Chasing Performance

When we purchased our first catamaran, I thought performance was important because at some point we might want to race, and going fast is more fun than going slow. We bought a Catana 471 because it was regarded as a performance cruising boat that was well designed and fast. Well, as they say in the military – “No plan survives contact with the enemy!” and when we started making offshore passages in our “performance” catamaran. I learned two things:

  1. Sailing offshore is often uncomfortable and stressful
  2. How fast we were going was much less important than being comfortable and relaxed

Our so-called performance catamaran was a beast to manage in 25+ knots and large waves, and took over 12 knots of wind before we could sail at a reasonable speed. We had to run the motors when winds were light, and got beat up sailing when it was windy. I quickly realized I knew nothing about the design characteristics of a boat that can handle real world conditions in comfort and safety.

Now we’re buying our third catamaran, and we have more sea miles and experience behind us. After owning an Outremer 5X for our 2nd boat, I have a better understanding of what’s important when choosing a catamaran and configuring it for offshore sailing, and there’s no question in my mind, high performance is the answer!

Because we’re cruising sailors and not racers, it’s not obvious why performance is important, and trying to understand performance by discussing it with a naval engineer can be very unsatisfying, because they live in a world of complex details and tradeoffs, where there is no single or simple answer to any question. I did a lot of research and read a bunch of theory, but I didn’t really understand which performance characteristics are truly important to cruising sailors until I experienced them for myself. Wildling was a great learning experience and now we are applying what we learned to the design of Puffin.

In this post I will go over the performance characteristics that I think matter the most for offshore cruising, and some of the innovations that we are building into Puffin to achieve our goals of comfortable, low stress offshore sailing. It turns out we are building Puffin at the perfect time, because Outremer has figured out how to take resin infusion optimization to the next level. They are able to build lighter boats without having to add more expensive carbon fiber. It’s an important breakthrough, and I think we’re looking at the future of affordable, high performance, series production catamaran construction.

Performance is not all about going fast

It’s easy to think high performance just means going fast, and for racing sailors that may be true. But cruising sailors have different objectives. First and foremost we want to keep our family, friends and crew safe and comfortable. We want to be able to handle a wide range of conditions without a lot of effort and stress, and we want to get to our destination quickly and efficiently.

It turns out that in many cases going faster is actually not what we want. When at sea on a passage, as the wind builds so do the waves. Going fast in developed offshore conditions is uncomfortable, stressful and it’s not any fun. Robin and I prefer to sail between 9 and 12 knots on passage upwind and slower when conditions get rough, so we slow the boat down by reducing sail as the wind builds. This protects the boat and allows us to relax, rest properly and maintain a two person watch schedule. It also gives us a safety margin when we get hit by unexpected gusts.

In light winds, we want to be able to sail rather than motor. The old adage: “There is either too much wind or too little” is unfortunately true! When the wind is light, the sea is calm, and things are really pleasant, but it’s no longer pleasant when you have to run the engines. My ideal scenario is to be able to turn off the engines when the wind reaches 5 knots. That way we can sail more and motor less, and we can be sailing when other boats are stuck at the dock waiting for a weather window.

High performance boats are easily driven in light winds. They spend more time sailing and less time waiting for wind or motoring. They log more miles in relaxing, light wind conditions, and they have higher daily averages over time because they can maintain a more constant speed range in changing weather conditions. In higher winds, they use less sail area for the same speed. Smaller sails are easier to handle and generate less force. Less force means less stress on the rig, lines, winches, fittings and crew and fewer breakages.

The most important features

So, performance for us is all about driving the boat at reasonable speeds without engines in light winds and being able to easily and significantly reduce sail area as the wind builds, while maintaining a high average speed and keeping a comfortable motion.

In my experience there are four important design elements that a boat needs to have to meet these cruising performance goals. The more of these that are present and done well, the more comfortable, safe and fun the boat will be offshore.

