English Catamaran Designer Honored

Multihull pioneer James Wharram feted by harbor authority and Ocean Cruising Club.

Tiki 46
Wharram Tiki 46Courtesy of James Wharram Designs

Legendary catamaran pioneer and designer James Wharram, whose blue water-tested Polynesian catamarans are easily recognizable, is himself being recognized by a pair of British maritime organizations.

The Ocean Cruising Club has awarded Wharram its Certificate of Merit, presented annually to members or non-members who’ve performed a notable voyage or achievement. In the case of Wharram, the club notes that he designed his first catamaran, the 23-foot, six-inch Tangaroa in 1953 and has since sold more than 10,000 plans for self-built and professionally built vessels. His travels have taken him across oceans and around the world in a variety of his designs.

Wharram has also been invited (and accepted) to become a Patron to Queenborough Harbour Trust, the organization responsible for mooring services on the Isle of Sheppey on the northern coast of Kent, England. The trust notes that in the 1970s, Queenborough was a popular rendezvous spot for Wharram catamaran owners. The Swale and nearby shallows were perfect cruising grounds for the shallow-draft vessels.

Wharram first made his mark in the early 1950 when he set out to demonstrate the seaworthiness of his first design, Tangaroa, and to prove that the Polynesians likely had double canoes capable of long ocean journeys. Wharram sailed transatlantic, from England to Trinidad in 1956, and then, three years later, he went on to design and build the 40-foot double canoe, Rongo, which he also sailed transatlantic.

In 2009, Wharram and his design partner, Hanneke Boon, began work on the Lapita Voyage expedition. Sailing two double canoes based on traditional Polynesian design, they set off from the Philippines, bound for the Solomon Islands. Billed as an experimental marine archaeology expedition, they sought to explore one of the possible migration routes to the central Pacific.