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Speedy cats increase in popularity

In recent years there has been a significant uptick in the number of multihulls entering the ARC growing at a steady rate each year, and ARC 2022 is no exception. Almost all the new-builds taking part in the 37th edition are the two, or even three-hulled variety, with 15 new multihull designs on the entry list. What seems to be fuelling the trend though is the demand for fast, comfortable performance multihulls. The sight of the Multihull Division setting off for Saint Lucia on Sunday’s start will sure to be quite a spectacle, with some of the fastest catamarans seen in the ARC all vying for the startline as they stretch their legs and make the most of the tradewinds on the long sail to the Caribbean. Who will make line honours is anyone’s guess, but what is certain is that these quick, performance cats will be notching up the miles ahead of many of their monohull equals.

Comfort and speed for family cruising

One such boat is the trimaran Mustic’, owned by Geoffroy Bouchard De La Poterie from Limoges, France, who took up sailing only 10 years ago. He had completed an Atlantic circuit five years ago and it was something he wanted to do again, but with a bit more comfort and speed. He had been on the lookout for a fast, performance catamaran that was financially viable, but which was also well-designed and built. He wanted a minimalist look and a sleek interior in order to entice his wife and son to join him for cruising in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. His 2021-built Neel 43 Mustic’ ticked all the boxes and on this year’s rally, he will join sisterships, the brand-new Neel 51 Out of the Woods and previous ARC Line Honours winner Neel 47 Minimole.

“I’d been following the evolution of Neel designs, and the release of the new Neel 43 arrived at the right time for our Atlantic plans. The concept, price and design all came together and it was the perfect moment. The main thing was to contain the weight of the boat so that it could still perform and it needed to be comfortable, but fast,” says Mustic’s owner Geoffroy, who will be sailing across with three other experienced sailors. His wife, family and friends will join him in the Caribbean where they will cruise for a month before leaving the boat in Martinique before heading back to work for a while in France.

Geoffroy is impressed so far with the boat’s performance: “She is a real pleasure to sail. Above all, I wanted a fast boat, to have fun at the helm and with comfort to keep the family happy, so we could finally travel together. ARC 2022 is a good and challenging project and the reward will be to spend a month in the West Indies, returning back across the Atlantic in May 2023.”

ITA Catamaran fills a niche
The ARC finish line boat in Saint Lucia has been manned for the last two years by Robin Toozs-Hobson who is preparing and sailing across on the all-electric ITA Catamaran 14.99 Nanamole owned by Danish owner Ulrik Nielsen. The boat is the first project created by ITA Catamarans and is one of the many fast, but comfortable multihulls we are seeing enter the ARC.

“ITA Catamarans have a highly skilled workforce and the quality of the work is superb,” says Robin who sailed the boat to Las Palmas ahead of the start. The boat was bought earlier this year by the Danish/American entrepreneur and experienced sailor, who wanted to upgrade from his 38 foot catamaran to something a little bit faster. His previous boats included a more conventional monohull, but he quickly moved across to two hulls a few years ago with the purchase of a fast F27 trimaran. Ulrik enjoys the speed they offer when cruising. He is not into racing but wanted a performance cruising catamaran that would be attractive and fast enough to ensure his wife and high school-aged children would want to sail her. Nanamole was built in Italy and was bought earlier this year from her previous owner who had not strayed far from her home port of Corsica.
Robin says the boat seems to fill a niche, providing the demand for speed and comfort sought by many participants in the ARC this year. “This boat sort of fills the gap between the lighter-built Outremers, if you want a little bit more towards the comfort side, but you still want it to be quick. The boat is a lot about style, because it’s Italian,” continues Robin, “Although we have light hulls, the windows are glass, not Perspex; the furniture is heavy, and the interior is luxurious in terms of the quality of the fit-out. They’ve compromised; it is not a racing boat, it is a fast cruiser and she sails very nicely.” As to how fast he thinks she will be across the Atlantic, he says: “We will be ‘giving her a go’ but we still have fishing rods on board,” he laughs.

