If you’ve been following this blog, you are no doubt getting the picture that I’m passionate about combining the feelings of sailing fast in a boat that responds well, with the comfort and safety of exploring remote anchorages and long distance cruising. As I’ve come to find out, this is not at all easy to achieve, and finding a boat that can serve both purposes is in fact a tall order.
I’ve met a lot of sailors, racers and cruisers over the years, and we all seem to fall in different places on the < speed – sensation – safety – comfort > spectrum.
There are those that are perfectly happy tooling around in a catamaran loaded up with all the comforts of home. For them, the need to sail fast, or even spend a lot of time worrying about sail trim, is not that important. They realize that cruising boats spend 95% of their time at anchor, so worrying too much about features that optimize the other 5%, doesn’t make much sense.
There are the racing folks that focus on performance, with cruising a secondary consideration. They are looking for light weight, lots of sail area and narrow hulls. This leads to a great sailing boat, that is cramped to live in and has to be watched closely so the high powered rig doesn’t break or flip the boat over.
There are others that consider cruising catamarans as a charter holiday contrivance, that at best, don’t sail very well, and at worst, don’t behave anything like a real sailboat should! These folks are committed to the traditional sailing sensations and classic beauty of a cruising monohull. They find the claims made by catamaran owners that they can sail all day without spilling wine from a glass left on the salon table, to be irrelevant, especially if that comes at the expense of needing to start the engines in order to push the bows through a tack!
Over the years, the range of boat models available on the commercial market have organized themselves more or less into one of these three camps, with the vast majority of catamarans falling into the 95% at anchor / charter market segment. For a long time, I just accepted this segmentation of boats and boaters as being a logical manifestation of the physical realities of boat design and function. It made sense, and most of the people out sailing, myself included, seemed to be happy with the available options, and willing to live with the associated compromises. That’s life right?
But what if we could enjoy the sensations of really sailing, and even sailing fast, in a boat that is also comfortable and safe to live in? During our voyage from Australia to Singapore, I was introduced to a boat that I have come to view as the game changer, that for the first time was able to successfully marry the two seemingly incompatible aspects of boat design (performance and comfort). That boat is the Aikane 56, and it has been fascinating to learn how much an influence this boat, that was designed and built in the early 2000s, has had on the latest generation of performance cruising catamarans.
The Aikane 56, is a beautiful boat. She is light and fast, yet very comfortable, with plenty of room for full time cruising. She can sail faster than the true wind speed and is perfect for entertaining at anchor. We spent 3 months buddy boating (cruising together) with Eric and Tamara aboard their Aikane 56, Sea Child and I came to firmly appreciate what an exceptional boat she is.
When it came time to sell our Catana 471, and look toward our next boat, I was sure I wanted an Aikane 56, but the problem is there were only 3 of them ever made back in the early 2000s, and finding a used one that was fitted out the way we wanted was pretty much impossible, so we continued the search for a boat that was similar to the Aikane.
The interesting intersection of fate here, is that while Xavier Desmarest, the now owner and President of Outremer Yachting was pursuing his long time career as a monohull builder, he was introduced to the Aikane 56 by a colleague and friend, and for the first time he realized the possibility of building catamarans that could be comfortable, safe and also sail really well!
Like many in the classic boat-building industry, Xavier was witnessing the increasing trend towards catamarans, but was also lamenting the fact that the current crop of catamarans were not the kind of boats he wanted to sail, much less build and sell. When he found the Aikane, he began to develop a vision for a catamaran of the future. His move over to run Outremer began with the concept of updating the existing range of boats that were well proven, safe, and high performance, but tended to be a bit cramped and sparse in terms of comfort, and bring them closer to the configuration of the Aikane 56.
Since purchasing the molds for the Aikane proved to be too complicated, he did the next best thing, and went to VPLP, the architects that designed the Aikane to see if they would be willing to design him a new boat, that would fulfill his vision. Marc Van Peteghem agreed and the result is the Outremer 5X!
Take a look at these two pictures, the Aikane 56 above, and the Outremer 5X below. See if you can spot the signature VPLP lines of the two boats.
Xavier had a lot of doubters when he started down this path. Because there are no other series production builders making catamarans like the 5X, the trade media all wondered if it would be a success. Were there enough sailors that wanted to buy a catamaran that deviated so markedly from the industry standard? After releasing the 5X, the boat has won the European boat of the year and US Boat of the year awards and they have had a steady stream of orders. He is also using the design concepts from the 5X to renew the other models in the Outremer line, the Outremer 51 and the new Outremer 45.
I love it when people with a vision have the courage and fortitude to go against the trends and show us new possibilities, and sometimes even, remind us of possibilities we had forgotten. It seems that with the new model lineup from Outremer and Xavier’s guidance, it’s a case of “if you build, it they will come!”
I added some details and pictures of our new boat, and the decisions Robin and I had to make in order to choose which one to buy. You can find them here.
Welcome to our blog, where we will be sharing our adventures building, launching and sailing our new catamaran, which we have named Wildling.
We recently sold our former sailing catamaran, Zangezi, after an incredible 4 years and 4,000 nautical miles of sailing around Australia and South East Asia. When we arrived in Singapore at the end of our voyage through Indonesia, our intention was to take a month off to visit family back in Australia, and then continue on to the Philippines. Unfortunately, typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines and created so much devastation that we had to delay our plans until things settled down.
During this time, the kids went back to school and I went back to work, and the plans for our continued voyage seemed to be moving out of reach. We considered exploring SE Asia during our vacation time, but increasing reports of piracy around the Philippines and the areas we most wanted to visit made that unsafe and out of the question.
Since our long term objective has always been to cruise the South Pacific from the Galapogos to Australia via Tahiti and Fiji, we decided to explore the options for making that voyage a reality at some point in the future. There was no way for us to sail Zangezi eastwards, and we didn’t want to continue west beyond Asia, which involves running the pirate gauntlet to reach the Med, so we decided that rather than have Zangezi sit in Singapore, not being used, which was really heartbreaking, we would sell her and buy a boat in a more suitable starting location for our intended voyage.
And so we came to the decision to purchase a boat in France, and to spend our vacation time exploring the Mediterranean until we’re ready personally and professionally to set off westwards, across the Atlantic and into the Pacific. We don’t know when that will be, but right now the important thing is that we are on the path towards it.
After a lot of research and discussions we decided to purchase a new boat, rather than used, which means that it will take a while before we will be sailing again, but the project of building new really appeals to us both as we can get closer to what we really want. For many reasons which I won’t go into here, but will describe in detail in other areas of the site, we decided on an Outremer 5X catamaran. Since we’re not in a rush, we decided to schedule construction to begin next March, with a planned launch date in December 2015.
Between now and then, we will be posting updates on the construction during our visits to the factory in France. I’ll focus more on the technical details of the design and the options available when building this class of offshore sailboat, and Robin will give her perspective on how crazy I am to want to buy a 59 foot boat that can sail almost as fast as the true windspeed, but more importantly, how she is fitting out Wildling so we will be safe and comfortable during our long ocean passages.
We’ve learned a lot during the last 4 years, so we really know what works for us, and what doesn’t. We hope to share all of that with you during this project, and give you a sense of what cruising and crossing oceans together as a family is really like.