Are Cats Killing the Monohull?

There always seems to be a “wow” moment whenever a monohull sailor sets foot aboard a catamaran for the first time.
Windelo 50
Monohull performance might be better upwind, usually outpointing a multihull, but once you’re off the wind, a catamaran really shines. Courtesy Windelo Catamarans

As winds of change continue to sweep through our sailing community, and as more participants enter the world of cruising, a startling question has emerged: Could the traditional monohull actually lose its market dominance to the up-and-coming catamaran? 

For years, the monohull-­versus-cat discussion has ignited passion among sailors worldwide. As we all continue the great debate about which type of boat is better, sales figures offer a hint at what kinds of boats we might see along the docks in the future.

According to market research by the Maryland-based Fact.MR, the global ­catamaran market stood at $1.9 billion in 2023. It is expected to see an annual growth rate of around 5.6 percent during the next 10 years. Interestingly, although sailing catamarans held a share of more than 50 percent globally in 2022, power catamarans are projected to see a noticeable increase compared with sail.

Why the sustained rise in popularity? In my experience, there always seems to be a “wow” moment whenever a monohull sailor sets foot aboard a catamaran for the first time.

Who can blame them? These sporty, twin-hulled vessels have spacious layouts, stability, and impressive speed. Catamarans come with expansive accommodations, making them ideal for extended cruising with family and friends. Their shallow drafts enable better access to skinny water, opening up new horizons for adventurous cruisers. Some proponents go so far as to suggest that catamarans represent the future of sailing.

But there is also reason to pump the brakes on wild-eyed predictions. Even amid this catamaran craze, the venerable monohull refuses to be sidelined. With its time-tested design and seafaring heritage, the monohull remains the stalwart of the sailing world. Monohulls are renowned for their stability and seaworthiness. They excel in challenging conditions. They are a dependable choice for extended offshore journeys. They slice through waves with grace and precision. Many sailors favor monohulls for their responsiveness and feel, making them the preferred option for racing enthusiasts and purists alike.

According to Grand View Research, the monohull segment dominated the overall market with a share of 59 percent in 2023 and will grow at an annual rate of 4.4 percent through 2033. That steady growth suggests that, while multihulls undoubtedly have carved out a significant niche in the sailing market, ­monohulls continue to hold their own. 

Yet, it would be remiss to ignore the challenges that monohulls face in the age of catamarans. As demand for spaciousness and comfort grows, some monohulls might struggle to compete with multihulls. Catamarans’ stability at anchor and under sail has prompted many sailors to make the switch—raising questions about the future of monohull design and innovation. But that’s a conversation for another day. 

The debate about ­catamarans and monohulls extends beyond mere preference. It’s a reflection of the evolving landscape of sailing. Both types of vessels have their strengths and weaknesses, catering to different sailing styles, preferences and priorities. But the question of whether catamarans are killing off traditional monohulls is more nuanced than it might seem. While catamarans have shaken up the sailing scene, monohulls continue to endure, driven by the timeless art of sailing. 

As for me, give me a favorable breeze, a big patch of water and some Bob Marley, and I’ll gladly take the helm, whether it’s one hull or two.