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Multihulls: A superyacht sector going from strength to strength

10 November 2022 • Written by Sam Fortescue

The golden age of the multihull has finally arrived, says Sam Fortescue

I'm going to call it. The era of the multihull superyacht is dawning, with the Global Order Book showing a 65 per cent jump in orders. Owners at last seem to accept that two or even three hulls are no mere passing fad. Concepts and designs for these boats have blossomed, as designers perceive the changing tide. A new breed of super-luxury catamarans and trimarans is on the way.

It has taken its time, mind you. Designers and naval architects have been talking about the benefits of multihulls for years, even decades: volume and efficiency; stability and speed; even the cost is favourable compared to a monohull of the same volume, according to some. There have been some isolated examples of the genre – the 44.2 metre sailing cat Hemisphere built by Pendennis; Racoupeau’s 33 metre sailing cat built by Jinlong Mega Yacht; and the 42.5 metre McConaghy trimaran Adastra.

But after that initial flurry, things went pretty quiet on the build front, with the gloriously conspicuous exception of the 84 metre trimaran White Rabbit from Australia’s Echo Yachts. And in some senses, the multihull has gone back to the drawing board. Although there are plenty of big, wacky concepts out there, the multihull superyachts in build today are smaller and simpler, more like extensions of existing powercat lines, or adaptations of working boats, like Michael Hill’s 39-metre The Beast, with its military camo livery.

The America’s Cup is often touted as the turning point for the acceptance of large sailing cats. But on the power side, it has taken longer. Celebrity endorsement has certainly helped: Sunreef struck marketing gold with tennis star Rafael Nadal’s very public commissioning of a 23.95 metre 80 Sunreef Power, and some say this has given the whole sector a boost.

Credit: Echo Yachts

“During the last decade, more and more people have considered purchasing smaller ‘pedigree’ catamarans – well built, nicely finished and less spartan than in the past," said Renaud Canivet of Ocean Drive, but it hasn't stopped designers pushing the boundaries of what's possible between two hulls. We take a look at some of the most exciting multihull models on the market and in build...

Sunreef 43M Eco

Surely Sunreef’s most ambitious concept to date, the 43M Eco is a sailing catamaran marketed as having “infinite range”, thanks to its smart onboard tech. Like the smaller yachts in the Eco series, the 43M has many solar panels built into its exterior surfaces – an impressive 60kW across the deck, superstructure, bimini, mast and boom. Along with the ability to regenerate up to 40kW from the propellers as she sails, the boat is capable of sustaining itself electrically via a battery bank up to 1.1MW.

Credit: Sunreef

Being a sailing yacht, albeit a large 43 metre one, imposes certain proportions on the Sunreef 43M Eco. She sports a long, low superstructure, which fills the full beam of the boat amidships, creating a huge surface area for accommodation. The space can be heavily customised, split between a saloon/dining area, owner’s suite and up to five double guest cabins. The two hulls, though slim and hydrodynamically efficient, are nevertheless of sufficient scale to offer really luxurious dimensions for further cabins, plus quarters for a complement of up to seven crew and technical space.

Sunreef is researching natural fibre composites for future hulls, but eco credentials also extend to the interior, where energy efficient air con preserves battery levels and extends range under power. Sunreef has proposed modern decor that draws on sustainably sourced materials and fabrics.

Credit: Sunreef

The initial concept allows a true sundeck flybridge, with its own hard bimini. Up here there is dining, potential for a large spa pool or a pool, sunbeds, lounging and a fully equipped bar. Twin helm stations give good visibility on each side, but stand well clear of the guest areas, as do the large hydraulic winches for line handling. The other key external feature is the hydraulic bathing platform, which connects the two skirts of the catamaran and transforms it into a large beach club. The bulwarks here fold down to further enlarge this lounging area onto the quarter.

Despite her scale, the 43M will be built in high-tech composite rather than metal. This also helps to reduce overall weight for a faster, more manoeuvrable boat. It will be capable of flying a 500-square-metre mainsail and an 800- square-metre gennaker for decent performance upwind and exhilarating speeds downwind. “Forces on the rig are indeed huge,” says PR manager Artur Poloczanski. “But thanks to the materials used, such as carbon and Dyneema, and the latest technology of measuring the tension in the rig – connected to an alarm display system – this yacht will be easy and fun to sail.”

JFA Long Island 86 Power

JFA’s 26m Long Island 86 Power, designed by Marc Lombard.
Credit: Darnet Design / B. Stichelbaut

JFA in France may have been building large sailing monohulls and catamarans for decades, but it is now targeting the power cat sector with its Long Island catamaran range. The yard has just unveiled a new 86 power cat design, which comes in just above the 26-metre mark.

One of the strengths of the Marc Lombard design is its rigid aluminium hull, allied to a lightweight composite deck. Lombard has penned maxi yachts, Mini Transat boats and Beneteau’s Oceanis cruiser line, but he is less well known on the motor side. What that experience means is that this hull is finely considered for speed and efficiency, lending itself just as well to motor as to sail. “Long Island catamarans are simple, efficient, seaworthy and refined,” Lombard says.

