Leaving them all behind..

There are so many debates between owners of traditional keel yachts and multihull sailors about the advantages and disadvantages of each, often heated ?! But when it comes to speed, there is no debating. Multihulls are the hands down winners. So, how fast are catamarans?

The ability to power over the “hump” of the drag curve and into the phase of surfing where the hull starts to “plane” and is released from the restriction of it’s hull speed in displacement mode. It doesn’t really plane as a speed boat does, but it is lifted dynamically, the hulls draw less and start moving across rather than through the water, allowing it to break through it’s theoretical hull speed and achieve speeds that are not possible for a similar length monohull.

And when this starts happening, its FUN! The smiles get bigger, and the boat’s ride becomes soft like you are riding on a cushion. It’s fantastic, I’ve been in some pretty rough seas when I lived aboard TE but when the boat’s speed climbed above ca. 13kts suddenly the ride becomes smooth even in a big sea state, it’s uncanny. The rooster tails begin and you wish the ride wouldn’t end, it’s champaign sailing ?. Sitting up front on the crossbeam you feel like you are flying. These moments when the conditions are right are so worth waiting for!

The picture above is from the deck on Tokyo Express, half way around a 3 leg race off Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays at the end of a race week. After starting on a handicap behind 140 boats, many of them racing keel yachts and many bigger than me. I left even the bigger cats behind, the only boats that crossed the finish line in front of me were the 80+ft racing maxi’s, who also started in front of me. I didn’t have time to get them ?.

Of course not all cats are fast. A heavily loaded cruising cat can be so heavy it is limited by the same laws as a mono. The drag hump is just too high and unless it has an enormous amount of wind the boat can’t get beyond it’s hull speed. Mini keels don’t help either, an effective dagger board(s) is a big part of the equation.

Below is a short clip of some recent footage of Celestial-G3 (ex Tokyo Express), still going strong. Filmed from the cockpit by her owner Malcolm Eaton in Port Philip bay en route to Melbourne, Australia charging along at 16.8kts.