If there’s one thing more exhilarating than going fast in a small boat, it’s going fast in thin water, the way designer Jean-Hubert Pommois and I did aboard his nifty little Astus 20.2 trimaran this past winter. The channel into Miami’s Matheson Hammock Marina is flanked by those same shoal waters that circle much of Biscayne Bay, but sand and weeds are not half so terrifying when your 19-footer draws a mere 10in with the centerboard up.
Then it came time to hoist and unroll the boat’s gennaker, whose continuous-line furler was tacked out on the tip of a retractable bowsprit. A quarter mile from shore the wind was blowing in the mid-teens, and the hissing, arrow-straight wake would have made an F18 sailor proud. Almost immediately our boatspeed shot up from the 6-plus knots we’d been hitting on a close reach to 10 knots with the true wind aft of the beam.
Throughout it all, the boat remained remarkably stable. A development of the Astus 20.1, which splashed in 2005, the 20.2 combines a slightly wider beam with some additional volume in the amas to ensure the ride is steady and without surprises—so long as you don’t mind a little spray.
On the wind, the boat is also both easy and predictable to sail—at least in the relatively flat waters we experienced on Biscayne Bay—with plenty of room for our crew on the cockpit benches and tramps outboard. The owner of our test boat has since reported maxing out at 17 knots with the gennaker up in ideal conditions. Bottom line: this boat is a blast.
Of course, aboard a small boat the devil is often in the details—perhaps even more so than on a boat with a greater displacement and LOA—and the Astus 20.2 excels in this area as well.
In terms of launching and trailerability, the boat folds down into an even narrower width than its predecessor and doing so is simplicity itself, thanks to a simple but effective telescoping design in which the crossbeams slide in and out of a set of offset channels. The rig can also be easily stepped by two people, or even solo with the aid of a gin pole (and a little practice).
With respect to construction, the boat is absolutely rock solid. The standard, or “Leisure” version, is fabricated in polyester laid up by hand, while the “Sport” version is infused in the interest of saving weight—132lb to be specific. (The Sport version, which I sailed, also includes the gennaker, laminated sails as opposed to Dacron, and the aforementioned bowsprit.)
The deck is glued to the hull on an outward-turning flange and glassed over inside to ensure absolute watertight integrity: same thing with the amas. Along these same lines, in no place do either the crossbeams or bowsprit actually pierce the hull, again in the interest of keeping the water outside where it belongs. Hardware throughout aboard our test boat was by Harken. I found the angular lines of the hull and cuddy to be both purposeful-looking and very appealing.
Best of all, in the true French style, for all its zippy performance the Astus 20.2 is also a legitimate cruising boat. A third “Raid” version includes a slightly larger cuddy with seating for four, a small galley and plenty of shelter for beach cruising or camping. The cruising version also includes an offset centerboard to provide even easier access to the cabin, while a small storage bin forward of the mast makes an ideal place to keep a light anchor and rode. Whether you’re interested in racing, cruising or daysailing, it would be hard to find a better little boat.
MHS Winter 2015