  1. Hull length and shape: long, narrow hulls require less power to drive than short, fat hulls, they also slide more easily through waves. But too narrow and there’s not enough room to live comfortably aboard. It’s important to have the right balance.
  2. Weight distribution: keeping heavy items (like engines, bunks and systems) away from the ends of the boat and keeping the boom low and the mast and rig small and light all reduce the amount of fore and aft pitching. More pitching means less comfort and a big speed reduction as the boat is diving further in and out of waves instead of driving forward
  3. Weight: lighter is faster and greatly reduces motion in a developed sea
  4. Sail area: more sail area is faster, but harder to handle and manage as conditions develop. The goal is to have the minimum necessary to drive the boat at the speeds we need.

If a boat manufacturer does a good job with the first 3 items, the boat can have a shorter mast and smaller sails. A heavy, wide hulled boat that pitches a lot will need to put up a lot of sail just to get moving, and will have to carry comparatively more sail in higher winds. This places higher stress on the boat and requires more work and vigilance for the crew. I had to hand steer in developed conditions on our Catana because the boat became very unbalanced due to the amount of sail area we had to carry to make reasonable speeds. With our 5X, we went plenty fast with deeply reefed sails and used the autopilot instead. A completely different experience!

You can see what I’m talking about by comparing a heavy slow boat like the Lagoon or Bali with a Schionning or Outremer. The Bali boats are focused on comfort at the dock and are more oriented to motor sailing in light to moderate winds. They have wide hulls to accommodate their big cabins and living spaces, they have cabins in the bows, and engines far back in the stern, they weigh more than twice as much as performance boats of the same length and they have double the engine size and triple the fuel tank capacity because they spend so much time motoring instead of sailing. Nothing wrong with that, as long as your goal is not long distance offshore cruising.

Puffin under construction at the Outremer factory. Notice the position of the engines is well forward to keep weight out of the stern

It’s also interesting to watch different catamarans at anchor. You can see the fat, heavy boats are rocking and pitching, while the performance boats hardly move. Performance is the gift that keeps on giving, it’s even an advantage when you’re stopped!

Our design goals for Puffin

I’ve talked about general characteristics, but here I will be more specific about what we are trying to accomplish with Puffin:

  1. We want to maximize the amount of sailing we can do in light winds. It’s super annoying to be sailing at speeds less than we can comfortably motor. For us, that’s about 5-6 knots on a single engine. I’m sure everyone is different, but I’ll sail all day at 4-5 knots, rather than turn on an engine. So if our goal is to sail in winds at 5 and above, we have to be able to sail at or very close to the wind speed.
  2. We need the best motion at sea possible to maintain our speed and comfort aboard. Staying high in the water and minimizing pitching is important, so we need narrow hulls, light weight and good weight distribution.
  3. We want to be able to easily reduce sail as the wind builds, and have some margin for error so even if we get caught with too much sail up, the rig is not so large, or the boat so light that we risk damage or flipping.
  4. We want to live aboard in comfort with well designed spaces for entertaining guests, relaxing and sleeping. We need enough space for storage and comfortable cabins.

Comparing boats

Armed with our design goals, I needed to find boats that could meet them. This is not so easy to do because manufacturer’s published data is notoriously inconsistent and inaccurate, so I looked at boats that met our light wind performance criteria and then used them as a benchmark to compare boats that have a similar design. I hoped this would help me find the boat with the best blend of performance and comfort.

An excellent example of high performance catamaran designs are the Schionning boats, for example the Spirited 480 and G-Force. There are a few of these in and around Australia so I have some real world data to do a reality check on their published specs.

I know that a minimally loaded Schionning can sail at or slightly above the true wind speed in 5-12 knot winds. They have fine hulls and excellent weight distribution with cabins and engines located towards the center of the boat. This makes them a great reference point for performance criteria. I believe Schionning’s published specs are pretty accurate, so I took the light displacement weight and sail area of the Schionning boats to calculate a performance ratio. Not a completely scientific approach, but it gave me a starting point for further comparison.

