Cruising World - - Con­tents - By Tim Mur­phy

Four in­dus­try lead­ers dis­cuss what goes into bring­ing a new cata­ma­ran to mar­ket, from de­sign con­cept to launch day.




om­fort. Per­for­mance. Ease-of-use. Good er­gonomic flow. Ask sev­eral cre­ators of new cruis­ing cata­ma­rans what the orig­i­nal de­sign con­cept was, and you’ll likely hear some rep­e­ti­tion of the same short list of fa­mil­iar themes. Yet when you look at the boats them­selves, the re­sults could hardly be more dif­fer­ent. With that puz­zle in mind, we iden­ti­fied four stand­out cats from this year’s fleet of new mod­els, in­clud­ing three Boat of the Year win­ners, and we closely in­ter­viewed their cre­ators to find out how each project moved from the germ of an idea through pro­to­type to model launch — and how they ar­rived at such dif­fer­ent boats.


The four cruis­ing cata­ma­rans in our group come from three con­ti­nents.

The U.s.-built Maine Cat 38 is con­ceived, de­signed, man­u­fac­tured and sold by one man: Dick Ver­meulen. Since 1993, work­ing with a dozen crafts­men in mid­coast Maine, Ver­meulen has launched 130 boats, in­clud­ing 63 Maine Cat 30s and 24 MC 41s, as well as a 47-foot power cat and a 22-foot Dick Newick de­sign. To­day Maine Cat has the ca­pac­ity to build five, maybe six, MC 38s per year.

“We’re re­ally a craft shop here, one at a time. But there’s one thing about the boat that comes down the line here,” says Ver­meulen, a me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer who grew up sail­ing com­pet­i­tively in New Jer­sey. “It has to be the fastest cruis­ing cat out there, or I’ve failed at ev­ery­thing I’ve done.”

The French-built La­goon 42 comes from the world’s most pro­lific cata­ma­ran builder. Part of Groupe Beneteau, whose Boat Di­vi­sion will turn over roughly $960 mil­lion an­nu­ally, La­goon’s roughly 1,200 em­ploy­ees are on track to launch 350 boats, in mod­els rang­ing from 38 to 77 feet, this year. Since its first boat in 1987, La­goon has built some 4,200 cruis­ing cats. We spoke with La­goon Amer­ica di­rec­tor Fred Sig­nat, a 20-year vet­eran of the com­pany who came up through the de­sign de­part­ment be­fore man­ag­ing sales re­gions in Europe, the In­dian Ocean, and North Amer­ica.

“Roughly the life of one model is five years,” says Sig­nat. “It’s very close to the car busi­ness now, and so ev­ery year we’re work­ing on model changes. But if a boat is a suc­cess, we’re not in a rush to re­place that model.” The La­goon 42 won Best Full-size Mul­ti­hull Un­der 50 Feet in last year’s BOTY con­test.

Franck Bau­guil man­ages yacht sales for Trav­elopia, which un­til re­cently was known as TUI Ma­rine. In case that name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s the par­ent com­pany of The Moor­ings, Sun­sail and Leop­ard Cata­ma­rans — a ma­rine leisure busi­ness that em­ploys 77,000 peo­ple and man­ages 1,800 char­ter boats at 80 bases around the world. Trav­elopia is also the sole client of South Africa-based Robert­son and Caine, a com­pany that em­ploys 1,400 peo­ple build­ing cata­ma­rans from 40 to 58 feet. Bau­guil pro­vides the de­sign brief for all new mod­els to the builder and to Alex Si­mo­nis, the naval ar­chi­tect.

“What’s unique about us,” Bau­guil says, “is that Robert­son and Caine doesn’t have 50 or 100 deal­ers in front of it. It has one, and I’m the con­tact per­son.” Col­lat­ing feed­back from sev­eral de­part­ments within Trav­elopia (sales, char­ter op­er­a­tions, after-sales

and oth­ers), Bau­guil knows ex­actly how many boats of each model to build in a given year — 211 boats in 2017 — and how many of those will go into pri­vate own­er­ship or char­ter. And be­cause 60 per­cent of the boats will go into char­ter pro­grams man­aged by Trav­elopia, Bau­guil knows his com­pany car­ries the re­spon­si­bil­ity to ser­vice the boats for at least the first five years. It’s an in­cen­tive to cre­ate boats that are easy to main­tain, a ben­e­fit that ex­tends to pri­vate own­ers as well. The Leop­ard 45 (Moor­ings 4500, Sun­sail 454) won Best Char­ter Boat in the most re­cent BOTY con­test.

