We asked top sailors and marine industry gurus to choose the coolest catamarans and multihulls of all time, here's what they came up with
As with beauty, coolness is in the eye of the beholder. While for some, speed is secondary to function or comfort, inherently any list of coolest catamarans and multihulls is likely to tip towards the high performance designs, whether they are historic trend setters or modern record holders.
We’ve asked a plethora or personalities from the sailing world, from top designers to racer for their thoughts on the coolest catamarans and multihulls. Each selection holds a special place in the heart of one of sailing’s biggest names. Reading about their favourites demonstrates it isn’t always the absolute latest technology that makes some of the boats the coolest catamarans and multihulls out there.
The Coolest Catamarans and Multihulls
Phaedo – MOD 70
“In terms of complexity for speed, there isn’t anything else which has such a good ratio as a MOD 70,” says British pro-sailor Sam Goodchild. “We’ve been over 40 knots [boatspeed] on them, and with Phaedo we used to sail for up to 200 days a year, all around the world, with just two shore crew. We were sailing offshore with just five people, so you’ve got super high performance for relatively easy upkeep.
“We’d be doing the Caribbean regattas against boats like Comanche, they’d have 20-something people on the rail and we had five, doing circles around them! Then we did all the transatlantic races – for me it’s an amazing boat.
Gitana 17 – Ultime
“The Ultimes to me are the most technologically advanced and fastest boats that you can still go offshore with, at incredible speeds and at the same time a robustness and all round performance: 30 knots upwind on the ocean! So I think they are technically the peak of sailing at the moment,” says Co-Owner of The Ocean Race, Johan Salen, who nominates the giant trimaran Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, also known as Gitana 17.
Gitana 17 is a 32m fully foiling trimaran built to a Verdier design to compete in both crewed (by a team of six) and solo races and record attempts. Skippered by Charles Caudrelier, it has won the Rolex Fastnet Race, Transat Jacques Vabre and Brest Atlantiques.
MACIF – Ultime
“This is a boat only a handful of people have ever been aboard but it’s a boat all the cool kids would really love to sail,” says Dee Caffari – the first woman to sail non-stop round the world in both directions.
“It’s the coolest yacht in the world because it’s very, very fast and because François Gabart set the 24-hour record of 851 miles all on his own.
“And he is very cool himself!”
Hydroptère – Speed record breaker
“I thought Hydroptère was the most incredible boat for a long time,” says Vendée Globe solo sailor Pip Hare of the groundbreaking 60ft (18m) foiler. “It was the first flying boat we’d ever seen. It crossed oceans and also was going for the 50-knot record.”
The experimental hydrofoil was the brainchild of skipper, helmsman and project founder Alain Thébault, together with design studio VPLP. It was built on principles Thébault proved as early as the Nineties and launched in 2008 – over a decade decade before the Ultimes evolved into the foiling offshore multihull class we know today.
B&Q Castorama – Round the world record breaker
“For me ‘Moby’, as Ellen MacArthur’s trimaran was known, is one of the coolest yachts,” says top yachting photographer, Thierry Martinez of Ellen’s B&Q Castorama.
“In this photograph Ellen is 100 miles off the finish line at Ushant just before she broke her solo round the world record in 2005. I wasn’t working for Ellen at this time, but I had followed her from the boat’s launch in Sydney to the end of successful broken record.
“The trimaran was extra cool because it had two sides: one blue side with a French sponsor, and an orange side for an English sponsor. To shoot both sides was a challenge.”
USA 17 – 2010 America’s Cup winner
“I’d have loved to sail on the America’s Cup AC72 cats in San Francisco in 2013, they were so invigorating,” says Thomas Coville – one of the world’s most successful ocean racing skippers. “Those boats were when Larry Ellison just let free in the America’s Cup and pushed the limits. But perhaps even cooler was the big trimaran challenger, USA 17 [in 2010]. When you saw the size of the wing and the size of Jimmy Spithill steering the boat, and flying on one hull, I think it was totally amazing.
“We should give a medal to the generation who was on the America’s Cup in San Francisco for creating so many new ideas and new dynamics, but for me the first step of sailing by flying was when those guys arrived with a trimaran with wings. Today we are trying to recreate that kind of a step by foiling around the world.”
Foiling F50 – SailGP‘s foiling catamaran
“Without question the SailGP F50 is the best boat that I have ever sailed,” says America’s Cup skipper, 49er gold medalist and foiling Moth world champion, Nathan Outteridge. “The headline top speeds of over 50 knots are impressive, but there is so much more to these incredible boats.
“The boats are inherently unstable, and so require constant adjustment of the foils to keep them flying at optimum levels. Initially the boats were very hard to sail; the foils are very unstable and not as forgiving as were used in the Bermuda America’s Cup, but with the help of sophisticated computer aided flight controls and user-friendly flight controller hardware the boats are now far easier to sail, which makes for better, closer racing.”
Biscuits Cantreau 2 – Revolutionary trimaran
Biscuits Cantreau 2 was a Formula 40 trimaran designed for Jean Le Cam in 1987. “Formula 40 was a class born in France with a very simple rule for multihulls for offshore racing,” explains Lauriot–Prévost, co-founder of VPLP yacht design. “The boat had to be 40ft long, about 40ft wide, the mast height was 21m, with a sail area of 90m2, and weigh 2.3 tonnes minimum.
“In 1986 the majority of the fleet were catamarans, but we started with a trimaran. For 1987 we sat down with a blank sheet of paper. The challenge was to be at the minimum weight with a trimaran. We wanted to go for a trimaran which sailed like a catamaran, flying a hull. That was really something very new.
“Most trimarans sailed on the main hull, with floats to balance the boat for transverse stability. We had the crew on the windward float, three rudders, and aimed to sail flying a hull. She was faster than all the catamaran fleet, and beat them all.”
Olympus Photo – The original modern multihull
“The late Mike Birch’s Olympus Photo, designed and built by Walter Greene, sits at the root of all modern multis,” says Guillaume Verdier – one of the most talented and successful naval architects of the modern era. “Mike and his boat began the legend of the Route du Rhum and made offshore racing so popular. With his 12m-long yellow trimaran he beat Michel Malinovsky on his 21m (69ft) monohull Kriter in 1978, by less than two minutes – extraordinary considering they didn’t know each other’s position at the time.
“Greene’s design was a cold moulded wooden-epoxy coated boat with small longitudinal stringers. At the time it was a very original way to build boats, developed by the Gougeon brothers.”
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