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.