Phil Ber­man, pres­i­dent of the Mul­ti­hull Com­pany, based in Philadel­phia, has been pur­su­ing the sweet spot in per­for­mance cruis­ing cata­ma­rans for his en­tire ca­reer. After win­ning Ho­bie Cat World Cham­pi­onships in 1979 and 1980, and found­ing a yacht bro­ker­age spe­cial­iz­ing in cata­ma­rans, he un­der­stands both what it takes to make a fast cata­ma­ran and what the mar­ket is look­ing for. In the early 2000s, Ber­man im­ported the sporty Dol­phin line of cata­ma­rans from Brazil; in 2011, he founded Bal­ance Cata­ma­rans. Among other projects, he con­ceived the Bal­ance 526, de­signed by An­ton du Toit and built by Nexus Yachts in South Africa. The boat was a home run in the eyes of the BOTY judges, win­ning the top prize in 2017, Im­port Boat of the Year.

“I felt the op­por­tu­nity in the mar­ket arose be­cause all of the big builders are re­ally very skewed to­ward low per­for­mance and high vol­ume,” Ber­man con­tends. “Each suc­ceed­ing gen­er­a­tion of cats is get­ting slower.” The 526 was born to counter that trend. “She’s a wind-speed boat in light airs,” he said, mean­ing the boat will sail as quick as the breeze in 10 knots or less. Ber­man and Nexus Yachts plan to de­liver five or six new boats per year.


We asked each cat creator what in­spires a new model. Here, in their own words, are their re­sponses.

Dick Ver­meulen (Maine Cat 38): Ev­ery­body has to take a look at the in­tended use, and that was my start­ing place for the 38. The Maine Cat 41 was the big “had-ev­ery­thing, live­aboard mon­ster boat.” It had the abil­ity to carry all that weight. It had the genset. It had the air con­di­tion­ing. It had the wa­ter­maker. It had 365 pounds of toys on board, not count­ing the dinghy and the en­gine. The Maine Cat 30 is a real plain-jane, in­ex­pen­sive, go­sail­ing type of boat, and I re­ally en­joyed it. And ob­vi­ously, our cus­tomers do too. When a used one comes on the mar­ket, it doesn’t last for a cou­ple of days, and it’s sold again.

So that was the start­ing place for the 38. Who’s go­ing to sail this boat? And how? If they’re into all the junk, then they don’t want my boat. Again, it has to be the quick­est cruis­ing cat go­ing, so to get to that point, you’ve got to get rid of junk. The own­ers who are go­ing to buy this boat, yeah, they’re in­ter­ested in the com­fort. And the sta­bil­ity. And the am­biance. And the spa­ces. And the vis­i­bil­ity. And all this great stuff. But what do they re­ally want to do? They want to pass the guy next to them. And that’s what I want to do. My end goal is to have the most ef­fi­cient piece of ma­chin­ery on the wa­ter.

And then you’ve got to fig­ure out who’s go­ing to be on the boat, and how they’re go­ing to han­dle the boat. I’ve got a lot of guys who want to be able to go out there

on a Sun­day af­ter­noon by them­selves. And if they have a 40-some-odd-foot beast, they’re not go­ing out. But to have a Maine Cat 30, they’ll go out. And I’ve made the 38 as sim­ple to sail, if not sim­pler, as the 30. I’ve got to have a boat that I can han­dle my­self.

Fred Sig­nat (La­goon 42): Sev­eral years ago, we wanted some­thing new. Frankly, the La­goon im­age — our com­peti­tors were talk­ing about La­goons as car­a­vans, so we wanted to re­new this im­age. We asked the jour­nal­ists to ap­ply the tech­ni­cal so­lu­tions they used on the rac­ing boats to the La­goons. They came up with plenty of ideas that we ac­cepted and many that we didn’t. And the main idea was the new rig (moved aft, be­gin­ning with the 2015 La­goon 39 and 52). On the La­goon 380, the rig was 37 per­cent aft; on the 42 it’s 53 per­cent aft. That re­ally re­duced the pitch­ing, one of the key points ad­dressed by the jour­nal­ists. The phi­los­o­phy was to have an easy boat to han­dle, so we have the self-tack­ing jib. The La­goon phi­los­o­phy: easy to use. Com­fort. Safety. And per­for­mance, even if it’s not a rac­ing boat.

