Catamarans

A Definition

What is a catamaran? Well, strictly speaking it’s a multi-hulled vessel (power or sail) with two parallel hulls of equal size. Catamarans get their stability from their wide beam (and some cats like Looping and the old Lagoons really go to town on this).

Generally, the ratio of length to beam is around 2:1. Some yachts are more narrow (Outremer 51) and some have bigger ratios (Nautitech 40). On katamarans.com, we focus on sailing catamarans.

This differs to a monohull which gets its stability from a ballasted keel. Catamarans typically have less volume in the hulls, a lower displacement and a shallower draft than monohulls of a similar length. The hulls slip through the water faster (less resistance) and the wider platform means that heeling and pitching are reduced. Less energy is lost generating a wake.

The first multihulls were built by the Polynesians.

At the bottom of the page you will find the complete list of catamarans that we have reviewed on Katamarans.com. Browse by page, or filter the results using the search tool provided.

In addition, where we have specific information on individual boat manufacturers, we will list them here.

Multihull Manufacturers

Atlantic Catamarans
Chris White Chris specialises in the design of high performance cruising catamarans and trimarans. Examples include the Atlantic 57, the 47 and the 72. These yachts offer innovations like Chris White’s MastFoil rig – effectively 2 genoas for ease of handling.

Balance Catamarans
A very successful South African brand that manufacture the 526, the 482, the 442 and others. There’s a long waiting list if you order one of these boats! These are blue water cruising catamarans that have been designed to be fast and safe and which can be sailed shorthanded. They are simple to maintain, can carry a decent payload and that are comfortable to sail and live aboard. It’s proving to be a popular combination.

Bali
Launched by the Catana Group in 2014, Bali have become one of the most successful manufacturers of cruising cats in the charter and owner markets. The are known for their innovative features like the aft pivoting “garage” door, solid foredecks and wide open living spaces. And those huge fridges of course.

Catana
Historically one of our favourite performance cruising catamaran manufacturers, although they now seem to be concentrating more on their Bali brand these days. This is the company that launched the Catana 471 back in the day, and their latest model is the 50 foot Ocean Class.

catana ocean class catamaran
Catana Ocean Class

Dazcat
UK based performance catamaran manufacturer with many Fastnets under their belt. Along with Marsaudon, Dazcat produce some of the fastest performance cruising catamarans on the market. They are now moving into the performance cruising market with their Ocean Cruiser range.

Excess Catamarans
Part of the Beneteau Group, Excess began building sportier designs than sister company Lagoon with lower booms and aft helms. They are targeting a similar market to Nautitech. They first launched the 12 and 15 in 2019 with adapted Lagoon moulds to launch onto the market faster. The newer models, the 11 (2020) and 14 (2022) are 100% Excess Designed.

Fountaine Pajot
This French yard have been building catamarans since the launch of the Louisiane 37 in 1983 and are one of the most successful manufacturers in the market. They tend to evolve their designs over time using customer feedback and the latest technologies.

Gunboat
From Peter Johnstone to Grand Large Yachting. Surely the most biggest catamaran brand out there? With Grand Large they are definitely going large with the Gunboat 80. They are also launching a 72′ flybridge cat. I am not too sure about that one.

HH Catamarans
The 66, the 55, the 50, the 44 and now the 52. These luxury yachts, manufactured to a high standard, are really snapping at the heels of Gunboat. The range goes from the HH44 to the HH88.

HH 66

Kinetic Catamarans
Kinetic are building 2 luxury performance models: the 62 and the 54.

Lagoon
The market leader in catamaran production who needs no introduction, they control over 30% of the market. They also compete with Sunreef in the luxury end of the market working closely with VPLP.

Leopard
Born from their charter partnership with The Moorings, Leopard are now one of the largest cruising catamaran manufacturers. Strong, sturdy cruisers from South Africa.

Marsaudon Composites
Speed with no compromise from the L’Orient yard. This range of French performance cats, from the 42 to the 57, is now marketed under the ORC brand (Ocean Rider Catamarans).

ORC 57

Nautitech
There is a great blend of performance and comfort in The Nautitech range. They build a 40, a 44 and a 46, soon to be replaced by a 48 footer.