In this size range and price bracket, a strong degree of customisation is expected, particularly around the interior design. The boat was brought to this stage for a client who ultimately didn’t follow through, but the idea was to put the full navigation station on the flybridge, along with a sheltered bar and lots of seating for guests, offering a range of different public and personal spaces.

There’s a spa pool on the broad, open foredeck and a large hydraulic platform aft, designed to carry the tender when the boat is under way. Interior accommodation is designed to provide great comfort for eight guests in four cabins, all supported by four crew members.

Ones to watch...

Widercat 92 Five units of this hybrid catamaran are in build at Wider in Italy. Luca Dini refined the design to give the boat a slimmer appearance, but its features benefit from the 12 metre beam. Fold-down side platforms expand the 67 metre square beach club, and there is a garage for a tender of up to 4.5m.

Extra X30 Villa Harnessing the volume offered by the catamaran form, Extra Yachts’ X30 Villa proclaims itself a home offering “unrivalled liveability” combined with“ innovative architectural features”. The 320GT yacht has side terraces, a flexible aft cock pit and panoramic glass. Its diesel-electric hybrid system gets a boost from the glass-encapsulated solar panels and there is extensive use of natural or recycled materials in the interior styling. An impressive top speed of 30 knots has been announced.

Silent Yachts 120 Explorer While conservative in its looks, the 36.74 metre design from Silent Yachts packs some pretty far-out features. First up is its reliance on emissions-free electric propulsion through twin 340kW motors and a whopping 800kWh lithium battery bank. And the boat's smooth hardtop, which is carpeted with solar panels, slides open in two wings to reveal a helipad and additional lounging. Chief marketing officer Franz Böse describes the ideal owner as "a visionary personality who does not settle for compromises and dares to dream the unthinkable. Someone who believes that electric mobility indeed is the future and is not afraid to express that."

ShadowCAT Haven

The 67 metre Haven from ShadowCAT is designed – as the brand name suggests – to be a support vessel. It is, however, an extremely flexible platform, and its 2,005 gross tonnes easily could be adapted to primary yacht usage, according to Robert Smith, CEO at ShadowCAT.

These boats have been developed from the commercial sector, are built in aluminium and boast excellent seaworthiness. “Twenty knots-plus is what we’re doing most of the time,” says Smith. “Obviously they can go much faster.” Power comes from twin MTU 16V 4000 engines putting out 7,720hp.

ShadowCAT Haven
Credit: Incat Crowther / Shadowcat

The primary function of the boat is to carry equipment that the owner doesn’t want clogging up the mothership. That is to say helicopters and fuel, heavy tenders, launches and shore vehicles. It can carry sailing boats and submersibles, decompression chambers and dive centres. Other innovative uses for the huge deck and garaging space include hydroponic gardens, research labs, security and housing visiting experts, scientists and guides.

But the design has been called Haven for a good reason. It is configured to serve as a buffer between incoming crew or guests and the mothership, protecting from potential Covid-19 infection. There’s a testing laboratory and a hospital, and thermal cameras can even be used to spot the signs of infection before they become apparent. To that end, there is a fair amount of guest space in the superstructure, finished to superyacht standard. A large double cabin and bathroom connect to a big living area with sofas, desk and dining space, allowing a guest to isolate in full comfort.

“We’re finding quite a few owners want to have a few extra guest cabins to enhance their cruising experience,” says Smith. “They might want to leave the yacht in the bay and take the support vessel to a dive site that’s 100 miles away. It can really expand the experience – it’s not about just carrying stuff.”

ISA Zeffiro 130

ISA Yachts’ Zeffiro 130 features a spacious main deck owners’ suite and a large beach area aft

Better known for building fast composite yachts and large cruising yachts, Palumbo Superyachts is getting into the catamaran market with an eye-catching 39.4-metre design in aluminium. French sailing boat supremo Olivier Racoupeau, who has a number of big cat projects to his name, penned the Zeffiro 130. “The decision to diversify our ISA Yachts brand offering came from a careful analysis aimed at positioning ourselves at the high end of the power catamaran market,” explains CEO Giuseppe Palumbo.

Its first multihull offering gets straight to the heart of what these boats are about: volume and stability. A gigantic owner’s suite fills the forward section of the main deck, with 180-degree views and private access to the 100-square-metre foredeck lounge area with spa pool. At 13.1 metres, the full beam of the boat is brought into play, and there’s a walk-in closet, an intimate owner’s lounge and a desk facing the bow.

Ones to watch...

Silveryachts Spacecat 36M Two 36 metre SpaceCats from SilverYachts are already in build, although details are scant. The 478GT design can manage fast speeds of 22 knots, while renderings show three decks and flexible accommodation that runs to 12 guests and five crew.

Echo Yachts 55M The Australian yard is building a 55 metre successor to its 51 metre Charley cat in aluminium. “She is essentially providing the same performance with smaller engines, and is larger because we’ve gone from composite to aluminium,” says marketing manager  Chris Blackwell.“ She has a refined hull design by One2three Naval Architects in Sydney.”

