From racing to cruising: the innovations which have changed our daily life aboard a catamaran

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It’s hard to separate the racing world from the fantastic progress of cruising multihulls since 1960; we could even be tempted to say that the catamaran is completely derived from racing. Everything began in England, where the Prout brothers, after having perfected one of the first sport catamarans, the 'Shearwater', a precursor of the first ocean racing multihulls, built the 'Snowgoose', a 37-foot cruising catamaran, which became the first production multihull with more than 500 examples built in its 40-year career. Then at the beginning of the 80s, while catamaran production was almost non-existent, Jean-François Fountaine, after having built Charente-Maritime with a group of enthusiasts from La Rochelle, used this as a trampoline and in 1983, launched his first production catamaran, the ‘Louisiane 37’. We all know what followed. In 1984, the competition department of Jeanneau JTA (Jeanneau Techniques Avancées), after having built Pierre 1er for Florence Arthaud and the Fleury Michons, created Lagoon. A first range of ocean-going catamarans of from 37 to 67 feet saw the light of day from 1987. Here again, we all know what followed.  At the same time, it was the turn of Philippe Jeantot, who after having tried with the catamaran Crédit Agricole II, won the BOC Challenge twice and had a catamaran built so his family could follow him at the stopovers.  He launched his brand ‘Jeantot Marine’ with a first model, the ‘Privilège’.  This privileged link between racing and cruising catamarans is governed by a strong principle -  to sail faster, more easily, in comfort and safely - which has continued to develop up until the present day, and it's far from over. 

Generic developments

With very long and very restricting passages, ocean racing has been a wonderful laboratory for all the equipment embarked aboard.  Although the innovations are a result of the progress offered by technology, they are almost always the fruit of reflection by racers and their development is undeniably down to the competition world.  Thus navigation software has been developed for and by the racers. Who among us could imagine leaving for a cruise without one of these electronic wonders? Their refinement and the miniaturization, here again due to the racers – we remember the absence of a chart table aboard Michel Desjoyaux’s Foncia, at the start of the 2008 Vendée Globe – allows very appreciable space saving when cruising.

Hydro-generators also began in the racing world, before starting to equip the transoms of our ocean cruising boats.

And what can we say about singlehanded or two-up races?  The development of the deck plans and fittings necessary to sail these racing machines properly has also greatly simplified our lives when long-term cruising, which inevitably means sailing shorthanded.  We can all remember Phil Weld’s roller jibs and mainsail, which allowed him to sail his trimaran Moxie and win the Ostar in 1980, despite being 60 years old.  Since then, ...

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