Outremer
Fast cruising cats, these boats have been designed to travel long distances quickly and safely. The Outremer 51 is their most successful model but that is being replaced by the 52, designed by VPLP. The 45 is also very popular thanks to “Sailing La Vagabonde”. The 55 is also selling like hotcakes.

Outremer 45

O-Yachts
Designed by Eric Lerouge and Dan Levy and built in Latvia, O-Yachts is a boutique ship yard building high quality performance cruisers like the Class 6 and Class 4. The Class 6 is famous for it’s “Spine”.

Privilege
A French luxury cruising catamaran manufacturer with a long history in the industry. Marc Lombard is an established partner in the design of this brand. Their closest competitor is probably Sunreef, but Privilege would argue that their yachts are better designed for long passages. If you want to circumnavigate without compromising on comfort, this is your yacht.

Prout
The UK brand that arguably invented the cruising catamaran market, Prout sadly went bust in the early noughties, but their yachts live on. The Snowgoose 37, Prout 45, Quest 33 and Event 34 are all popular designs. They are not the fastest catamarans (especially upwind), but they are solid, safe and sturdy cats.

prout 45
Prout 45

Sunreef
The history and all of the launches from this famous luxury catamaran brand. Sunreef yachts seem to be getting bigger and bigger, and they are investing heavily in Solar Power. It’s sunny in Dubai!

Top 10 – Best Catamarans

If we were to choose the 10 best multihulls ever produced, what would they be? This is a hard list to pull together, and bear in mind that these are our personal favourites. We could probably debate this all day. So, in no particular order:

Gunboat 48
Gunboat (now owned by Grand Large) don’t make sub 50 footers any more. That’s a shame.

Nautitech 40 Open
We are a bit biased here as we used to own one, but this 40 footer is a great sailor with lots of living space. The newer 44 is a great upgrade, but it was the 40 that moved the dial for Nautitech.

Marsaudon ORC 57
Wow factor 10. If you want to sail fast and in comfort, this is your boat.

Lagoon 380
The Ford Escort of the catamaran world. Or should we say the Peugeot 208? Lagoon were never able to replicate their success in this size. Maybe the Excess 11 will take over?

Outremer 45
It was a close call between the 45 and the 55, but Barreau’s classic design nudges it for us.

Prout Snowgoose 37
The classic that continues to cross oceans. If you want to circumnavigate safely on a sub $100k boat, here it is. There are 2 versions, the original and the Elite. The earlier boat is the better sailor if you keep the weight off.

Leopard 46 (2006)
This Morrelli and Melvin design has aged well. Strong and seaworthy boats that remain popular on the second hand market.

Privilege 495 (2004)
Marc Lombard nailed it with the 495. These are also still very popular on the second hand market

Catana 471
The high tide mark for Catana in our opinion, along with the 431. Another great design from Barreau. Plus it’s very pretty.

Balance 526
A very popular South African blue water performance cruiser. There’s a big waiting list for these yachts, and for good reason. If you like a protected helm, the “Versa-Helm is an excellent solution.

Types of Catamaran

At katamarans.com we group boats as follows:

Performance Catamarans
Yachts designed for speed with safety. Famous examples include the Gunboat 68, the Outremer 45 and the Atlantic 57.

Cruising Catamarans
Yachts designed to maximise the living space while maintaining good performance. Lagoon, Bali, Fountaine Pajot and Leopard dominate the market but there is plenty of choice with other manufacturers such as Nautitech and Aventura.

Luxury Catamarans
No expense spared luxury, the Mercedes S Classes of the multihull world. Privilege, Sunreef and the larger Lagoons dominate here. Some of the performance brands are also luxury boats of coure: Gunboat, HH and Kinetic for example.

Classic Catamarans
Designs that have gone down in history as classics, these boats are still sought after today. We are thinking of Prout, the older Lagoons, Catanas and Outremers here.

Custom Catamarans
One off designs and builds, either in the luxury or the racing sectors. Hemisphere, the largest catamaran built, is an obvious example.

Pros and Cons of Catamarans versus Monohulls

Catamarans have many advantages over monohulls. But there are some disadvantages too, of course. You can’t have everything.

Pros

Higher cruising speeds.
Generally speaking, a catamaran will have a higher Sail Area to Displacement ratio than a comparable monohull, and will be faster at wider wind angles.

