Catamarans are a compelling design for the cruising sailor as the Australian-built Seawind range testifies to, reports Kevin Green.
Seawind catamarans are one of the biggest successes of our production boat building industry and continue to push their market share. Cracking the lucrative cat market in the US is one of the big pay-days for any small company so all credit to Richard Ward and his staff for the recent successes over there – the Seawind 1160 won best sailboat at the Newport Boat show and was voted by Cruising World magazine as the most innovative design and best multihull cruiser for 2007. Two very successful milestones for the 25-year-old company that now employs 80 staff and turns out three boats a month from its yard in Wollongong, NSW. It produces the newly modified 1000 and the 1160 that was first introduced in 2005. With 50 of the 38ft 1160s sold, the company has clearly found a niche market. After a day spent on board both the 1000 and the 1160, I can see why. The quality and attention to detail shine through, and for $499,000 sailaway, the 1160 gives you a lot of boat, compared with a similar-sized monohull.
Most sailors probably buy a cat for space reasons, especially a cruising one. In the space-challenged Asian region, cats are becoming low-budget floating homes with prestigious water views. With a deck saloon area bigger than many inner-city unit lounges, the allure of a multihull is plain to see. But sailors, of course, need the full package – seaworthiness, sailability and affordability. So let's have a look at what the 1160 offers the possible monohull convert or new buyer.
Strength is a major concern with cats, so when designing the 1160, Seawind enlisted Kiwi specialists High Modulus who oversaw the engineering of the female hull mould. The vinyl ester laminated hull with foam core is built to Australian and Survey standards and holding the hulls together is a heavy-duty Pelican beam. The twin mini keels mean it only draws 1.05m, ideal for sitting on the ground, while keeping the twin rudders clear.
With a beam of 20ft and overall length of 38ft, the three or four-cabin layouts offer accommodation that pleases charter companies, but also offers the cruising couple a very liveable platform. The wide deck saloon has lots of storage space, including vertical cupboards for a washing machine and other appliances. Securely locking the area off are lift-up triple doors that winch up to the hard-top bimini and are held securely by a metal bar. Steering is by a twin-wheel arrangement that runs on separate cable systems and from either helm all four points of the 1160 can be viewed by the steerer. On the review boat, which will be available for charter from Whitsunday Escape (tel 1800 075 145), options fitted include a Raymarine C80 chart plotter that sits inside the removable saloon window. This gives a useful weatherproof area, especially if fitted with the optional dodger. The spacious cockpit is well protected with guard rails and the pushpit area has the obligatory optional barbeque and also davits with a rubber ducky attached. The slatted wood seats and metal work felt strongly made up and the whole area is functional for a large group – the review boat was in survey for eight people but could entertain three times that number easily. The Targa Bar above this area has the mainsail traveller attached and is controlled by a winch handle on its side. Maybe not the best for the sailing purist, but the idea looks manageable. Manageability is really the key to this kind of boat and the whole setup is geared towards this – all lines lead aft into moulded storage bags and are wound on to the Harken 40 primary winches with 46s for other jobs.
The big roached mainsail is fully battened and nestles in its bag, well supported by lazy jacks and up front the self-tacking jib is one less thing to worry about. Substantial Spinlock jammers lock all lines and a track awaits the optional genoa sail, for those wanting more power than the smallish jib can offer. Moving up front, probably only to sun bathe or anchor, for most people, is like walking along a marina pontoon (and with a similar motion on a cat) such is the space and safety, with the high guard rails and good hand-holds. The firm trampoline leads out to the Profurl furler and Muir electric anchor windlass. The deep chain locker has room for a lot more than the 50m fitted as standard to the 35lb Plough and the push-button operation, with optional hand controls, should make dropping the hook an easy job, especially with all that space to move around in on the deck, unlike a monohull. The sail plan allows for a lift-up bowsprit, which wasn't fitted on the review boat, and gives the required clearance to run an asymmetric spinnaker.
The single spreader Tempo rig is 7/8 and its boom leads right to the stern but can be easily accessed along the hard-topped bimini. No vang is required, instead the combination of the long traveller and topping lift do the job. One line less to worry about, in cruising mode, you could say. Reefing is also straight forward with a single line system fitted.
Stepping into the sun-drenched saloon from the cockpit, the first thing that catches the eye is the deeply polished Jarrah table that sets of the spacious area. The gas strut mounted table swivels several ways, including collapsing to become a double berth – I could just imagine myself dosing there while anchored at some quiet spot up the coast.
The area is uncluttered, with a robust non-slip veneered wood floor surrounding the comfortably cushioned couches. I'd fit sliding blinds to all windows, but this was not required by the charter company that will run the boat. On the starboard side, the saloon opens into the hull with the fore and aft galley having plenty of facilities ? three-burner gas stove/oven, double deep sinks and very importantly plenty of refrigeration. The Vitigrigo upright fridge is a generous 160 litres and below is a 60 litre top-loading freezer. Panelling throughout is light-coloured beech and beech laminate which adds to the airiness down below. The forward ensuite cabin in this hull has good hatch access, something that can worry people in cats, in case of a capsize. The blue-water performance cruiser doesn't have a hull escape hatch fitted as standard, as Brent explained to me: “We can add escape hatches if requested by the customer. However, we do consider these to be a general safety hazard. In over 300 cruising catamarans that Seawind have now built, we have never had a boat capsize.”
