racing catamaran speed

Sail GP: how do supercharged racing yachts go so fast? An engineer explains

racing catamaran speed

Head of Engineering, Warsash School of Maritime Science and Engineering, Solent University

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Jonathan Ridley does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Sailing used to be considered as a rather sedate pastime. But in the past few years, the world of yacht racing has been revolutionised by the arrival of hydrofoil-supported catamarans, known as “foilers”. These vessels, more akin to high-performance aircraft than yachts, combine the laws of aerodynamics and hydrodynamics to create vessels capable of speeds of up to 50 knots, which is far faster than the wind propelling them.

An F50 catamaran preparing for the Sail GP series recently even broke this barrier, reaching an incredible speed of 50.22 knots (57.8mph) purely powered by the wind. This was achieved in a wind of just 19.3 knots (22.2mph). F50s are 15-metre-long, 8.8-metre-wide hydrofoil catamarans propelled by rigid sails and capable of such astounding speeds that Sail GP has been called the “ Formula One of sailing ”. How are these yachts able to go so fast? The answer lies in some simple fluid dynamics.

As a vessel’s hull moves through the water, there are two primary physical mechanisms that create drag and slow the vessel down. To build a faster boat you have to find ways to overcome the drag force.

The first mechanism is friction. As the water flows past the hull, a microscopic layer of water is effectively attached to the hull and is pulled along with the yacht. A second layer of water then attaches to the first layer, and the sliding or shearing between them creates friction.

On the outside of this is a third layer, which slides over the inner layers creating more friction, and so on. Together, these layers are known as the boundary layer – and it’s the shearing of the boundary layer’s molecules against each other that creates frictional drag.

racing catamaran speed

A yacht also makes waves as it pushes the water around and under the hull from the bow (front) to the stern (back) of the boat. The waves form two distinctive patterns around the yacht (one at each end), known as Kelvin Wave patterns.

These waves, which move at the same speed as the yacht, are very energetic. This creates drag on the boat known as the wave-making drag, which is responsible for around 90% of the total drag. As the yacht accelerates to faster speeds (close to the “hull speed”, explained later), these waves get higher and longer.

These two effects combine to produce a phenomenon known as “ hull speed ”, which is the fastest the boat can travel – and in conventional single-hull yachts it is very slow. A single-hull yacht of the same size as the F50 has a hull speed of around 12 mph.

However, it’s possible to reduce both the frictional and wave-making drag and overcome this hull-speed limit by building a yacht with hydrofoils . Hydrofoils are small, underwater wings. These act in the same way as an aircraft wing, creating a lift force which acts against gravity, lifting our yacht upwards so that the hull is clear of the water.

racing catamaran speed

While an aircraft’s wings are very large, the high density of water compared to air means that we only need very small hydrofoils to produce a lot of the important lift force. A hydrofoil just the size of three A3 sheets of paper, when moving at just 10 mph, can produce enough lift to pick up a large person.

This significantly reduces the surface area and the volume of the boat that is underwater, which cuts the frictional drag and the wave-making drag, respectively. The combined effect is a reduction in the overall drag to a fraction of its original amount, so that the yacht is capable of sailing much faster than it could without hydrofoils.

The other innovation that helps boost the speed of racing yachts is the use of rigid sails . The power available from traditional sails to drive the boat forward is relatively small, limited by the fact that the sail’s forces have to act in equilibrium with a range of other forces, and that fabric sails do not make an ideal shape for creating power. Rigid sails, which are very similar in design to an aircraft wing, form a much more efficient shape than traditional sails, effectively giving the yacht a larger engine and more power.

As the yacht accelerates from the driving force of these sails, it experiences what is known as “ apparent wind ”. Imagine a completely calm day, with no wind. As you walk, you experience a breeze in your face at the same speed that you are walking. If there was a wind blowing too, you would feel a mixture of the real (or “true” wind) and the breeze you have generated.

The two together form the apparent wind, which can be faster than the true wind. If there is enough true wind combined with this apparent wind, then significant force and power can be generated from the sail to propel the yacht, so it can easily sail faster than the wind speed itself.

racing catamaran speed

The combined effect of reducing the drag and increasing the driving power results in a yacht that is far faster than those of even a few years ago. But all of this would not be possible without one further advance: materials. In order to be able to “fly”, the yacht must have a low mass, and the hydrofoil itself must be very strong. To achieve the required mass, strength and rigidity using traditional boat-building materials such as wood or aluminium would be very difficult.

This is where modern advanced composite materials such as carbon fibre come in. Production techniques optimising weight, rigidity and strength allow the production of structures that are strong and light enough to produce incredible yachts like the F50.

The engineers who design these high-performance boats (known as naval architects ) are always looking to use new materials and science to get an optimum design. In theory, the F50 should be able to go even faster.

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How Fast Do Catamarans Go? 5 Examples (With Pictures)

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A catamaran is generally more balanced on the water and can be faster than a multi-hull vessel.

Unless you compare them to foiling monohulls like the new America’s Cup boats that sail at over 50 knots, they are not recreational vessels.

In this article, we will look at how fast each type of catamaran will go.

Table of Contents

Here are the numbers before we dive into the details:

Average Speed For Sailing Catamarans

Catamarans can vary in size from 14 ft to over 100 ft. Catamarans can come in a wide variety of design types.

Sailing Catamarans have been attempting to make advancements over their mono-hulled counterparts.

These advancements include:

  • Foils that assist with lifting the vessel out of the water.
  • Stability advancements.
  • Racers that can maintain their speed while out in the ocean.

3 Different Types of Sailing Catamarans:

1) sport catamarans.

racing catamaran speed

One type of sailing catamaran is a sport catamaran, which is otherwise known as recreational. These are typically supposed to have a small crew and launch and land on beaches.

Sport catamarans do not normally have living quarters and are ideal for day trips. Resorts or other rental services often use these.

These can also be used for racing.

Sport vessels have been known to travel over 30 knots but can speed over 40 knots in the proper conditions.

2) Cruising Catamarans

racing catamaran speed

Another type of sailing catamaran is a cruising catamaran. These often come with complete living accommodations, so they sacrifice speed over their sportier counterparts.

They can average between 9 and 10 knots, depending on the conditions. The top speed is typically around 15 knots.

It would be best if you were careful with catamarans that have living quarters. The more you weigh it down, the less speed you will have.

3) Racing Catamarans

racing catamaran speed

The final type of sailing catamaran is an ocean racing catamaran.

These boats are large and can reach over 100 feet in length.

The top speed of this type of catamaran is around 45 knots.

Because of the prize money for entering these in races, much research goes into their advancement.

Average Speed Of Power Catamarans

Catamarans with power motors fill a different type of boating category.

These are commonly used when speed and smoothness are favored over space or capacity.

Because of their stability, catamarans are good vessels for combating seasickness as well as transportation. We have a separate article here with all you should know about catamarans and (how to overcome) seasickness .

On a commercial level, these can be used for ferries for both people and vehicles. They are used for short term travel, often to or from islands.

Like sailing catamarans, there are a few types of power catamarans.

1) Power Cruising Catamarans

racing catamaran speed

Similar to sailing cruising catamarans, they also have power cruising catamarans. These also have living quarters and are stable while out on the water. The speed of these vessels highly depends on the motors equipped and the size of the boat itself.

Like passenger transport or ferries, catamarans have a high speed of about 40 to 70 miles per hour.

These are made to travel at great speeds to allow their commuters the shortest possible ride to their destination.

The military also utilizes power catamarans. They use power catamarans to transport military cargo. These ships are ideal because of their speed, holding capacity, and ability to venture into shallow ports.

2) Swath Catamarans

racing catamaran speed

They also have small-waterplane-area twin-hull vessels. These are called SWATHs.

These differ from the average catamaran because they also have submarine-like hulls that stay completely under the water.

