Sailing a multihull

Josh Day looks at how to manoeuvre a multihull and how they’re different to monohulls

When sailing on a monohull, if there’s too much sail up for the conditions, the yacht will tell you. Normally, anything below decks that hasn’t been properly stowed will fly around. Also, your toerail will be in the water and a new angle is brought to your life that you can’t ignore. This doesn’t happen on a multihull.

A common mistake made when trying out a multihull for the first time is to assume that, because hulls remain flat to the water, the yacht isn’t overpowered. This is risky, as it can result in stress and eventually fractures in the rigging. A top tip is to keep an eye on your leeward shroud. If that looks like a loose piece of spaghetti wobbling all over, then you are overpowered.

There’s an ‘us and them’ cultural divide between the monohull and multihull communities. A lot of monohull sailors dismiss multihulls as not ‘real’ yachts, citing the lack of heel, together with feel of the pressure on the rudder and the helm when you are overpowered or riding a gust. To an extent I agree. I was once running a skippered charter and the clients looked up at me over their card game while we were underway and asked me what that noise was. I’d just tacked. Due to the self-tacking jib I turned the wheel and the only noise they heard was the boom moving to the leeward side. Yet, even though they didn’t appreciate the differences they still had a great sailing holiday as a family and that’s what’s most important isn’t it? With the sails powered up and the deck flat you can get the experience of sailing easily as a beginner, in a safe flat environment, all without spilling your drinks.

Leeway

The prevailing theory is that multihulls are faster than monohulls and yet, it all depends on the wind angle you are trying to sail.

Sailing downwind and surfing the waves is where multihulls come into their own. Due to the lack of underwater surface area the multihulls fly down wind. Further, with the added stability and safety that comes from two hulls, it reduces the roll of riding the waves. There is nothing that quite matches the joy of overtaking a monohull on the downwind leg and winning the honours of first into the Taverna.

To windward though, multihulls really do struggle. Due to their lack of grip underwater and high topsides, they attract significantly more leeway than their monohull counterparts. Monohulls have added friction in the water due to the keel, which also allows them to point much closer to wind whilst maintaining more stability. This does mean that they are heeling over though. On a multihull, whilst your deck will remain level you will be out on the water for longer. As you watch your monohull friends disappear over the horizon, relax and enjoy all the extra deck space and comfort on deck.

Mooring

Many may be put off by the size of multihulls when it comes to mooring. Don’t be. The control that two engines give you more than compensates for the additional width. When coming into moor multihulls the first rule is that you put the helm in the centre position and the leave the wheel alone.

For those used to mooring monohulls this seems strange at first. Yet, with the two engines with individual throttle controls at your fingertips, there is no need to use the wheel/rudder to moor.

You can turn the multihull on a sixpence and do not need water running over the rudder to give you steerage, as the engines are controlling any turn you want to make. This allows for slower, calmer, more controlled approaches to mooring.

As the RYA tell us all, ‘slow is pro’, so a multihull allows you the most professional mooring there is. However, due to the higher topsides and with less friction through the water some sensible planning is needed in cross wind situations.

When I was anchoring a multihull stern-to in a busy Greek harbour, with a moderate crosswind, our approach was blocked by another vessel. Instead of having to start the manoeuvre from the beginning, I used the downwind engine in reverse against the anchor to keep the boat in the same position. This was achieved by balancing the power in the downwind engine in reverse with the power of the wind.

Once the obstruction was cleared we continued to drop the anchor and were happily tied up in our spot within minutes.

Monohulls with the use of prop wash, prop walk and, when required, clever anchor control can achieve any style of mooring, even without a bow thruster. However, once you get used to the twin engines on a multihull, the extra manoeuvrability they provide is a luxury that is missed. Further, monohulls do generally draw more than the multihulls meaning you won’t be able to moor as close to shore.

Deck space

The additional deck space on multihulls gives a real advantage for larger groups or families who are looking for a relaxing holiday on a yacht. The trampoline area at the bow is perfect for relaxing at anchor or for a more exciting view while sailing. Be warned – the splash zone at the bow when sailing upwind can be surprisingly large.

If you have tried dinghy sailing then you very quickly learn about the importance of the boom and how dangerous it can be when turning the boat through the wind. The joys of the size of the multihull are that with the high coachroof the boom is positioned far above even the tallest of heads, allowing for stress-free tacks and jibes.

What I have found is even with their larger overall size, which can make mooring in a busy harbour tight, multihulls normally have a decent dinghy that is easily accessible off the transom from a davit system. This access, combined with a decent amount of anchor chain removes any difficulty from just dropping the anchor and free swinging. This takes the stress out of finding a space on the quay for the large multihull.

Conclusion

The multihull experience is definitely different to that of a monohull. It’s a great example of the move in the yacht industry to cater to a wider range of people and allowing a larger proportion of enthusiasts to get out on the water. While sailing traditionalists may never be turned on to the benefits of multihulls, there’s enough of a difference that I would recommend anyone to give them a go. You can take family and friends on a sailing trip in a stress-free and relaxing way. Undeniably, with the additional space, flat deck, and ease of access to the dinghy, it is a much more enjoyable trip to get inexperienced crew into the sailing bug.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Josh Day is a skipper and instructor with Sail Ionian. He previously worked in the Caribbean.

This Article was originally sourced from Sailing Today and can be directly viewed here.