Monohulls easily outnumber multihulls in Caribbean regattas but the tide is turning. The sailing world has definitely caught multihull fever. The 2013 America’s Cup opened many eyes and minds to what a catamaran can do. In December, the World Match Racing Tour announced its transitioning to the M32. What’s more, multis are back in the Olympics with the mixed crew Nacra 17 a class in Rio 2016.
“Multihulls were popular in regattas some years ago,” says Jeffery Chen, the Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA) Trinidad-based chief measurer, who worked with St. Maarten CSA measurer Stuart Knaggs and CSA interim chief measurer, Alfred Koolen, to develop the CSA multihull rating rule implemented in 2014.
“We have sailed in every BVISR but one since 1998,” says the BVI’s Richard Wooldridge, skipper/owner of the Kelsall 43, Triple Jack. “We’ve raced against all sorts of multis including Temporary Insanity, Virgin Fire, No Fear, Ninth Charm, Avalon and lately our nemesis Soma. St. Croix has always been a hot bed of multihull activity. Over the years we have raced there half a dozen times enjoying some great battles with the likes of Piglet and Charis. Joe San Martin and Llewellyn Westerman along with their illustrious crews are high on our list of multihull Caribbean legends.”
More recently there have been record numbers of multihulls registering for the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and Les Voiles de St Barth.
“The multihull class at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is the largest in the Caribbean,” says Heather Court, former director and current regatta consultant. “In 2015 there were 27 entries divided up into four separate classes. They ranged from Gunboats to Lagoon 40s and the star of the show was of course Phaedo3. In 2016, we are excited to once again open the registration to beach cats, which have been absent from our event for many years.”
Racing, whether onboard a large catamaran or smaller beach cat, is fun.
“To paraphrase the father of modern multihulls, Dick Newick, who lived and built boats in St Croix from the late 1950s to the early 1970s … no one ever complains that their boat goes too fast!” says Joe San Martin, who races his Newick T-Gull 23, Piglet.
St. Maarten beach cat sailor, Bernard Sillem adds, “The fun of racing beach cat in a big major regatta is that we are all racing together. In addition, the greater number of multihulls in Caribbean charter fleets creates an opportunity for fans to adapt them for racing.”
There are challenges to and opportunities for growing the multihull classes in Caribbean regattas.
“Challenges include safety on the water, especially with new foiling multihulls such as Timbalero III, which participated in Les Voiles de St. Barths and ASW last year, start lines can be very scary, even with only multihulls on the line.” explains Kathy Lammers, CSA president and chairman of the regatta organizing committee for Antigua Sailing Week (ASW), which already hosts racing and cruising multihull classes.
“The multihull fleet adds a certain flair to the racing and we always love seeing them cross the start line,” says St. Maarten’s Court. With boats like Phaedo3 we get to push the course to the limit and watch as they create new records for the regatta.”
The future of multihulls in Caribbean regattas is bright. For example, the Mount Gay Round Barbados Race Series in January featured a battle of the big trimarans with Phaedo3 and Ms Barbados (Concise 10), both- MOD 70s, competing head to head. Organizers of the Tour de Martinique extended their February event to a week, which attracted more multihull bareboats.
“Multihulls are in the forefront in today’s racing scene and will continue to draw attention of the spectators, sponsors and the general public,” says Puerto Rico’s four-time Olympian, Enrique Figueroa. “It is up to us to take advantage of all the positive things these boats have to offer our Caribbean sailing community.”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.