Due to the hulls being submerged, they are not normally affected by waves. These are used most often in the ocean as research vessels. They can also be used for certain types of yachts. Because of their stability, they are good vessels for furniture that will not require as much securing.

These often travel between 20 and 30 knots.

Some catamarans are designed for wave piercing. These are made to pierce through waves rather than sail over them, causing them to be faster. These can be used as passenger ferries, yachts, and military vessels as well.

3) Whitewater Catamarans

racing catamaran speed

There are also recreational catamarans made for whitewater travel. These are sometimes called “cata-rafts.”

They are made using two inflatable hulls connected with a scaffold. These are lightweight and perfect for whitewater sports.

They are even able to be packed away in a backpack. They can take up to 20 minutes to assemble, including inflation.

They have high speeds on white water rivers and can be most compared to a canoe, kayak, whitewater raft, or other white water vessels.

Performance Characteristics Of Catamarans

Catamarans require four times the power to double their speed. A mono-hull vessel, however, would require eight times the power to double their speed.

This is because a Catamaran has less resistance in the water.

This is also good for conserving and using less energy.

Catamarans are also more stable in the water. This stability is effective at resisting heeling or capsizing. A multi-hull vessel would require four times the force to capsize as a similar-sized mono-hull vessel.

The general sailing in a catamaran is smoother and allows for activities that are not always possible on a mono-hull sailboat.

Are Catamarans Faster than Mono-Hull Vessels?

Because catamarans have less water resistance, they are generally faster than mono-hull vessels.

This is because their hulls are smaller, which means they have a smaller bow wave to fight.

A bow wave is a wave created by the displacement of water by the bow of a ship. After a certain speed, a boat has to start hauling itself over its own bow wave.

The larger hull a ship has, the larger its bow wave will be and the more power required to fight it.

Catamarans have two small and narrow hulls, so they do not have much of an issue with their bow wave. This is one reason they are usually faster than a similar-sized mono-hull vessel.

Catamarans can be between 20-30 percent faster than their monohull counterparts.

Issues with catamarans over mono-hulls are that they can take more time to turn.

How Is The Speed Measured?

Boats commonly measure speed using GPS tracking devices to measure distance traveled. Speed while sailing is measured in knots. A knot is one nautical mile per hour, which equals about 1.15 miles per hour.

How Fast Are Catamarans Compared To Other Boat Types?

  • Sailing catamarans typically average about 10 knots.
  • Pontoon boats average about 20 mph.
  • A powerboat cruiser can average anywhere between 30 and 50 mph.
  • Cigarette boats can even reach close to 90 mph in the proper conditions.
  • Sailboats average between 6 and 12 mph depending on wind conditions. This includes mono-hull between 6 to 8 mph and catamarans and trimarans between 9 and 10mph

Two different factors can determine the speed of sailing ships:

1) The hull type as listed above.

Different hulls rest in the water more or less than other types. The less of the hull that is underwater, the faster it can go.

This is because the less of the hull in the water, the less drag created while sailing.

2) The length of the boat

The longer the boat, the faster it can go. Every boat has a maximum hull speed that cannot be exceeded unless the boat can plane on the water’s surface or be lifted on hydrofoils.  For most boats, the longer the boat, the higher the maximum hull speed is.

Speed Vs. Comfort Considerations For Catamarans

If you are looking for a catamaran, you have a lot of options.

You can choose to prioritize speed or comfort.

After deciding to purchase a catamaran, the type of catamaran you should look at depends on where and what you are using it for.

You will want to make sure that you look at what type of water you will be traveling in, how many people you are traveling with on average, and what type of speed you hope to achieve.

One thing you will want to keep in mind before the purchase of a catamaran is storage. If you intend to store your boat in a marina, you are often charged for two slips due to the beam, or width, of a catamaran versus the standard mono-hull vessel.

Catamarans can be beneficial for those who get seasick because they offer a steadier ride and the ability to have more open air space. Because the living quarters are not inside the hull and under the water’s surface, you have more windows and visibility.

Both sailing and power catamarans are viable options. Also, sailing catamarans can come with back-up power engines for low winds or situations such as docking in a marina.

Catamarans that have twin engines can offer more control and precision than those on a mono-hull vessel. This is good for tight and busy areas or navigating marinas.

Overall, there are plenty of options for you, and they offer many benefits over their mono-hull counterparts.

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How Fast Do Catamarans Go?

How Fast Do Catamarans Go? | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

August 30, 2022

‍ Catamarans are known for their speed, and some vessels are fast enough to break world sailing speed records.

Catamarans can go between 15 and 30 knots, with the fastest achieving speeds well in excess of 60 knots. Sailing catamarans are sometimes twice as fast as monohulls and cut through the water with greater efficiency.

In this article, we’ll cover how fast catamarans can go based on factors such as size, sail area, and design category. Additionally, we’ll compare catamaran speeds to monohulls and trimarans and cover the reasons why multi-hull sailboats blow monohulls out of the water.

We sourced the information used in this article from sailing guides and hull speed calculations. Additionally, we sourced information directly from the manufacturers of common catamarans.

Table of contents

‍ Catamaran Speed by Type

Catamaran design can be split into different categories. After all, different vessels are designed for different tasks, as speed isn’t always the most important design consideration.

The fastest type of catamaran is the ultralight racing catamaran. These vessels have extremely narrow hulls and a remarkable planing ability. They’re designed to pierce waves and often achieve speeds in excess of 45 knots or greater, depending on conditions.

The second fastest catamaran variety is the sport catamaran. Sport catamarans often include a fairly good level of creature comforts in the cabin. They’re technically hybrid designs, because they are envisioned as a combination between a racer and a cruiser. Sport catamarans can achieve 30 knots or greater.

Cruising catamarans are designed primarily for safety and comfort. They’re often used for long offshore passages, where speed is important, but comfort is king. Despite their accommodations, cruising catamarans can still achieve a respectable 15 to 20 knots of speed—sometimes 50% faster than similarly-equipped monohulls.

Why are Catamarans So Fast?

Catamarans are remarkable vessels that can achieve amazing speeds. As a result of their unconventional design, typical calculations for hull speed (such as those used for monohulls) don’t always apply.

But what makes catamarans so much faster than equivalent monohulls? The first and most obvious speedy design element are the hulls themselves.

Catamarans don’t have a deep keel or a centerboard. This is because the second hull acts as a stabilizing device, and it helps the vessel track straight. The lack of a keel reduces weight (and equally important). It also reduces drag.

Additionally, catamarans behave in strange ways while underway. The hulls have a tendency to rise out of the water further the faster they go. This further reduces drag and makes it easier for the vessel’s speed to climb once it starts to move.

One additional characteristic is how the vessel’s sails point relative to the wind. Catamarans keep their sails perpendicular to the wind, which allows them to harness energy more efficiently. This is because, at a perpendicular angle, less wind energy is lost by spillage over the edge of the sails.

Are Catamarans Faster than Monohulls?

Yes, catamarans are typically faster than monohulls. They’re also a lot more stable, as their spaced-out hulls provide better motion comfort in rough seas. Catamaran hulls are narrower than monohulls, which also reduces drag and increases speed.

Catamaran vs. Monohull Speeds

We know that catamarans are faster than monohulls in most situations. But how much faster are they? Here’s a table of hull speeds for monohulls, which is a useful reference when comparing speed. Hull speed isn’t the absolute fastest that a boat can go, but it’s a good practical estimate for understanding the hydrodynamic limitations of single-hull designs.

Hull speed calculations for catamarans are more complicated. This is because catamarans have a greater length-to-beam ratio. And due to their narrow hulls and open center, they aren’t affected by the same hydrodynamic drag forces that monohulls are limited by.

For example, a 55-foot monohull sailboat with a waterline length has a hull speed of 9.4 knots or 10.9 mph. Its actual speed could exceed that in the right conditions, but rarely by more than a few knots.

