Advertisement

A Paradigm Shift

A shout out to multihull sailors to step out of the fringe and into the spotlight.

January 5, 2011
Sailing World

Dave Reed sailing

Walter Cooper

It’s hard to believe it was only 10 months ago that the America’s Cup pitted a pair of headstrong billionaires in two marvelous multihulls. It was hardly a “match,” but as I see it, the Deed of Gift showdown in Valencia did play out as scripted: the American protagonists took a gamble (educated as it was) on a big ol’ wing-propelled trimaran, the likes of which had never been seen before. They won, hands-down, and technology and bravado once again trumped, as it always has in the Cup.

The boats were awesome to behold: sexy, fast, and aggressive. They got us all excited about the end of an era of lead-laden dinosaurs. They got us talking about the new beginnings of sailing as an attention-getter among the world’s non-sailing populace. Sailing needed some legitimacy in the wild world of action sports, and suddenly the multihull was the answer to our prayers.

And here we are today, about to witness Larry Ellison’s encore: 72- and 45-footers with amazing wing sails (p.52), and the AC45s contending an ambitious, world-girdling Cup Series. We’ve got an entirely new event to attract new and different players, the entire thing hatched, sold, and launched in less than a year—an amazing feat unto itself.

Advertisement

And what an opportunity this shift at the pinnacle of our sport presents to the multihull community, which has been forever burdened with a reputation as an outlier of the sport. I’ll never forget my first time on a Hobie 16, one of the best sailing experiences of my life, so the excitement of multihull sailing doesn’t have to be sold on me. But if multihull sailors want to seize this opportunity to bolster their reps and grow their ranks, they better get hustling, and they better look within themselves first.

Our November/December issue, which featured the cover story, “Cult of the Wing,” on the wing-sailed C-Class catamarans, sparked a firestorm of ire from a few devout multihull sailors I know. It struck a nerve. At issue was our “implied” derogatory use of “speed freaks,” and “fringe” to describe the C-Cat niche. How dare we, wrote one veteran catamaran sailor, describe the multihull community in such terms.

Our story, he continued, “only further reinforces the attitude that multihull sailing in general is a fringe element relative to the mainstream of the sport. We seem to always fight for legitimacy.”

Advertisement

Perhaps that’s true, but when I asked him what the multihull community was doing to empower itself to change this attitude, and in particular, engrain multihull sailing into the mainstream, his curt answer was, “Not enough.”

The biggest problem, he told me, is that manufacturers have failed to produce affordable, but modern youth-specific multihulls, until recently. Further, he says, “Traditional U.S. yacht clubs will be hard to convince to include multihulls into their programs, since most are solid around traditional boats. At this point in time, it’s up to the parents and the multihull community to make it work. But tradition at most yacht clubs is standing in the way of the type of change, or progress, dependent upon your point of view, we saw happen with the America’s Cup.”

With multihulls recently reinstated to the 2016 Olympic docket, now’s the time for multihull sailors to rally and further the shift out of the fringe. The ball, or shall I say, the hulls, are in your court.

Advertisement
Advertisement

More Racing

Advertisement
Advertisement