Spirited 480 ROAM under construction. Notice the narrow hull shape. This boat is light, strong and has excellent weight distribution with all living spaces and equipment centrally located.

Here are the results of my simple performance ratio calculation using Schionning data

Boat Model Length (feet) Light Displacement (kg) Sail Area – Mainsail + working headsail (m2) Performance ratio
Schionning Spirited 480 48 8,000 125 15.6
Schionning G-Force 1500C 49 8,000 128 16.0

So why go to the trouble of calculating a performance number? Why not just buy a Schionning and be done with it? Well the reason is that I like the performance of Schionning boats, but I don’t love their interior design and cockpit layout. It’s not bad at all, just my personal preference. I’ve been sailing French catamarans for a long time, and there are many design elements that I really like about them. I also like that they are built in a production series with a global after sales support network, rather than the one-off kit based approach used by Schionning, so I wanted to see if it was possible to get a production boat with similar performance to a Schionning. And for that I needed a way to compare different boats.

Using the same methodology as above, I looked at a range of performance series production catamarans:

Boat Model Length (feet) Light Displacement (kg) Sail Area – Mainsail + working headsail (m2) Performance ratio
Outremer 45 48 8,700 106 12.2
Outremer 4X 48 8,200 122 14.9
Outremer 51 51 10,900 122 11.2
Balance 526 52 12,500 149 11.9

This approach is only valid when comparing boats that have very similar length, hull shape and weight distribution characteristics. The Balance 526 is a bit of an outlier here, because it has lower performance geometry and weight distribution than the Outremer and Schionning boats, but I was curious to see how it stacked up just the same.

Performance analysis

The numbers for the 4X are not too far off the Spirited 480, the difference being due to the 4X being heavier and having a bit less sail area. As a reality check, our 5X would reliably get within 0.5 knots of true wind speed upwind in light winds. We sailed against a 4X in France and they were always a bit faster upwind than Wildling, so that indicates that for boats around 48-50 feet with these hull shapes and weight distribution, a performance number around 15.5 should be a good goal for a true wind speed capable boat.

As a quick aside, I think it’s important to understand why the 4X is heavier than the Spririted 480 and G-Force. Even with the use of carbon fiber on the 4X the other two boats are still lighter, and I believe the reasons for this come down to two differences in manufacturing.

Schionning boats are built using prefabricated Duflex foam cored panels. They don’t use fiberglass matt layup in molds with resin infusion. Constructing a boat out of Duflex panels is a very labor-intensive process, but it works well for Schionning because most of their boats are home built from pre-cut kits, so material costs are more important than labor costs. The Duflex panels create a lighter structure because there is no wasted resin penetrating the core, so for a given surface area, a Schionning will be lighter than a typical resin infused molded boat.

Schionning construction with prefabricated foam cored panels

In addition, Outremer does not use a foam core below the waterline. Instead they use a solid fiberglass structure. It’s heavier, but it is also stronger, and it’s an important safety feature on Outremer boats, because it gives them high impact resistance. This has been put to the test multiple times by Outremer owners surviving groundings and collisions with floating objects with no loss of integrity or safety to the boat.

Puffin’s hulls with solid fiberglass section below the waterline to provide resistance to impact or grounding

Pushing the 4X envelope

In the meetings regarding our 4X design with Matthieu at Outremer, I asked him what could be done to boost the performance a bit more on the 4X?

He explained that the 4X design is a collaboration with Loïck Peyron to create a version of the Outremer 45 that was more oriented to occasional racing without compromising comfort and seaworthiness. They extended the Outremer 45 hulls by 3 feet, reduced the weight by 500 kg using carbon fiber in various places, and they replaced the self tacking jib with a larger genoa to increase the working headsail area. The option of adding a taller mast with more mainsail area was also considered. Loïck basically said “don’t do it!” He felt that adding more mainsail would only add stress and fatigue to the crew, because reefing would require more vigilance and more effort. Better to be stress free, knowing the boat can handle a wide range of conditions in safety!

