Are catamarans easier to sail?

28th January 2022 Elena Manighetti

Are catamarans easier to sail?

We’ve looked at the advantages and disadvantages of catamaran sailboats in this article. Now we want to answer a specific question many boaters ask: are catamarans easier to sail?

It’s a simple question, but the answer isn’t straightforward, because it depends on the catamaran you choose, your sailing style, and more. 

The short answer is: yes, if you are comfortable with their bouncy motion and know how to handle the boat in all conditions. No, if you easily get distracted from sailing and want to go upwind a lot.

Let’s see how the characteristics of a catamaran affect its sailing performance and what they mean for a sailor.

Stability allows you to move around the boat easily

The fact that catamarans don’t roll or heel makes them very comfortable to be on both at anchor and under way. Moving around the vessel is a lot easier, even in high winds, as you won’t be fighting gravity as much as on a monohull. 

Many people feel less seasick on cats, as they don’t roll. However, others find that the typical bouncing movement of a catamaran gives them motion sickness. In any case, it’s easier to sail when you're feeling well.

catamaran

No heeling means no feedback

When the wind increases, a monohull heels. The boat instantly responds to a gust, which allows you to quickly act and reduce sail or change course. As catamarans don’t heel, it can be harder to notice when things are getting out of hand. So in a way, they’re not easier to sail. Some practice will fix this, though. 

You need to keep a close eye on the wind speed, the boat’s speed, and the sails. When in doubt, reef. You can always hoist the canvas back up.

The cockpit is well-protected

Catamarans have big cockpits surrounded by high coamings. It’s harder to fall overboard when you’re in them. Beware though - a big space can be challenging to move around in high seas. It’s harder to find something to lean against or grab hold of in a large cockpit.

catamaran

Single-handed sailing can be hard

On sailing catamarans, you have access to all the essential lines directly from the cockpit. Plus, you have two engines, so performing any maneuvre can be done by a single helmsman. Docking is easy, as you can turn on the spot.

However, on very beamy cats the winches are far apart. So it can be difficult to move from one side of the boat to the other quickly. This means you can’t smoothly control two lines at the same time.

Downwind sailing is fantastic

Sailing a catamaran downwind is phenomenal. The boat barely moves, while you make excellent progress, fast. It’s a big difference from the noisy and rolly ride you typically experience on a monohull.

Upwind sailing can be challenging

Unless you choose a performance catamaran, modern models built for comfort struggle to sail upwind. The big cabins, wide hulls, and heavy gear are a compromise. These boats have too much windage and too little a sail area. However, you can always turn on the engine to help you along.

catamaran

So are catamarans easier to sail?

If you take the time to learn how to sail a catamaran properly and don’t get seasick on one, cats can be more comfortable and relaxing to sail than monohulls. You just need to know what to look out for and what to expect when going upwind. Some say they’re easier to sail.

However, if you enjoy sailing upwind fast and you rely on the feedback offered by a monohull for reefing, you may find sailing a cruising catamaran more challenging.


Download the Deckee app from the App Store or Google Play for free. Find your heading, check the marine weather forecast, look up points of interest, and much more. 

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