• The Rongo crew.
    The Rongo crew.
  • Different style of safety in those heady days.
    Different style of safety in those heady days.
  • Stormy weather but the trimaran had no problems.
    Stormy weather but the trimaran had no problems.
  • Map of the route taken by Rongo.
    Map of the route taken by Rongo.
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On 30th September 1959 the 40ft catamaran Rongo sailed into the Conway River in North Wales after crossing the North Atlantic from New York.

Rongo was the first catamaran to have made this difficult voyage, sailed by the now world famous catamaran designer James Wharram and his two German women companions, Ruth Merseburger and Jutta Schultze-Rohnhoff.

Rongo was designed and built by Wharram in Trinidad in 1957-58 after the three sailors had already crossed the Southern Atlantic in 1956 along the trade wind route from the Canaries to Trinidad in their small 23’6” catamaran Tangaroa, also designed and built by Wharram in England in 1954.

In the 1950s catamarans had not yet been acknowledged as viable seagoing sailing vessels and James Wharram pioneered their concept and proved their inherent seaworthiness with his Atlantic voyages.

In 1965 James Wharram started designing catamarans for other people and this soon blossomed into a thriving business of designs for self-builders, hundreds, and over time thousands, were built and many have made incredible ocean voyages, including the smallest catamaran to sail round the world in the 1990s, the Tiki 21 Cooking Fat sailed by Rory McDougall.

Wharram Designs are nowadays a very distinct type of catamaran with very traditional looking lines reminiscent of Polynesian double canoes, and are seen in many harbours all over the world. They have a worldwide following of builders/sailors who follow the philosophy of Wharram of how people can become 'sea people' by living a simple life on the sea.

To celebrate this first epic Atlantic crossing by Rongo the company is reprinting the original building plans of this design, beautifully drawn by Jutta in 1960. These will be available as a presentation box-set including a photo book of the history of Rongo, and the story of her further Atlantic voyages in 1960-61, plus a signed copy of James’ book about his pioneering voyages ‘Two girls two catamarans’.

These building plans can be used to build a model or a full size replica of this famous design. The presentation pack will be available in numbered editions, maximum 60, for the 60 years since her first west-to-east Atlantic voyage.

Cost of the presentation box-set, £225, orders taken in advance, with sets to be sent out by Christmas 2019. Further details on www.wharram.com.

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