This design philosophy demonstrates Outremer’s uncompromising focus on performance cruising versus racing and makes a lot of sense to me, so no changes to the rig, but what about the weight? This is where an unexpected twist of fate led to a breakthrough that would give us the solution I was looking for!

The Rhum test

The 2018 single-handed race across the Atlantic Ocean, the Route du Rhum, was unique in that for the first time, production cruising catamarans were entered in the Rhum Multi class. Longtime Outremer employee and offshore sailing instructor Jean-Pierre (JP) Balmès entered the race sailing a 4X. They encountered 3 major storm systems that decimated the fleet with winds over 60 knots and 6-8 meter seas. Jean-Pierre and his 4X came through unscathed and took 5th place! He beat all the other production multis by a huge margin, and was only beaten by some racing trimarans, and unlike them, he had a toilet that flushed, and could take a shower without using a bucket! A truly remarkable performance.

JP’s 4X was a stock boat, with some of the bedding removed to keep it light and no changes to the sailplan. But, he made an important change to the hull construction to reduce the weight by 300 kg! We were all curious to see how his 4X was handling the extreme conditions. His feedback was the boat was fine, very strong, but didn’t need to be any lighter!

With JP’s design modification, his light displacement was reduced to 7,900 kg, giving his 4X a performance ratio of 15.4, which is right on the performance number I was looking for. Not only that, JP had just tested the boat in the worst conditions imaginable and had no issues at all.

Help from Gunboat

So what did Outremer do to JP’s 4X to drop the weight by 300 kg, without using extra carbon fiber or compromising strength or safety? The answer comes from an unexpected collaboration. In 2016, Grand Large Yachting, the company that owns Outremer, acquired Gunboat and moved their manufacturing to a site next door to the Outremer factory in France. Gunboat are high performance, all carbon fiber, luxury cruising catamarans. And while the majority of their light weight comes from the use of carbon, they also use a different process for doing foam core resin infusion that saves a lot of weight.

The typical method of resin infused layup with foam core uses sheets of foam with narrow grooves cut into them in a cross hatch, creating 1 cm squares over the entire sheet. This allows the foam to conform to the curves of the hull surface and maintain an even core thickness. When the resin is pumped into the molds under vacuum during the infusion process, all of these little grooves act to channel the resin so it flows evenly over the entire surface, but they also remain filled with resin, and over a large area this constitutes a significant amount of weight that has no structural benefit.

Traditional cross-hatch cut foam core is laid up in the mold using large sheets

After infusion each groove remains filled with resin

Gunboat takes a different approach. They use solid foam sheets with no grooves, and they cut and shape multiple sections to fit together and form curves around the mold surface, with very little space at the joins. They make tiny holes in a grid over the surface of the foam core to allow the resin to fully penetrate and flow between the inner and outer layers of the fiberglass layup during infusion. This process is more labor intensive, but it yields the lightest possible weight for resin infused fiberglass sandwich hulls. The result is an infusion process that approaches the efficiency of the Duflex panels used by Schionning!

Outremer took the Gunboat approach and applied it to the hull sections of JP’s 4X, and achieved a 300 kg weight reduction.

Puffin’s hull during layup in the mold with formed, foam core

Puffin’s hull after infusion. Virtually no wasted resin.

Innovations on Puffin

Matthieu proposed we use the same approach on Puffin as JP’s 4X, and in addition to the hulls they would also apply it to the molded deck section on Puffin, for even more weight savings. Since this hasn’t been done before, we don’t know yet the total weight reduction, but it’s estimated to be over 350 kg.

I wanted to get as close as I could to the 7,900 kg light displacement of JP’s 4X, but since I am adding about 150 kg of additional weight to Puffin that is not on JP’s boat, I needed to find a way to reduce Puffin’s weight even further to compensate. Here’s the estimated installed weight of the extra items we are adding to Puffin:

  • 3 x electric winch motors and wiring @23 kg each = 70 kg
  • Extra bunk bed in the port forward cabin = 29 kg
  • Extra freezer in the galley = 25 kg
  • Extra solar panels on the bimini roof and wiring = 26 kg

TOTAL = 150 kg

When we apply the 350 kg weight savings from the light foam core option, then add back the extra weight of our options, we get a light displacement for Puffin of 8,000 kg. Not bad, but can we do better?