At La­goon, we have two sce­nar­ios. On the new La­goon 42, we had the La­goon 420 and 421 be­fore. We built 170 of those, and we wanted to re­new the model. For a re­place­ment like that, we get feed­back from cus­tomers and our deal­ers and after-sales ser­vices. We look at our com­pe­ti­tion and what’s new on the mar­ket. We look at trends, such as fab­ric. Let’s say 20 per­cent of th­ese boats go into char­ter, so we get feed­back from char­ter com­pa­nies.

With a project like the La­goon Seventy 7 (U.S. launch was at the Mi­ami boat show in Fe­bru­ary 2017), we had no model to re­place, so the process was very dif­fer­ent. The first time we talked with deal­ers about the Seventy 7 was roughly three and a half years ear­lier. We had feed­back from the La­goon 620 own­ers and from peo­ple look­ing at cus­tom boats at CNB (La­goon’s sis­ter com­pany at Groupe Beneteau), so we mixed those

feed­backs, and that’s why it took us so long to de­velop the project. It’s a big boat!

Franck Bau­guil (Leop­ard 45): Right now, we have Project 2020, which lines up a de­vel­op­ment plan for the next three years. The next two mod­els that we’ll de­velop are pretty much set in stone. But when you start look­ing at Model Three down the de­vel­op­ment pipe­line, that can change. The time from the first prod­uct brief to a boat in the wa­ter for a test sail is 18 months. We plan not only the pro­duc­tion per year but also the over­all num­ber. For the 45-footer, we’re go­ing to have 46 units per year. Over the life cy­cle of the prod­uct, which is five to six years, we’re look­ing at 200 units. That’s go­ing to af­fect the price, be­cause ob­vi­ously, you have an ini­tial in­vest­ment and then you spread out your cap­i­tal over the num­ber of boats. So the more you do, tech­ni­cally the lower the price. In the brief, we al­ready have a tar­get price for the boat equipped: char­ter­ready, or owner-ready.

We de­fine per­for­mance in our de­sign brief. I don’t know if the other guys do that, but we do. We de­fine di­men­sion. We de­fine ac­com­mo­da­tions. But only in the broad sense: four cab­ins, four heads, en suite. We want the de­sign team to start work­ing on the boat, giv­ing them di­rec­tion, but not to be too re­stric­tive ei­ther.

And we can de­fine some in­no­va­tions in the brief. When we did the brief of the 44-footer (the 2011 Im­port Boat of the Year), we had a for­ward cock­pit. That was the first for­ward cock­pit we did, in­clud­ing ac­cess to the for­ward cock­pit from in­side. That was in the brief. And that’s am­bi­tious. We’re the most open boat you can find. So the brief for last year’s 45 had the same ra­tio of open ac­cess to the cock­pit from that bulk­head. In that case, we said to Alex Si­mo­nis, the naval ar­chi­tect, “You’ve got to do it. See you in two weeks.” He may come back and say it’s im­pos­si­ble. But it hasn’t hap­pened yet. His job is to make it hap­pen. By that point, we may have done some other fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies where we want to do some­thing but we know it’s too am­bi­tious so it’s not go­ing to hap­pen.

Phil Ber­man (Bal­ance 526): Since the for­ma­tion of my com­pany, the Mul­ti­hull Com­pany, about 15 years ago, I’ve sold about 500 used cata­ma­rans. So all I do is go to sur­veys and sail all of th­ese boats. I see them re­paired, and I see them bro­ken. And the best part for me is that when the boats are sold, I get to know ex­actly what the peo­ple thought about their boat. Un­til they’re sold, ev­ery­body’s ly­ing about them on­line be­cause they want to hold their re­sale value. I’ve seen all the mis­takes.