Accommodation elsewhere is good with the roomy stern cabin which has large windows and a firm mattress. Curtains again would be good for privacy. The accommodation layout in the other hull is similar, except that the stern area is a head/shower unit, with walk-in access to one of the twin Yanmar 29hp diesel engines fitted. It powers the three batteries: a 400amp/hrs house system and twin 200 amp/hr AGMs. Headroom and space in the shower would easily accommodate a six-foot sailor and the electric head is functional, and of course doesn't tip up at critical times, unlike its monohull equivalent.
On the water
Marinas play a big part in the life of most yachts, so boat handling in one is critical, especially for a 20ft-wide catamaran with high topsides that add to a lot of windage. But it was no effort for Steve on the helm. Especially with two three-bladed propellers pushed by twin 29hp Yanmar saildrive engines, the wide beam is a positive, as you've got power on each corner. Throttle ahead on one engine and throttle astern on the other to spin round, and we nudged out of the tight berth at Drummoyne marina without any dramas – a tad more wind would have added to the test but with the same conclusion, I think. Stability for the small things in life is another thing cats are all about – I left my camera deliberately on the saloon table to see the effect the wash from another boat would have – very little. Continuing on to the outer harbour we pushed the engines to maximum revs (3900 rpm) and I noted 8.4 boat speed. With engines nested in each hull there was a fair bit of engine noise so I was glad when we throttled back to hoist sail. Brent went out on deck to open the main sail bag, by walking along the solid bimini top then went forward to sweat the main halyard. Rolling out the self-tacking headsail took even less effort, before it was adjusted for the angle of sail we planned. As I've said before when looking at a boat's performance, light airs are a good test. Cats have a reputation for acceleration and the 1160 didn't disappoint, even with the handkerchief sized heady on. Sitting out on the gunnel with the solid port steering wheel in hand, visibility all around was good, allowing me to look for pressure in the light northerly breeze. Feeling a lift coming, I pointed the 1160 higher, nudging 50 degrees to the wind in the 12.7 knot breeze. The GPS digits on the Raymarine C80 plotter read 5.8 knots of boat speed. As the fickle breeze died, I deliberately put in a series of tacks to see how much speed would be needed to complete a tack – very little and every tack was successful, which says a lot for the handling of the 13,200lb displacement boat. Gybing was a similarly speedy manoeuvre and, of course, the boom was well clear of all in the cockpit. Hardening the self-tacking jib tack-line was also done easily from the cockpit. Of course, on a flat piece of water you only can tell so much about a boat, so the large wash from passing ferries was very welcome to see how the infamous hobby-horsing behaviour of a cat would show itself. With Seawind's between-hull pod wave deflector built in, there was not much to speak of and neither was there the well-known wave slap.
Delivery skipper comments
Jumping aboard the latest incarnation of the Seawind 1000, lengthened and now called the 1000 XL, I had a chat with the company's very experienced delivery skipper, Royce Black. He'd given the 1160 a major testing during a 10-day delivery to New Zealand that included managing the cat in 60 knot winds. He said the key to handling a speeding cat, and preventing pitch-poling, was to ensure even pressure on both hulls when coming down waves. Keeping the weight astern, of course, helped the already buoyant nature of the 1160 to not dig in its hulls. During his tens of thousands of miles of deliveries he was yet to encounter a major problem. “I've never pirouetted one yet,” he said with a hearty laugh.
My overall impression of the Seawind boats is that experience shows; and that comes out in their design and overall user-friendliness. Combined with the natural advantages of a multi, the ability to sit on the bottom and get into those unreachable anchorages, it adds up to a winning formula.
38ft / 11.6m
35ft 7? / 10.9m
20'3″ / 6.2 m
3' 5″ / 1.05 m
13,200lbs / 6 tonnes kgs
2?3″ / 0.7m
Steering Twin Helms
Diesel Sail Drives
2 x 30hp Yanmar
80 gallons / 360 litres
165 gallons / 750 litres
53 gallons / 240 litres
New Seawind 1000XL
With nearly 170 sold, the popular 1000 model has been extended from 33 to 35.5 feet with a longer transom. The refinement gives increased performance, easier boarding and a more comfortable ride. Two layouts are available – mid-bathroom and aft bathroom – and both offer four sleeping cabins.
Unlike its bigger brother the 1160, the 1000 is powered by twin 9.9hp 4-stroke outboards, with batter power coming from solar panels mounted on the Targa Bar.
The latest refinement was originally developed in the US by several Seawind 1000 owners based in Florida who race their Seawinds regularly and wanted to squeeze some more performance out of the boat. They gained a great deal of success from this, winning several Key West races from Miami and continue to be one of the higher performing cruising catamarans in the region.
The improved performance is a result of a longer waterline length which allows the transom to have a clean exit from the water, minimising turbulence and hobby-horsing. The additional buoyancy in the stern also means that when there are more guests onboard the performance isn?t being compromised as much due to the boat?s trim.
Seawind Catamarans have taken this concept a step further by designing large steps into the transom, plus building in a boarding ladder that folds into a hatch, flush with the bottom step. The inboard profile of the extension also allows for easier boarding by dinghy.
35ft / 10.85m
19'5″ / 5.9 m
3' 3″ / 1.0 m
10,000lbs / 4.6 tonnes kgs
2?6″ / 0.77m
Steering Twin Helms
27 gallons / 120 litres
89 gallons / 400 litres