On our 5X we had the salon roof constructed out of carbon fiber, which was a good weight savings but this wasn’t an available option for the 4X as Outremer had never done it. I asked them if we could add it, and after some engineering study they added this to Puffin for an extra 50 kg savings.

Puffin’s deck section under construction. Salon roof layup in carbon fiber

That brings Puffin’s theoretical light displacement down to 7,950 kg and gives us a performance ratio of 15.3, pretty close to JP’s Rhum 4X. We now have the great Outremer design layout that we love, the safety of solid fiberglass below the waterline, the extra systems and features we want for comfort and sail handling, and we hit our target performance ratio. Mission accomplished!

Of course we will have to be careful not to load Puffin up with a lot of extra weight when we go cruising, but even if we do, we know that we always have the potential to configure her as a fast, safe and comfortable, light wind sailing machine, and who knows maybe we can even mix it up with those Schionnings in next year’s Brisbane to Gladstone race!

34 Comments on “Chasing Performance

  1. Thanks Doug, this is great info, thanks for sharing it. I wish you wonderful trips on Puffin!

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  2. Thanks again for all the research you did. My final decision for Outremer was in fact
    seeing how great the 4X was doing with JP on the Route du Rhum. Since years I try
    to persuade my friends in our sailing club that performance is a key element for security.
    Next time I’ll end up in such a discussion I’ll point them to your excellent analysis.

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  3. Doug, another fantastic article. THESE are what we who are considering our boat should be reading! Quick question….do you trust the polar diagrams offered from any of the manufacturers? Are they part of any of your calculus or are they basically of little worth?

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    • Hi Jeff,

      No, I do not trust or use the polars from manufacturers. I do create my own polars when sailing the boat, and I would pay attention to other owners that publish polars from real world passages. Manufacturers polars are based on a computer simulation of a theoretical boat on a theoretical sea, they just don’t translate to the real world. If you focus on optimizing the important performance characteristics, the polars will take care of themselves.

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  4. Thank you, this was a very thoughtful and informative article!

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  5. Great insights as always! What are your thoughts on light catamaran’s motion at sea? I’ve heard from a few people (more recently a youtuber posted up his thoughts here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LC8Q4oN2kjs) after taking sea trials on a Schionning and an older Outremer and saying how much the light boat’s motion in the water was just tiring and uncomfortable on both of them. They ended up going for a heavier Leopard because they felt it had more comfortable motion on passage.

    Any thoughts on that? I’m all about the lightweight and performance but i’ve never been on a light boat so I don’t know what comfort trade offs with the motion i’m giving up in a pursuit for light wind capabilities and speed.

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    • Hi Matt,

      I’ve heard this before also, usually from monohull sailors that are new to catamarans. A heavy catamaran will have a motion more like a monohull. I find the heavy catamaran motion more lurchy and a light boat a bit quicker and sharper if that makes sense. All of my crew and passengers have had significantly less motion sickness on a lighter boat, but it comes down to personal preference I think. The big difference is when in offshore conditions. A heavy catamaran will expend a far greater percent of it’s motion going up and down, a lighter boat will drive forward. If I could have advised the youtuber you referenced I would have told him that he will quickly get used to the different motion on his light catamaran and the benefits far outweigh the small adjustment period. The goal should not be to simulate the motion on a monohull, but rather take advantage of all the benefits a light catamaran can provide.

      Cheers,
      Doug

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    • Hi Matt, we have an older Outremer, the 55L. It is 54 feet long and weighs 11,000kg loaded for cruising. As a relatively lightweight performance catamaran she sails on top of the water rather than through the water. While we can safely sail 9-12 knots in any fully powered conditions, that can be quite tiring due to the constant micro movements. On passage we often reef down further to limit the top speeds and bring the average to 7.5-8 knots. She’s no longer leaping off the waves and quite smooth, and if the waves moderate we can easily speed up again. That’s the big benefit – small sail area still allows you to move along well and provides plenty of safety reserve.

