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SKIPPERS TIPS 23

Multi-Hull Hell – The boating world is rife with rivalries.  Stinkpotters versus blowboaters.  Fast and slippery versus a slow, wet snail.  In fact, for every subdivision in the nautical world there is some kind of rivalry or, at the very least, vituperative name calling.  One of the chief divisions in the sailing world is that between monos and multis.  Catamaran sailors chuckle at mono-hulls as they bury a rail in the water, the crew hanging on like grim death as the boat rounds up, jib flapping and chaos reigning.  The catamaran meanwhile hiccups and hobby horses into the chop, sailing at maybe 60 degrees apparent while the crew lounge on the trampoline sipping their diet iced teas.  Mono-hull sailors likewise roar with laughter at the cat sailors who tack through about 130 degrees and take all day to get from Road Town to Cooper Island.

My sympathies for most of my sailing career have been with the mono-hull crews.  A mono, aka a real yacht, will point rewardingly high and when sailed by a competent crew will track as if on rails and get where she’s going with a minimum of fuss.  Ideally speaking, of course.  Not so the catamaran.

Now, until recently I would have scoffed along with the barstool committee and blamed the poor performance of the cat on the poor quality of sailor who is forced to sail such a travesty. This lack of training and ability could be the only reason why so many catamarans motor around anytime the wind gets forward of the beam. Well, excuse me.  A few months aboard a variety of cats has led me to a different opinion.

The true reason cruising cats are so difficult to sail upwind is that they are ergonomic nightmares. Trimming a jib to any degree of efficiency requires the dexterity of a gymnast combined with the musculature of a steroid-abusing piano mover. There’s nowhere supportive to stand, no hand holds to grip and, in many cases, the winches are located at eye level or above and require the kind of arm motion usually executed only by a manic orchestra conductor.  It’s a disaster foisted upon a gullible public by largely ignorant designers.  Who among them gets to sail regularly on any of their down-market (i.e., charter) creations?  Who among them ever gets to trim a winch? If they did, every catamaran would come equipped with its own MRI machine, the better to rapidly diagnose incipient rotator-cuff injuries.

The only answer to this problem is a) preferably to install electric winches and let the batteries do the work or b) divide the crew so that each trimmer has a replacement standing by to take over as soon as his shoulder socket pops in protest.  A load shared is a load halved.  Although pain shared can seem like pain doubled.  It’s hell out there.

Failing these suggestions, pop another painkiller and fire up the twins.  Motor uphill and pretend not to notice the chuckles aboard the skinny boats.  You’ll have the last laugh at anchor.

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