Interview with Ferdinand Van West of Morrelli & Melvin / Rapido

Diane interviews lead designer of Rapido trimarans at Morrelli & Melvin. Morreli & Melvin is a famous design studio out of California which has designed America Cup winners, Gunboats, H&H catamarans, and Leopard catamarans.

Please go to for more information about M&M and inquire about their design services.

The Rapido 60 trimaran is well known as the choice of YouTube superstars, Sailing La Vagabonde. Trimarans like catamarans are becoming more popular, and Ferdinand covers how they compare in terms of performance and accommodations as well as what he sees as the future in multihull design.

Read on below to hear about the Rapido 60, 50, and 40 foot models.

Welcome to another CatamranSite interview. Today I’m with Ferdinand Van West and he’s with Morrelli & Melvin. Ferdinand, can you tell us a little bit about your background, and how you ended up with Morrelli & Melvin?

I’m actually originally from Holland, The Netherlands. I started naval architecture in Holland. I was also involved with youth sailing and Olympic sailing, so I’ve been sailing my whole life, since it was a pretty young age, like six years old, in the Optimist.

Then I graduated, my bachelor’s, and then was also at the same time combining that with Olympic campaigns in the 49er, so I was always interested in high-performance sailing. My Olympic campaign, we’re always struggling to get enough funding. We also did catamaran sailing and F-18s. That’s really when you know more.

When I started sailing catamarans, I was also active on big boats. Then [I] started studying, then actually did my masters in Southampton, in the University of Southampton in the UK. That was like probably, 2011-12.

At the same time, I was also working for a brand called Nacra, which actually was based here in California. They were bought by Dutch investors, and continued building boats here in California, actually. I was working for them, and that’s how I got in touch with Pete Melvin. One thing led into another, and started working for Pete in 2013, beginning of ’14.

You’ve seen a lot of evolution in catamarans, obviously, in your role, and in multi-hulls. Within your role, what kind of boats have you been involved in?

From the beginning I was actually the Nacra 18, the Infusion, I was always racing those as well. As a sailor, we were developing those boats to increase the performance of this boat, trying dagger boards, new rudders, improving the sail plan, and the sail design.

When I started working for Pete, I really got involved with newer designs. The first product I did together with Pete was actually the AC. We called it AC 35, because the class rules for the AC 62 would have been rolled into the AC 50.

The first project involved with M&M was Rapido 60. That was an exciting project. Then more Nacra, the Nacra 17. We also did a boat called the SuperFoiler. I’ve been involved with gunboat modifications, new foils, and also the HHs. We also did a boat called the TF10, which is also a trimaran, a foiler. We have seen a lot of projects.

Rapido 60

A lot going on! Can you tell me a little bit more about the Rapidos?

The Rapido is actually a really cool concept. It’s really Paul Koch and Pete Melvin who really [conceived] the idea of having a cruising trimaran bigger than 40 feet. We started out with a 60-footer where the saloon and your main deck is one walkthrough, actually similar to a catamaran. Then [we] worked out on a trimaran concept, and you have a complete walkthrough through the entire main hull, which is actually quite different to other trimarans. Particularly racing trimarans, where usually, you have the beam going continuous through the hull.

With the Rapido 60, we integrated them into the bulkheads, so the whole walkthrough through Rapido is quite innovative, actually. So that’s not pretty well known about Rapido, but that’s an interesting feature of that boat.

What’s nice about the trimaran is that it’s a little bit more high-performance, to me at least, than a catamaran. Because with the three hulls, the windward float is quickly always out of the water, so the boat maneuvers a little bit quicker, and accelerates a little bit quicker as well. Depending how you design the boats, and how powerful you make the sail plan. In general, those boats perform a little bit better than catamarans, and a little bit more dynamic.

You got ahead of me there! I was gonna ask you what are the special qualities of a trimaran that make it a good cruising boat. Let’s go into that a little bit more then, who are you thinking of as a customer when you’re designing the Rapido?