Compare that to an efficient 51-foot catamaran, which can easily achieve speeds in excess of 20 knots in reasonable winds. That’s more than double the hull speed of a monohull with a similar waterline length and proves that catamarans operate under a completely different set of rules.

Wave Piercing

One aspect of catamaran design that makes them superior speeders is their ability to pierce waves. Specially designed catamarans have minimal buoyancy at the bow, which allows them to slice through waves instead of going over them.

This increases the speed at which catamarans can cover the distance. Think about it—a boat going over a wave has to use more energy to reach the same destination, as the height of the wave almost makes the distance further.

It’s like walking over a hill or on flat ground—you’ll take more steps walking up and down the hill than in a straight flat line. Wave piercing catamarans enjoy better stability, and they ‘take the flat road’ to a greater extent than monohulls.

Do Catamarans Plane?

Planing is when a boat’s hull rises out of the water due to hydrodynamic lift. This increases speed and efficiency, as there’s less drag but sufficient contact for stability. It also reduces rolling, as the bow only contacts the taller portions of the waves.

Catamarans have planing characteristics, but they generally don’t plane as dramatically as powerboats. This is still worth noting, as catamarans are specifically designed to use the phenomenon of hydrodynamic lift to gain speed and efficiency.

You’ll visibly notice a catamaran’s hull rising out of the water as it increases in speed. Compare that to a displacement monohull design (such as a classical cruising sailboat with a deep keel), which won’t rise out of the water in any significant way.

Are Catamarans Faster than Trimarans?

A trimaran is a catamaran with an additional hull in the center. Trimarans are usually less common than catamarans, but they have some of the same design benefits as other multi-hull sailboats.

At first glance, it would seem logical that trimarans are slower than catamarans. After all, they have an extra hull in the center, which likely increases weight and drag. However, there are more important factors at play here.

Trimarans are almost universally faster than catamarans. This has to do with weight distribution. Trimarans center their weight over the middle hull, using the outer hulls primarily for stability. This allows them to reap the benefits of a catamaran while increasing the efficiency of the wind power it captures.

Fastest Catamarans

Catamarans are popular for racing. There are several world records held by catamarans and numerous production boats with especially impressive speed-to-size ratios. Here are a few of the fastest racing and production catamarans ever built.

Fastest Sailboat Ever—Vestas Sailrocket 2

The Vestas Sailrocket is a specialized racing boat designed only for speed. This incredible vessel is actually the fastest sailboat ever built—and no wonder it’s a catamaran. A monohull simply can’t achieve record-breaking speeds when put head-to-head with a lightweight multi-hull.

The vessel, which earned the world sailboat speed record in 2012, has a modest 150 to 235 square feet of sail. Nonetheless, it managed to achieve a remarkable top speed of 65.45 knots in only 25 knots of wind. That’s about 72 miles per hour—in a sailboat.

Soon, a team of Swiss engineers will release their own version designed to beat the 65-knot speed record. Their vessel, which is a hydrofoil, will attempt to hit an incredible target speed of about 80 knots.

Outremer Catamarans

But what about production catamarans? How do they stack up, and how fast can they go? French boat builder Outremer Catamarans builds some of the fastest production catamarans ever built. These are not specialty racing boats—in fact, they’re average-sized cruising catamarans.

Let’s use the larger Outremer 51 as an example. This high-end cruising cat is known for its almost outrageous speed capabilities. In ideal conditions, owners of the Outremer 51 have reported speeds exceeding 20 knots for extended periods.

That’s a production catamaran with speeds that rival 20th-century warships. With such a fast boat, the world’s oceans start to appear a lot smaller. Plus, the genius design of the Outremer 51 allows it to be crewed by just two people.

But how do Outremer catamarans achieve such high speeds? The secret is in precise engineering and hull design, along with a sail plan that’s perfectly catered to the vessel. The hulls are sleek and narrow and designed to cut through the water with minimal drag.

From the bow, the Outremer 51 hulls look paper-thin. They increase in width gradually, which eliminates areas of sudden drag. These narrow hulls evenly distribute the vessel’s 21,825-lb displacement. Its low-buoyancy bows reduce drag and blast through waves instead of riding over them.

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I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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The Blistering Speed of SailGP

The catamarans use wings, not sails, and hydrofoils help the boat fly over the water. It’s like a fast video game, with consequences.

racing catamaran speed

By Kimball Livingston

A generation ago, sailing would not, could not have made the short list of team sports played at highway speeds. The boats that most people race are considered fast at nine knots; screaming at 15. That’s about 10 to 17 m.p.h.

Then came the F50 catamaran in 2019, with wings instead of sails and hydrofoils that lift the boats above the friction of the water, reaching speeds beyond 60 m.p.h., as they seemingly fly above the ocean. Indeed, the crew member helping make that happen is called the flight controller, who manipulates the elevations and angles of the left and right hydrofoils centered between bow and stern.

In SailGP lingo, the controller can fly the boat higher or lower. Higher is faster, but riskier because it also gets the boat closer to a nosedive.

The boats also require a new breed of helmsmen — they call themselves drivers — who direct the rapid-fire team choreography in which decisions must be made in fractions of a second.

The wing trimmer, a term from sail trimming days, shapes the wing — an airfoil — for speed and stability. Compared with fabric sails, a wing can provide more stability even while producing more speed. SailGP wings are built from carbon fiber with titanium fittings under a light plastic wrap. The old days of eyeballing sail shape are gone from these boats.

Data from racing and practicing is accumulated and analyzed to determine optimum wing shape for speed in different conditions, and the trimmer uses hydraulic controls to achieve the target settings.

With more moving parts than an airplane wing, an F50 wing has a larger menu of shape settings.

Given more wind, a sailboat tips over farther and farther until it spills wind out of the sails or loses control. Up to a point, SailGP catamarans just keep going faster. The British team hit a record 53.05 knots. or 61.05 m.p.h., during practice last summer.

“Compared to traditional boats, what is striking in SailGP is the complexity of the control systems,” said Nathan Outteridge , a two-time Olympic medalist who drives for the Japanese team. “I should say that driving is pretty easy, until things go wrong.”

Jason Waterhouse , an Olympic medalist who is flight controller for the Australian team, manages the hydrofoils that go up and down at precise angles with precise timing. Get it wrong, and the boat can nosedive.

“I have to have muscle memory,” Waterhouse said about operating the buttons and dials. It’s like a fast video game, with consequences.

Waterhouse also controls the rake, or angle, on the horizontal flaps on the two rudders the driver uses to steer. The flight controller contributes to level flight by dialing in as much as seven degrees of differential rake between the rudder flaps. The flap on the side being pushed down by the wind is angled to push up, and the flap on the opposite side is angled to push down.

“It adds an extra 300-400 kilos [650 to 900 pounds] of righting moment,” Waterhouse said, referring to the forces working to keep the boat from tipping over.

Paul Campbell-James, the wing trimmer for the U.S. team, said that because much of the boat’s hydraulic power was generated by a battery instead of by a crew member turning a grinding pedestal, his team had given that grinder a second job.

“We set up our forward-facing grinder to also be a tactician,” Campbell-James said. The grinder spins the pedestal’s handles to generate power for the hydraulics but also looks for wind shifts.

Wing shape on these boats has taken over most of the trim-in, trim-out of normal sail control, while contributing to level flight. The key is negative camber, shaping the upper wing to pull opposite to the lower wing, countering the forces trying to tip the boat over. Negative camber adds to the effect of the rudder flaps to make for level sailing. Old school it is not.

In turning maneuvers, the crew switches sides and Campbell-James crosses the boat first to take over driving duties before others follow him across. As they come, if he wobbles the helm, the motion could flick his teammates off the deck.

At the same time, he has to keep the boat level in a dynamic turn, press a foot button to raise a hydrofoil, respond as the wing loads up on the new side and hang on against “G-forces that are unbelievable because, remember, you might be going 50 knots. That’s a lot going on.”

