It is not a debate anymore. People used to consider the advantages and disadvantages of cruising catamarans versus monohulls. Now it is simply a price consideration. “I don’t have enough money for a catamaran, so I am buying a monohull,” they lament. Catamarans have gone from 20% of the market in my home location of Fort Lauderdale to 50%. In the next decade they will go to 80% share of sailboats. They own the charter market. They own the coastal racing world. And someday soon they will own the bluewater racing and cruising worlds (ask Jimmy Cornell). And as their production surges and prices continue to drop, less and less people will be unable to afford them. It is not a debate anymore. It is a present reality; it is a future certainty.
Traditional sailors including me (I own a classic 1964 Rhodes design) moan about the lost beauty, the lack of soul of plastic catamarans. But we are like modern day Herreshoffs spitting on the frozen snot of fiberglass and clinging to our wooden masts. We have valid points about the poor upwind performance of catamarans, the lack of weight tolerance, and the increased cost not just to buy but to dock, to haul out. But these remarks barely register in the minds of the masses of sailors scrambling as quickly to buy a catamaran as they can. We are old fogies with old fashioned views of sailing. We might as well be telling people how wooden boats are better as they are more beautiful and less expensive. We could tell them how easy it is to replace wood versus do fiberglass work.
But the sailors clinging to monohulls miss the most important directive of cruising. The dominant factor determining what type of sailboats will be sailed is what is being built. And what is being built is determined by what type of sailboat people want to charter. And what type of sailboat people want to charter is determined by volume, by layouts with the most space, with the most privacy and comfort for four couples. Charter comfort is determined by women. It has always been this way. It is the same reason monohulls ballooned in beam before finally exploding in their waistlines so much that they have split in two. I’ll never forget going on a new Beneteau at the Miami Boat Show some years ago and hearing the salesman market the boat as a monocat. A monocat.
The signs are everywhere and obvious. America’s Cup. The shift in what is available on the used boat market. Annual reports of Group Beneteau talking about doubling production of Lagoon catamarans from 400 per year to 800 by 2022. Jimmy Cornell switching to a metal catamaran to circumnavigate. YouTube sailing stars switching to catamarans. The widening of slips at marinas. The widening of haul out slips. If you have not noticed the signs, you are have not been paying close enough attention.
My advice is to go with the Tao. Tao is an ancient Chinese philosophy that life flows along a river, and we can either struggle against the current or go with the flow. When we align with the future, we see our lives bloom and bliss comes. So go sailing. Go cheap. Go small. Go broke. And most importantly go on two hulls. You will not have a choice at some point. Monohulls are dying the same way wood boats died.