ballast from its keel.

three hulled sailboat

You might have already guessed from the name, but I’ll state the obvious anyway. A trimaran is exactly like a catamaran but with three hulls instead of two.

Often times you’ll see a trimaran look like a monohull sailboat with a pair of hulls attached to its side.

Similar to a catamaran, trimarans can hit speeds much greater than your average monohull sailboat. As a matter of fact, they’re known to be “unsinkable” under the situation that the hulls on the port and starboard side of the central hull are completely filled up with water.

One of the coolest aspects of having a trimaran is that when it has a planing hull and/or a hydrofoil, the trimaran’s central hull will lift completely out of the water.

This gives it the effect that it’s floating across the air, which is the result of lift produced from the planing hull or a hydrofoil. It’s very cool to see this!

Sailboat Hull Bottoms

Apart from the main boat hull styles, like the monohull, catamaran, and trimaran, there are hull bottoms that pop up in the world of boating that can differ in style and function.

These hull bottoms are more of a deeper look at the hulls of a monohull, catamaran, or trimaran, so you can think of them more as a feature of any of the previously mentioned styles of hull.

Flat Bottom

three hulled sailboat

A very common hull bottom for boats that are derived from the planing hull type is a flat bottom hull.

The flat bottom hull is considered to be one of the less stable styles of hulls, especially when confronted with rough waters.

However, you’ll often find them on boats that don’t necessarily ride in these situations, including fishing or taxi areas.

  • Good for small lakes and rivers due to having a shallow draft.
  • Able to hit relatively high speeds once entering planing mode.


  • Not good at handling choppy waters resulting in a rough ride.

Round Bottom

three hulled sailboat

When it comes to sailboats, you’re most likely going to run into monohull sailboats that have a displacement style hull with a round bottom.

While these are the most common hull bottom for sailboats, they can also be found on smaller boats that are used for fishing, canoeing, and other similar kinds of boats.

  • Easily moves through the water due to being a displacement hull type.
  • When accompanied by a keel, it produces a great amount of stability from the ballast.
  • Without a keel, it can roll when entering and exiting the boat as well as when waves are present.
  • Less maneuverable compared to other hull styles.

Deep ‘V’ Bottom

three hulled sailboat

If you’re operating a powerboat, then in all likeliness your boat has a planing hull with a deep ‘V’ bottom.

Since deep ‘V’ bottoms are found on planing hulls, these types of boats will be able to pick up speed quickly and at high maximums. This is the most common setup for powerboats out on the water.

This is the most common type of powerboat hull. This hull type allows boats to move through rough water at higher speeds and they provide a smoother ride than other hull types.

  • Provides a smooth ride compared to its flat bottom rival.
  • Good at handling rough water.
  • Requires more power to plane compared to its flat bottom rival.
  • Cannot handle sharp turns very well resulting in potential rolling or banking.

Multi-Chine Bottom

We took a good look at multi-hull styles like the catamaran and the trimaran earlier, which are the exact style of hulls that have a multi-chine bottom.

A multi-chine bottom is a great example of a displacement hull on either a catamaran or trimaran as it’s the most common bottom you’ll find.

  • In a multi-hull boat, it has a great amount of stability due to its wide beam.
  • In a multi-hull boat, it needs a large area when either tacking or jibing.

Main Parts of a Sailboat Hull

There’s some terminology I threw around while describing the many types of hulls a sailboat and other types of boats have.

As is the case with a lot of activities, learning the terminology is just something you have to do.

Thankfully, the terminology will eventually sink in overtime and eventually you’ll be able to ring off any hull terminology that comes up.

The bow is simply the most forward part of a sailboat and, thus, the very front of the hull.

The stern, conversely to the bow, is the most backward part of a sailboat and, thus, the very end of the hull.

The port side of a hull is the left side. I always remember this with the phrase “I left my port on the table”, with the port being wine.