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Performance cruisers: the best new catamarans for racing and fast cruising 2018

  • Toby Hodges
  • August 20, 2018

McConaghy MC50 sailing

This is where the worlds of racing and cruising multis meet, where we see high-tech lightweight craft that use exotic materials and daggerboards to help produce electrifying sailing. Gunboat was arguably the first to identify this market on a luxury level, and has since been joined by HH, McConaghy, Ice Cat, and ITA.

And then there are the performance multis that are more minimalist and lean more towards the offshore racer than cruiser – like Marsaudon, Dragonfly, Banuls, Dazcat, and Rapido… fun factor guaranteed!

Just launched: McConaghy MC50

McConaghy MC50 on water

Fresh from the Australian composite wizards McConaghy, the MC50 is the smallest series catamaran in a new range that runs up to 90ft. Drawn by Jason Ker, renowned for his IRC winners, the MC50 has performance in her DNA, designed as a fast cruising cat, capable of crossing oceans. The MC line has incorporated input of experienced owners and sailors, and includes some impressive features. For example, the doors between the saloon and the cockpit concertina, while the saloon windows slide open electrically for al-fresco living. A skylight down the middle of the coachroof lets light flood in, and can be specced as a large ‘solar glass’ generator to keep batteries topped up. Then there is the standard cross brace between the bows, which has been eliminated by using a carbon fibre longeron down the boat’s centreline, tensioned with Nitronic rod stays. The first hull launched in time for La Grande Motte boatshow in April and the performance predictions are bold. Polars from McConaghy suggest speeds of over 10 knots in a stiff Force 6, at 30° off the true wind. Bear away onto a broad reach and she is expected to manage 21 knots-plus. Upwind performance is boosted by 3.5m-deep hydraulic daggerboards in each hull, which include a fail-safe in the event of underwater collision. 
“We expect her to track upwind extremely well,” says James Kinloch 
of McConaghy. And yet this is no pared-down raceboat. The saloon has deep seating to starboard and an extending table gives dining space for at least eight, and can convert into lounging room if you drop the table and install the fill-in cushion. The galley and island unit to port are more penthouse than deckhouse, with induction hob and moulded-in sinks. Sensibly, there is a navigation station at the forward end of the saloon, with good visibility ahead and access to all the systems. The styling was undertaken by Design Unlimited. “The concept was to create a penthouse apartment on the living deck,” says Ole John, director of McConaghy Multihulls Europe. 
“The 35-40m2 of space must be the biggest for a 50ft yacht.”

McConaghy MC50 saloon

First impressions

McConaghy MC50 cabin

The MC50 is a clever boat. A Ker/McConaghy project, it might be expected to be all about the performance. That has yet to be proved, but the first MC50 to launch stole the show at its La Grande Motte debut in April thanks to the sheer amount of open-plan living space it offers. The natural light and ventilation offered by using sliding doors and windows needs to be seen to be believed, and the general feeling is that of a condo/apartment on the main deck. The view from the helms on the aft flybridge is excellent, but I wonder how these relatively high positions will feel in a rolling sea. The most impressive aspect for me, however, is the engineering detail, something Ker is known for. It can be seen in the length to which he and the yard has gone with the mast base and bowsprit longeron supports, and the hydraulic centreboards that swing into the hulls. The latter offer a clever solution to the problem of providing the performance benefits of 3.5m-deep boards without swallowing excessive accommodation space. The boards have fail-safe pins that break in a collision without 
risk of leaking hydraulic fluid; and they take just 12 seconds to raise. This is a boat that we are itching to sail.

At a glance…

LOA: 49ft 10in (15.20m) Beam: 26ft 3in (8.00m) Draught: 3ft 3in – 8ft 10in (1.00m – 2.70m) Displacement: 14.5 tonnes Price: from €1.33m Contact: McConaghy 

Just launched: ICE Cat 61

Ice Cat 61 exterior

Italy’s ICE Yachts has been on the scene since the turn of the millennium, but it is only now making a foray into multihulls. And it is starting big, with a 61, and a 67 further down the line. Its calling card has always been style at the service of performance, and the cats will be no different. Enrico Contreas has designed a dashing hull with just a hint of reverse bow and a long, curved quarter. It’s stylish, but also practical. “Avoiding highly reversed bows allows for easy recovery of the mooring lines,” says Marco Malgara, ICE Yachts’ CEO. Likewise, the shallow curve of the coachroof is more than just a flick of the designer’s pen: it is intended to reduce windage and help the catamaran go to windward. This is one reason that she can reportedly manage near 30° true wind angles. Another is the manually-operated carbon foils that reduce her displacement by about 15 per cent, and the way the rig is designed. “The angle going to windward is almost like a monohull,” Malgara says.

ICE Cat 61 galley

The yachts are built using ultra-modern techniques. On the standard version, the hull and superstructure employ a mix of glass and carbon fibre vacuum-infused with epoxy to ensure that just 35-40 per cent of the final weight is resin. Everything on the boat is foam-cored. Customers have so far unanimously opted for the RS version of the 61, which uses all carbon fibre. ICE has tried to mitigate the handling of a large, technical boat with electric winches and a self-tacking jib. The sheets of both sails are on travellers, giving maximum sail trimming options and a tighter sheeting angle for better windward performance. The helms are towards the aft end of the cockpit, behind a pod-like console, giving the skipper more the sense of a monohull. Dispensing with a raised helm station keeps the boom and the centre of gravity low, making for a more comfortable ride and better performance, predicted at 25 knots. The interior is more architectural than your average luxury yacht. Expect more of a kitchen than a galley in the large open space of the saloon. The configuration allows for three, four or five cabins, including a compact crew berth in the starboard bow.

At a  glance…

LOA: 61ft (18.60m) Beam: 28ft 3in (8.60m) Draught: 3ft 3in (1.00m) Displacement:  15 tonnes Price: From €1.35m Contact: Ice Yachts

Coming up: HH50

HH 50 Exterior

HH Catamarans has been turning heads since 2012 with a line of sporty, high-tech boats that feature a luxury fit-out. What started off on the drawing board as a fast 48ft cruising cat has grown to 50ft in the building. “One of the biggest reasons was 
the addition of a second helm station aft,” explained marketing manager 
Will Hobbs. “That and, during the design review, we found we were able to increase sail efficiency by 6 per cent if we lengthened the hull.” The lay-up is all carbon, with twin bulkhead helm stations and long-skirted hulls. With a self-tacking jib and push-button controls at the helm station, she should be a breeze to sail short-handed. Her accommodation all looks very elegant – dark teak contrasting with lighter fabrics. The saloon windows are huge, letting light gush in, with a semi-horseshoe galley to starboard, a navstation forward and dining table to port. There are configurations allowing for three or four cabins. Morelli & Melvin’s design generally looks modern and aggressive (even if we question the aesthetics of the hard biminis above the helms).

LOA: 49ft 10in (15.20m) Beam: 24ft 4in (7.44m) Draught: 4ft 11in-10ft 6in (1.50m-3.20m) Displacement: 15 tonnes Price: Tbc Contact: HH Catamarans

Just launched: Marsaudon TS5

Marsaudon TS5 Exterior

Even if you haven’t heard of Marsaudon, you’re likely to be familiar with its work. The Brittany-based boatbuilder is responsible for some of the world’s biggest and fastest multihulls, including the trimaran IDEC 2, in which Francis Joyon demolished the round-the-world record in 2008. Operating out of an old U-boat pen in Lorient, France, this composite expert has only been crafting its own brand of cruising catamarans for a few years, but it has already become its mainstay. It began with the TS42, which has reached 10 units, then the well-regarded TS50. The new TS5 is a remodelled version of this, with all-new tooling and a length overall of 55ft. Even before the first one hit the water, half a dozen boats had been pre-sold, such is the reputation of this builder.

