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Catamaran Vs. Trimaran (The 5 Differences)

If you’ve been on a catamaran before and you’re intrigued after hearing there are vessels with three hulls too, then you’re right. Early warning, however, is that these are two different vessels even though some of the differences aren’t obvious.  

However, when it comes to catamaran and monohull, most boaters are familiar with the distinctions between the two. However, it might be hard to tell the difference between a catamaran and a trimaran since the latter’s third hull does not necessarily make an obvious difference in some functions.

They differ in anchoring, steering, accommodation, safety, and speed. Catamarans have two hulls and trimarans have three. Catamarans, on the other hand, are easier to handle at a marina and offer a higher level of comfort and space. In contrast, trimarans are very fast and more fun to sail.

Whether you’re planning to cruise on one or make a purchase, to help you decide, I’ve put together a list of the pros and cons of each option.

Catamaran Vs. Trimaran

  • The hulls(#1 difference)
  • Affordability and convenience
  • Safety
  • Anchoring 
  • Speed

We’ll look in-depth at the differences between a catamaran and a trimaran so that you can make an informed decision. First, let’s go through the different types of multihulls.

Catamarans

catamaran

A sailing vessel having two parallel hulls is known as a catamaran. The wide beams of a cat’s paws are often used to stabilize the animal. Ballasted keels are used to stabilize monohull vessels. Displacement and hull volume of catamarans are all smaller than those of comparable-sized monohulls, as is the depth of the draught.

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Catamarans date back to the 1600s when their earliest known variants appeared. Those in Tamil Nadu’s Pavaras community mostly used them for fishing, preferring them to other fishing vessels because of the added stability that the dual hulls gave. Twin-hulled boats were introduced by the British and quickly became a worldwide phenomenon.

Current Catamarans are far more advanced. There are two key ways in which they’ve grown in terms of their versatility, construction, and design.

Small Waterplane Area Twin Hulls (SWATH)

These are catamarans capable of piercing the ocean’s surface!

It is common practice to have the hulls of a SWATH catamaran underwater. As a result, they are less susceptible to the swells of the ocean, which is excellent for maintaining stability while sailing in severe waters. SWATH layouts have been utilized on rescue and research vessels in the recent past.

In contrast, their wave-piercing counterparts feature low-buoyancy bows attached to the twin hulls of their twin vessels. Catamarans with hulls that pierce waves rather than ride on top of them are faster in rough waters than SWATH catamarans. Passenger ferries, military vessels, and yachts have all recently made use of wave-piercing cat designs.

Trimarans

trimaran

Double-outrigger trimarans are multi-hull boats that have two tiny “floats” (technically, they are outrigger hulls) on either side of the larger “float” that is joined to the larger “float” through side beams. Trimarans are extremely stable because of this design, which makes it difficult for them to capsize even in the most choppy of waters.

For centuries, the Austronesian people have used triangular-hulled fishing boats, which are currently the most frequent type of hull in Southeast Asia. There are still few warships and ferries that use double outriggers in their designs, but they are rare.

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Catamarans Vs Trimarans

1. Hull

Because a catamaran has three separate hulls, it is distinct from a trimaran, which has two.

2. Affordability and Convenience

catamaran hat

The shape of a cat is great for accommodating and providing comfort. You can get a large nacelle built between the two load-bearing hulls, providing additional living space. A huge cockpit and two cabins are located on either end of the boat’s hulls. This layout is ideal if you’re searching for a bit of privacy as the celebration goes on in the saloon.

Modern catamaran flybridges provide additional areas for entertaining and resting. Catamarans don’t heel much, which means that you can cook and do other things on the deck without fear. Cats can also carry a fair amount of weight, so you can stock up on food and gear if you’re going on a long trip.

Trimarans indeed have some advantages over catamarans when it comes to livability. It is difficult to perform activities like cooking onboard a boat with a dog since they tend to heel more than cats do. Catamarans, on the other hand, can handle significantly more weight. Approximately 45 feet is a good starting point (14 meters). 

Trimarans, which are the same size as cats, can only carry about half the weight of a cat. Catamarans, on the other hand, offer more spacious and pleasant living quarters than trimarans.

3. Safety

old catamarans

When purchasing a boat, one of the most important considerations is how simple it is to overturn in the event of a storm. If you plan to spend more than a few hours on the water, you’ll want a boat that isn’t easily flipped or sunk because sea conditions can change quickly.

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Three hulls are preferable to two when it comes to safety. A trimaran is more stable since it has one main hull and two overhangs on each side. With the side overhangs, it is less likely that the boat will turn over when it is hit by a heavy breaking wave on the side. 

To further enhance stability, trimarans are constructed with the bulk of the weight concentrated on the main hull. A thorough understanding of multi-hull stability is essential for safe sailing!

What causes a catamaran to overturn?

Trimarans are designed to float even if they capsize. It also implies that a capsized trimaran will be easier to notice from the air, which might be the difference between life and death in an emergency.

Due to the widespread usage of closed-cell foam in trimarans during the past decade or so, this is the case in nearly every new model. Most trimarans can be sliced in half and still float, thanks to this type of construction.

Stability

Catamarans are more stable than monohulls, but they can’t compete with a trimaran when it comes to boat handling. If a catamaran and a trimaran were subjected to storms of equal intensity, the catamaran would be more likely to capsize than the trimaran. 

Catamarans, on the other hand, are not inherently dangerous. Because they have the same closed-cell foam as a trimaran, they are nevertheless more difficult to flip over than monohulls.

While we’re talking about safety, it’s worth noting that trimarans don’t require as much attention when it comes to reefing. Catamarans have a lower heel angle, which means that most of the additional wind power is transferred to the rig, increasing speed. 

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To maintain a cat sailing flat, you must time your reefing carefully because the pressure on the sail practically quadruples as the wind speed doubles. Reefing a trimaran is similar, except that the boat’s modest heel offers you greater leeway in timing.

Helming

To most people who’ve ever had the opportunity to sail on one of these boats, the trimaran wins hands down. Tiller-steered trimarans, in particular, have a great reaction to the helm. They have a small heel that resembles a monohull, but the heel’s arc is restricted.

A catamaran is quite stable, but it does not roll. The thrill of sailing is enhanced by heeling, even though it’s frowned upon by those who prefer the comfort and convenience of a boat. 

Trimarans combine the heel of a monohull with the stability of a catamaran thanks to their three hulls, making them the best of both worlds when it comes to sailing. If you want to practice your helming skills while having some fun, a trimaran could be a better choice. 

4. Speed 

main characteristics of a catamaran hull

Tri-hulled boats outperform their twin-hulled counterparts in speed. When it comes to speed, trimarans are often lighter than catamarans, thus they require less sail time to reach double-digit speeds. When equipped with centerboards/daggerboards, a trimaran can maintain a formidable course upwind (as is often the case for modern models).

In comparison to a monohull of the same size, a catamaran falls short of the trimaran in sheer speed. Just because tris tend to focus more on performance does not mean that catamarans are any slower.

5. Anchoring

maintenance

It is easier to anchor a trimaran than a catamaran since the ground tackle can be kept in the main hull and deployed from there.

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Catamarans, on the other hand, are better suited to marinas since they are more maneuverable. In addition, docking lines are handled more easily by these devices.

A catamaran is a better option than a trimaran if you need to accommodate a large group of people on board for an event like a party. However, a trimaran is an excellent choice for thrill-seekers and sailors who like to challenge themselves on every stable platform. Whichever you choose, enjoy!