Fuelled by a spectacular America’s Cup match, multihull design continues to heat up
One of the most eagerly anticipated boats of 2014, the new Gunboat G4 looks nothing short of spectacular. If you thought the Nigel Irens-designed 55- and 60-foot Gunboats introduced in 2013 were radical, this one is right at the bleeding edge. You can call it a cruising cat only because it sleeps six and has a functional galley and heads. In every other respect, the G4 is an all-out racer. How many 40-foot cruising cats displace just 5,280lb dry and 6,614lb loaded?
The G4’s spec sheet reads like a checklist of up-to-the-minute boatbuilding technology. Included are a pre-preg carbon fiber/Nomex honeycomb composite hull and deck; a rotating carbon-fiber wing mast and boom; electric motors with retractable propellers; T-foil rudders to control pitching and keep the wave-piercing bows up; C-foil daggerboards to generate lift and reduce drag; and foot-pedal hydraulic pumps to trim the mainsheet.
That carbon spar—sized to fit under ICW bridges—carries 1,100 square feet of sail, divided between a high-aspect square-topped mainsail and a self-tacking jib. Gunboat says the loads are light enough that both sails can be raised by hand. Code sails are set on a furler at the tip of the central “spine.”
Not only is the boat’s design—by Holland’s DNA Design Team—and its build and systems as avant-garde as it gets, but the accommodations plan also benefits from some lateral thinking. The hulls are too slim for double berths, so they house a pair of singles that are ideal for kids, while the adults get to sleep on a pair of screened-off queen berths in the saloon. Strataglass panels (or just mosquito screens) roll down to enclose the cockpit, combining it and the saloon into one large living space.
Eric Bruneel’s Neel 50 and 45 provide a genuine three-hulled alternative to the many fine cruising catamarans on the market, and the launch this year of the Neel 60 should cement this French company’s position as the premier builder of oceangoing trimarans. An accomplished multihull racer who campaigned 50-foot tris in ocean races for many years, Bruneel has translated the concept to the cruising arena in a way that no other trimaran builder has managed.
The 45 and 50 both have expansive accommodations that in charter form can sleep up to 14 guests, coupled with sparkling sailing performance. The Joubert/Nivelt-designed Neel 60 builds on this theme by offering a choice of layouts with up to five double cabins—each with ensuite heads, and all on a single level—plus crew quarters, and all the stowage a cruising family could wish for. You can even have the amas fitted out as sleeping cabins, with two single berths in each one.
Like its smaller sisters, the 60 has a “basement”—a large area below the accommodations in the central hull that houses the engine and systems with plenty of room left over for stowage of cruising gear. At 60ft LOA, displacing 41,895lb dry and boasting a marina-busting beam of 38ft 9in, this is one imposing boat.
Single-level open-plan living is the theme of Nautitech’s new Marc Lombard-designed Open 40, which employs its generous volume cleverly. The saloon and cockpit comprise one large area that can be separated by sliding glass doors during inclement weather. The rest of the time, it’s all about what catamarans excel at—liveability and sociability.
The steering and sailhandling are accomplished from twin helm stations bracketing the cockpit, and the space between is given over to comfortable seating on either side of a large table, all sheltered by a hardtop that also provides the sheeting point for the mainsail. Plastic screens roll down to enclose the cockpit area completely to keep the weather out when necessary. There’s a choice of 2-,3- or 4-cabin layouts.
Cat rigs are evolving away from heavily roached mainsails, which can be a bear to handle, in favor of skinny square-topped mains and larger foretriangles with self-tacking jibs. This is the Open 40’s configuration, with optional furling sails set on a short sprit should more horsepower be needed in light air or downwind.
Touted as the world’s first production foiling beach cat, the Flying Phantom was developed from Martin Fischer’s championship-winning F18 design. The people at Sail Innovation kept the hull design, but made the boat wider and lighter, gave it a new rig, and slotted in a set of L-shaped daggerboards and T-shaped rudders. Franck Cammas, legendary French multihull sailor and C-Class world champion, provided invaluable input. The result? A 30-knot foiling flyer for under $40,000. Apparently it will jump on its foils in just 7 knots of true wind. Bring it on…