This just so happens to also be the side where boats will have a red light turned on at night, which is the color of port wine.

The starboard side of a hull is on the right side.

Opposite the port side, in the evening boats will have a green light turned on and will be located on the starboard side of the boat.

Fore is a sailor’s way of saying “forward”.

Aft is a sailor’s way of saying “back”.

A transom is the aft-most (see what I did there?) section of the boat that connects the port and starboard sections of the boat.

The flare of a hull is where the hull starts to form a large angle the closer the hull gets to the deck.

The waterline is the line around the hull where the water touches when under a normal load.

Waterline Length

The waterline length, once referred to as the Load Waterline Length (LWL), is the length of the hull where the waterline is located.

This is not the entire length of the boat.

Length Overall (LOA)

The length overall (LOA) is, you guessed it, the overall length of the boat. This is measured from the tip of the bow to the end of the stern.

The freeboard is the space on the hull of a boat above the waterline and below the deck.

The draft is the length from the bottom-most part of a boat (the tip of the keel on a sailboat) and the waterline.

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three hulled sailboat

Crossword Genius

Three-hulled sailing boat (8)


I believe the answer is:

(Other definitions for trimaran that I've seen before include "Three-hulled vessel" , "Ocean vessel with three hulls side by side" , "Sailing vessel" , "Three-hulled boat" , "Three-hulled craft" .)

Orcas have attacked and sunk another boat in Europe — and experts warn there could be more attacks soon

A group of orcas known to attack boats in southwest Europe have sunk a 50-foot sailing yacht in the Strait of Gibraltar after ripping open its hull. It is the fifth time these killer whales have sent a ship to the seafloor in the last three years.

An orca swimming next to a small orange boat

Orcas that have been terrorizing boats in southwest Europe have just sank their fifth yacht in three years. And experts have warned that more attacks are likely in the coming months after the orcas unexpectedly switched up their behavior earlier this year.

On Sunday (May 12), an unknown number of orcas ( Orcinus orca ) attacked the 49-foot-long (15 meters) sailing yacht named the Alboran Cognac in the Strait of Gibraltar — a narrow body of water between southern Spain and North Africa that separates the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. During the attack, which began at around 9 a.m. local time, the killer whales repeatedly rammed the boat's hull and rudder, Reuters reported . 

The yacht's two-person crew radioed for help and was rescued by a passing oil tanker. But the vessel's hull sustained serious damage during the attack and the yacht began to take on water, which eventually caused it to sink, Reuters reported.

The attack was likely carried out by a growing number of individuals from the Iberian subpopulation of orcas — a group of around 40 killer whales that live off the coasts of Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Gibraltar — that have been attacking boats across their range since 2020. 

Most of the attacks occur between May and August each year in and around the Strait of Gibraltar. However, earlier this year, some of the highly social apex predators were spotted circling a boat in northern Spain , suggesting they have spread out much further and earlier than normal.

As a result, the Spanish authorities have warned recreational boaters to avoid sailing too far from the coast and to not stop their vessels if they are approached by orcas, according to a translated statement from Spain's Maritime Safety and Rescue Society.

Related: Orcas are learning terrifying new behaviors. Are they getting smarter?

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A group of orcas swinmming near a sailing yacht

Since the attacks started in 2020, sailors have reported around 700 interactions with orcas in the area, ranging from circling and nudging vessels to ramming, ripping apart and sinking boats, Reuters reported.

The most recent sinking event prior to this one occurred on Halloween last year when a pod of orcas sank a sailing yacht in the Strait of Gibraltar after a near hour-long attack . Before then, at least three other boats were sunk in the region between 2022 and early 2023. However, no humans have been injured or killed.

During attacks, the orcas' most common tactic is to damage or rip off the vessel's rudder , which makes it impossible to steer the vehicles. Researchers believe this is a learned behavior, and eye-witnesses have previously reported seeing individuals seemingly teach other orcas how to do this . As a result, the number of attacks has increased over the last few years.