Dur­ing a sea trial of a 56-foot cata­ma­ran off Palm Beach, Florida, sev­eral years ago, in 17 knots of wind, I couldn’t get the boat to go more than 7 knots. I thought, We’ve re­ally lost the bal­ance in the cata­ma­ran scene. Too many of the boats are de­signed for char­ter, and the peo­ple who are look­ing for higher per­for­mance, a more plea­sur­able sail­ing boat, are kind of left in the lurch. On one hand, some of the boats are too ex­treme; all they’re about is per­for­mance or rac­ing. And on the other, they’re too “char­ter” — too big in­side, too slow. So what we sought to do here with this com­pany was seek a bal­ance be­tween com­fort on the one hand and per­for­mance on the other. And to pro­duce yachts that are sim­ple to main­tain, easy to op­er­ate and that bring real sail­ing plea­sure to peo­ple.

So what I wanted to de­sign was the most ob­jec­tion-free per­for­mance cat pos­si­ble. We de­signed the Bal­ance 526 to re­ally kind of cruise along eas­ily be­tween 9 and 12 knots.


A cru­cial step in defin­ing any­thing is to clar­ify what it’s not. We asked each cat creator what they knew their boat was not go­ing to do or in­clude.

Dick Ver­meulen (Maine Cat 38): This boat is not go­ing to have to sleep 12 peo­ple. It has to sleep five peo­ple. And it doesn’t need two heads. It needs one head. We can put a Porta Potti over in the other hull so they’ve got pri­vacy over there. But they don’t need two show­ers. They don’t need two hold­ing tanks. They don’t need all that garbage. You can’t have the genset. Be­cause the de­sign of the boat is so open, if you can sleep on the bridgedeck, if you can sleep on the tram­po­lines, if you can sleep in a ham­mock hung un­der­neath the hard­top, maybe we don’t need air con­di­tion­ing. Maybe we don’t

need to be in a cabin with a door on it, with no ven­ti­la­tion. The de­sign of the in­te­rior of this boat says, well, I’m just not go­ing to do AC, so you can get rid of a lot of junk. Sim­ple: That’s the de­sign cri­te­ria.

Phil Ber­man (Bal­ance 526): I wouldn’t ever rec­om­mend this boat for bare­boat char­ter. It’s just too per­for­mance ori­ented. This is all E-glass with car­bon re­in­force­ments and epoxy resins. Com­pos­ite bulk­heads, lib­eral use of car­bon all over the place — this is a much more so­phis­ti­cated boat than your typ­i­cal char­ter boat.

Fred Sig­nat (La­goon 42): We didn’t choose dag­ger­boards, be­cause that’s re­ally not in the La­goon phi­los­o­phy. Com­fort means vol­ume in the cab­ins. The gal­ley to­day is re­ally the key point. That’s why we didn’t use the dag­ger­boards. We wanted to keep the vol­ume in­side.

Franck Bau­guil (Leop­ard 45): There’s a limit to how far you can push vol­ume. La­goons have gi­gan­tic beds. If we want a gi­gan­tic bed and a big cock­pit, it’s not go­ing to hap­pen. This is where we know what we have. For us it’s crys­tal clear: We’re go­ing to fa­vor the com­mon ar­eas, where you spend most of your time. We’re go­ing to have the big­gest cock­pit in the busi­ness, but we’re not go­ing to of­fer a huge bed, be­cause you can’t have both.

I’m al­ways try­ing to un­der­stand with num­bers how our cus­tomers are uti­liz­ing this boat. For ex­am­ple, we found out that on our Moor­ings 4800 four-cabin boat, only half the time do we have eight peo­ple on it. So I’m ask­ing: How many peo­ple are on the boat? Where do they sleep? I have some data, but I’m miss­ing some, be­cause if I have a six-pass (six-pas­sen­ger char­ter), it could be three cou­ples, or it could be a big fam­ily with teenagers and kids. And teenagers and kids are not go­ing to use cab­ins in the same way. So now we’re drilling fur­ther, with crew lists and the ages of our cus­tomers. That’s go­ing to be for our next project to fig­ure out the num­ber of cab­ins and con­fig­u­ra­tions of cab­ins.


Skinny cata­ma­ran hulls are un­com­monly sen­si­tive to the weight that goes into the boat, and too much wet­ted sur­face pro­foundly hin­ders a cat’s boat speed. Does that mean com­fort and per­for­mance are a zero-sum choice? We asked each creator how they work through this puz­zle.

