Performance Or Comfort: Choosing Your Catamaran

By David Allouch, Multihull Solutions Tahiti

Performance and comfort: is there a trade-off?

When choosing your catamaran, you’ll be looking at performance, comfort …and price.  To help you with your choice, we’ve taken a look at the recent trends in catamaran construction.

Outremer has announced the participation of 3 of their boat owners in the next Route du Rhum ocean race.  Fountaine Pajot, the 2nd largest catamaran builder, has launched their new range – including the sell-out Astrea 42, with a resolutely sporty look.

Despite this, the last years have seen the disappearance of some of the best-known performance names: Catana, which is now concentrating on their cruising Bali range, and Looping and Freydis which are almost no longer produced.

So what is the future of the performance catamaran? 

For multihulls, the equation is simple: to go faster you need a better sail area to weight ratio and a reduced wetted surface.  Over the last 20 years this rule has been applied and we’ve seen the creation of some impressive-looking and fast boats, still very popular in the pre-owned market: Looping, Freydis, Outremer, Catana.

Next to this, owners of large series cruising catamarans could be forgiven for feeling a little like caravan owners.

But little by little, evidence of what’s important to the blue water cruiser is coming to light.  In a long-distance cruising scenario, one spends much more time at anchor than sailing.

Comfort is important.

Series catamaran yards have filled their boats with ‘indispensable’ equipment: washing machines, freezers, water makers, air conditioning …

With this the frontier has widened between the purists that value sailing, like Francis Joyon’s TS50 capable of doing 400nm in 24 hours, and the majority of sailors that choose comfort at the cost of such impressive performance.

With the financial crises in 2000 and again in 2008, many boat yards were forced out of business.  Those that survived and grew improved their technology and techniques through investment.  The performance equation is still the same, but the market response is different: to go fast, one no longer needs to sacrifice on comfort, but must instead invest in design and technology.  And to sustain this investment, the boat yards that have chosen this route must sell lots of boats on an international scale.  Only the biggest boat yards are able to go in this direction, with the best architects ( VP LPBerret-Racoupeau…), high tech factories and large commercial networks.

To go fast, without sacrificing on the comfort now seen as indispensable, serious investment is necessary:  detailed architecture, high tech materials (carbon), expensive components (lithium batteries).  The results are impressive: Marsaudon TS5Outremer 4X

For the sailor, the choice is no longer between comfort and performance, but rather price and performance 

In the race for performance and comfort, boat builders like Fountaine Pajot boat yard are coming out well.  They offer the comfort expected and are more and more performance oriented: The new 45 announced by the yard at the recent Cannes Boat Show has a weight/sail ratio of 8.75 m2 per tonne and hulls with 10% less resistance compared with her predecessor, the Helia 44 … enough to cross oceans at 9/10 knots and take some fun surfs.

The Outremer 4X is certainly faster, but offers the same livable space as the Astrea 42 and costs almost double … it’s your choice to make!

Contact David Allouch and Nikki Puttergill at Multihull Solutions Tahiti today.  We are available to talk to you about your boat buying project and cruising in French Polynesia!

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