This 137-year old concept, revived by the 2013 America’s Cup and accelerated by limitless budgets and rapid innovation and technology, is propelling catamaran popularity into the general sailing community with spectacular speed.
Nathanael Herreshoff registered the first US patent for a catamaran design and introduced it to the sailing world in 1876. He raced his catamaran, Amaryllis, in the Centennial Regatta held on June 22, 1876, at the New York Yacht Club. Amaryllis changed from being a mere curiosity to being the outright winner of the Regatta and was described as “A Revolutionary Yacht.” Unfortunately, monohulls competitors protested the Amaryllis and she was disqualified from the race and catamarans were barred from organized racing. This decision stopped the further development of multihulls for decades.
Only in the1950’s did people like Woody Brown, the Prout brothers and James Wharram, to name but a few, start making strides in racing and crossing oceans in catamarans of various designs. In the twentieth century the catamaran inspired Hobie Alter to introduce the sailing catamarans to the masses with his highly successful Hobie 16, remaining in production with more than 100,000 made in the last three decades. The development of the modern catamaran, from simple ocean going catamarans such as the Polynesian double canoe, two logs bridged by planks, to some of the most impressive multihulls on the planet, such as the record breaking trimaran Hydroptere and the foiling catamarans that impressed the world at the latest America’s Cup, is meteoric.
This evolution has been unleashed with limitless budgets for innovative designs, building materials and technology. Tom Weaver the former CEO of an America’s Cup program comments in an article by Rob Almeida in gcaptain.com: “In the next 15 years, if you are not racing a cat, you will be racing “classic” boats.” This is becoming increasingly true for cruising catamarans also. People are getting over the prejudices of traditional problems with catamarans with advancement of technology and design.