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Go Cat Sailing

1: How are 'cats' different?

Many of the principles for learning to race dinghies are also relevant to multihull racing, although there are some important differences largely due to the greater speed potential of multihulls and their different handling characteristics. Almost all small racing multihulls are catamarans, although if youíre sailing offshore youíll find many trimarans in the fleet as well.

There are two key reasons behind the high speed potential of multihulls. Firstly, before a conventional boat can get on the plane and start moving at speed it must overcome a speedlimiting Ďhumpí, as it breaks away from the stern wave thatís created at displacement speeds. A disproportionate amount of power, thatís not directly translated to speed, is needed to overcome this hump.

By contrast, the narrow hulls of a catamaran have no such limitation, so acceleration is more dramatic. In addition, the width of the boat helps create a high degree of stability, which enables a more powerful rig to be carried, especially if the crew are also trapezing. Added to these factors, if the boat is heeled just enough to lift one hull clear of the water, drag is reduced to a minimum.

The additional power means a higher degree of skill is required to sail many multihulls, compared to most monohull dinghies, in addition to the specialist knowledge that is also needed due to their different handling characteristics. Itís probably fair to say that most multihull sailors probably learnt the basics in dinghies first, before transferring to catamarans.

However, thatís not always the case ó one friend learnt to sail as crew in a Dart 18, and afterwards always found dinghy sailing tame compared to blasting at double-digit speeds in a cat. She won the Dart 15 nationals within three years of starting to sail, showing that learning in dinghies first is not necessarily a better route, even if it is a popular one.

Even if you havenít considered becoming a multihull sailor, remember that one of the things that will get you ahead in any racing discipline is to sail as wide a variety of boats as possible. So even if you book a multihull course just for the experience it will be worthwhile. And you never know, you might get hooked!

Anyone doubting the benefit of such a varied experience should consider Rob Greenhalgh, currently International 14 national champion and winner of this yearís Bloody Mary, who also sails Extreme 40 catamarans, Americaís Cup yachts and Volvo 70s. Granted, you might not be able to get your varied experience on such a grand scale, but the principle holds good for everyone at all levels of the sport.

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Smaller boats can be righted from an inverted position reasonably easily by a competent crew

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