Marsaudon TS5 Exterior

LOA: 49ft 10in (15.20m) Beam: 28ft 3in (8.60m) Draught: 3ft 11in-9ft 10in (1.20m-3.00m) Displacement: 8.6 tonnes Price: from €620,000 Contact: Marsdon Composites

Coming up: ITA 14.99

ITA 14.99 Aft

ITA Catamarans is a new brand, but the team behind this 14.99 are no strangers to the trade and have experience from many of the major Italian shipyards. The naval architecture is by Francois Perus, whose Yacht Design Collective has worked with brands such as Catana and North Wind on their multihulls. The result is a sleek-looking craft with stylish dreadnought bows and refreshingly low-profile coachroof. This sets the tone for the boat, due to launch this summer, which is all about stellar performance within the envelope of a fast cruiser. Take the twin helm stations, for instance – they are perched on the aft coaming. This frees up the cockpit for socialising, without compromising the boat’s stability by putting the weight 
of the helm on the coachroof. The result looks as if it could feel exposed in bad weather, although there is a wraparound seat, and the Jefa pedestal can swing inboard if necessary. The outer position gives you optimal views ahead and to windward. The dreadnought bows are designed to give extra waterline length for speed, while the long, fine underwater profile of the hulls is optimised for comfort through the waves. The flatter sections aft mean that she should plane at speed, and the winch-trimmed daggerboards improve performance to windward. High-tech foam sandwich lay-up and the use of carbon fibre in key areas keeps the hulls light and stiff.

ITA 14.99 saloon

There should be plenty of power from her fathead main and self-tacking jib. “Since most cruisers consists of one couple for sailing, the deck and running rigging had to be of a design so that one person can easily manage all sailing manoeuvres from the safety of the cockpit,” says Sonia Segato, head of marketing at ITA Catamarans. The mainsheet runs back to blocks on the aft crossbeam, where Harken 50 winches are within easy reach of the helm. It is a set-up that has worked well for monohull sailors, and this boat’s low profile coachroof makes it possible here too. The designer’s ambition is clearly bluewater, because the boat’s equipment and latest technology includes a Schenker watermaker and Oceanvolt electric propulsion, backed up with twin regenerating props that allow you to recharge the lithium-ion batteries as you sail. There’s scope for owners to choose their own interior design. “Nothing is set in stone”, says ITA. The heart of the boat is its comfy saloon, which has wraparound toughened glass windows, and the starboard hull is turned over to the owner’s suite. There are several configurations to choose from, including one with an office and another with bunks. Weight management is taken very seriously. The complete hulls weigh 2,250kg, and the whole boat is infused in one shot to come in under five tonnes. The first 14.99 will be shown 
at Cannes, before the owner takes it 
on a circumnavigation.

LOA: 49ft 2in (14.99m) Beam: 25ft 7in (7.80m) Draught: 1ft 10in-7ft 8in (0.57m-2.35m) Displacement: 14.5 tonnes Price: €890,000 Contact: Itacatamarans

Coming up: Gunboat 68

Gunboat 68 render

Gunboat is back to what it does best with a show-stopping design for a 68ft oceanic catamaran. An all-carbon build again, the new 68 has heavily reversed wave-piercing bows and super low-profile coachroof, giving it an elegant but muscular look. There’s something of Gotham City about this yacht. Gunboat, which is now under French ownership, has brought in VPLP design for the naval architecture. They are veterans of some of the world’s biggest, fastest racing multihulls. The design team has broadened the beam of the boat and moved the mast further aft to make her more stable and easier to handle. That said, she’ll be no slouch, particularly if you select some of the turbo options, including longer rig for bigger sails, lighter weight and longer daggerboards. Speeds in excess of 25 knots in a blow, and up to 16 knots in a Force 4 are predicted. Benoit Lebizay, Gunboat’s managing partner, says: “500 miles per day is an achievable target”.

Gunboat 68 vue cockpit

LOA: 68ft (20.75m) Beam: 29ft 11in (9.1m) Draught: 3ft 11in-13ft 6in (1.20m-4.10m) Displacement: 23.8 tonnes Price: from €4.75m Contact: Gunboat

Best of the rest:

Unlimited yacht c53.

Unlimited Yacht C53 aft view

Vittorio Malingri, Italy’s first Vendée Globe sailor, is the nautical brain behind a new fast cruising catamaran, christened the Unlimited C53. With no website, his is a stealthy operation, but the first hull is sold and already in-build on the Adriatic coast between Ancona and San Marino. The boat has been designed with an experienced navigator’s eye, so the beams connecting the two hulls are an unprecedented 1.3m above the waterline, to minimise slamming in heavy seas. Tankage and heavy equipment are all positioned low and in the centre of the hulls for balance. And there is a heavy longeron, which makes for a stiffer forestay and therefore better windward performance. The twin helms are on swinging pedestals, and the boat uses foils and T-shaped rudders to provide lift to windward. There are three broad specification levels, depending on budget, with the top spec including full carbon lay-up.

Dazcat D1295

Dazcat D1295 on water

Launched at the end of last season, the D1295 is a potent new addition to the cruiser-racer cat market. It is the smaller sister to the very impressive D1495 we tested two years ago and 
leans on more than three decades of successful 
offshore racing builds from this Cornish yard. These cats can outrun weather or look after 
crew if caught out. Weight is kept low and central, including the engines, to create a fast smooth ride. It is also minimised wherever possible, with carbon used for the rudders, spinnaker pole V-striker, davits and bimini sections. “She points really high and is the fastest tacking Dazcat so far,” says Dazcat designer Darren Newton. “We did a two-second tack where she lost no momentum at all, which for a cruising cat is phenomenal!”

racing catamaran speed

The 8 Fastest Cruising Catamarans (With Speedchart)

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Cruising catamarans are some of the most comfortable boats to roam the water, making them fantastic for both long-term voyages and short-term vacations. Still, cruising catamarans can be great racing boats, but just how fast can they go?

Some of the fastest cruising catamarans include the Gunboat 68 (35 knots), Outremer 45 (25 knots), ORC50 (25 knots), FastCat 435 (20 knots), TS 42 (35 knots), and Lagoon 440 (20 knots). Yet, there are many more cats that can reach 35 knots safely. 

If you are interested in knowing about the fastest cruising catamarans, I have you covered. I will be discussing some of the most popular, fastest cruising catamarans and the features that make them so excellent for sailors in need of speed. You will learn more about each catamaran’s speed and amenities, and I will let you know a trick or two to maximize your speed under sail. 

How Fast Are Cruising Catamarans?

On average, cruising catamarans can reach top speeds of 15 knots , around 17.3 mph (27.84 kph). However, some exceptional, racing-designed cruising catamarans can reach up to 30+ knots in the right wind conditions. 

When you want to better understand catamaran hull characteristics, I suggest the book Catamarans a Complete Guide (amazon link) by the president of Aeroyacht catamarans and that you check out my article Why catamarans capsize .

Factors That Impact Speed

Weight & size.

When you consider a catamaran’s speed, you will need to keep in mind the boat’s weight and narrowness. A vessel that can travel at 15 knots will still move slower if the boat is heavy or has a wide, extensive hull. When increasing the total weight of the boat, the boat “sits” lower in the water, thus increasing water drag and reducing speed.

Why trimarans are faster than catamarans!

Now that we know how weight impacts sailing characteristics, it follows that; if you are planning on racing your catamaran, you should remove as much luggage or extra gear as possible. Eliminating as much weight as possible will help you travel at your cat’s maximum speed .

Narrow Hulls

The hydrodynamics of the ship will heavily affect your speed. Narrower boats can chop through the water with less effort, making slender ships with pointed hulls far faster than wide vessels. So if you are looking for the fastest one available, you should look for a slender hull.

Slim hulls vs. space is a common tradeoff for catamarans optimized for family sailing .

Wind will also affect your ship’s speed, so do not expect your cruising catamaran to reach the maximum speed without heavy wind. Generally, cruising catamarans have two large sails (at least) to power them through the water, and some are so efficient that they can travel even faster than the wind.