It’s a good question. When we started this out, it was mainly Paul Koch was the customer we were designing for at the beginning. Paul Koch really says it’s designed by sailors, and built by sailors, for sailors. In the beginning, it was really just us developing that concept and Paul. The first boat was actually just for the owners, and they really had to market the boat.

In the beginning, there wasn’t really a market, it’s almost like a disrupter. With Paul Koch, it took a while as well, for the concept to really to evolve, and people to get interested in, because it was quite different. You can tell particularly with the Rapido 40, it’s really taking off, and people are really interested in it. You have people who come from catamarans, who are interested in a trimaran, but also people from the monohull worlds who were more interested in getting a multihull, but they don’t want to go straight to a catamaran. They want something a little bit more dynamic, and then they get interested in a Rapido trimaran.

Rapido 40

That’s cool because I’m thinking back, is the evolution was kind of like it was for catamarans, that there was a few people building, and a few people interested, and as the designs improve, more and more people will see the benefits. Do you see trimarans going that same way?

Yeah. It’s slowly happening actually, but yeah, it’s taking more and more interest for sure.

What are some of the other elements of trimarans that make it more different from a catamaran, and perhaps more enticing to a sailor?

It’s a little bit hard to describe when we talk about dynamics. A trimaran tends to heel over a little bit more because of the free hulls, one is always out of the water. Therefore, it quickly tacks a little bit better, depending on the appendages design. With the trimaran you have a little bit more options with the daggerboard configuration. You can have one daggerboard in the center hull, or you can have daggerboards in the floats and no center board, or you can have all three. You can have two rudders, or three rudders, or just one.

Rapido 50 Sail Plan

The Rapido 60 has one rudder, and one daggerboard, but the Rapido 40 has these curved daggerboards in the floats, and no centerboard, which improved the performance a lot. You’re able to do different foil sections, different profiles, to get more hydrodynamic lifts out of those to increase the performance. You have a lot more configuration options. One thing what makes the Rapido 60 also better performing, is also just the weight. They tend to be a little bit lighter than catamarans, depending on how you build them. The Rapido 60, in general, is a pretty light boat for its 60 footer.

What about liveability? That tends to be one of the pluses with a catamaran. How does a trimaran stack up against that?

That’s true. I think we calculated before, the living space of Rapido 60 was actually pretty similar to a 60-foot catamaran. It’s a little bit harder to put in enough accommodations to compete against that with a catamaran.

Rapido 40 Layout Top

Some catamarans have four cabins and four bathrooms, and all that stuff. That’s a little bit hard on the Rapido 60. If you really want four cabins, or four bathrooms, then it becomes a little bit harder. But if you just focused on two cabins, or three cabins, the livability on that boat is actually a lot better. Well, not better with competitive, and also the saloon is actually pretty big. Everybody sees the Rapido 60 on paper, and then once they get on board they’re like, “Whoa this is really big, actually!”

Rapido 40 Layout Side

Even with the saloon size, its actually really comparable to a 60-foot catamaran. What is a nice element of the Rapido 60, you just have a lot of storage because of the trimaran hull shape. It tapers down to the bottom so you have a big bilge. You have a pretty big engine room. Behind and in front of that, you also have a lot of storage.

Rapido 50 Layout

A good place for wine!

Yeah, exactly! We have a lot of clients and customers who just cruise around the world. They live on the boat, they go to the Caribbean, the Bora Bora Islands. You’re just taking long journeys. A Rapido 60 has so much storage, you can bring so much stuff with you. It’s pretty interesting as well.

Rapido 50 galley

So you can carry a bigger payload than you can on a catamaran, or is a trimaran still weight sensitive?

Yeah, it’s still weight sensitive. We still set certain weights as a payload so you cannot necessarily go over it, but you have more room to easily [access] and get stuff from down below, if you want to.

Love it. Do you personally have a favorite model?

