Freshly back from Airlie Beach and Hamilton Race Week, 3 of our beloved customers are getting ready for more racing on board XL2, The BoatWorks Extreme 40, Morticia and Dirty Deeds to name a few. Now a month away from the Multihull National Titles in Wangi, Lake Macquarie, we spoke to Ben Kelly from Quantum Sails in Brisbane , Julian Griffiths from Noosa Marine on the Sunshine Coast, and Dale Mitchell from Ullman Sails in Airlie Beach:


Most of you have just recently participated in multihull racing division at Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island Race Weeks. What’s next on the agenda?

BK: next Month in Brisbane we have the St Helena Cup which is our biggest annual weekend of bay racing, I will be out in the multi fleet with Mike Peberdy on XL2. Then we have the Multihull National Titles down at Wangi in NSW in November, where I will be with Julian aboard the BoatWorks Extreme 40 catamaran. From then we have the Surf to City in February, likely aboard Dirty Deeds, the Moreton Bay Multihull Regatta in April aboard The Boat Works, and then the Gladstone race aboard XL2.

JG: next on the agenda is a bit of boat maintenance and then heading to the Multihull Nationals down at Lake Macquarie in November.

DM: last weekend (28-30 September) we raced at the Lock Crowther Regatta on Pittwater on Top Gun. From there our loose plan with “Morticia” is the Multihull Nationals on Lake Macquarie in November, Pittwater to Paradise, Brisbane to Gladstone, Brisbane to Hamilton Island and then Hamilton Island Race Week.

 According to you, how much have the last 2 America’s Cups influenced multihull racing in Australia?

“The Boat Works Extreme 40” Photo Credit Salty Dingo

BK: I think the biggest fleets that this style of sailing and development has transferred through to is the beach cats. We now have the Nacra 17 Foiling in the Olympics and the A-class on a never-ending development cycle that takes its lead from these high-end design programs and what was learned in the Multihull AC programs. I guess there is a great divide for most of the Australian offshore/trailable fleet in terms of how the AC advanced technologies transfer to 95% of the fleet.  Foiling is a huge step up for any non-foiling platform, there is a great expense, planning and engineering involved so at this stage it is an option for a select few of the fleet. I do think that the AC helped put Multihull sailing in the spotlight and we have seen many pro’s crossing over and now regularly racing with mono and multihull campaigns. Real sailors sail many styles of boats and do it well, I think multihulls being part of such high- level events with the best sailors in the world has really helped the general awareness of multihulls and hopefully gains increased participation as a result.

JG: I don’t feel the America’s Cup has influenced multihull racing in Australia yet. It has certainly opened a lot more people’s eyes to the sport and enabled the smaller classes as far as foiling goes.

DM: there has been a trickle down of technology from foils to furlers and locks and control systems. We have already seen owners optimizing boats with foils and T-rudders, obviously, most have not gone for full foiling solutions but more lift assist, as well as new builds underway, some of which have full foiling options. Foils have become very common in most new builds of performance race and cruise catamarans these days.

How do you see the future growth of Multihull racing in Australia now that the AC is back to monohulls?

BK: I think the new AC boat is a “Foiler”, these types of technologies will continue to evolve, and soon we will not be counting hulls, but mainly numbers and types of foils and the structures required to support them. Multihull’s are continuing to grow in numbers is Australia in the Cruising sector big time, the racing fleets numbers go up and down but as boats go faster and faster and people chase the thrill of speed the easy way to experience that at an affordable price will always be in form of a multihull. Our sport, as a whole, needs to evolve and stay relevant, the trick I guess is to offer a means for newcomers to experience that at an affordable price, with enough of a thrill for them to get the bug! A beach catamaran or trailable multihull will always be a great affordable racing entry point and is fast enough to give a really great ride, the AC style of boat does not change that.

JG: Can’t see it changing now that the AC is going back to monohulls. There has always been a die-hard multi fleet that will continue to sail any multihull.

DM: multihull racing has been highlighted over the past years with growth in the fleet through new sailors and new boats to the Australian racing scene.  I feel we will continue to see growth in the fleet for some time. Multihulls have also gained great strength in the performance cruising numbers with the owners of these boats enjoying racing in events.  Hamilton Island Race Week multihull division, for example, has seen huge growth in what is a relatively new division to the event.

Morticia Picture Credit Shirley Wodson

Despite the lack of boatbuilding in recent years in Australia, there still seems to be quite a strong interest in multihull designs and building happening around the country?

