Following the successful development with Bill O’Brien of the Bobcat Catamaran in the 1960s, Tom Lack Catamarans LTD specialized in building these early cruising catamarans. In fact, they built hundreds of Bobcat Catamarans. It was 1970 when they came to the decision to end building O’Brien’s Bobcat and working with boat designer John Winterbotham, created their own design, the Catalac 9M. This marked the beginning of the Catalac line of cruising catamarans.
The Catalac 9M was formally introduced in 1970, followed by the Catalac 8M in 1975, 12M and then the 10M. The boats had a stellar reputation for build quality and seaworthiness. Close to 1000 cruising catamarans were built by the Lack family, 600 of them were Catalacs, making them a cruising catamaran success story as well as one of the pioneers in multihulls. A related footnote is that boat builder Tony Smith of Performance Cruising Inc. (Gemini Catamarans) also worked for O’Brien at that time. It’s no coincidence that the layout of Gemini’s and Catalacs are very similar.
“Another interesting bit of history. One of the Catalac rivals in the early 1970’s was the Aristocat. It failed to sell as it wasn’t as good a boat as the Catalac. Years later Tony Smith got the Aristocat moulds and it became the first Gemini. Which maybe gives an indication as to how good the Catalac actually is.” Richard Woods of Woods Designs
There was at least one “official” upgrade of the Catalac 8M’s and 9M’s, which was the Mk II about 1980. The company directly addressed the windward performance complaints received, and introduced a newly designed skeg hung rudder system. This modification was a success and greatly improved the windward performance of the boats. The new design was applied to all boat designs going forward.
It is believed that there were some additional improvements as well: modifying the mould to include steps on the forward cabin between the windows for easy access to the cabin top, a square window replaced the round one in head and aft cabin/storage area. There had also been different engines mounted over the years but those are not structural.
Production of Catalac Catamarans made by the Lack family ceased around 1985, after Tom Lack was seriously injured in an auto accident. Family tragedies usually come at a poor time and this was no exception. The introduction of the 12 meter Catalac at this time put unusual financial strains on the company, as the boat was a huge success at American boat shows. Alas, the company did not survive the combination of these events.
After 1985 production becomes confused with some boat repair boats finished and sold by Lacks sons and or builders associated with them. Additional boats were made/sold by several builders including Catalac Catamarans LTD (not related to the Lack family), which appears to have been the most successful making 10M’s until 1989. After the demise of CCC, John Lack (Tom’s son) was to finish two 10M’s for owners who had boats that had been started but not finished by CCC, and was producing Catalac 8M’s through at least 1990.
The Next Evolution
Sometime around 1995 the British boat builder Hythe Marine Services LTD of Southampton, started making the Catalac 11M, a updated 10M with “stern scoops” which increased LOA by some 1.5 ft (.6 meters), and rerouted all sail control lines to the cockpit. They also featured handcrafted interior joinery and plush upholstery. While the boat received great reviews and from all reports was well made, sailed and motored better than the Catalac 10M, it was not a sales success. I have a letter sent to a 10M owner where they were exploring an upgrade, and have added the Catalac 11M data to the menu bar.
During this same time period Blue Water Catalacs Ltd, bought the 8m/9M moulds and a “new” 9M came on the market, renamed the Catalac 900. The boat was modified by eliminating the main hatch and extending the ‘doghouse’ into a completely sealed cabin with cockpit entry door. Unfortunately, it was less than a sales success story, in that only 26 boats were manufactured during the company’s existence over 10 years.
I received an email from Nibby David, who lives in Seaton, East Devon, UK concerning the Catalac moulds. He has personally seen the moulds for the 12 meter Catalac at Burnham-on-Sea boatyard, Somerset, Bristol Channel west coast UK, and is fairly certain John Lack still has the 8M moulds, He also reports that the 9M moulds were bought by Blue Water Catalacs and moved to Piddlehinton in Dorset. This was the basis for the Catalac 900. As a side note, Blue Water Catalacs also moulded a few of the Solaris range of cats. However, John Lack disagrees. He told me that he doesn’t have the 8M moulds.