Franck Bau­guil (Leop­ard 45): We try to do a boat that is a com­pro­mise be­tween space and per­for­mance. Clearly, we try to of­fer the com­fort peo­ple are look­ing for on cats, but with­out killing the per­for­mance. We keep the hulls very nar­row (be­low the wa­ter­line). The vol­ume is above the wa­ter­line with the step (chine).

Phil Ber­man (Bal­ance 526): I met naval ar­chi­tect An­ton du Toit, and I liked the way he did his hulls. I liked his gen­eral phi­los­o­phy of hulls that don’t have any pro­tru­sions or chines. Th­ese hulls, if you look at them, there’s no funny stuff com­ing out of them. There’s no bumps. There’s no trick­ery. There’s just pure-form hulls. And that was re­ally im­por­tant to me, hy­dro­dy­nam­i­cally. All th­ese lit­tle tricks that they do to make the boat feel big­ger down be­low, all that does is cre­ate hy­dro­dy­namic dis­tur­bance in the boat. You want the boat to be just a straight hull like a Tor­nado cata­ma­ran. So I asked An­ton, if we want this boat to tool along with­out dif­fi­culty at 10 to 12 knots, what’s the hull-fine­ness ra­tio have to be? How wide can we go? How wide can we make the berths in the aft end of the boat — with­out bump­ing it out or cre­at­ing chines to make the hulls wider than they should be?

It be­came clear that the aft berth to port would have to be slightly nar­rower and smaller than the berths athwartships be­cause, if we widened the hull just an­other 6 inches back there, we wouldn’t have achieved the hull-fine­ness ra­tio re­quired to do the speeds we wanted to do. I kind of knew from the be­gin­ning that we would have our mas­ter berth athwartships over the bridge be­cause that’s what Peter John­stone did in the Gun­boats. I think that’s just what you have to do if you re­ally want to have beds from which you can get off on ei­ther side — and re­ally good head­room.

I wanted the bridgedeck clear­ance to be around 3 feet off the wa­ter but loaded. When this boat’s empty, it’s prob­a­bly 3 feet 3 inches. To go any higher, you re­ally start

get­ting into too much windage on the sides of the hulls, and you start adding weight to the boat. And that windage hurts you up­wind sig­nif­i­cantly. It re­ally blows you back. It also makes it harder to dock the boat, be­cause you’re get­ting blown around. We had like 2-foot-7-inch clear­ance on the Dol­phin 460 that we did in Brazil, and that boat was great. In some re­ally, re­ally bad con­di­tions you’re go­ing to get an oc­ca­sional slap or pound. You’re not go­ing to get away from that. But re­mem­ber, the sharper the bows and the smaller the bow wave, the less clear­ance you need. The higher per­for­mance the boat, the less bridgedeck clear­ance you need. Be­cause the bows are so sharp, it’s not cre­at­ing a bow wave. And a lot of the slap­ping oc­curs from the big waves when the boat is rock­ing. The bow waves meet right about the sa­loon door, and you’ll hear it: boom, boom, boom, boom. But all things be­ing equal, I know for a 50-footer, 3 feet is the bal­anced choice.

Fred Sig­nat (La­goon 42): We learn from the past. The La­goon 420 has a very long bridgedeck, with a very small net. The com­fort was great be­cause it had lots of vol­ume. But clearly the boat was sail­ing like a dog. For the La­goon 42, we re­duced the bridgedeck ra­tio (Loa-to-bridgedeck length) to 1.52-to-1.

Dick Ver­meulen (Maine Cat 38): I made a de­ci­sion very early on that this boat was go­ing to have a chine, or what I’d call a knuckle. It was go­ing to have a re­ally skinny wa­ter­line and a re­ally nice knuckle, and then we’d belly it out be­cause I thought it looked re­ally cool. It’s about 12 inches off the wa­ter­line. It is prob­a­bly the best thing we’ve ever drawn. It’s un­be­liev­able, be­cause what it does un­der­neath the boat in the bridgedeck area is it curves all that wa­ter. When you’re in an 8-foot wave, ob­vi­ously, game’s over. But if you’re in the nor­mal 3 to 4 feet and you’re cut­ting through a wave and do­ing 12 or 13 knots, you don’t hear any­thing. The boat’s silent. And that’s be­cause it’s not al­low­ing that wa­ter that would nor­mally be jump­ing up and hit­ting the un­der­side of the bridgedeck. It turns it right away. It also makes spray out of ev­ery­thing down there, so you are per­haps in­duc­ing some drag. But you’re also mak­ing the boat re­ally, re­ally quiet.


