Something has happened to the Strictly Sail component of the Miami International Boat Show over the last five years. Each February, I’ve seen a drop in the number of monohulls and an increase in the number and variety of multihulls. This year, I twice attempted to count the number of catamarans; each time I was distracted and lost track somewhere around the mid-20s. Granted, there were a few brokerage boats in there, but it was an impressive turnout nevertheless, with plenty of new models amongst the evergreens.
The undisputed queen of the show was the Sunreef 82Houbara, three levels of sumptuous living in, between and above a pair of appropriately gold-colored hulls. In little more than 10 years this Polish company has come from nothing to become one of the world’s premier builders of luxury catamarans. The yard is based in the Gdansk shipyard, birthplace of the Solidarity movement that toppled the communist regime in Poland, and Lech Walesa himself was in attendance at Miami.
Houbara, first of the yard’s Double Deck models, is very impressive. Although she is an owner’s version, not intended for charter, there are quarters for seven guests plus three crew. As you’d expect, everything is super-sized, and it would be hard to conceive of a more comfortable ocean-crossing sailing boat. I was especially taken with the Jacuzzi in the owner’s suite, complete with a border of potted plants, and the dumbwaiter in which the crew can dispatch snacks from the galley below to the wet bar on the main level.
From gold to silver…and the TAG 60, a multinational multihull designed by a New Zealander and built in South Africa. Its gleaming silver topsides and voluptuous curves combined with some unusual and innovative design features to make this the most technically advanced catamaran at Miami. Just about everything is hydraulically controlled, including the sheets and daggerboards. Load sensors and inclinometers linked to the onboard computer can be programmed to sound an alarm and automatically ease the traveler, mainsheet and jib sheet when loads exceed a figure determined by the skipper, or if the boat exceeds a certain heel angle.
The deck and accommodations layouts are just as unusual. The boat is sailed from identical cockpits on either hull, with all controls duplicated. The galley and saloon are very spacious—there is even a breakfast bar in the U-shaped galley, and the saloon will easily seat a dozen people on leather couches. As for the staterooms, they’re tailored to the owner’s preferences; after the jacuzzi on board the Sunreef 82 I thought I’d seen enough decadence, and I wasn’t prepared for the fully fitted sauna on the TAG 60…
Tied up a respectful distance away, the Leopard 58 had an imposing physical presence of its own. The charter version of this boat, the Moorings 5800, debuted at the US Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland, last fall, where its six-cabin layout left a lasting impression on yours truly. Two of those cabins were on the bridgedeck, which still had scads of room for cooking, dining and relaxing; with these cabins gone the resulting open space runs the length and width of the bridgedeck. It’s large, luxurious and comfortable, with near-panoramic views through the hull ports and the windows—they’re too big to be called portlights—forward and aft.
If the saloon was impressive, the upper level was even more so. Yes, you sail the boat from here, but it’s also going to be party central. There’s plenty of space for sunbathing, along with a pair of comfy settees, a dining table, a wet bar and a grill. Boats like this bring liveaboard sailing into a new dimension. The Moorings has a six-cabin version of the 5800 in its BVI bareboat charter fleet, would you believe; I can imagine the crews of lesser multihulls falling to their knees in wonder as this behemoth comes barreling into a crowded anchorage, a dozen sunburned charterers bopping away on the flight deck.
Trending ever so slightly down sizewise, I clambered aboard the Nautitech 542 to find a very well built and equipped performance cruising catamaran that eschews the fancy in favor of the functional. The “2” in the designation refers to helm stations, of which there is one on each hull for more rewarding steering; some other builders of performance cats also have this feature, Catana among them. The optional “1” version has a single helm station on the port side of the bridgedeck. By resisting the temptation to go with a full flybridge—which has the advantage of increasing lounging space but separates the helmsman from the crew—Nautitech has kept the profile low; this is a good-looking boat, with well laid-out accommodations and a go-anywhere feel.
Lagoon cats have always been unapologetically angular boats, making a signature feature out of the rounded pillbox-like house with its vertical windows rather than trying to soften its lines. There has never been stronger case for beauty being in the eye of the beholder than the French brand’s consistently excellent sales; choose an anchorage anywhere in the world and you’ll likely see a Lagoon somewhere nearby.
The latest Lagoons, the 52 and 39, have even more distinctive angles. The hulls are plumb-bowed and the topsides beveled sharply where they meet the deck. On both boats you’ll find the novel feature of a compression post in the saloon, thanks to the new sailplan devised by designers VPLP, which is biased toward a large self-tacking genoa. Hence the mast is farther aft than usual. Up on the 52’s flybridge, there’s a long bench seat and a dedicated sunbathing area; the steering pedestal can be centered or flopped from one side to another so the helmsman can see around the mast when docking.
There’s enough volume in the 52 that the compression post doesn’t impact the living area, but it still takes a bit of getting used to. At the very least it will make a convenient bracing point at sea. Interior trim is light and bright, and even on an overcast day the saloon still seemed cheery. The charter layout has four big staterooms with ensuite heads and showers, but the three-cabin owner’s layout will likely be more popular.
The 39 shares the styling and sailplan of the 52 but looks petite next to its big sistership. With a choice of two-, three- or four-cabin layouts it can be specced for everything from charter to one-couple cruising.
These were just the boats making their North American debut. Other boats introduced over the last year were the Gemini Legacy 35, Fountaine Pajot Hélia 44(page 30), Maverick 400, Outremer 49 and the Motive 25 trimaran. Antares, Catana, St. Francis, Royal Cape and Motive were also represented. All in all, a great excuse to head down to Miami in February, especially if you live in the north.