Although a strong wind is needed to energize the sails and move the boat, too much wind will instead make the sails less efficient, and maximum speed is most often attained at lower wind speeds but with flat water.

Light Weight Materials

Faster cruising catamarans are often made from carbon fiber materials and fiberglass to keep the weight down. If you are looking for the quickest catamaran that you can find, you should note the materials that the ship is made out of and try to get one that is primarily made from carbon, glass, and resin materials. 

While you are looking for the perfect catamaran for you, you should keep in mind what you NEED and what is NICE with your ship. Usually, this decision is between size and speed, but some of these excellent vessels have both. 

Lightweight materials are usually costly; for example, a carbon fiber mast will probably cost you +$20 000, depending on the cat’s size.

I have written a buyer’s guide that explains the concept of NEED vs. NICE , which will make choosing the right boat faster and more accurate.

Gunboat 68 (+35Kts)

Gunboat 68 is a cruising catamaran designed to reach the highest speeds possible. Made by Gunboat, the ship uses Grand-Prix racing boats’ designs to develop the speediest cruising catamaran on the market. 

Gunboat 68 is made entirely from carbon composites, which keeps the ship lightweight and fast. Gunboat 68 is the perfect catamaran for anyone who wants to reach the highest speeds possible while maintaining control of the vessel and not bouncing around too much. 

Gunboat 68 has comfortable, spacious living quarters, though it also has a spacious deck with luxurious seating. Indeed, this cat has it all, making it one of the best cruising catamarans for racers and casual sailors. The design maximizes all of the living spaces and uses lightweight materials to add elegance and luxury to a speedy racing catamaran. 

Gunboat 68 is one of the fastest cruising cats out there, with its maximum speed at more than 30 knots . Gunboat 68 can achieve these fast speeds, thanks to its lightweight construction and narrow hull design. 

Still, Gunboat can customize your ship’s plan to accommodate your needs. Whether you are looking for a faster, more lightweight boat with a more extensive sail or a more comfortable cruiser, Gunboat 68 is an excellent option for you. 

Specifications

  • Maximum Speed: 35 knots
  • Length: 68 ft (20.75 m)
  • Beam: 29.9 ft (9.1 m)
  • Draft: 3.9 ft (1.2 m) board up and 9.84 ft (3.8 m) board down
  • Displacement: 23.7 tonnes

TS 42 (ORC 42)

The TS, or Tres Simple , cruising catamarans, designed by Marsaudon Composites, are some of the fastest cruising catamarans in the world. 

Marsaudon developed the ship’s plans using racing boats’ streamlined designs and combined them with a cruising catamaran’s comfortable living spaces. The TS 42 has an inverted hull which helps it glide on the water swiftly without requiring much fuel, but it also has a spacious below-deck area with plenty of luxuries.

TS cruising catamarans are often considered the fastest cruisers on the market, with their speed comfortably reaching upwards of 35 knots in the right wind conditions. Generally, TS catamarans can sail at 20 knots, even with moderate wind. They are the perfect catamaran for racers and high-speed travelers, and yet they still have the amenities of a pleasant live-in vessel. 

The TS 42 has a large galley and comfortable cabins, making it a cozy home or vacation vessel. With multiple bathrooms, large windows, and open lounge spaces, these catamarans are superbly comfortable to live in. 

The deck and cabin space are divided by a large, openable window, which adds extra light and ventilation to the living areas. It also has plenty of on-deck space, which is rare in such a small vessel with an inverted hull. 

If you think I’m using too many confusing nautical terms, you’ll find all the answers on my Catamaran parts explained page .

  • Length: 42.8 ft (13 m)
  • Beam: 24.3 ft (7.4 m)
  • Draft: 4.9 ft (1.5 m) with boards up and 7.5 ft (2.3 m) with boards down
  • Displacement: 5.8 tonnes

Outremer 45

Based in France, Outremer (pronounced uutremeer 😉 ) designed their Outremer 45 to be a long-lasting cruising catamaran that sails smoothly at high speeds. The Outremer 45 can reach about 15 knots, but the most comfortable sailing speed is 10 knots. However, it can travel up to 25 knots in the right wind conditions, making it a quick ship with all of a perfect cruising catamaran’s luxuries. 

It is made for durability from carbon, vinyl ester, and divinycell so that it can last many years without repairs. The Outremer 45 has a narrow hull, and it is designed to be as thin as possible to maximize speed and fuel efficiency. Outremer 45 still has comfortable living quarters with large windows and lounge spaces within the boat. Indeed, it sacrifices no comfort for speed.

In this article, I talk a lot about catamaran characteristics, both interior and exterior, if that’s something you want to better understand, then I recommend an article where I write about trade-offs in design choices .

The Outremer 45 was initially designed to be a boat that would last 50 or more years, and it excels in its durability. It has an open, uniquely expansive side deck and plenty of on-deck conveniences that make sailing a breeze in the ORC50.

With supreme safety features such as tall railings, slip-free grips on deck, and enclosed lounge spaces, it is one of the safest catamarans available (is safety your top concern? I wrote a list of the safest catamarans on the market). 

  • Maximum Speed: 25 knots
  • Length: 48 ft (14.6 m)
  • Beam: 23.3 ft (7.1 m)
  • Draft: 3.3 ft (1 m) with boards up and 6.7 ft (2.04 m) with boards down
  • Displacement: 8.2 to 11.1 tonnes

Marsaudon Composites ORC50

Marsaudon Composites designed the ORC50, or Ocean Rider Catamaran 50, with both speed and comfort in mind. The ORC50 can be used for cruising, but it is also a great racing boat that has been awarded honors from many races worldwide.

Marsaudon borrowed designs from racing skippers to plan the ORC50, bringing together a cruiser’s comfort with the speed of an award-winning racing boat. 

This cruising catamaran is lightweight, which allows it to gain speed at a fast rate, but still has comfortable living quarters inside the boat. It has a rotating carbon mast, which helps to eliminate turbulence over the mainsail and therefore increasing sail efficiency and speed!

With strong winds, the ORC50 can reach up to 23 knots , making it extremely fast for a cruising catamaran. The ORC50 can easily reach speeds much faster than the wind speed, which is a unique quality of this fast, yet comfortable catamaran.

The ORC50 is an excellent long-term living ship with its many organizational compartments, expansive galley, and well-ventilated sleeping cabin. It also has plenty of couches and seating areas built into the boat, and its intuitive design adds plenty of comfort to the cruising catamaran without weighing down the ship. 

  • Length: 50 ft (15.23 m)
  • Beam: 27 ft (8.2 m)
  • Draft: 5.6 ft (1.7 m) with boards up and 8.9 ft (2.7 m) with boards down
  • Displacement: 13 tonnes

FastCat 435

African Cat’s catamarans, including the FastCat 435, are designed for speed and racing. This ship is mainly composed of epoxy, fiberglass, and carbon components, making it very lightweight to ensure that it travels as swiftly as possible. 

The FastCat 435 may be as light as possible, but it is durable enough to last for many years in the most extreme conditions.

The FastCat 435 has comfortable living quarters and well-designed comfort spaces so that you can get the most out of your trips. The FastCat also has a green hybrid design, and it uses primarily electric power, which can help you prolong your sailing and use less fuel. 

I find solar-powered/electric cats pretty exciting, so much so that I wrote an entire article called The Best Solar-Powered Catamarans on the subject.

The FastCat is an excellent option for anyone who wants a smaller cat with a comfortable design and incredible speed. FastCat’s electric power is also a unique, favorable feature for anyone who wants to use less fuel. 