It’s one thing to use high­tech, three-di­men­sional com­puter-aided de­sign soft­ware to ren­der boats and their com­po­nents, but there’s no sub­sti­tute for cre­at­ing fullscale struc­tures in space to test those de­signs. We asked each cat creator what they learn in the build­ing stage that the

de­signs couldn’t en­tirely re­veal.

Phil Ber­man (Bal­ance 526): In the de­sign draw­ings, we gen­er­ally marked out the area for our helm sta­tion. And we did tons and tons of draw­ings for sight lines and stuff. You want to be able to sit and see out over the wa­ter at all times, and al­ways be in the light. We knew when we got to that point, it had to be mocked up, so I vis­ited the fac­tory in South Africa. It was re­ally im­por­tant for me to sit around the chairs and see the sight lines. And head­room is im­por­tant. Frankly, I think the only real mis­take you see in the Bal­ance 45 (a Roger Hill de­sign built in China) is that the boat didn’t have 6-foot6 -inch head­room. This boat’s head­room is 6-foot-9.

Fred Sig­nat (La­goon 42): We work with VPLP De­sign for naval ar­chi­tects and Nauta Yachts De­sign for the in­te­ri­ors. They know that we have some in­dus­trial points we have to fol­low. For ex­am­ple, we have some wood rail shapes that we want to re­use, and we have some com­pos­ite con­straints — the way you de­sign it and de­sign the mold — that we can­not avoid. So that’s an im­pact on some shapes. For ev­ery model, we have a project man­ager in-house who’s the link be­tween the naval ar­chi­tects and our de­sign­ers. Once we pass the files to the de­sign­ers and say go, they work in par­al­lel. They’re talk­ing to each other. Even when the ar­chi­tects are still work­ing on the hull shape, we can start plumb­ing and elec­tric­ity very early. Once we have the fi­nal hull shape, it’s quite easy to mod­ify the plumb­ing to make sure it fol­lows the hull.

We still do some full-scale mock-ups to eval­u­ate the vol­ume of the gal­ley. Or to make sure we have enough room in the heads. Even though we have lots of ex­pe­ri­ence, it’s very easy to make mis­takes. Most of the time it’s in ply­wood, just to have an idea of vol­ume. But we don’t go into de­tails of fin­ish­ing.

For the La­goon 42 and the last sev­eral projects, we pro­duced hull num­ber one and hull num­ber two. Num­ber one was at the Dus­sel­dorf show; hull two was at the Mi­ami show. And then we stopped the line. We sailed the boats, tested the boats. Then after we do the re­verse en­gi­neer­ing and feed­back, the idea is to re­ally start the pro­duc­tion line. We start to de­liver the boats three to five months after that.

Dick Ver­meulen (Maine Cat 38): For this project, we came across ther­mo­form­ing. Hodg­don Yacht Ser­vices had done it in one of its de­signs. Ly­man-morse had done it. We found a com­pany in Rhode Is­land that did th­ese in­frared ovens, and JP Mouligné at Gu­rit showed us some stuff this thing could do. We get Core­cell sheets up to 165 de­grees, and it’s in­frared, so it’s heated com­pletely through the ma­te­rial. Then you place the Core­cell in the mold, and you press it down. You let it cool for about a minute and a half, take your hands off, and it doesn’t change shape. The core starts as flat sheets, not 1-inch cubes with scrim like Diviny­cell, so there are no kerfs to fill with resin. When we built the first 38 hull — no deck on it yet, but three bulk­heads in it, 6 feet wide at the beam, prob­a­bly an­other 6 feet in depth — it weighed 426 pounds. I could lift the thing out of the cra­dles. It blew us away. It was the big­gest reve­la­tion we’ve ever had in con­struc­tion. We in­fuse all the way through the en­tire boat with vinylester resins. It takes us a hell of a lot longer to build boats, but it’s just bomber. I just saved 50 pounds. I was ec­static. If I can make it strong and I can make it light, I’ve got the world by the tail.