BK: It is a growing sector in sailing especially cruising, the cruising catamarans are an expensive item so we do still see plenty of owner-builders going for it to achieve their bucket list boat and cruise the east coast of Australia.

JG: Australia has some great cruising grounds. There are also a number of well-supported regattas, this helps with growth.

DM: yes there is, there are a number of new boats under construction at the moment around the country and we are seeing plenty of new, modern designs hitting the drawing boards of Australia’s very experienced multihull designers.

Multihulls seem to lead the way in the evolution of sailing with halyard locks, flying sail furlers and also structural furlers becoming almost standard equipment on board. What are the benefits of those?

BK: the French offshore multihull scene has proven what is required and also tested the gear to the point of having excellent durability, the lack of movement in modern sails and ropes has meant the hardware to handle them has had to evolve, for instance in many cases multihull halyard shock loads have simply gone beyond rope clutches, Facnor has some great products to work with the higher loads that give reliability plus a repeatable hoist location. The furlers now have the 2/3:1 basis to work on the bottom end against the top end halyard locks and this style of system is absolutely the best approach for the high load requirements on multihulls. The structural furlers offer a much lower weight and high strength system without the classic aluminium extrusion and are becoming commonplace on racing multi’s but also on performance cruising applications as well.

JG: with all the technology filtering down from the America’s Cup and European circuits we now have all the best gadgets available. The internet and social media are a valuable resource in seeing what’s new instantly.

DM: Various types of halyard locks and furlers have been in use on the race boats for many years now and we have seen a huge demand for flying sail furlers in the cruising market. This has grown as the furlers have become more refined and affordable and has been boosted by the huge gains in the construction of Anti-Torque furling cables. With the trend of both monohulls and multihulls getting bigger and obviously the sails too as a result, structural and flying sail furlers have made it safer, easier and more practical for everyone to manage their sails, particularly when cruising short-handed.

We are also seeing great gains from halyard locks. Again, until recent years they have been out of reach for most but times have changed and the advantages of installing a lock include removing the compression load from the halyard out of the mast. They also remove halyard creep/stretch and remove the load from your deck hardware.

What would it take, and would you like to see the CYCA accept Multihull entries in the Sydney to Hobart race? And would you do it?!

BK: This is a hard and ongoing conversation and people are very passionate about it! I think there would need to be more proof of a higher number of race-ready offshore multihulls serious about being on the starting line for a Hobart and all that goes with that. It is not a race to be taken lightly and you don’t get to choose your weather window on Boxing day! Yes, there are currently 2-3 boats I see as options for this race, but that is not enough, I believe at least 5 x serious entrants would be required. If I was to do a Hobart in a multi it would be critical I had complete confidence in the boat and fellow crew members, as a group, it would then come down to a decision based on the weather, you would have to be able to pull the pin on the morning of the race if the weather was not appropriate for the crew or the boat, that is the hard part, but a reality in my mind.  I cannot think of a current Australian multihull that I would set out from Sydney heads to Hobart on Boxing day if I knew I was to face 40-60 knots on the nose, that is what can happen and it is those high wind Southerly Breeze years that I believe are not appropriate to the current multihull fleet. Having said that, if I was satisfied on all points as mapped out above I would definitely do the Hobart on a Multihull.
I was lucky enough to be aboard Team Australia for the record run from Sydney to Auckland in 2013. We were sailing downwind in 5mtr seas and 40 knots of wind, the boat and crew were amazing and was able to cope with the conditions fantastically well! That was all good and one of the best sailing experiences I have had in my life, but I realised on that trip if we had to go upwind into that! Well maybe that is not something I need to experience on a multi and that is my issue with multi’s in the Hobart. You have to be prepared for the worth case scenario. Ok, you can all call me soft now….

JG: Always a tricky question, I think multis should do their own race alongside them and have their own limelight. Unfortunately, our off-shore fleet is very small at the moment and even though we have plenty of people who say they would do it, no one seems to put their money where their mouth is. It’s only a matter of time before we will have some ex European multihulls turn up and it will look like a more viable option. YES I would do it!

DM: Sydney to Hobart is a race that has a huge amount of tradition and history around it and I can respect this.  That said, multihulls have proven themselves around the world and if they were to be included I would love to be a part of it.  From sailors we have met in our travels there would be great interest from international teams that have boats that meet the Category 1 requirements.