However, fixed keel cruising cats are not as efficient upwind so your VMG will be lower (Velocity Made Good). Dagger-board cats, however, will match or exceed monohull speeds upwind. Performance cats can sail at windspeed and even up to 1.4x windspeed in some cases.

More Living Space
This is perhaps the big advantage for many catamaran enthusiasts. Even performance cats with narrow hulls have a large living platform up in the saloon and cockpit. Monohulls cannot compete here.

Less Heeling
Catamarans do heel, but not to the same extent as monohulls. That means a more comfortable sail for everyone (particularly less frequent sailors). Sailing flatter on long passages is less tiring.

More Stable at Anchor.
If you have ever sat on a catamaran anchored in a bay with a swell next to a monohull, this point will need no explaining.

Quieter Under Power
On night passages, you can cruise on a single engine and keep one of the hulls quieter for whoever is off watch.

Cruising in shallow waters
With less draft, you’ll be able to get into anchorages that a monohull can only dream of. This is particularly true of daggerboard cats. With the boards up, your draft will be a metre or less.

Manoeuvrability
Most catamarans have twin engines (though not all). That makes them highly manoeuvrable in tight spots. Most cats can turn 360 degrees within their own length.

The Nets
One of our personal favourites. This is a great space for lounging, jumping off the boat, dolphin watch, you name it. Not all catamarans have nets however.

Sugar Scoops
It’s generally easier to get on and off a catamaran with gear via the sugar scoops. That includes diving, swimming and so on. Although modern monohulls with swimming platforms are just as convenient.

Cons

Larger Marina Fees
Most marinas charge extra for catamarans versus the same length monohulls. That is because they are beamier. The additional cost can be anything between 50-100%

Higher Maintenence Fees.
There are 2 engines. And 2 rudders. And more heads. And that all means more maintenance costs. At least you only have one mainsail!

Less Efficient Upwind (Generally)
Most catamarans are happiest on a beam reach or a broad reach. Thanks to their speed through the water, the apparent wind moves forward and sucks your catamaran along. They make their own wind. Close hauled, however, most cruising cats do not point as high as a monohull. 55 degrees to true is probably your limit before you start sliding. This is not an issue on performance cats with daggerboards, however. The gap is most noticeable in lighter winds.

Wave Slap
This depends on the catamaran, but some designs (particularly older models with low bridgedeck clearances) suffer from wave slap, especially heading upwind into a chop.

Different Motion
Although, as a general rule, catamarans are more stable than monohulls, they do have a different motion under way and one that not everyone likes. With no keel, they tend to pitch more and shorter boats may have a tendency to “hobby-horse”, particularly if there is weight too far forward and too far aft.

45 foot seems to be the sweet spot when this becomes less of an issue. Good designs make a point of centralising the weight as much as possible. Dazcat and Outremer are good at this. You’ll notice that performance cats like Outremer and HH have long nets to keep the weight off the bow – this gives a more comfortable ride.

The long nets on an Outremer 4X

Increased windage

This is especially true of yachts like the Lagoon and Fountaine Pajot range. Sunreef also suffer from this. That’s the trade off you make for more living space. If you look at some of the earlier Outremer and Catana designs, they look very low slung compared to modern designs.

FAQs

Where does the word “catamaran” come from? Why do we call yachts with 2 hulls catamarans?
The word “catamaran” comes from a Tamil word “கட்டுமரம்” which is romanised as “kattumaram”. A kattunaram is actually a Tamil single-hulled raft made from 3 to 7 tree trunks lashed together (often made from fibrous palm trees) used in the Coast of Southern India and Sri Lanka, but the word has evolved in English to mean any boat with 2 hulls.

Which is faster? A catamaran or trimaran?
Generally speaking, a trimaran of similar length is able to hold more sail safely, so they will be faster (on average). However, there is a space penalty to pay which is why catamarans dominate in the cruising and performance cruising markets. Some trimaran designs like Rapido and Dragonfly also offer folding floats which saves money on marina fees.

Which catamaran manufacturer holds the largest market share?
Undoubtedly Lagoon, who have had great success over the years in this market. They hold over 30% of the market. The competition is heating up though, with Bali making big inroads into the charter market, and customer demand on owner operated boats drifting to more performance. Manufacturers such as Nautitech are carving out a profitable niche inbetween the two.

Catamaran Reviews

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