Franck Bau­guil (Leop­ard 45): Mock-ups are fan­tas­tic. We don’t in­volve a big de­sign com­mit­tee by that stage. Just John Robert­son and me. It’s a very fam­ily-type or­ga­ni­za­tion. It’s a bit old-school, but you know how par­tic­u­lar we are about helm sta­tions. We make sure ev­ery­thing flows: dis­tri­bu­tion, move­ment. That’s not a co­in­ci­dence. Yeah, CAD is great, and vir­tual tours and 3D. You can prob­a­bly do 90 per­cent on the CAD. But I’ll tell you, on the mock-up, we change stuff. We make sure all the ma­neu­vers are go­ing to flow, all the sheets and hal­yards, the foot switch. I have to know that I can sin­gle­hand this boat. The helm sta­tion is cru­cial. Ev­ery­thing is mocked up, down to: Can I take a shower with­out get­ting ev­ery­thing wet? If I open that elec­tri­cal panel, how long is that go­ing to take? Can I reach the bot­tom of the fridge? Can I ac­cess my steer­ing? I don’t even write th­ese things in the de­sign brief, be­cause it’s un­der­stood. We have to turn the boats around quickly (in char­ter op­er­a­tion). And if any­thing breaks, we have to re­place it right away.

VIVE LA DIF­FER­ENCE! There you have it. One builder un­abashedly of­fers the great­est vol­ume in a given length. One builder seeks a com­pro­mise in trad­ing pri­vate space for pub­lic ar­eas to gather in. One builder will­ingly trades away the gad­gets of home­style com­forts for light­ness and speed. And one builder aims to bal­ance the dif­fer­ence.

Ev­ery one of those de­sign cri­te­ria we cited at the top — com­fort, per­for­mance, ease-of-use, good er­gonomic flow — is a wor­thy goal for cat cre­ators to strive for. In the mean­time, we can thank Nep­tune for the risk-tak­ers who wake up ev­ery day and mix th­ese in­gre­di­ents to their own tastes and share the re­sults with all of us — es­pe­cially those lucky sailors who get to take them sail­ing.

Tim Mur­phy is a Cruis­ing World ed­i­tor-at-large and a long­time Boat of the Year judge.

The La­goon 42 (left) is a prod­uct of Groupe Beneteau, one of the world’s most pro­lific builders of cruis­ing sail­boats. The own­ers suite is an open, spa­cious cabin (above left), while the nav sta­tion boasts com­mand­ing views of the sur­round­ings (above right).

The builders (clock­wise from top left): Dick Ver­meulen of Maine Cat, Franck Bau­guil of Trav­elopia, Phil Ber­man of Bal­ance Cata­ma­rans and Fred Sig­nat of La­goon are all vet­eran ma­rine-in­dus­try play­ers spe­cial­iz­ing in cata­ma­rans.

The Maine Cat 38 aims to be one of the quick­est cats around (top). It also boasts a wideopen cock­pit (above left) but has plenty of crea­ture com­forts down be­low (above right).

Built in South Africa by Robert­son and Caine, the Leop­ard 45 will see ser­vice as a char­ter boat and in pri­vate own­er­ship (top). The sa­loon leads to a for­ward cock­pit (above left), and the state­rooms are comfy and sump­tu­ous (above right).

Lam­i­na­tors lay up other “parts” of the boat, such as hull and deck fea­tures and fur­ni­ture, in fe­male molds, by hand.

When it comes to fab­ri­cat­ing deck parts, balsa core is laid in and bonded in place with polyester.

Birth of a cat: At Robert­son and Caine, it all be­gins with rolls of fiber­glass and bar­rels of polyester resin.

Robert­son and Caine turns out roughly 200 cats per year, both power and sail, in sizes rang­ing from 40 to 58 feet.

Many of the boat’s sys­tems are as­sem­bled in mod­ules off the boat, then in­stalled be­fore the deck is joined to the hull.

The coach roof is fab­ri­cated sep­a­rately and in­stalled once all sys­tems and fur­ni­ture are in place.

The clean lines of the An­ton du Toit-de­signed Bal­ance 526 trans­late to slip­pery hulls that will eas­ily knock off dou­ble-digit boat speeds un­der sail (top). The light­weight con­struc­tion fea­tures vac­uum-bagged epoxy re­in­forced with car­bon (far left). Be­cause the hulls are so fine, the de­signer opted for raised, athwartship for­ward berths (left).

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