      Monohull sailors are very uncomfortable at first on our boat, but most who have sailed with us get used to the different movement and are converted by the fact that our counters, tables and seats all remain usable regardless of our speed or wind strength. My mum, who is now 84, sailed with us for the first time in some very boisterous conditions and after a few minutes worrying about the catamaran movements (her history is living aboard and cruising on a heavy 34 foot monohull), she relaxed and couldn’t believe how fast we were going without heeling and in the cabin without the feeling of going fast. Now she can’t wait to sail with us.

      I watched that video as well. The Outremer they looked at seemed in very poor condition so not worth buying, but I was yelling at the video that they should have slowed down to a comfort level. They chose a boat that will not sail at lower wind speeds and will behave akin to a monohull, less the heeling. Oh well, their loss.

      Check out Tika Travels blog and look for the post where they describe why they love their Outremer 55S.

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  6. Great information. I am getting ready to switch gears from a solid but slow steel monohull to a preformance cat. My wife said out goal should now be to sail and stop motoring and motor sailing. We are looking at builing new and have the 5x as the boat of choice. I would love to get your feedback on how you would have built wilding different given your experience now with the 5x and the new revelations with the 5x. If you have the time for a few back and forth emails.

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  7. Bah my fat fingers. Correction – “out goal” – “our goal”, “revelations with the 5x” – “revelations with the 4x”

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    • Hi Jon,

      Great pick with the 5X, it’s such an awesome boat! We had Wildling configured pretty much perfectly for our needs. The only thing I would change if I bought now is I would use the new light foam core we have on the 4X. Other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing!

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  8. Superb write-up. Thank you for your due diligence and who knows, maybe Outremer will incorporate your mods in their future designs. They certainly seem worthy of consideration.

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  9. Thanks for the useful information. In addition to your performance ratio, I am more interested in the position of the centre of gravity. When you are reducing weight above this point, the COG will be lower. But I think that when you reduce weight below the COG, it will rise. With the 300 kg reducing measures (gunboat construction) in the hulls I am curious if the COG will be lower.

    With regard to the performance ratio, the difference between the 45 and 4X is way to big. With the same amount of sailing surface ( when both use their genoa, mainsail is equal) ), your PR will be much more equal. If you do 500 kg weight reduction with the 51 and use a genoa that fits the 51 like the 4x, the PR will be almost the same as the 4X. That’ s why I am more interested in the position of the COG.

    I hope you can tell me more about the COG.

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    • Hi Marc,
      The 45 is rigged to use a self tacking jib and does not have a genoa, but you’re right you could modify it to use a genoa and then it would be closer to a 4X. I also agree with your comments on the 51. With a similar approach to the 4X, you can get a much higher performing boat. I also agree the COG is important, but becomes a bit more complicated to figure out when the boat is configured for cruising as the extra weight is added in different locations. I try and keep weight as low in the boat as possible to help.

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      • Hi Doug we have just been introduced to your new web posts. Great write up thank you.
        Can you tell us what the waterline width widest point is on the 4X and what it was on the 5X you owned. Also bridge deck clearance on 4X and 5X. Most builders don’t make this information readily available. Thanks Jessica & Craig

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  10. Ok Honey, I promise- no more books, only Kindle. Now we have to convince Lindsay!!! No Books on PUFFIN. Think of the weight savings in her cabin alone! 😜

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  11. Great write up. How do you think you’ll go against Rush Hour (Drew Carruthers 50ft weapon – http://www.mycq.org.au/info/boats/90-catamarans/312-rushour) in Brisbane to Gladestone next year? I sailed with them a couple of times in the 2017 Hamilton Island Race Week and one occasion hit 28.5 knots! Would be good to see Puffin against Rush Hour and the regular Schionning cats around Brisbane. I am BIG fan of Outremer and have religiously been following Sailing La Vagabonde.
    Are you doing the Moreton Bay Multihull Regatta in March next year too?