  • Maximum Speed: 20 knots
  • Length: 42.7 ft (13 m)
  • Beam: 24.4 ft (7.4 m)
  • Draft: 3.9 ft (1.2 m) with boards up
  • Displacement: 2.4 tonnes

The Lagoon 440 cruising catamaran, like the FastCat, has an electric powering version, which cuts down on fossil fuel usage and ensures that your ship will keep moving. The Lagoon 440 is also among the easiest catamarans to maneuver, thanks to its electric drivetrain and automatic engines. 

The speed of the Lagoon 440 usually maxes out at 10 knots with low winds, but with higher winds, it can quickly gain speeds up to 20 knots (some argue even higher, but I’m doubtful). The Lagoon 440 is an excellent cruiser and comfortable catamaran, but it is not an all-out racing cat.

Lagoon is a well-known brand, but there are some caveats, and are Lagoons still making good catamarans?

Below the deck, the living spaces in the Lagoon 440 are magnificent. The ceilings are high, allowing the tallest of passengers to stand in the cabin. The many storage compartments and furnishings have a modern, elegant design. The interior is one large primary cabin with a few private spaces below the deck. 

  • Length: 44.6 ft (13.6 m)
  • Beam: 25.3 ft (7.7 m)
  • Draft: 4.3 ft (1.3 m)
  • Displacement: 10.5 tonnes

Fountaine Pajot Astréa 42

Fountaine Pajot designs some of the most luxurious yet speedy cruising catamarans available in the world. They are renowned for their safe, durable designs that make sailing a comfortable, relaxing experience. And on a personal note, i think the name sounds beautiful!

Their cruising catamarans use an inverted hull design that has become a signature mark of Fountaine Pajot vessels. This hull type allows the water to pass beneath the ship quickly, which increases the speed and fuel efficiency of the cat. 

The Astréa 42’s primary benefit is its spacious, comfortable living quarters and large, open deck spaces. The ship’s interior spaces have large windows, large lounging areas, and plenty of storage compartments. 

The cabin’s ventilation is also excellent, which reduces the classic musty smells of sea living. You can also get two different models of this catamaran, either in a one-cabin option or a two-cabin option, making it an excellent vessel for larger or smaller families.

The Astréa is ideal for long-term sea living and family vacations (it is not as fast as some more racing-oriented cats). Although the Astréa is not the speediest cat available, with its speed maxing out at about 10+ knots, even in favorable wind conditions, its luxurious atmosphere and comfortable cabin spaces make up for its relatively slow speed. 

Don’t get me wrong, despite its lower speed compared to the boats on this list, the Astréa 42 can still get you places quicker than many other cruising catamarans (and most monohulls). So, if you want all of the elegance and comfort of a cat and are not too worried about racing, this ship is an excellent option for you.  

  • Maximum Speed: 10 knots
  • Length: 41.3 ft (12.6 m)
  • Beam: 23.6 ft (7.2 m)
  • Draft: 4.1 ft (1.3 m)
  • Displacement: 12.3 tonnes

Privilege Signature 510

The Privilege Signature 510 is a long-distance cruising catamaran designed for long-term voyages and sailing in extreme weather conditions. It features a durable, weatherproof design that will protect you from rainy and cold weather while sailing. 

The helm and living spaces are completely covered, making it safe to live in, even in cold or stormy weather. It also has an automatic sail adjustment system with the controls at the helm, allowing you to make any adjustments from the helm’s safety and comfort. 

Privilege Signature 510 also has an elegant, well-designed living space with plenty of amenities, including an accelerated cooling system, a spacious bathroom and kitchen, and plenty of windows for natural lighting.

With an elegant floor plan, this cozy ship is perfect for long-term living.

The Privilege Signature is not the fastest catamaran on the market, with a maximum speed of around 13 knots. Still, it is one of the quicker cats considering its elaborate amenities and comfortable size.

  • Maximum Speed: 13 knots
  • Length: 50 ft (15.24 m)
  • Beam: 26 ft (7.98 m)
  • Draft: 5 ft (1.57 m)
  • Displacement: 25 tonnes

Although cruising catamarans are great boats for slowly cruising along the water, they can also be swift, substantial racing boats that reach speeds of up to 35 knots. These speedy cruising catamarans still come with all of the amenities of leisure boats, but they also reach incredible speeds without rocking or tossing. 

Owner of CatamaranFreedom.com. A minimalist that has lived in a caravan in Sweden, 35ft Monohull in the Bahamas, and right now in his self-built Van. He just started the next adventure, to circumnavigate the world on a Catamaran!

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racing catamaran speed

Untitled

My Cruiser Life Magazine

Sailing Catamaran Speed

You’ve probably heard that one of the best reasons to get a catamaran is because they’re fast. After all, there’s a race any time there are two sailboats on the same waterway.

But like all things in boating, speed is a relative term. Catamarans seem fast to those coming from slow and heavy monohull sailboats, but cruising catamarans are still pretty slow vessels. There are indeed high-tech racing catamarans breaking speed records all the time. Still, the vessels that most liveaboard cruisers venture out on are only slightly faster than their monohull counterparts. 

For this article, we will look at the types of catamarans people live on and cruise on. Forget about those fantastic America’s Cup yachts or those multihull go-fast fishing boats for a few minutes. 

I have had experience cruising and living aboard both catamarans and monohulls. For five years, my wife and I enjoyed catamaran sailing on a Lagoon 380. We then switched—for many reasons—to a Cabo Rico 38. The Cabo Rico is a traditionally-designed monohull with a full keel and a heavy displacement. In other words, it’s about as far away from a “speedy” catamaran as one can get.

Table of Contents

How fast can a catamaran go, measuring catamaran speed, catamaran speeds vs monohull speeds, sailing cruising catamarans, performance cruising catamarans, racing catamarans, power cruising catamarans, catamaran top speed, faqs – how fast are catamarans.

white sailboat on sea near green mountain under blue sky during daytime

There’s no doubt that catamarans are some of the fastest sailboats around—but there’s also a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding online about how fast they really are. 

Realize that not all catamarans are created equally. There are cruising catamarans built to carry their passengers in comfort. And then there are racing catamarans built for nothing but speed. Somewhere in between, there is a poorly-defined category of “performance cruising” catamarans that stir passions.

So, are catamarans fast? Well, it’s all relative. But, if you compare them to monohull sailboats of similar sizes and capabilities, the catamarans are usually faster for several reasons. 

The speed difference is even harder to measure in the cruising catamaran category. One of the reasons catamarans beat monohulls during races is because they are built light with no ballast. But a heavily-laden cruising cat ready for an ocean crossing is hardly “lightly loaded.” Will it still beat a similarly heavily-laden monohull? Sure! But probably not by as much as you might think.

Boats measure their speed in knots. Traditionally, this was measured by a tool known as a knot log. The modern equivalent is an underwater instrument with a spinning wheel that effectively measures the speed of the water passing over the hull. So long as no currents are present, that speed will equal the boat’s speed over the ground (SOG).

Satellite navigation allows us to measure our SOG more accurately, but this isn’t a great indication of boat performance since it will be affected by tides and ocean currents. 

For landlubbers, one knot is equal to about 1.15 statute miles. So, in other words, when we say that a sailboat cruises at 6 knots, it means it’s going about 7 mph.

But before going any further, consider this—the maximum speed that a sailboat makes is generally a pretty meaningless number. Maybe the knot log pegs to 13 knots for a few seconds, thanks to a strong gust of wind while you’re headed down a large swell. Does this mean you’re driving a 13-knot boat?

A voyaging sailor who has made a long passage will have little interest in this sort of number. When you’re crossing oceans, what really matters is how many miles pass under the keel each day. The more miles you tick off, the shorter the passage. So most sailors learn quickly to look past the “fastest speed in knots” number and find real-world stats on passage miles. 

Lake Tahoe

Comparing speeds between radically different sailing vessel hulls is like comparing apples to oranges. Even seemingly similar boats, like “cruising sailboats,” the differences between one and the other are endless.

