From-Boats in Focus
After having passed some twenty odd years of cruising life safe in the conviction that the only prudent way of getting from A to B was in a nice solid yacht with a deep cockpit - self-draining of course and a hefty lump of lead bolted to the under body to prevent the whole affair from turning turtle, it came as a surprise to be seduced by an alternative form of transportation! Aboard this craft, I found myself perched on a few square feet of terylene trampoline (Okay, I know it is self-draining), gazing, not at reassuring and substantial timber coamings and bulkhead, but at spidery straddling beams of extruded aluminium alloy. Dammit all - there were two cabins one either side in each hull! All right, you’ve guessed it. I was sailing one of these darned newfangled micro-multihull contraptions - and relying not on a lump of lead to avert a capsize but merely the designer’s ability to do his sums correctly Add to this the fact that I was proceeding in twelve knots of wind at upwards of eight knots, and you may have also guessed that I was sailing in the Richard Woods designed Micro-Multi, the twenty-four foot Strider. And loving every moment of it, too!
Accent on performance
To be honest, Strider is not the first catamaran with a cruising capability that I have sailed, though she is the first of this new breed. These Micro’s definitely have the accent on performance, and race very successfully, in open handicapped contests as well as their own events.
Strider was developed by her builders (Palamos, of Millbrook, Cornwall) to bridge the gap between more conventional and sedate multihull cruisers and small, hell-for leather daysailers. True, one would think twice about a protracted sea crossing in a Strider, but, with an eye on the shipping forecast and a reasonably fit and knowledgeable crew, the Channel Isles, or the coasts of France or Holland would be quite a feasible holiday objective.
The twin cabin arrangement could be described either as extremely practical or remarkably unsociable - it depends purely on the viewpoint! A couple cruising aboard and the market for this type of boat is mainly amongst couples in the younger age bracket - could well make use of one hull for living space and the other for the stowage of wet gear. Each hull has two centreline berths, and while a two burner cooker and grill could be installed in the ‘dry’ hull (along with chemical toilet, worktops etc.) the wet hull could simply be fitted with a small single burner, handy for a brew-up for the watch keeper, along with the chart table, navigation aids etc. Come the end of the passage, once safely moored in harbour, simply pitch soggy oilskins into the ‘wet’ hull, move into the alternative saloon and snuggle into dry sleeping bags: then slam the hatch on the inhospitable world outside!
Quite a lightweight
Although Strider’s interior fitments are on the rudimentary side, any competent handyman could provide adequate working areas, lockers, shelves etc. Joinery work though, would have to be carried out with one eye on the additional weight, for each of the cat’s hulls only weighs three hundred pounds lighter than many fourteen foot sailing dinghies!
Since the hulls are slim and shallow, there’s not a lot of space to go walkabout down below, but that wide acreage of terylene trampoline - fitted with pockets for halyard stowage - that forms Strider’s deck, makes up for that. In fine weather (what that? Ed) it is a sensational sun bed; in fact cushioned by the lines attaching it to the hulls, it resembles nothing so much as a giant size hammock! Coming down to earth, don’t take car keys or cash on deck as it is all too easy to drop them through the trampoline joins! A rigid, moulded GRP footwell aft gives security for helmsman and crew when they are settled down to the serious business of sailing the boat.
And she is certainly a serious sailing boat, not however one which need be approached with trepidation for she is a docile cat and, once you have become accustomed to the startling acceleration (and the equally dramatic deceleration when coming head to wind) handling Strider is simplicity itself.
The boat I sailed was all the more impressive in that she was, literally, fresh from the factory, loaded onto her trailer and launched especially for ‘Boats’ magazine (in fact they were still constructing her the evening before when I drove down from London!
Strider is quick and easy to rig in spite of a working sail area of 269 square feet, which is large in comparison with that of a monohull of similar length. The mast, which carries the uncomplicated three-quarter rig, is simply stayed with single shrouds and diamond spreaders although running backstays can be fitted to tighten the jib luff. The sail plan does allow for a spinnaker, although on a boat capable of sustained speeds of around twelve knots, the wind speed is likely to be brought so far ahead as to make setting one impractical; for very light airs the optional masthead drifter could be useful too. As an extra, a fully battened mainsail is available; with the heavy roach, this increases the area of sail by 10%, and makes it very easy to stow as well!
