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Two Hobie catamarans, showing the typical Hobie raised platform joining the two hulls, and tall mast.

A catamaran is a type of sailing vessel, consisting of two hulls joined by a frame.

Catamarans are a relatively recent design of boat for both leisure and sport sailing, although they have been used for many centuries by the Polynesian culture, as essential transport in their island economy. Catamarans have been met by a degree of scepticism from modern sailors, being used to more 'traditional' designs.

Teaching for new sailors is usually carried out in monohulls as they are believed to be easier to learn, for example: catamarans can be harder to tack (turn through the wind) because they are lighter in proportion to their sail size and have less momentum to carry them through the turn when head to wind.

Catamarans, and multihulls in general, are normally faster than single-hull boats for four reasons:

  • each hull of a catamaran is (typically) thinner in cross section than those of monohulls;
  • catamarans are lighter due to the fact there is no keel counterweight.
  • catamarans have a wider beam (the distance from one side of the boat to the other), which makes them more stable and therefore able to carry more sail area per metre of length than an equivalent monohull.
  • the greater stability means that the sail is more likely to stay upright in a gust, drawing more power than a monohull's sail which is more likely to lean over.

All boats sail faster when travelling in certain directions relative to the wind the best speeds typically being achieved when heading away from the wind at about 135 degrees. This effect is much more noticeable with catamarans and it can be more efficient to 'tack' downwind in zig zags, rather than heading directly away from the wind as a monohull would.

Catamarans are especially favourable in coastal waters, where the open spaces permit the boat to reach and maintain its maximum speed. Catamarans make good cruising and long distance boats: The Race[?] (around the world, in 2001) was won by the giant catamaran Club Med skippered by Grant Dalton[?]. It went round the earth in 62 days at an average speed of eighteen knots.

Popular small racing catamarans include:

  • The Hobie cats
  • Dart 15 and 18
  • Tornado, Olympic class racing catamaran.

Catamarans for ferries:

See also: multihull, Dinghy sailing

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