With their multiple technical benefits, catamarans are rising in popularity, writes David Lockwood.
Catamarans aren't new but they are being rediscovered, redefined and relaunched with renewed vigour around the world. Just look at the America's Cup, the fast ferries zipping around the harbour or the trends in super-yachts from companies such as Incat.
If you want the latest in luxury cruising powercats, the $3 million-plus Horizon PC60 Skylounge is hard to beat. One of Taiwan's most established luxury boat builders, Horizon has made its mark in the past 25 years building semi-custom motor yachts to more than 30 metres in length. But it seems the yard has come to the realisation that catamarans have some overwhelming advantages over monohulls.
You get twice the boat with a twin hull. For example, the PC60 flaunts a 7.35-metre beam, which is a couple of metres more than an equivalent-length mono. Lower drag, lower wash, shallower draft and greater efficiency are among the other key attributes of a well-designed catamaran.
The principal of Horizon Motor Yachts Australia, Russell Wright, knows the luxury cruiser market only too well. I first tested boats with the Gold Coast identity more than 20 years ago. But Wright will tell you that the PC60 is something altogether new. It's also Wright's demonstrator to realise his cruising dreams during semi-retirement.
"The cat has the room of an 80-footer [and] runs like a 100-footer, but with the economy of a 50-footer," Wright says as we cruise down the Gold Coast Broadwater on twin Italian-made electrically adjustable President-model helm chairs from Italian company Besenzoni. "But it has still got the Horizon DNA, the same five-star interior appointments, and a truly utilitarian feel."
To Horizon's credit, the PC60 overcomes the styling challenges that confront many cat designers. The sleek looks come courtesy of the Florida-based Winchester Design Group, while New Zealand naval architect Angelo Lavranos created the running surface.
With an enclosed bathroom in the enclosed flying bridge, aka Skylounge, and a large flat-screen television linked to satellite television and Foxtel, you can cruise in this catamaran while catching up on the news. Indeed, this is the way Wright and his wife cruised back to the Gold Coast in winds up to 34 knots after the Sydney boat show.
With a pair of modest Caterpillar 715-horsepower C12 diesel engines, the key consumption figures were 50 litres of fuel an hour at 10 knots, 180 litres at 20 knots and a top speed of 24 knots. Indeed, these are fuel figures consistent with a 50-foot monohull. But with cockpit controls and a Yacht Controller docking remote, slotting the big cat back into its berth (in front of the audience at Sanctuary cove) proved a breeze.
Big chines and a wave-break (vee) moulding in a high tunnel make the PC60 pleasantly dry and, moreover, devoid of the thumping that sometimes plagues poorly designed cats. Another achievement is all-important storage space. The full-height rod and storage locker in the cockpit and a walk-in compartment in the foredeck will swallow the essential watersports toys, tackle and tools.
A water maker was bundled with the boat, along with extensive refrigeration, tropical-strength airconditioning, an electric barbecue, Miele plate warmer, 52-bottle Vintec wine fridge, Bose Lifestyle 135 sound system and treats such as underwater lights and a 4.5-metre Horizon Hypalon tender with 50-horsepower outboard. Such is the level of luxury.
A serious cockpit dining table, relocatable in two positions, will serve as the primary dining area in addition to the saloon dinette opposite an aft galley with bar. Then there's the accommodation. In keeping with super-yacht trends, the stateroom is forward on the same level as the saloon, concealed behind a large pane of PolyVision safety glass featuring a liquid crystal interlayer for switching from translucent to transparent.