I just read a long thread elsewhere on the topic of cruising cats that fly a hull. Interesting stuff. Ultimately, it turned into a bit of a character discussion and emotional issue, but some great points were made.
For what it is worth, I think everyone agrees that flying a hull while cruising is madness. But the philosophical splitting of tacks between Chris White and Peter Johnstone was pretty interesting. These guys are often competing for the same clients, and their boats are on the short list of the highest performance cruising cats–at least those with any real presence and longevity in the catamaran market.
It has always been Chris’s philosophy to design boats that sail really well, but stop short of being unlimited in power, effectively taking some of the responsibility for his customer’s sailing safety. He gives them enough to make the boats sail great, but they’re not loaded enough to beat a Grand Prix boat around a course. Peter’s philosophy has always been to built boats that are as fast as he can make them while still accommodating the luxury requirements of his client base. Peter’s deal is that you, the owner/sailor, have chosen to buy the fastest cruising cat in the world, and you’d better learn to sail it. It is like buying a Ferrari. If you buy one of these cars, you better learn to drive it. People buy Gunboats because they want to have the fastest boat.
I think both guys are right in many ways, and that as this market has evolved, Gunboats more often than not end up as professionally crewed boats, while CW boats are usually owner-operated. This distinction never came up between the two of them, but if you look at it, that is strongly the case.
Really high performance cruising cats remain a market that will see a lot of development over the next decade. CW and Gunboat are the leaders in the high performance end, at least as it relates to US companies, but Outremer, Catana at times, and others are there as well. There is still a lot of room for new entries and ideas in this niche. There are dreams galore out there in the form of designs and mock photos, but sadly, not that many boats have made it out there. My advice to anyone considering a boat in this category is to really look at what you want. Are you going with a crew? Are you a very experienced sailor? How important are those creature comforts? I often dream about the speed of a 300-mile-a-day boat, but at what sacrifice? Safety? Comfort? Cost?
No doubt, we will spend much more time on this one as time goes on.