A Catamaran is a type of boat or ship consisting of two hulls joined by a frame. Catamarans can be sail- or engine-powered. The catamaran was the invention of the paravas, a fishing community in the southern coast of Tamil Nadu, India.
Catamarans were used by the ancient Tamil Chola dynasty as early as the 5th century AD for moving their fleets to conquer such Southeast Asian regions as Burma, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Catamarans are a relatively recent design of boat for both leisure and sport sailing, although they have been used for millennia in Oceania, where Polynesian catamarans and outrigger canoes allowed seafaring Polynesians to settle the world's most far-flung islands.
Catamarans have been met by a degree of scepticism from some sailors accustomed to more "traditional" designs........
While the name came from Tamil, the modern catamaran came from the South Pacific. English visitors applied the Tamil name catamaran to the swift, stable sail and paddle boats made out of two widely separated logs and used by Polynesian natives to get from one island to another. The design remained relatively unknown in the West for almost another 200 years, when an American, Nathanael Herreshoff, began to build catamaran boats to his own design. The speed and stability of these catamarans soon made them popular pleasure craft, with their popularity really taking off in Europe, and was followed soon thereafter in America. Currently, most individually owned catamarans are built in France, South Africa, and Australia. In the twentieth century, the catamaran inspired an even more popular sailboat. In 1947, surfing legend, Woodbridge "Woody" Brown and Alfred Kumalae designed and built the first modern ocean-going catamaran, Manu Kai, in Hawaii. Their young assistant was Rudy Choy, who later founded the design firm Choy/Seaman/Kumalae (C/S/K, 1957) and became a fountainhead for the catamaran movement. The Prout Brothers, Roland and Francis, experimented with catamarans in 1949 and converted their 1935 boat factory in Canvey, Essex (England) to catamaran production in 1954.
Presently the catamaran market is the fastest growing segment of the entire boating industry.
Although the principles of sailing are the same for both catamarans and monohulls, there are some "peculiarities"to sailing catamarans. For example: Catamarans can be harder to tack (turn through the wind). All sailboats must resist lateral movement in order to sail in directions other than downwind. A catamaran does this by the design of the hull giving comparatively little resistance to forward motion and much resistance to lateral motion. This lateral resistance is all along the hull, as opposed to most sailboats having a central keel projecting deep into the water from the center of the boat. While the catamaranís method allows it to sail into shallower waters, it has the negative effect of placing lateral resistance at the bow and stern, far from turning axis of the boat, where the intended lateral resistance becomes a turning resistance due to the distance the bow and stern have to move in order to complete a turn. Regular sailboats with their deep lateral resistance occurring near the turning axis of the boat, there is much less turning resistance. Also, because catamarans are lighter in proportion to their sail size, they have less momentum to carry them through the turn when they are head to wind. Correct use of the jib sail is often essential in successfully completing a tack without ending up stuck in irons.
They have a higher average speed. Catamarans are less likely to capsize in the classic 'beam-wise' manner but often have a tendency to 'pole-axe' (or 'pitchpole') instead - where the leeward (downwind) bow sinks into the water and the boat 'trips' over forward, leading to a capsize. Teaching for new sailors is usually carried out in monohulls as they are thought easier to learn to sail, a mixture of all the differences mentioned probably contributes to this.
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Catamarans, and multihulls in general, are normally faster than single-hull boats for four reasons:
Each hull of a catamaran is (typically) thinner in cross section than those of monohulls;
Catamarans are lighter due to the fact there is no keel counterweight.
Catamarans have a wider beam (the distance from one side of the boat to the other), which makes them more stable and therefore able to carry more sail area per unit of length than an equivalent monohull.
The greater stability means that the sail is more likely to stay upright in a gust, drawing more power than a monohull's sail which is more likely to heel (lean) over.
A catamaran is most likely to achieve its maximum speed when its forward motion is not unduly disturbed by wave action. This is achieved in waters where the wavelength of the waves is somewhat greater than the waterline length of the hulls, or it is achieved by the design piercing the waves. In either case pitching (rocking horse-like motion) is reduced. This has led to it being said that catamarans are especially favourable in coastal waters, where the often sheltered waters permit the boat to reach and maintain its maximum speed.
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