I’m not sure what I expected from my daysail on the Happy Cat Hurricane. One thing I do know is that the day didn’t go as planned. The SAIL staff was invited by Alex Caslow from Redbeard Sailing to Gunpowder State Park on Chesapeake Bay near Baltimore. We were to test several models of inflatable catamarans, so I figured I’d get wet, maybe even go for a swim. I also figured the experience would be resonant of the resort craft I’ve sailed in the past: slow, timid and possibly uncomfortable. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The 16ft Hurricane is the flagship of the Happy Cat line built by Grabner of Austria. She’s the Cadillac of the three-boat series, and as I checked her out on the beach, it became clear the last thing I was going to be was bored. Inflatable or not, this is a performance cat in the truest sense of the word.
The Hurricane can carry a crew of four, but just two of us hopped on and took off in a light breeze. There are so many big-boat adjustments on this cat I wasn’t sure where to start. First, we let the centerboard and kickup rudders down. Next, we unfurled the jib and adjusted the traveler. Finally, we checked to see if the rotating mast was functioning as it should. This is no dumbed-down resort cat.
The Happy Cat Hurricane weighs 187lb and packs down into three canvas bags for easy transport. Its large, wave-piercing hulls are constructed of vulcanized rubber with zero PVC, chlorine or toxic plasticizers. (They’re also 100 percent recyclable.) The hulls were designed to provide maximum buoyancy and minimal resistance, making it possible to sail upwind at roughly the true wind speed. The aluminum frame connects to the hulls and trampoline via a set of sleeve inserts, and the 20ft tilt-up carbon mast can be raised by a single person. The headsail flies from a short aluminum sprit.
The square-topped main is fully battened, and together with the furling jib provides 118ft2 of sail area. The mainsheet purchase makes the sail easy to control by hand, even in a blow. Windows in the sails help with visibility. When the wind pipes up you can easily get your weight well outboard with the help of the boat’s hiking straps.
If you know what you’re doing, you can go from car to sailing in 40 minutes. For most of us, it will take an hour. It can be done with only one person, so if you want to sail alone, you can. You can even mount a trolling motor on the boat to further expand your horizons.
Other models in the Happy Cat line include the Evolution (a foot shorter) and the Neo (another foot shorter and nearly 60lb lighter), both built for fun and more affordable. It’s the loaded-up Hurricane that truly takes things up a notch. This is a boat that could easily be sailed as part of a one-design fleet. Fully kitted out, our test boat came in at around $13,500.
The breeze on test day was light initially. However, it slowly but surely increased to around 10 knots, at which point we were zipping around doing 9 knots on a close reach. Since there was more than one of us, we naturally started racing then bumping into one another. Finally, we tied two of the boats together and declared ourselves a trimaran, no fenders necessary. Despite our combined ages, we felt (and acted) like kids. How happy I was to have been so completely wrong about this boat!
LOA 16ft 4in
Beam 7ft 7in
Sail Area 118ft2
SA/D ratio 36 (w/200lb crew)
D/L ratio 40
What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios
Builder Grabner GmbH, Haag, Austria, grabner.com
U.S. Distributor Red Beard Sailing, redbeardsailing.com
Price $10,500 (base) at time of publication