For example, let’s say you wanted to compare 38-foot monohulls to 38-foot catamarans. The speed of a monohull is limited by waterline length, which means you’d have to look at a hull that is significantly more than 38 feet in most cases. On the other hand, the catamaran is known for long swim platforms on inverse transoms and plumb bows—meaning most 38 foot cats have nearly 38 feet of waterline. 

Then, what sort of hull design makes a fair comparison to a catamaran? Would it make sense to compare a transitional, salty 38-footer with a full keel? Probably not. Most sailors interested in the cruising catamaran lifestyle would more than likely be comparing it to a modern monohull with a flatter bottom, fin keel, and spade rudder. 

What about the catamaran? There’s a lot of variation in the catamaran field regarding performance. If speed is your goal, you likely want to compare the high-end performance brands—Outremer, Gunboat, HH, and the like. These boats are becoming more popular, but most cruising cats you see on the water are not performance models. Instead, they are the big and comfortable cruisers made by Lagoon, Leopard, or Fountaine Pajot.

Finally, how can you fairly compare the stats? Boats sail differently in different wind speeds and at different points of sail. In other words—there are a lot of variables that make it hard to answer the question, “How fast can a catamaran go?”

Polar charts for each vessel can provide some clues to make a somewhat fair comparison. Polar charts are graphical plots of a sailboat’s performance in different wind conditions and at different points of sail. Manufacturers seldom publish since no two are ever perfectly alike. They are less of a boat specification and more of one sailor’s results for a particular boat. Most owners make their own polar diagrams, but they’re still a tool for those looking to get an idea of a model’s performance in the real world.

Speeds of Various Types of Sailing Catamarans

There are several distinct catamaran classes, and predicting speed means understanding what the designers were building the craft to do. You might be surprised to learn that the first “modern” catamarans popped up in the New England racing circles in the late 1800s. Nat Herreshoff’s Amaryllis is particularly famous from the time .

Since then, catamarans have been synonymous with speed. But in today’s world of many different multihull designs, it’s important to set your expectations accordingly. As you would not buy a Ferrari for its cargo space, don’t expect your minivan to win any races at the track.

Examples of cruising cats include popular models made by the big-three catamaran makers—Lagoon, Fountaine Pajot, and Leopard. However, there are dozens of other companies making these boats. The market and industry for cruising catamarans have never been larger. 

Most of these boats are engineered to provide comfortable accommodations for voyaging. They first became famous as vessels for sail charter holidays, where their huge cockpits and private cabins made them much more popular than the smaller and cramped monohull options.

As a result, they’re not built with high-tech components or super lightweight performance rigs. Instead, they’re the catamaran equivalent of a Hunter or a Catalina sailboat—mass-produced on an assembly line. That keeps prices lower than other types of catamarans, but it also means that they’re not winning any races. The makers use traditional layups with end-grain balsa-cored fiberglass to keep costs down. In addition, they usually feature stub fin keels, which are foolproof to sail but will not provide the upwind performance of a lift-making daggerboard. 

Still, without ballast and when lightly loaded, cruising catamarans can move. They show their colors in light air when heavy displacement-hulled sailboats usually make their poorest showing. Since these moderate conditions also make for great cruising, these boats can provide a lovely ride in smooth weather. 

Cruising catamarans can’t plane or anything, but their narrow hulls create an effect that means they can beat the hull speeds of a similarly sized monohull. Of course, it’s not a precise number since every boat and crew is different, but generally, you could expect speeds to be about one and a half times that of a same-sized monohull.

yacht on sea

These catamarans are still rigged for comfort, but they’re built using the highest-quality and lightest-weight materials. While their hulls are rigged for comfortable living, they are generally designed much sleeker than regular charter-style cruising catamarans. The hulls are narrower, and you’re unlikely to see tall flybridges or forward lounge seating.

Several companies are making these boats. But in the world of catamarans, a performance cruiser is the upper end of the market. If you want a car comparison, Lagoons are something like a Chevy sedan, whereas an Outremer is like an M-series BMW. A Gunboat would be even more exotic, like a Ferrari. Not only are they more fashionable brands, but they’re also made to higher standards with cutting-edge designs . 

It’s also worth noting that the category of “performance cruising cat” is a sliding scale. Some companies make vessels with better materials and craftsmanship than the cruising cats but aren’t designed for speed. Others build cats that are all about performance with few amenities. 

With every new model, companies building these cutting-edge boats are attempting to boost the “performance” and the “cruising” aspect of their vessels. As a result, amenities and speed continue to get better and better. 

Any racing sailboat is not designed for comfort. Especially on a catamaran, accommodations take up space and weigh the boat down. True racing vessels are designed to not worry about the crew but optimize every element for speed. Once the boat is designed for the desired performance, they’ll squeeze in bunks and storage wherever they can. 

As such, there’s not much point in comparing them to liveaboard or cruising sailing vessels—they are too different. Some modern racing catamarans even fly above the water on foils. This makes for a high-speed boat and a considerable risk for sailors traveling for pleasure. Gunboat tried to make a foiling cruising cat in the G4 model, but it didn’t go so well for them. 

Power cats run the same gamut of designs that sailing catamarans do. Power catamarans and sport catamarans designs are popular in powerboat circles for the same reasons they are in the sailing world–their hull designs allow for smaller underwater profiles and high speeds. There are many fast catamarans out there with twin engines and average speeds of well over 70 knots. Most recreational vessels cruise at about 20 knots, however.

Power catamarans also offer a smooth ride, making them a popular choice for large vessels like passenger ferries. There are even military vessels that use two hulls, like the stealth M80 Stiletto .

As you can see, catamaran speeds vary from just slightly better than monohulls to extraordinary flying machines. But cats are about much more than just speed. Their open and bright living space makes living aboard an entirely different experience than living on a monohull. Their cockpits flow into their salons for a full-time outdoor living feel that no other type of vessel can match. There are many reasons to choose a catamaran as a liveaboard sailboat.

How fast is a catamaran?

The answer depends on many other questions, like what sort of catamaran is it? And if it’s a sail cat, how fast is the wind blowing? 

Sailing catamarans come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are optimized for living space and comfort, while others are designed with fast cruising speeds being the sole goal of the boat. The Gunboat 68, one of the fastest cruising sailboats currently made, can exceed 30 knots. 

The world of power cats is much the same. Some power cats can do well over 70 knots, while most cruising boats top out at around 20 knots.

Do catamarans have a hull speed?

A hull speed is a characteristic of traditional displacement-hulled sailing vessels. The properties of the hull shape under the water create drag that limits the overall speed that the vessel can achieve. Even if you keep adding more power (or more wind), the vessel cannot exceed its designed hull speed for any length of time. Hull speed is a factor of waterline length. 

Multihulls, however, have an entirely different underwater profile than monohulls. Their narrow hulls and shallow keels mean that drag is not the limiting factor. With this in mind, designers can tweak catamaran hulls to plane and cruise well above the hull speed of a similarly sized monohull.

What is the fastest cruising catamaran?

The market for fast-moving cruising cats has never seen more innovation than in the past decade. This type of boat has taken off, spurred in part by new designs and the overall popularity of multihulls for cruising. The industry leader in fast multihulls is generally considered the French-based company Gunboat . After all, one of the company’s mottos is “Life is too short to sail a slow boat.”

The company’s largest boat to date is the Gunboat 90 Sunshine . However, the delivery of the company’s current flagship, the Gunboat 68 Condor , from France to St. Maarten, provides some real-world numbers. In the delivery crew’s words, “Our max speed exceeded 30 knots a couple of times, and the max 24-hour run was 328 nm.” To save you the math, that works out for an average speed of 13.7 knots for their best day.

racing catamaran speed

Matt has been boating around Florida for over 25 years in everything from small powerboats to large cruising catamarans. He currently lives aboard a 38-foot Cabo Rico sailboat with his wife Lucy and adventure dog Chelsea. Together, they cruise between winters in The Bahamas and summers in the Chesapeake Bay.

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