Strider blows away at least one preconceived notion about catamarans in that she tacks surely and positively without the slightest tendency to fall away - and no need to back the jib. She is unusually light on the helm which is free of that ‘dead’ sensation common to many multi’s. She appeared very well-balanced and will heave-to quietly and also trundle along placidly under the mainsail only, if called upon to do so: unfurl the jib and the acceleration is electrifying!
Coupled with the sensational speed is the absence of heel; at first there is the feeling that perhaps crew weight would be better sitting out than sprawling in comfort in the cockpit well, but it doesn’t take long to relax and enjoy the ride. Indeed, Strider is so stable it is arguable whether, except in extreme conditions - and if the crew were dead set on playing ‘silly beggars’ - she could be induced to fly the weather hull; certainly her builders say she has never been known to.
Her high average speed would make a fifty-mile hop in settled weather quite possible and you can then dry out on a beach when you get there!.
But what about her sea-keeping ability? Obviously, in the conditions encountered off Plymouth, it was difficult to assess. Judged by the criterion of a strictly cruising monohull, she would be wet and uncomfortable; compared to a sportier type I would say not much difference in it, for modern lightweights are pretty fond of chucking it green over the gang in the cockpit too.
Where she would score is in her ability to sail ahead of bad weather, and any cruise should be planned with careful consideration of alternative harbours should it cut up rough but the same, of course, holds good for any passage-making. Her high average speed would make a fifty-mile hop in settled weather quite possible, and with a well-equipped crew, quite ambitious cruises could be undertaken. The boom tent offered as an extra would certainly be an advantage in harbour.
Since the Strider draws only ten inches when the plywood dagger board is raised, the boat has a wide choice of sailing areas available - launch straight off a sandy beach in the Med, slip gently through the quiet East coast rivers, explore the delightful tidal harbours of Jersey and Guernsey; all are accessible whether arriving at the destination by sea or trailing overland. With her low all-up weight of around 900lbs, just about any car would be able to tow her. She can be assembled easily by a couple - this has been done in just under forty minutes, though it would probably be better to allow another half-hour for adjustments.
Descended from a successful line of out-and-out racing cats, the Strider had made quite a name for herself, turning in a remarkable performance in the Three Peaks race and, in the Micro Multihulls Worlds, held at Brighton last year, Striders walked off with 3rd, 5th and 6th places.
Simple & cost effective
Personally I think that there is a great future for these essentially simple and cost-effective boats for they offer safe sailing coupled with exhilarating speed, if the crew wishes to take full advantage of it. And, even for a family with young children, the possibilities are endless; since she does not heel she would be less alarming than a monohull. On sunny days that trampoline is a great romping ground - keep ‘am in buoyancy aids and harnesses though as not surprisingly, lifelines are not normally fitted.
The boat is built to a high standard in hand-laid GRP, with the dagger b6ard boxes, which hardly obtrude into the accommodation, being moulded into the hulls. A comprehensive specification includes GRP sliding main hatches and flush fitted fore-hatches in tinted perspex (on the boat I sailed for some reason it was tinted red, giving the world an unearthly appearance, but I believe other colours are available.)
Strider can be supplied as a kit for home completion from £3,000 upwards. £6,000 buys the hulls, rudders, daggerboards and just about all the loose gear needed to finish the boat, a task that the average handyman could complete within a fortnight or so. For a whisker under £8,000 Strider comes complete and ready to go even down to a spinnaker and gear. (All prices are ex VAT). An outboard for around three hundred and a trailer (expensive as it is specially constructed to order) will set you back another £l,150. And to make the most of the cat’s potential, a trailer really is needed; this is a justifiable expense, since a mooring is not essential because Strider is so quick to launch - just fold her up and take her home weekends with you.