Paralympic sailing icon and Sunsail ambassador, Helena Lucas MBE recently retired from competitive sailing and celebrated by enjoying her first-ever catamaran sailing vacation. She tells us how she got on.
Catamaran vs. Monohull
We were really fortunate to be given a Sunsail 444 Catamaran for two weeks in the BVI’s. Neither myself nor my husband have ever sailed a catamaran, not even a dinghy so it was a really different experience for us both! We have always sailed monohulls and have our own 33-foot yacht, so we were intrigued to see what it was going to be like!
The Cat offers amazing accommodation, especially the 444 for only two people! We effectively had a hull each, with two double cabins and two heads, enough sleeping accommodation for 4 couples. The main living area has a 360-degree vista with fantastic cooking facilities, large fridge, great seating area and most importantly a generator allowing for air-conditioning and modern appliances like microwave, smoothie maker, coffee machine, etc. without needing shore power. There were so many great places to relax on the boat, whether you wanted to sunbathe or escape the heat and relax in the shade and the cooling breeze. We had some great evenings barbequing and eating on board in stunning anchorages. We loved the dinghy davits; just a push of a button and the dinghy was hoisted from the water and stowed at the back of the boat. For us, the liveaboard experience was amazing!
The sailing experience was very different from what we are used to and it took us a little time to adapt to the motion of the boat and also understand how to get the best out of her. We had an amazing sail from Virgin Gorda to Anegada, a tight reach in 18 knots. At times we touched 9 knots boat speed, even with a reef in the main, and quickly caught and passed the monohulls. We found the reefing guide next to the helm a really useful and accurate guide to how much sail area we should have in the various wind conditions. Something which is quite obvious in a monohull, but not in a cat which it doesn’t heel over.
However we did feel limited by the amount of sailing we could do, as catamaran performance upwind and downwind is inferior to a monohull, but they are great fun on a reach, and you never have to worry about your drink falling over and making sure everything is stowed properly before setting sail. Under power, considering the size of the boat it was really easy to manoeuvre with the twin engines, and by splitting the throttles, you could spin the boat in its own length.
In summary, if you want an amazing liveaboard experience with all your creature comforts, being able to move your luxury floating hotel from one stunning anchorage to the next, and are not too bothered whether you sail or not, the catamaran is for you. I would also say the cat is ideal for families with young children, because the space and fact it’s very stable makes it safe and easy to move around.
However, if you are passionate about sailing and want to make the most of the amazing sailing conditions the BVIs have to offer, the monohull is probably the boat to choose. In the winter months, December to April, you can expect NE-E trade winds of 5-20 knots, sometimes gusting up to 30. Properly reefed, these make some fantastic sailing days on the beautiful Caribbean Sea.
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