"Sailing a Catamaran" 
by Captain Alan W. G. Toone

We asked Captain Alan Toone what "insider tips" about catamaran sailing has he learned through the years that he wishes he'd known when he first began sailing cats. Here are his answers:

1. Never use the mainsail track within 18 inches of either side of the centerline of the vessel. In other words, sail with the mainsail down. That way tacks will be quicker, easier and the boat speed faster.

2. Affix telltales on both the jib and the mainsail - about 18 inches aft of the luff, and at about 15-foot intervals.

3. Learn how to set the sails properly, for the increased speed difference can be much greater with a cat than with a monohull.

4. Reef your catamaran's sails earlier than you would the sails of a monohull. With a cat you have less weight and no lead to shift through the water

 

5. When running in heavy weather, reef or douse the mainsail first. Aboard a monohull, the driving sail is the headsail; with a cat it's the mainsail.

6. In heavy weather, ride the waves; don't go racing down them.

7. Always but always rig a preventer (a line attached between the boom and a deck fitting near the bow, often the bow cleat) when sailing off the wind in boisterous weather. When this "preventer" line is pulled taut against the opposing tension of the main ail sheet, the boom is held tightly in place. This precludes the risk of an unintentional jibe.

8. If your course has you sailing close to the wind, each time you complete a tack at first bear off some from the wind in order to more quickly pick up speed. As your speed increases, the apparent wind direction will keep from moving forward, during which you can adjust the sails accordingly. (Because of a catamaran's potential for greater speed than. a monohull, the effect of apparent wind speed and apparent wind direction can be far more pronounced than when sailing a monohull.)

9. Practice safe sailing. That means sailing a cat.

10. When sailing, remember the "P.R.R" axiom (Pragmatic Rules of the Road): "Wood gives way to fiberglass, fiberglass gives way to steel."

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