Multihull means more than one hull. It can be a catamaran, which has two hulls, or a tri-maran, which has a central main hull and two outer hulls for greater stability. Multihull sailing appeals to people of all ages and all sailing abilities. It is an easy entry sport for first-timers requiring less physical agility than dinghies or wind-surfers, whilst still being exciting and challenging for the more adventurous. Multihulls are forgiving for novice sailors making them an attractive holiday resort or recreational sailing option. Yet they are also fast and exciting, requiring as much skill to sail competitively as any other boat.
Catamaran sailing is very active in South Africa and in recent years has seen a growth in fleet sizes, particularly amongst the youth. The more active 'cat' classes are the Hobie Cats and Darts, but there are still many Halcats on the water. Some exciting new classes have also been introduced and these include small and large tri-marans.
For youngsters the competitive classes are Halcat, Sprint 15 (part of the Dart family) and Dart 18 (single- or double-handed). There are also the Hobie Dragoon (for sailors aged seven to fifteen years) and the Hobie 16 (for those 14 years and older) with or without a spinnaker.
South Africa has produced more World Champions on catamarans, particularly on Hobie 16s than in any other class. It is one of the few sailing disciplines where you'll see teams entering a world championship consisting of dad with son, or dad with mom, or granddad with granddaughter. It truly is a family sport where everyone can participate irrespective of weight, age, gender or financial status.
About the Hobie Cat
Hobie Cat has been the largest multihull fleet in South Africa, and the world, for the past 30 years. Developed by an American surfer, Hobie Alter, in 1968, Hobie Cats were designed for fun. They are strong boats for the sea, easy to launch form the beach, adaptable for variable wind and water conditions and they're fast too. Hobie started with the single-handed Hobie 14. By popular demand Alter soon designed the double-handed Hobie 16 and this popular boat has remained unchanged in its fundamental design ever since. It is still the most popular catamaran in the world with large fleets taking part in their bi-annual World Championships. Hobie Cat now has a wide variety of different designs catering for every need, from juniors learning to sail, to resort boats, right up to high performance racing machines such as the Hobie Tiger.
In South Africa the competitive fleets include the Hobie 14, Hobie 16, Hobie Tiger and for the youth the Hobie Dragoon.
Their motto, “a way of life” perfectly describes the Hobie way of doing things. It's not only about racing, it's a lifestyle... where family, friends and fun are what it is all about.
About the Dart
Designed by Rodney March (who also designed the Olympic class Tornado) the Dart 18 has won international acclaim for its simplicity and all round performance. The Dart was the first catamaran specifically designed to be sailed by one or two crew. This is a huge advantage for a sailor who also wants to sail single-handed every now and then. By removing the jib and without altering the rig the boat sails perfectly single-handed with balance being maintained by it unique hull design. The helm is feather-light and responds to every command in both single and double configurations.
Another very attractive feature of the Dart 18 is the ease of righting the boat after capsizing. All 'day-sailing' catamarans can capsize but the Dart 18 can be up and away in seconds without outside assistance.
Based on the Production One-Design concept every Dart is the same year after. In this way your investment is protected because parts are always available. The Dart 18 is manufactured in South Africa by Collins Fibreglass Plastics who has been appointed as the only licensed Dart builder worldwide. The advantage for the South African sailor is affordable world class catamarans manufactured locally with solid backup and support.
Four new types of multihulls have been introduced over the past four years. These are Nacra F20C catamaran and the WETA, Multi23 and Seacart30 tri-marans.
WETA: This little 4.4m long tri-maran can be sailed by juniors and adults alike either single-handedly or with two crew. It has a small spinnaker that makes it fun and fast, but can be toned down for the novice sailor. The Weta is easy to transport, easy to rig and simple to sail. It is also versatile and fun to race at club and provincial levels.
NACRA F20: This 20 foot long catamaran is a high performance cat with modern materials and fittings. It has full carbon hulls, carbon daggerboards and rudders, aluminium wingmast, carbon sails and a 2-person trapeze system. The F20C was designed by Melvin and Morreli using the latest technology developed for BMW Oracle... winner of the Americas Cup 2010.
In time, the Weta and the Nacra will have enough boats in the country to be recognised as a South African Class. Until then they do not have national championship status, but are still welcome at all catamaran clubs and regional regattas.