Cynthesis 180 Alexandre Thiriat has joined forces with Christian Leyk to create the Cynthesis range of cruising catamarans. The 58.3 metre 180 features wave-piercing bows, while a double-height lounge, private owner terrace and pool, guest pool and helipad make it the equal of a much larger monohull, according to Thiriat. He is proposing it with a hydrogen fuel cell.

StellarCAT 37 Explorer Following on the interest that greeted its 20 metre and 25 metre aluminium concept, US builder StellarCAT is working on 32 metre and 37 metre models as well.“ They will be offered in three versions: an aluminium-hulled ‘fast explorer’ model, a steel-hulled ‘ocean explorer’ model, and an aluminium yachtfish model,” says commercial director Paul Cave.

That beam is put to good use again at the beach club on the waterline. Two sections of each quarter fold down to give access to a gym to port and a snug seating area to starboard. The sections join the skirts of each hull and the large aft platform to create a teak balcony that runs around the whole stern of the boat, just above the water. It’s a dream for swimmers, divers and watersports enthusiasts.

Outdoor entertaining is concentrated on the aft deck above, where Isabelle Racoupeau has created a varied series of seating areas with spectacular views aft through the glass bulwark. Sliding doors turn the two spaces into a single 200-square-metre indoor-outdoor environment, complete with bar and dining areas.

Technically, the boat is fast and relatively efficient, with its twin 2,000hp engines hitting a cruising speed of 14 knots with a range of 3,700 nautical miles. “We are focusing on any traditional diesel engines since the characteristics of a catamaran hull allow us to easily achieve a certain speed without having to boost the size and power of the engines,” says Canivet of Ocean Drive. “We will combine this with lithium batteries to provide 220V and thus reduce the generator usage and fuel consumption as much as possible.” This model, and a bigger 46-metre 150 model with 1,200 square metres of living space, are said to be garnering serious interest.

StellarCat AL25-2

Fort Lauderdale-based refit specialist StellarPM is in advanced discussions over its recently published concept for a 25-metre semi-custom motor cat. Engineering and project management expertise has made the company’s name, and it aims to bring these skills to boatbuilding as well.

Aluminium is Stellar’s material of choice, and the catamaran will be built in a high-grade marine alloy. “As well as comfort, stability and seakeeping, aluminium has a far greater area strength than composites, and then there’s the eco aspect, fire safety, the extreme durability and longevity, the tried and tested rough-water capable aspects, the increased watertight integrity, the low maintenance – we could go on,” says commercial director Paul Cave.

Besides its robust engineering, the boat has a solid, no-nonsense look to it, with three decks topped by a flexible flybridge. Unlike some of its competitors, it has fought shy of signing a big-name designer to the project, preferring to emphasise the quality of the build and the potential of the volumes.

The broad layout allows for between three and six guest cabins, depending on whether the owner wants the full beam of the forward main deck area devoted to their own cabin. In this case, steps lead down into each hull where there’s a shower room on one side and a bathtub on the other. This space also can be turned into two VIP cabins with excellent sea views, and the upper deck can become a lofty owner’s cabin.

The lower deck berths are the most flexible, but in the most lavish arrangement, half of the starboard hull is given over to a huge VIP double cabin with fore-and-aft bed and a large dressing room. There is also the option to have the galley either up or down. Stellar says it can match “Northern European superyacht interior quality” and will source sustainably wherever possible. Though the renderings show a modern finish, the details are naturally down to the customer.

Stellar uses Garmin instruments as standard on its slick-looking integrated bridge. Meanwhile, power is provided by the tried and tested technology of a pair of Volvo Penta IPS drives. The standard option is for twin IPS1050s giving a 19-knot top speed. For a cool quarter of a million dollars, you can dial this up to 24 knots with four IPS800 drives. This will cut your range from 2,400 nautical miles to a non-oceanic 1,700, but additional tankage is available.

Ones to watch...

AK YACHT 85M A top-secret 85 metre catamaran project with an eye-watering 22 metre beam is in build at the Turkish yard. Owner Vural Ak gives us some hints: “Huge open and closed spaces and lots of surprises. Again, without needing a shadow boat, we can carry many large tenders, toys and also a big helicopter... and it’s very fast and stable.”

Project Garfield Dynamic Supercats has signed an order for a 38 metre catamaran named Project Garfield, which will be the first large-scale project for the Miami-based boat builder. The owner's brief required a shallow draft, high freeboard and expansive outdoor spaces - a brief that was realised by Cantu Design and DFD Design.

Naval Yachts XPM 78 CAT Nearing delivery, this Turkish-built cat sets out its stall as a high-latitude ocean explorer. It is fitted with two 500hp John Deere diesels, plus twin 50kW motors, lithium batteries and a bank of solar panels for range extension. Accommodation stretches to two master cabins and two VIPs, plus a crew double. The split-level saloon has five metre-high ceilings in places.

Malcolm McKeon 70M “We are currently working on a 70 metre catamaran design, however at this stage details of the design are very much confidential,” he tells me. “We can’t share anything other than it is a sloop rig.”

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