Catamaran is a purist's pleasure

Catamarans and Pittwater go hand in sailing glove. Without the commercial traffic plying the harbour, there's a lot more room to move, tack, gybe and reach around in your catamaran. This fact isn't lost on the Royal Motor Yacht Club Broken Bay, which hosts the biggest regattas and mid-week races for multihulls. Berthing and swing moorings are more common up this way, too, but it's the cruising grounds that are unrivalled elsewhere in Sydney.

Catamarans and Pittwater go hand in sailing glove. Without the commercial traffic plying the harbour, there's a lot more room to move, tack, gybe and reach around in your catamaran. This fact isn't lost on the Royal Motor Yacht Club Broken Bay, which hosts the biggest regattas and mid-week races for multihulls. Berthing and swing moorings are more common up this way, too, but it's the cruising grounds that are unrivalled elsewhere in Sydney.

Around West Head and into Cowan Creek, the anchorages are numerous and beckoning.

A catamaran has some distinct advantages en route, not least being the level decks so you will not spill your drinks as you set sail. Then come the living areas for your holiday afloat and that trampoline between the bows for hanging out or spotting dolphins.

Such things played on my mind as we headed out in the Catana 42. The latest French catamaran brand to make waves in this country, the Catanas put performance under sail first.

A lot of that gets back to weight, or lack thereof. There's carbon-fibre reinforcing in places like the bulkheads; a Kevlar-like Twaron aramid fibre below the waterline; vinylester resin to prevent osmosis; and foam-cored doors and floors and lay-up. The hulls are resin-infused to save more weight and the structure feels stiff, but without the inherent drumming of a carbon-fibre hull.

The bows are even more distinctive, bulbed and tulip-shaped to reduce pitching, and fine to cut through the waves without pounding. Together, such things create a 30 per cent faster craft under sail than your average cruising yacht, Catana claims. Indeed, their reputation precedes them and Catanas are known for sailing right on past a lot of the clunky cats and cruising yachts drifting around the Pacific Ocean.

All of which bodes well as we cast the lines and advance the throttles for the twin-upgraded, 40hp, Volvo Penta engines with Saildrives. The 39 knots we saw on the wind gauge the previous day had abated to 20 knots. An electric halyard winch soon had the fully battened square-top mainsail aloft. When the genoa unfurled we had 112 square metres of sail area to propel an 8.9 tonne (dry weight) catamaran.

You could feel the jolt at the wheel as we quickly hit 12 knots and powerboat-like weight foamed astern. Thankfully, the cat has been built for ease of handling, with all lines leading back to the central cockpit trim station. The genoa sheets, furler and line for lifting the daggerboards are ahead of each leatherbound wheel. Boards raised, the cat has a reduced draft of just 800 millimetres.

With the autopilot engaged, we could have sailed from the big internal navigation station while looking out the saloon windows. Instead, we furled the headsail, dropped the main in the lazy jacks and deployed the self-stow anchor. At rest, the Catana 42 loses none of its lustre. The large solar panels mean you don't need a generator.

A hardtop shades the cockpit and sliding salon doors reveal the obliging aft galley. The cat has a separate fridge and freezer, abundant storage throughout, but the focus will be on the big al fresco lunch setting. In inclement weather, there's a second internal dinette in the saloon. Everywhere you look, the light timber joinery is perfectly executed and with lots of natural light and ventilation there's no risk of cabin fever.

Timber stairs lead below decks, past escape hatches in the "unsinkable" hull. The owners get the run of the portside hull, with a queen-bed aft, a dressing area/office and a dedicated en suite with separate shower. Guests in the opposing hull can choose between fore and aft double cabins split by a smaller communal head with handheld shower. But the deck shower will be more popular on the transom, where steps lead down to the water lapping nearby.

It took expert cat sailor David Renouf 56 hours to bring the catamaran from Mooloolaba to his Pittwater office. But such is the feeling of wanderlust you'll be heading for the tropics instead. Your passport to first-class sailing, the Catana 42 was selling for $895,000 through Multihull Solutions at Newport and is now on display at this weekend's Gold Coast International Marine Expo.

See multihullsolutions.com.au.

David.lockwood@bigpond.com

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