Building your catamaran yourself: why not you?

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A few decades ago, multihulls didn't escape the trend for amateur construction. Although our sailing boats with several hulls escaped ferro-cement (phew!) and rusty steel, materials which really are too heavy for boats without keels, aluminium, wood-epoxy and sometimes even sandwich have dominated amongst amateurs. Today the game is over for the dreamers who designed their boats themselves: all the builders, or almost all, order plans from an established architect. And it must be admitted, the number of constructions has melted away like the snow in the sunshine. 'In the past,' Bernard Lelièvre, architect for the Galileos, remembers, "we used to buy a lorry load of winches and thirty or so 17-metre masts at a time." But that was above all for heavy monohulls. In short, there weren't many amateur built multihulls around... The fault of a more pressing need for comfort on the one hand, which the builders met appropriately – maximum volume, load carrying capacity, plethora of equipment – and a also of a change in mentality: the multihull sailor, who gets even more of a kick out of fast passages and dream anchorages than the monohull enthusiast, more often than not wants to enjoy his/her new toy...immediately!

The amateur construction and kit market

It's no use burying our heads in the sand, it's in Australia and to a lesser extent in the Anglo-Saxon countries that things are happening. Fusion is selling 24 boats a year – the famous Fusion 40 and some motor catamarans – three quarters of which are delivered as a kit or to be finished. Down there in the southern hemisphere building your own cat or trimaran is a common project. Another well-known builder: Spirited Design, which is offering its attractive Spirited 380, again in ply-epoxy. The well-known Australian architect, Ian Farrier is launching his F-22 and F-32 in kit form, completed by a 44-footer available in all stages of finishing. In Latvia, a brand-new structure, O Yachting, is offering a 46-footer, which can be delivered in all stages of finishing. Dan Lévy hopes to deliver four of them per year. Ksenia is offering no less than twenty Lerouge designs, of from 6.4 to 19.5m. These cats are being offered as bare hulls in modular elements, to facilitate transport. We couldn't leave James Wharram out of this inventory: the architect guru has sold no less than 10,000 sets of plans in fifty years! And hundreds of his Polynesian-inspired catamarans are sailing. Today, Icaraï, his distributor in France, sells two sets of Wharram's plans per month – 10 times less than 20 years ago – and one kit per year. The Tiki 21, the 30 and the Mélanesia pirogue are available 'ready to build', and certain of the bigger models, such as the Tiki 38 are being studied for delivery as a kit. In Europe, the market remains weak: Gilles Montaubin, one of the rare architect/builders, hasn't had a catamaran in his catalogue for three years now, but some trimarans, including a little 7-metre boat, the Tricky, are ...

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