A juvenile orca swims away from the yacht with a large piece of fiberglass from the rudder in its mouth.

— 11 ways orcas show their terrifying intelligence

— How often do orcas attack humans?

— How orcas gained their 'killer' reputation

So far, at least 15 individuals have been linked to at least one attack in the region. But researchers believe the attacks can be traced back to a single female, named White Gladis, who may have been pregnant when she started harassing the boats. However, it is unclear exactly what sparked the attacks.

There has even been a suggestion that the behavior has spread beyond the Iberian population after an orca similarly attacked a boat in Scotland in 2023. However, this was an isolated incident, which makes it hard to link it to the Iberian attacks.

Harry Baker

Harry is a U.K.-based senior staff writer at Live Science. He studied marine biology at the University of Exeter before training to become a journalist. He covers a wide range of topics including space exploration, planetary science, space weather, climate change, animal behavior, evolution and paleontology. His feature on the upcoming solar maximum was shortlisted in the "top scoop" category at the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) Awards for Excellence in 2023. 

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three hulled sailboat

Hit-and-run boat that killed Florida teen ballerina may have been found. What we know

Reward of up to $20,000 in the hit-and-run boat case of ella adler has been offered for information leading to an arrest..

three hulled sailboat

UPDATE: FWC officers have identified a boat that matches the description. The owner is cooperating.

Authorities may have found the boat that struck and killed a teen girl waterskiing off the coast in South Florida on Saturday, May 11, according to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission .

Officials said Ella Riley Adler, 15, a ballerina with the Miami Ballet, was being towed behind a yacht near the Nixon Beach Sandbar in Biscayne Bay when she fell into the water and was struck by another boat. The boat sped off to the west.

"I am pleased to report that we have a vessel in custody that matches the description given by witnesses and the investigation is ongoing,” said FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto. “As a father and grandfather, my heart is broken for the Adler family. Ella’s death is devastating for her family, friends and the community at large. The FWC and our partner law enforcement agencies will not stop until we have all the answers and the case is solved.”

The vessel is in custody and its owner is cooperating with the investigation, the FWC said in a release.

The boat was described in the initial FWC release as a center console boat with a light blue hull, three or four white outboard engines and possibly blue or dark blue bottom paint.

Investigators said it was unclear if the driver of the boat knew she was there or was hit.

Witnesses or anyone with video footage or information should contact the FWC at 888-404-FWCC or 888-404-3922 or Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS or 305-471-8477.

A total reward of up to $20,000 — $10,000 from Adler's family and a combined $10,000 from FWC and Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers — is being offered for information that leads to an arrest and successful prosecution of the driver of the hit-and-run boat incident.

Who is Ella Riley Adler of Florida?

Ella Adler was a freshman at Ransom Everglades School in Coconut Grove and a ballerina with the Miami City Ballet. She is the granddaughter of Michael M. Adler, the current U.S. Ambassador to Belgium , according to the Miami Herald .

"We are heartbroken," the school said in a Facebook post Monday morning. "Ella Adler '27 shined in our classrooms and on our stages, and she embodied the mission of Ransom Everglades School. We wish peace and comfort to her family."

Adler appeared in more than 100 performances with the Miami Ballet, including "The Nutcracker," according to her obituary . In school, she performed on the dance team, acted in the school play "Chicago" and was a member of the Ransom Everglades Jewish Students Association.

Miami City Ballet praised Adler in a statement: “Ella Adler was not just a beloved student and a magnificent dancer who graced our stage in George Balanchine’s 'The Nutcracker,' she was an integral part of our family, radiating potential and promise whose kindness, warmth, and infectious joy were known to all.“

"You were taken from us way too soon, and the world has been robbed of all the things you could have achieved," her father, Matthew, wrote in a letter read during a funeral service at Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach on Monday, the Miami Herald reported . "But you will always be here with us and your friends and family will carry your energy and spirit forever.”

