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Types of Catamaran

History, Brands and Models

Types of Catamaran

Types of catamaran, their uses, size, history, pricing: What is a catamaran? many guests unfamiliar with the yachting world gets surprised when we propose a catamaran charter instead of the standard yachts. These wide beam vessels have a rich history and excellent performance in its various types. This article should shed light on the nature, history, designs, prices, and pros and cons of these exciting vessels.

History of Catamarans

The first origins date back to the Tamil word Kattumaram  (கட்டுமரம்) spoken in South India. According to the Shabdkosh Tamil-Indian dictionary, the Kattumaram is a traditional, indigenous Tamil watercraft used in the Coast of Southern India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.

They are characterized by being made from three to seven tree trunks tied together with fiber lashings and/or tree nails. The Paravar (also known as Bharathar or Bharathakula) are thought of being in ancient times coastal inhabitants, seafarers, maritime traders. The photos below show various ancient catamaran and outrigger boats from Polynesia, South India and Hawaii.

Oceania Outrigger Boats

For more than 3,000 years, many cultures adapted to the maritime lifestyle, crafting what is known in general as outrigger boats. These are watercraft with one or more lateral support floats (outriggers) fastened to the side(s) of the main hull.

Their configuration can be single-outrigger vessels, the ancient double hull (Kattumaram), or double-outrigger (Trimaran) often used in South East Asia. The catamaran vessels of today are the direct descendants of the highly evolved Polynesian sailing canoes.

Double-hulled canoes had two important qualities, good buoyancy and stability, and it is these two qualities that led to the development of the modern catamaran.

Polynesian Voyaging Canoes

Paōpao is the Tonga version of an outrigger canoe, a small Polynesian vessel built out of tree trunks, sometimes Bamboo. It was used primarily for fishing, with space for 2 people.

The Fijians had a vessel called the Drua and the Samoans used the Alia. Some believe that the kalia was a gift from Micronesia. Others believe that the boats came from a mix of Fijian, Samoan, Tongan, and Micronesian construction.

In the late 18th century, the kalia, a double-hull voyaging canoe was built reaching up to 35 meters in length. The hulls were of unequal length with a moveable, single mast. The capacity was believed to be up to 100 men.

paopao model canoe
Paopao model canoe with right side outrigger
Catamaran Types

Catamarans evolved over thousands of years, and today’s models are built of fiberglass or carbon, connecting the twin hulls with a bridge deck, and featuring many comforts and amenities. Sizes can be as small as 30 ft and as long as 145 ft (Hemisphere Yacht).

Most catamarans have twin engines and are easier to dock; you can do a full 360-degree turn on its length. Catamarans are stable because of their multi-hull designs which utilize daggerboards.

They are also faster than most boats, due to the fact that they keep their sails perpendicular to the wind, means they sail faster than monohulls, especially on a run or broad reach. There are catamarans with all different sorts of propulsion systems, designs, and sizes.

The known types of catamarans are:

  • Sailing Catamaran
  • Cruising Catamaran
  • Dual Powered Catamaran
  • Hydrofoil Catamaran
  • Electric & Solar Power Catamaran
  • Racing Catamarans
  • Trimaran

We should consider two main types of catamaran designs: Pontoon: the pontoon is a flattish boat that relies on floats to remain buoyant. These pontoons contain the reserve buoyancy and allow larger deck plans fitted with a variety of accommodations including spacious lounge areas, stand-up bars, and sun pads.

The second one is the small water plane Area Twin Hull (SWATH), a design that minimizes the hull cross section area at sea level. The tides will not affect these types of catamaran as those have vast twin hulls. Its long bridge and hulls are enough to withstand rough sea conditions.

Sailing Catamaran

Sailing catamarans are the classic, wind-powered ones that still provide a truly realistic sailing experience, as opposed to the powered ones. These have no engine and rely solely on wind conditions. The Hobie cats are the closest design to how the ancestral catamarans were used.

The beach-launched Hobie 16 brought the sport to legions of speed-loving sailors. The catamaran’s lightweight, asymmetrical fiberglass hulls provide lift and its dual-trapeze rig lets you and your crew member harness its sheer power.

The ones with narrow hulls and higher bridge deck are faster, so you get speed but less interior space. Regatta and Olympic sailing catamarans are just wind-powered, the Top Cat is a good example.

In a day, the average journey length a sailing catamaran can achieve is up to 300 nautical miles. Sailing enthusiasts will favor a balance between size and speed; pro sailors will go for more speed instead of space.

A balanced model will have no flybridge, a sleeker top design, yet keep plenty of interior space for living areas ( see older Privilege models). Most catamarans sold today favor interior over speed, meaning these types of vessel are primarily for cruising.

Cruising Catamaran

Cruising catamarans are motor yachts, powered by twin engines. These double hulled boats are known for their luxury, featuring well appointed master suites, high end finish and the safety of being engine powered. Most will include a flybridge, ample deck, sun pads and high tech navigation equipment ( see power yacht types). All the brands included in the list here offer cruising catamarans.

Dual powered Catamaran

Dual powered catamarans use wind power, have a sail and feel like true luxury sailing boats. Dual power comes from twin engines located in the aft transoms, separated from the aft cabins by the aft bulkhead. The dual power cats have the advantage of sailing to port if the engine fails, and provide a greater sailing experience.

A good example is the Leopard 42. Some catamarans can be fitted with a wind turbine generator. All wind generators consist of a rotor with aerodynamic blades, an electrical generator, a tail vane to keep the unit facing into the wind, and some type of protection against over speeding in high winds. Nowadays these type of catamarans have taken over the market.