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    • Hi Charl,
      I don’t know anything about Rush Hour, but I do not expect that we will be as fast as a Schionning, rather that we are getting closer to their performance than a lot of other series production boats. Not sure about the regatta in March, but we would love to do it if we can.

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  12. Hi, how did you calculate those Performance Ratios from the data provided? Thanks, great article!

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  13. On our older Outremer 55L the 35sqm self-tacking headsail makes light air upwind more difficult (either go high and slow, or bear away to 45 degrees apparent wind angle and use our 80sqm screecher). But the convenience of not having to handle jib sheets during tacks and not having to furl until over 25 knots makes up for it in our opinion.

    A genoa will need to be furled earlier and will be less efficient at higher wind speeds. A staysail for higher wind upwind becomes a necessity rather than a nice to have as with our rig. Plus you add the weight of genoa tracks and winches high up onto the cabin top.

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  14. Great article I built my 14 m Chamberlin along this line of performance used carbon fiber in the ends of the boat where it had the most benefit like the rudder shafts and front beam etc. And was rewarded with a boat that had a awesome motion at sea in all conditions and a nice average speed and was great at anchor as well. I sailed her well over 30 000 miles half that solo. If I built another one I would build along those lines again. Cheers Bruce

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  15. Pingback: Sail Planning | Sail Puffin

  16. Hi Doug.

    Glad to see we are completely in agreement when it come to Cruising multihulls and tender design.You have made some excellent choices. I hope you enjoy what we have done with your tender.Look forward to
    your thoughts and comments.

    Fair Winds,

    Russell

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  17. Doug, it looks like Puffin will be hitting the water in a couple of months. It’s time to do some research on bottom prep. If you go back and look at your Wildling bottom pics and compare them to bottom shots of racing boats, you will see how rough Wildling’s bottom was. Good bottom prep is just as important as weight control and sails. In light air, the drag caused by a poor bottom is especially noticeable. The boat will accelerate slower in a puff and will slow faster after it passes.

    The bottom paint a builder puts on is equal to the sails that come with the boat. You noticed a huge performance increase when you went with North sails, you will get a similar increase if you go with someone spends the time doing the bottom right.

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    • Hi James,
      I completely agree with your concerns. We have decided to put the standard bottom paint on in the factory, and will be replacing it with a high performance coating when the boat arrives in Brisbane. It was difficult to get an Australian approved paint done in France. Do you have any recommendations?

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      • Not really. It’s been over 10 years since I had to purchase bottom paint. My Santa Cruz 27 spent most of her time on her trailer. Most of the paints I was familiar with have been banned due to environmental restrictions. When I got it done, the argument was between hard and soft paints. Soft paints are more traditional, leaching the anti fouling ingredient into the water. Hard paints are what you see on racing boats. You can sand it with very fine grit paper to get a very smooth surface. America cup boats took it to the extreme, polishing it much like you did to Wildling’s topside. Your wife would have been able to see her reflection from the rudder 🙂

        Is Puffin going to be spending much time in the water prior to shipment down to Brisbane? If all she’s going to do is a couple of weeks of shakedown sails before heading south, it may be better to forgo painting it at all. It used to be a pain removing an old soft coat and replacing it with a hard coat. Any remnant of soft paint would make the hard coat useless. The soft coat would continue to slough off antifouling material and the hard paint would go with it.

        The research you have to do is finding a yard manager you trust that will answer all your questions about what paint fits your needs and your budget. The yard manager will know who does the best bottom work.

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  18. Is it reasonable to compare the different Outremer models based on their performance in the Outremer Cup? I can’t find much information regarding how the race is scored. Are the boats measured for a CSA rating, adjusting for differences and handicapping accordingly, or are the results based on actual elapsed race times?

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