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Balance 526 – The Outlier

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The Balance 526 is a very good-looking, South African-built catamaran of which 6 examples are currently sailing (numbers 7 through 10 will be in the water 2019/2020…). We haven’t yet had the chance to test one, since all the owners are off making the most of their multihulls… But Dave Block, well-known professional skipper, agreed to give us a detailed analysis of his experience on the Balance 526!

I first heard of Balance Catamarans from delivery skipper friends in the Caribbean who were impressed with what they had seen and heard. I therefore jumped at the chance when Reliance Yacht Management asked me to deliver a Balance 526 called Dragonfly (hull #4) from Tortola to Newport, RI, in May of 2018.

After a bit of research, I learned that the 526 was built by legendary professional South African big wave surfer and boat builder Jonathan Paarman. After leaving the composite and tooling division of Voyage Yachts, which he ran for eight years, he set up a factory in St. Francis Bay in 2008 with a view to crafting high-end carbon/epoxy voyaging cats. It began with a 60-footer that he launched in 2010 for fishing and surfing expeditions in Indonesia. That later led, in 2013, to a thriving partnership with American sailor and yacht broker, Phil Berman, a former Hobie Cat World Champion and author of a range of books on catamaran sailing and racing. It is hard to imagine two more experienced men coming together to design and build a voyaging catamaran.

Paarman and Berman were of like minds when it came to the sort of catamaran that they would want to sail if they ever had time ...

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