Charter guests seeking speed, comfort and more space
Gustaf de Vries is responsible for the ARC boats entered by the Swedish charter company More Sailing. They have two brand-new Excess 15’s built by the Beneteau Group and taking part this year is White Lotus and Tranquility. “We have had multihulls in the charter fleet in Croatia for many years,” says Gustaf, “But the interest and demand from our client-base to sail on catamarans has risen, so we have invested in these faster catamarans and will have two more in next year’s event. They are not performance racers, but are more than comfortable cruising multihulls. The builders didn’t want to compromise the comfort on board. We still have double cabins and a lot of sun deck and general space on board for the charter guests, which is what they like and the type of thing we look for in a charter boat. We also get the great sailing ability with the higher mast and bigger sails and hope to do a fast crossing in the Excess 15s.

“With these new multihulls, we can now have 10 guests on board, plus the skipper and first and/or second mates. From More Sailing’s point of view our decision to buy and enter these new multihulls instead of our monohulls is due to the whole package they offer: the comfort; speed (they regularly saw 15 knots on the way down to the Canaries); space, stability, and the fact we can get more people out sailing with us. With a 1.4m draft they can also get closer to shore in the Caribbean and everyone can enjoy the best anchorages and sailing it offers over there. There has always been a thought that large catamarans cannot sail well or go fast, but that is changing. We have boats such as the Outremers and other quick catamarans in the rally, taking these multihulls to another level, but with our two news boats we have a very good opportunity to have more people on board a very comfortable, fast boat, so it’s a good situation all round for us.”
Brand-new boat has potential for line honours
Duncan Gladman is the Boat Captain on Tom Kassberg’s Marsaudon ORC50 Malolo. The boat is one of the quickest performance cruising catamarans around. She's built for speed and adrenaline on the water and will be sure to munch down the miles of the ARC course from Gran Canaria to Saint Lucia. Malolo is hull number 17, and owner Tom Kassberg - Chief Business Officer at a pharmaceutical company and based in Washington State – had the brand new boat built in Lorien, France by Marsaudon Composites. Once launched in February, sea trials and commissioning took a month and then in April the boat was taken down to La Grand Motte multihull boat show.

“The simplicity is what is great about this boat. It has all the creature comforts that you want, but it is simple and it’s light, so it’s fast. It’s a pretty powerful boat, but, if you are cruising, it also allows you to sail in a conservative mode, and you still do 10 to 14 knots quite easily - and it’s comfortable. Anyone can drive the boat as it’s simple and easy,” says Boat Captain Duncan.

Tom Kassberg is a very experienced sailor having raced on the west coast of the United States, taking part in a lot of ocean races in the Pacific. He has also sailed many one design boats, from dinghies to larger boats over the years, including a doublehanded race to Hawaii.

“Tom and I have sailed together for a number of years and we have another boat (Dragon) that is a trimaran based in Victoria, BC, Canada. It is a custom design and strictly a race boat. Tom’s dream has always been to do an Atlantic crossing and to have a boat that he can both race and cruise in the ocean. We discussed it over a number of months and looked at all the options and it came down to two different boats that he was looking at. I think the fact this was a little racier than the other boat, swayed him to go with the Marsaudon build. I did the project management for the build, starting in January 2021, which was challenging as it was all through Covid, plus the problems with the time different too (8-9 hours). However, we got it together in the end and there were really no major build problems. Tom is really pleased with his new boat,” explains Duncan.

There will be six sailing on board Malolo, 5 Americans and 1 Canadian for their first Atlantic crossing. “The timing was right for us to take part in the ARC this year as Tom and his family had finished cruising in the Med for three and a half weeks, so it made sense for us to sail here to join the ARC. We are definitely more about ‘getting there as fast as you can’ and in a sensible and safe way,” concludes Duncan, who says that, depending on everyone’s work commitments, they might sign up for one or two races once the Caribbean, with a view to doing more of that the following season.