Fountaine Pajot and Lagoon may have been the largest catamaran builders to debut new boats during last winter’s Strictly Sail Miami Boat Show, but they weren’t the only ones. The most interesting of the other new cats, the Seawind 1160 Lite and the Gemini Freestyle 37, offered fresh, innovative takes on familiar, well-established platforms.
Perhaps befitting a boat that was conceived in Australia, the original Seawind 1160, of which well over 100 were built, was centered around the cockpit barbecue, a civilized idea if ever there was one. Pair that with the trifold door that opened the entire saloon and cockpit into one spacious central living area, and the 1160 packed a lot of cat into 38 feet.
Happily, those features remain the centerpieces of the 1160 Lite, which is now built in Vietnam. What makes the newer version unique is the elimination of the twin inboard diesel engines, which have been replaced with a pair of Honda 20-horsepower outboard engines that tilt up or down electrically. In addition to opening up vast lockers aft for sails, scuba gear, water toys and so on, they are easily serviced and save significant weight. And that’s been a theme throughout the boat, which has a clean, revamped interior with less wood; PVC closed-cell foam in the hulls; cored tables and furniture; a carbon-reinforced forward beam; and other innovations (like optional composite steering wheels) to keep the boat light and fast.
The other load that has been lightened with the 1160 Lite is the cash in your wallet to purchase one. At around $359,000 for a spanking-new ride, the cat also represents significant value.
The Gemini Freestyle 37 continued the minimalist trend. The basic boat starts at under $150,000, and it is indeed basic, with an open deck platform that can be tricked out or outfitted in countless ways. Add a hardtop canopy and modular deck furniture, and you have a fun, fast daysailing picnic boat. Take it a step further with hull accommodations and built-in furniture from the factory, and you’ve got a simple but able cruising boat. Want a “green” version? Go with the solar panels and electric engine. Or just add rows of deck chairs, as one tropical entrepreneur has done, and you have a ready-made sightseeing and snorkeling day-charter boat.
Now built by Catalina in Florida and backed by the solid pedigree of Gemini’s other popular models, the Freestyle 37 is one of the more original cats to come down the line in some time. The only limit to it is your imagination.
Speaking of compact catamarans, that’s the very definition of the South African-built TRU 32, a fully found cruising cat that’s just 32 feet long. This seagoing RV will appeal to adventuresome sailors who appreciate a lot of features in a diminutive package. Look for it this fall at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland, where it will surely draw curious cruisers.
Unfortunately, another builder launching a new cat from South Africa, Tamas Hamor of Xquisite Yachts, didn’t have time to get his new 50-foot X5 cat to Miami, though he drew plenty of visitors to his booth with a tour of the boat via virtual-reality headsets. He also plans to show the boat in Annapolis, where his luxury cat will turn heads in real time.