Finding the Right Catamaran for Your Needs


By Bob Marston
Partner, Wellington Yacht Partners

Let’s face it, for a boater there are few things better than spending time on the water with friends and family. If you’re looking for space, liveability and a fun sailing platform, a catamaran may be the right choice for you.

There are essentially two types of sailing catamarans in the cruising market — those with dagger-boards and those with keels. Catamarans with dagger-boards tend to be designed for high-performance (i.e. fast) sailing, whereas those with fixed keels tend to have traditional sailing speeds.

Some of the production high-performance builders to consider are GUNBOAT, CATANA, OUTREMER and H&H. Common fixed-keel catamaran builders include SUN REEF, LAGOON, FOUNTAINE PAJOT, LEOPARD, and PRIVILEGE.

High-performance catamarans get their speed by limiting weight in construction, oftentimes by using high-tech materials like carbon fiber and including high-profile dagger-boards and rudders to assist with lift. They have large sail plans and can attain speeds in the teens, with some of the fastest options – like GUNBOATs – reaching 20-plus knots when pushed. Another advantage of dagger-boards is shallow-water access, as boards can be raised to access anchorages not accessible to keeled hulls. Offshore, this design can have less of a chance of “tripping” in heavy weather by raising the leeward dagger-board. Many owners of high-performance catamarans are good experienced sailors or hire professional crew to help eliminate the learning curve of a high-performance boat.

While fixed-keel cruising catamarans do not have the speed of high-performance catamarans, they do provide a very forgiving and comfortable cruising platform. These models have huge amounts of space for storage and living. Larger models have fly-bridge areas that offer great views while sailing and are an excellent place to relax and look around the anchorage when at rest. The sail plan of a fixed-keel catamaran tends to be a little more conservative, but still pushes the boat at normal sailing yacht speeds – in the range of 7 to 9 knots. While weight is always considered in the design of a catamaran, fixed-keel cats do not tend to have exotic materials such as carbon fiber, so they are less expensive to build and purchase. Other advantages of fixed-keel catamarans are protection of the hull underbody in the case of accidental grounding and more interior space, since dagger-board trunks do not have to be incorporated. It’s also nice to have the ability to block the boat when hauled out of the water on its own keels, whereas some of the performance-style catamarans, with their composite hull structures, require cradles or large blocks of foam for hull support when hauled out.

Throughout the spectrum of cruising catamarans available, there is something for every type of user. We are happy to share our knowledge and talk you through what might be best for your personal needs.