Adler is survived by her parents Amanda and Matthew, her brother Jaden, and her sister Adalynn, grandparents Judy and Ambassador Michael M. Adler, and Susan and Michael Klaiman, along with several aunts, uncles and cousins.

What happened in the boating death of Ella Adler?

At about 4:30 p.m. Saturday, May 11, (the day before Mother's Day) by the Nixon Beach Sandbar in Biscayne Bay near Miami, the 15-year-old dancer had been waterskiing behind a gray yacht and was being towed when she fell into the water. She was wearing a life jacket and had a board still attached to her feet, an FWC official told NBC6 in Miami .

A witness said the boat did not appear to swerve or slow down when it hit the girl. The yacht towing her immediately spun around back to where she was and began broadcasting distress calls, the witness told NBC6.

Where was Ella Adler killed? Where is Nixon Beach Sandbar in Florida?

The Nixon Beach Sandbar is located in Biscayne Bay, Florida, west of Hurricane Harbor near Miami.

It's a popular destination for recreational boaters and fishing for its white sands and clear shallow waters, and it "turns into a wild party spot every weekend" full of yachts and catamarans, according to the boating site .

The area was named for former president Richard M. Nixon, who owned a home overlooking the water nearby.

Natalie Neysa Alund, USA TODAY, contributed to this story.

Orcas have sunk another vessel off the European coast. Why won't they stop ramming boats?

Ocean Race

The orcas are at it again: for the seventh time in four years, a pod of whales has sunk a boat after ramming it in Moroccan waters off the Strait of Gibraltar. 

The 15 metre-long yacht Alborán Cognac, which carried two people, encountered the highly social apex predators at 9am local time on Sunday, Spain's maritime rescue service said.

The passengers reported feeling sudden blows to the hull and rudder before water started to seep into the sailboat. It is not known how many orcas were involved.

After alerting rescue services, a nearby oil tanker took them onboard and carried them to Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on Spain's southern coast.

Nothing could be done to save the sailboat, which drifted and eventually sank. 

It's the latest incident in what has become a trend of hundreds of interactions between orcas and boats since the "disruptive behaviour" was first reported in the region in May 2020. 

The origin of this new behaviour has baffled scientists, though the leading theory suggests this "social fad" began as a playful manifestation of the whales' curiosity.

Where have orcas interacted with boats?

The latest data from the Atlantic Orca Working Group (GTOA), an organisation that contributes to the animals' conservation and management, shows that there have been at least 673 interactions since 2020. 

GTOA defines interactions as instances when orcas react to the presence of approaching boats with or without physical contact. 

The map below shows the highest numbers of encounters from April to May 2024 took place off Spain's southern coast in the Strait of Gibraltar (red zones), with some lesser activity in surrounding areas (yellow zones). 

Orca encounters

A 2022 peer-reviewed study published in the Marine Mammal Science journal found the orcas in these areas preferred interacting with sailboats — both monohulls (72 per cent) and catamarans (14 per cent) — with an average length of 12 metres.

A clear pattern emerged of orcas striking their rudders, while sometimes also scraping the hulls with their teeth. Such attacks often snapped the rudder, leaving the boat unable to navigate.

"The animals bumped, pushed and turned the boats," the authors of the report said. 

Adding this week's encounter, there have been seven reported cases of orcas damaging a boat so badly that it has sunk, though the people onboard were rescued safely each time.

In June 2023, a run-in with the giant mammals in the Strait of Gibraltar forced the crew competing in The Ocean Race to drop its sails and raise a clatter in an attempt to scare the approaching orcas off. 

No-one was injured, but Team JAJO skipper Jelmer van Beek said that it had been a "scary moment".

"Three orcas came straight at us and started hitting the rudders," he said.

"Impressive to see the orcas, beautiful animals, but also a dangerous moment for us as a team ... Luckily, after a few attacks, they went away."