Hydrofoil Catamaran

Sailing hydrofoils are sailboats with foils (wing like) mounted under the hull. As the boat increases speed, the hydrofoils lift the hull up and out  of the water, reducing drag and improving speed performance. Foiling sailing catamarans are used in professional sailboat racing and are among the fastest sailing vessels in the world. 

This allows the boat to exceed wind speed up to three times. Both monohull and multihull sailboats can be retrofitted with hydrofoils; catamaran and trimarans will yield better results because of their wider platforms. The flying Phantom is a good example of these types of catamaran. SailGP’s F50 wing is the first sailing catamaran to hit a top speed of 50 knots in a race. 

Solar Electric Powered

Solar powered yacht Silent Yacht 62
The solar-powered Silent Yacht 62

Electric powered catamarans are already in the market, and boat owners are seeking environmentally friendly options such as solar-powered boats. Among the options there are fully solar and hybrid systems; one big advantage is the quieter, smoother ride without exhaust fumes.

Companies such as Silent Yachts and Soel Yachts are revolutionizing the market with fully solar, eco-friendly electric motor boats. Other brands are joining too, please find the complete list of solar powered yacht manufacturers in this article.

From Sunreef: Electric catamarans provide silent, fume and wake-free cruising, with minimum impact to the environment. Sunreef Yachts Eco fully-electric multi-hulls feature advanced electric engines offering the best of autonomy and performance. Thanks to innovative propulsion system, yachts combine fuel savings, low-maintenance and ultra-silent operation in maximum comfort.

The revolutionary solar panel system on Sunreef Yachts Eco electric catamarans generates more power to operate the home appliances on board. Solar panels can be integrated with composite structures of the boat, such as hull sides, mast, boom and superstructure.

Racing Catamarans
America's Cup Catamarans are super fast

racing catamarans can be smaller and lighter, some which you can fit into a trailer and drive anywhere. Others are very large, and super expensive, like the AC72 class, used in the America’s Cup championship. it was later replaced by the smaller AC50 class. The class allowed hydraulic control of the wingsails and appendages. A good source of information on foilers is the Sail GP website, which explains the physics behind super fast racing boats. this company was founded by Oracle tycoon Larry Ellison, and have given a boost to these type of catamarans and the Olympic-grade sport it represents.

Trimaran
Corsair trimaran 760 types of catamaran
The Corsair 760 Trimaran

A trimaran (or double-outrigger) is a multihull boat that comprises a main hull and two smaller outrigger hulls (or “floats”) which are attached to the main hull with lateral beams. Most modern trimarans are sailing yachts designed for recreation or racing. Corsair trimarans are some of the best trimarans in the market.

The trimaran hull form bridges the gap between monohulls and catamarans. It offers some advantages of both dead weight capability and larger deck area. Primarily, trimarans deliver ship stability in a very power efficient package.

Featured Trimaran

A trimaran we fell in love with is the high performance Rapido 60, considered the world’s fastest cruising multihull. If we had to rate it we’d give it 5 stars in design and specs: it has a LOA of 18.1m(59.3ft) and a beam of 11.7m(38.4ft); the draft is 0/75m (2.5ft) and its light displacement is 10,000kg. 

Headroom is 2.1m(6 ft 9′) which is more than enough. Max load is 10.000kg(26,456 lb) and the mast height above the water is 25.3m (83 ft). The Rapido 60 Trimaran specs are online, just follow the link. I can only imagine to charter one of those fast crafts, and perhaps consider buying one for personal use.

Market Prices

The current market prices for various types of catamarans vary depending on type, size, specs, manufacturer and age. Second hand boats still can be purchased online at a great price point. Catamaran Guru published a great catamaran price comparison article you can use as a reference.

Second hand catamarans can be purchased for as little as US$125,000, plus some renovation costs. A good boat  (top brands ) with minimal work needed will carry a price tag of $200,000 or higher. Check out Catamarans.com to view pricing for all models.

Catamaran price comparison, Mid- 2021
How to Choose a Catamaran
Modern layout of these types of catamaran
Modern catamaran layout showing the luxurious comforts
Catamaran Manufacturers

The list of catamaran manufacturers is extensive, and should be organized for their pricing, purpose, and configuration. We have divided it into the following categories:

Multihull Super Yachts

The list of ultra luxury types of catamaran we published was sourced from an article at Boat International, have a look at the article and photos, and if you have the budget, choose your favorite and give them a call. The video below is a walk through of the super catamaran Royal Falcon One, priced at US$31.7mm, designed by Porsche.

Custom Ordering

Custom ordering your own specs and design can be a great option. In fact, most large super yachts worth millions of dollars are custom order designs. There are many manufacturers of yachts and catamarans in all 4 continents, at all price points. One such example is Balance Catamarans in the United States.

Pros and Cons

The pros and cons of catamarans are important before you decide this is the type of yacht you want, let’s make a list.

Pros:

  • Wider deck space, larger interiors; 1.2 times the space of a monohull.
  • More stable, two hull design that stays level, meaning easier motion and deck access.
  • A longer length overall (LOA) gives you a longer waterline that will help combat big swells, towering seas and high winds better than a smaller one.
  • Wide apart twin propellers, optimizing maneuverability.
  • Can venture into shallow waters, in some cases beached.
  • Cats are more fuel efficient as they don’t drag a large keel through the water.
  • Larger engine room and areas  for generators, storage, batteries and more.
  • Ordering a custom made design based on various types of catamarans can get you your dream boat specs.

Cons:

  • Catamarans take up more space, so docking in marinas is more expensive.
  • Hauling to a dry dock also cost more, and hull maintenance as there are two hulls instead of one.
  • sailing catamarans don’t necessarily sail as well upwind as monohulls because with two hulls, they simply can’t point as high into the wind.
  • People tend to overload  catamarans because of the spaciousness it offers; weight distribution must be even, which is not an issue with monohulls.
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