Not necessarily. I mean, I do really like the Rapido 40 because it’s an evolution of all the Rapidos. That one came out really well. It’s also a little bit more high performance, with the curved daggerboards, and the floats. Probably, currently my favorite.

That’s cool. It sounds like a trimaran sort of maintains that sensation of sailing that you kind of lose in a catamaran sometimes. They heel a bit, and is that true? So people who love the sense of monohull sailing, do you still get that with the trimaran?

Exactly, yeah. You definitely have a little bit more of the acceleration, the higher performance in a trimaran, than say a catamaran. It depends which cameraman you compare with. Some of our HH’s and gunboats, they’re pretty powerful these days too, with all those daggerboards and bigger rigs. They definitely get up there.

But the Rapido 60, that’s actually relatively underpowered compared to those boats. You still have pretty high performance, so it’s definitely the performance sites. It’s a good advantage on that boat for sure. But it’s hard to compare apples and apples.

That’s where I think people need to figure out what they want, which I think could be tricky sometimes. So how do you help people decide between trimarans and catamarans? Is there a straightforward way to figure that out?

Well, it depends. It really depends a little bit on the budget, and what they’re looking for. If they’re more cruising orientated, or a little bit more performance racing orientated. A lot of our HH customers, they love to go cruising with the family one week, and then the next week, they want to go sail the BVI Spring Regatta. You have those customers. It’s a little bit of a mixed [bag]. It depends also, like if they want to sail by themselves, or have a boat captain with them as well. It’s a little bit of a mixed [bag]. Probably, the Rapido 60 is a little bit right in between there. A Rapido 50 as well.

Rapido 50

Do you ever see trimarans becoming as common as catamarans have?

It’s a little bit hard, I think. One downside of the Rapidos is, sometimes a little bit the width of the boat. They’re pretty wide, so getting a good mooring, or mooring not so much, but more just a slip in the marina is a little bit harder. Typically, you want to get an end tie. The Rapido 60 and then a Rapido 50 and 40, you can fold them, but that’s still a bit of work to unfold and fold. Same as the Corsair trimaran. You really need to be passionate about trimarans, if you want to be doing that folding and unfolding.

Rapido 50 folded

Right because you’re looking at haul-outs around the world would get tricky as well.

That’s a little bit trickier too, but not necessarily. A lot of marinas did get bigger and then they’re more able to do that. It’s another element for sure. For the haul-out for the folding trimaran today, it’s actually pretty straightforward these days.

Where you see multihull design growing over the next 10 years or so? What are you excited by?

Definitely the trimaran concept. The Rapido, that’s definitely a nice direction it’s going. Currently, we’re doing more and more boats with where we explore more of the foil design aspect. That’s more the performance side, is more the foils. On the cruising aspect, we’re getting more and more performance out of the boats as well. In terms of getting weight out of the boat, higher performance just by better hull design, more optimized rigs. It’s actually pretty exciting. We’ve made a lot of process over the last couple years with that, and that’s definitely trickling down toward cruising catamarans as well. Currently, we do a lot of power boats as well, with foils as well.

Cool! I had no idea that there was so much happening with trimarans. I always think of them as the old ’60s boats that were always kind of heavy and not the best of anything.

Yeah! Right!

So how can people learn more about what’s happening with you guys at Morrelli & Melvin?

We do have our website It needs to be updated, but soon we have a new website, I think. We’re active on social media, where we frequently post our new projects, and/or share stuff from our clients.

Cool! Well, thank you so much for talking to us today, really appreciated you taking the time.

Thank you for your interest and time.

Diane Selkirk

By Diane Selkirk

I love to travel and have spent the past seven years sailing with my family aboard our 40 Woods Meander catamaran - traveling from B.C.'s north coast, to the west coast of the US, Mexico, the South Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia, across the Indian Ocean to South Africa and on to St Helena, South America, the Caribbean and Central America.

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