After analysing 179 videos and photos of these types of interactions, which lasted on average 40 minutes, researchers concluded there was no reason to classify the events as intentionally hostile behaviour.

"The behaviour of orcas when interacting with boats is not identified as aggressive," they said.

"One of their main motivations has been identified as competition with boats for speed."

Still, the researchers of the study admitted they were not sure what triggered the novel behaviour in 2020.

"We are not yet certain what the origin of these interactions is, but it is still suspected that it could be a curious and playful behaviour," they wrote.

"[The behaviour] could be self-induced, or on the other hand it could be a behaviour induced by an aversive incident and therefore a precautionary behaviour."

Are the same orcas responsible for these incidents?

Out of around 49 orcas living in the Strait of Gibraltar, GTOA researchers found a total of 15 whales  from at least three different communities participated in the unusual interactions with boats between 2020 and 2022.

Most of those that engaged with greater intensity were juveniles, though it's unclear if others have since joined the group.

These giant mammals, which belong to the dolphin family, can measure up to eight metres and weigh up to six tonnes as adults.

The director of the Orca Behaviour Institute, Monika Wieland Shields, has said there is no evidence to prove the theory these whales were seeking vengeance against humans for a past trauma.

"While I'm sure it feels like an attack for the people on board, for the whales themselves, it really looks more like play behaviour," she said.

"There's something intriguing or entertaining to them about this [boat rudder] mechanism and they're just showing a lot of curiosity about it."

Ms Wieland said it's likely this new behaviour spread through the population as a kind of "social fad".

"Orcas are highly intelligent, very social animals, and with that comes a tendency to be curious about and explore your environment," she said.

"One thing that we see are these kind of fad behaviours that will appear in a certain population.

"One whale discovers something, they find it entertaining or interesting, or fun — it's some type of game. And then they will teach that to other members of their family group."

Are orcas dangerous to humans?

While orcas have earned their fearsome reputation for preying on other marine animals, there is no record of them killing humans in the wild. 

In captivity, orcas have killed four people since the 1990s, though it's unclear whether the deaths were accidental or deliberate attempts to cause harm.  

Ms Shields said she was worried the recent interactions between orcas and boats would skew people's perceptions of these mammals.

"I am concerned that people are going to react with fear, potentially injure or shoot at some of these whales," Ms Shields said.

"We really need to educate boaters about the best things that they can do to make themselves less attractive to the whales and the best case scenario would be the whales lose interest in this and move onto something less destructive."

Spain's Transport Ministry advises that whenever boats observe any changes in the behaviour of orcas — such as in their direction or speed — they should leave the area as soon as possible and avoid further disturbance to the animals.

The ministry also states every interaction between a ship and an orca must be reported to authorities.

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UPDATE: Man found floating along Washington waterfront boat dock identified

WASHINGTON, N.C. (WITN) - An Eastern Carolina police department has identified a body that was found floating near a dock Monday morning.

The City of Washington Director of Police and Fire Services for Stacy Drakeford confirmed to WITN that Gary Upton Jr., 54, was the man found along the Washington Waterfront Docks.

Drakeford says officers and fire crews were called around 6:30 a.m. to the city boat docks. WITN is told Upton was pronounced dead at the scene.

Tom Marchisello, a dockmaster at Washington Waterfront Docks, says police and fire crews pulled the man’s body from the water around 8:30 a.m.

“His boat is the blue sailboat, blue hull sailboat there, and he had a dingy on board. Now we have not found the dingy, but the body they found,” explained Marchisello. ‘They’re still looking for the dingy, and they’re trying to find out exactly what happened.”

Officials say foul play is not suspected.

Copyright 2024 WITN. All rights reserved.

Minges Bottling Group overturns, closing portion of Highway 11 Tuesday morning.

NEW DETAILS: Highway 11 reopens in Lenoir County after big Pepsi spill

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three hulled sailboat

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