WestlawnMasthead27_Sept2013H.pub - page 7

The Masthead
A Brief History of Sailing Multihulls
would be swiveled vertically in order to
pass the sail over from one side to the
other. The two paddles were always posi-
tioned to leeward.
Finally, the last example of these antique
craft is a trimaran that was prevalent along
the African coast, the Comoro islands and
This particular trimaran was drawn in Zan-
zibar in the early 20th century, and a few of
this kind are still afloat to this day. If the
loose-footed sail is an Arabian feature, the
actual design of the craft is Indonesian.
This pirogue has double outriggers with flat
bottoms which slope outward, to act like
water skis or hydrofoils. The sail was set on
a short mast, in the centerline of the craft,
and changed tacks on every beating leg.
Measuring 7 to 9 meters long, these ma-
chines could sail at similar speeds to mod-
ern multihulls.
All these "light vessels," as described by
our forebears, would ship a lot of water and
one crew member would necessarily be assigned to bail the water out, whether it be during fishing or on a open sea pas-
sage. But if there was a compromise, it was for speed.
Herreshoff Era Catamarans
If the catamaran, trimaran or proa instances of the pirogue were born several thousand years ago in Oceania, the first
modern catamaran of western design was built in England for Sir William Petty in 1662, at a time when the word "yacht"
was a very new word. And it would take a yacht builder to make the greatest leap in multihull design after that. The world's
first multihull with a racing designation was Nathanael Greene Herreshoff's, and this excerpt from the
New York Herald
dated April 16th, 1877, is worthy of notice:
In the fall of 1875, I was thinking
and thinking how to get great speed
out of single hulled boats, of the
kind in common use. To get great
speed, thought I, one must have
great power, one must have a great
sail, you must have something to
hold it up, and that something must
be large and wide, and have a large
sectional surface, and also a great
deal of frictional surface. These
properties in a hull to give stability
are not compatible with attaining
great speed.
Indeed, the more one tries to make
a stiff, able hull the less speed will
be attained, even if corresponding
additions are made to the sail. So
then, there are two important prin-
ciples of speed, which constantly
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