Catamaran vs. Monohull: Which Is Better? One Thing Is There Are More of Them

Catamaran vs. Monohull: Which Is Better? One Thing Is There Are More of Them

Discovery 50: CW 2011 Best Catamaran and Import Boat of the Year. Photo by Billy Black.


Catamarans are gaining ground on traditional monohulled boats in a number of ways. As a traditional monohull fan, I'm not happy. For one thing, sailing magazines are taking away editorial space, photo opportunities and pages away from monohull coverage. The June issue of Cruising World is a catamaran special.

The America's Cup has suddenly become uninteresting with mega-Cats with airplane wings for sails careening over the water, unless, of course, there's too much or too little wind for their captain's Goldilocks-just-right wind conditions. Curious and concerned about this trend, I wrote to the editor of Cruising World, Mark Phillsbury, asking him about the growth of cats. He was kind enough to send back a detailed and considered response. See our email exhange below.

Dear Mark,

I have enjoyed Cruising World for many years going back to my days at Golf Digest when the NYT owned the magazine. I have a question about catamarans. Why are we seeing so much of them in the magazine? Is the world changing?

As a monohull boat owner (Cape Dory 270), I get no thrill from reading or seeing cats in the magazine. Part of the wonder of sailing is the beauty of a boat under sail. You don't get that sense of wonder with a cat which looks more to me like a floating condo.

Can cat and monohull owners can be best served within the pages of the same publication? Do you think the current compromise is serving both markets well?  I'd be interested in your thoughts as well as your answers to my questions.

Many thanks,

David Lott
Founder & Publisher
WaterViewHome Network

Hi David,

The reason you’re seeing more catamarans in the magazine these days is because more people are sailing them. It’s that simple. On the new boat front, it’s the segment of the market where sales continue to grow, meaning they are gaining sailors and owners and market share with each passing season.

In the Caribbean, the charter fleets really reflect this trend. The reason is pretty simple: they’re very comfortable vacationing platforms, don’t heel (the non-sailors love this), and some of the newer ones are actually quite fun to sail. And you’re hearing this from a lifelong monohull, antique 12-meter, Alden Schooner lover.

A month or so ago I was sailing on Sydney Harbor when a front came through with 40-knots on the deck. We were on a Seawind catamaran having a spirited ride while all around us the monos had rails and cabins in the water and crews scrambling to get their sails down and engines started.

Since CW does not cover racing, the fact that the America's Cup will use them is really not an issue. But, personally I think the level of excitement they’ll provide the sport will be a very, very good thing. Do I love to see the afore mentioned Gleam and Northern Light trade tacks on a summer afternoon here in Newport? You betcha, but man its fun, too, watching a bunch of AC Cats with their wing sails crash around the buoys like a swarm of mosquitoes. And then there’s the high-speed crash and burn factor...

At this point in the evolution of Cats, I’d guess we’re about circa 1965-1970 or so in the debate over wood vs. fiberglass. I well recall the days when the woodies looked with great disdain at anything plastic. Fast forward to present and the craftiest of the craftsmen are working in wood-based composites and building some very untraditional looking boats.

And now the glass guys with the old boats made to look like wood are trashing the tubby-sterned “marina queens.” The same is happening with cats. Maybe the older ones truly were dogs to look at, but the more I see some of the higher-end designs like the Gunboats, some of Morrelli and Melvin’s latest creations, etc., the more I ‘m finding they have their good looks, too. Different, but good.

CW does still run one Cat issue a year, but because our readers, or perhaps more importantly, our contributors are increasingly out exploring the world on two hulls, they really have made their way into the mainstream and find their way into just plain good old sailing stories.

And Maine! Cats are even finding homes in those quaint rock-strewn harbors Down East. In fact, with harbor and dock space at a premium (and sometimes a impediment to owning a boat), cats are an emerging alternative since they can be moored or tied up in much shallower water than a monohull with keel.

Here at CW, where I had the new-boat beat and Boat of the Year for a few go-rounds, I had to forego my preference for the Bristol 40s and Morris Yachts, and appreciate the fact that there are people out their who love their big white production boats just as much.

It’s the same with cats. If people like them and two hulls will get them out on the water, who is CW to tell them they’re wrong? It would be like me telling you that you shouldn’t enjoy a slightly dated, overly built boat with a full keel, even though she is a beaut!

Mark Pillsbury
Editor, Cruising World Magazine


Read More Cat vs Monohull debates: from Boatsafe, from BayYacht.

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