The evolution of sailboat design has produced many innovative designs by utilizing different materials, mast configurations, and hull features. To develop speed, this evolution has concentrated on increasing sail area and decreasing drag by limiting how much of the boat is in the water. The fastest boats today are designed with multiple hulls and are called catamarans and trimarans.
Keel-less Catamarans Use Width to Create Stability
Most sailboats are designed to catch as much wind as possible. With more wind comes more force against the boat, until eventually the vessel tips over. Traditionally sailboats were stabilized by designing large keels which extend down into the water and serve as a counter balance to the lateral force of the wind. Catamarans solve the problem of stability differently. They use geometry. A catamaran is built with two evenly sized keels placed far apart. The added width of the sailboat serves to stabilize the boat instead of a pronounced keel. Rudders are attached at the rear of each hull, or pontoon, for steering and dagger boards can be slid through each hull to increase stability if needed.
Trimarans Take Multi Hull Design One Step Further
Trimarans are designed with concepts similar to catamarans but add another hull, making three total. Trimarans utilize a main central hull and two smaller hulls serving as outriggers. When the wind carries the boat over, the far floatation hull makes contact with the water and stabilizes the boat. Trimarans use very large sails due to their design’s inherent stability, but are not as fast as catamarans because of the drag created by the large central hull.
Multi-Hull Boats Built for Speed Over Comfort
In the effort to increase sail area and decrease drag, sailboat design continues to change. Today, catamarans over 100 feet long are built to race across the world’s oceans. Although not suited for luxury cruising because of the lack of storage space available between the two hulls, catamarans are valued by any industry needing speed on the water, such as the military or competitive yachting.