Dubbed the “aluminum octopus” because of its radical appearance, Eric Tabarly’s 68-foot trimaran Pen Duick IV was the forerunner of today’s record-setting ocean-racing multihulls. The boat had to withdraw a few days into its first Observer Single-handed Transatlantic Race (OSTAR) in 1968, but it won the quadrennial event in 1972 in a record 20 days, 13 hours and 15 minutes, with Alain Colas at the helm. Colas went on to sail Pen Duick IV singlehanded around Cape Horn as well. Tragically, Colas and Pen Duick IV were both lost at sea in 1978 during the inaugural Route du Rhum singlehanded race from France to Guadeloupe.
An Innovator’s Innovator
Dick Newick’s multihull designs didn’t just break with convention, they left it standing still. In the late 1960s, Newick created the 40-foot proa Cheers, which finished third in the 1968 OSTAR. (Unlike other sailboats, proas are double-ended and “shunt” back and forth instead of tacking, basically reversing direction rather than turning through the eye of the wind.) Newick’s 51-foot Moxie, pictured with Philip Weld at the helm, won the 1980 OSTAR in a record 17 days, 23 hours and 12 minutes. Newick’s boats, with their curvaceous crossbeams and amas, set new standards in trimaran design and construction.
Before there were kiteboards and boats with hydrofoils, there was Crossbow. Back in the early 1970s this 60-foot proa was the cutting edge in terms of speed. At the 1975 speed trials in Weymouth, England, Crossbow broke the 30-knot barrier with a then incredible speed of 31.1 knots. In 1980, her successor, Crossbow II, a catamaran with a side-by-side “biplane” rig, set a sailing speed record of 36 knots that stood for six years before it was finally toppled by a windsurfer.
It wasn’t that long ago that sailing around the world in 80 days or less was the stuff of dreams. Then in 1994 French sailor Bruno Peyron won the Jules Verne Trophy for the world’s fastest circumnavigation by sailing the 86-foot maxi-catamaran Commodore Explorer around the planet in 79 days, 6 hours and 15 minutes. Under the name Jet Services V, the boat also held the transatlantic record for 13 years, after sailing the 2,880 nautical miles from Ambrose Light to Lizard Point in 7 days, 6 hours and 30 minutes back in 1988.
The Bleeding Edge
Throughout the 1990s and the first few years of the 21st century, ORMA (Ocean Racing Multihull Association) Class 60 trimarans were arguably the most spectacular boats in the world. These boats pushed the envelope—and then some—through the pioneering use of carbon fiber and the development of technologies like canting masts and curved daggerboards. Featuring both shorthanded offshore and fully crewed inshore events, the ORMA grand prix circuit was the place to compete for European professionals. The boats have since been supplanted by 100-foot-plus maxi-trimarans, like current Jules Verne Trophy holder Groupama 3 and transatlantic record holder Banque Populair V.