Tack a Catamaran. Simple enough you might think?

Posted on December 30th, by admin in Features. No Comments

Learn to tack a catamaran.

Catamarans do not point well when heading to windward. A decent performing mono-hull will point at 40 degrees or better. A cat will be doing well if she can sail at 45 degrees apparent. Cats sail faster so the apparent wind is always further ahead. Therefore they can’t point high when close hauled. true wind when close hauled will be 50 or worse!

We are sailing at 45 degrees to the wind when we are close hauled. ( 50 true) So when we tack a catamaran we go through at least 100 degrees. What does this matter?

Well it means that we have to “free wheel” with no drive from the sails for longer and further than a single hulled vessel.  Not good.

Catamarans have no ballast. That’s great as they don’t sink! but if you take the drive off they stop! Waves carry massive inertia and when they hit us we have nothing much to fight back with. So again we stop.

  • PICK YOUR MOMENT. Watch the sea and go into the tack on top of a wave, not climbing a big face.
  • SPEED is essential. We have a long way to go around until we can fill the sails to gain drive on the new tack.

If its a rough day and the waves are slowing us down then bear away a little more and really get the boat moving. She won’t go around otherwise.

  • GET THE WHEEL OVER. Don’t mess about turning slowly (as you would on a Mono-hull to give the crew time to get the foresail over). Even if you turn as fast as she can, the crew will still have plenty of time. However if you turn slowly you loose SPEED and you won’t make it all the way through the wind.
  • GO AROUND FAR ENOUGH. If you are used to sailing half a boat! (Mono-hull) You will not tack through enough angle and she will end up “in Irons”.

Most Multihulls these days have massive mains’ls, which act like church roof weather vanes . (They make the bow point into the wind) So with the heads’l empty she will stay head up in the wind. So lets go around far enough and even dump the main sheet if necessary to allow her to bare away.

  • THIS ISN’T A DINGHY. ” Ready about” “Lee ho!”
    NO! DON’T LET FLY THE JIB SHEET. She’s going to take a while to get into the wind. Watch the Foresail and let the sheet off when it empties. You should not need to “back” the jib however. Make sure you have no snags on the sheet.

As the boat turns into the wind the apparent wind increases. This makes it come from further aft. Use this to keep the drive on.

That doesn’t make sense does it? Its true however.

The boat is for example sailing at 8 knots. In an apparent wind speed of say 12 knots. As you turn into the tack, the wind speed increases to 14. ( you are turning straight towards it so the vector is changing)

Try it! Get close hauled and sailing well. Luff up slightly and you’ll see the jib tell tails on the windward side become unstable. Note the course.

Now get her up to speed again. Then throw the wheel over to tack and watch the jib tell tails again? Yes they stay stable far longer than they did in the first example! We can sail the jib into the tack to keep the drive on for longer.

  • TIMING IS EVERYTHING. As in all things really. Preparation, good sail trim, Speed, communication, all essential.

Some say cats wont tack. So careful what you buy!
I can tack a cat out of a “hove to” position ( yes every time!) That’s right, I have no boat speed! Cats can be ballet dancers under sail, but “not a lot of people know that”. Try a catamaran course with us and I’ll show you!

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