John Lack also told me that he believes the 10m Catalac moulds used once by a Company in Hythe, near Southampton, following the demise of Catalac Catamarans, were cut up and discarded. John confirmed the 12m Catalac moulds were last known to be in the Weston Super Mare area of the West Country in the UK.
9 replies on “Catalac Catamaran History”
Great article on Catalac history. Does this mean that the 10M is not of the same high quality as the original 8/9M?
“After 1985 production becomes confused with some boat repair boats finished and sold by Lacks sons and or builders associated with them. Additional boats were made/sold by several builders including Catalac Catamarans LTD (not related to the Lack family), which appears to have been the most successful making 10M’s until 1989.’
I’m not sure how to answer a question about what happened 35 years ago. Let me say this. There is a story that the firm awarded the contract to design the Catalac 10M assigned the task to a recent university graduate. His roommate at the time, told me the story. His design was done in Metric which was little understood at the time. In converting metric to imperial, they made errors. When building the 10Ms, they used twice as much fiberglass as needed making them twice as strong as designed. I personally installed a windlass on a 10M and saw this for myself. The foredeck was 3 inches thick. These boats are fine. — Rick
Hello Rick, my name is Philippe Honorat (French). I have a question; do you know the hull number of the two catalac 900 with two helms.
Thank you very much for your response and this very helpful CatamaranSite!!
Thank you for your technicle dilligence…Facts versus fiction my desire…Is it true the 9 and 8 M boats with optional inboard vs outboard engines retaining or disgarding the prop shapht seal as a form of excess maintainence expence what is the dry dock experinece two that end…?…Does that same option appear on the 12,10 M ect…I am not a sailer but within a previous life i think. Its my goal two atain ownership what is a fine boat bi all acounts but as a new comer i have found sailing isnt the point and shoot afair it seams two be…Many a newcomer has learned the hidden expence what appears two be a vacation enviroment…Thusly my interest in the maintainence aspect of what would be my first boat…Seems two me the less time in dry dock the beter…Enamored…Eric…
I think you’re asking if the additional maintenance required by inboard diesel engines, is worth the cost? The answer is, it depends. Longshaft outboards work just fine, but have limitations. First, the outboards have tiny alternators which recharge batteries much slower than inboards do. Then there is the outboard cavitation issue in moderate seas as the propeller can actually leave the water instead of propelling the boat. Cruising range under power can be more than 1000 Kilometers with diesel engines, and a fraction of that with outboards. Lastly the twin throttles of the inboards allow for incredible maneuvering within marinas. So, there are benefits to having the inboards, but it depends if any of this is important to you.
Indeed…i didnt think about the charging of bateries relation two alternator i stand corrected on that front…I think that is due two my inexperience as i rely upon my info from what i research there has been nothing on that differnce untill now…Manuvering i understand asweell the rough seas what would be prop out of water but you know marco polo…hahaha…Thankyou for your wizdom and experince fair winds and glassy sea…
What an excellent forum. I was glad to stumble on all this information and positive comments about the Catalac. In 1969 I was an apprentice working for M.G.Duff and partners Ltd. Tom Lack invited John to design the Cat that Lacks Nothing and John (bravely) asked me to do the styling. He had done all the clever work so all I had to do was design it’s appearance. This was really exciting opportunity and I was given a free hand. I wanted to give the craft a distinctive profile, which explains the broken sheer and what I hoped would be an elegant bow.
To my surprise, John was happy with my styling and I was lucky enough to be on the Stand with a scale model later on at The Boat Show. Those were great days, especially for a 17 year old.
Safe seas and happy sailing.
Nick, I’m happy you discovered our website. Please post more about your Catalac experiences. – Rick
What an interesting site.
I’m the proud owner of 9/183. A mark 2, 9M Catalac on which I have lived for the past two years.