Learning how to sail a catamaran means getting used to a water conveyance that features two hulls; in addition, the cumbersome look of the boat betrays its lightweight agility on the water. The rules that govern the skipper’s handling of the boat and any advice on how to sail a catamaran are in large part directly dictated by his weight and the wind conditions.
So what should the novice skipper know before setting the sail for the first time?
- Wear a wetsuit. Learning how to sail a catamaran is wet business and the chances of capsizing are high. Even if the weather is warm, frequent dunks in the ocean or lake water can make this a less than pleasant outing.
- Invest in sailing gloves and ankle-high, skid-proof booties. Moving around the wet hulls takes nimble footwork and holding on to the rigging can–in strong winds—quickly lead to rope burns. Protect hands and feet accordingly.
- Get into physical shape. While it is not necessary to run a marathon just to learn how to sail a catamaran, it takes quite a bit of physical prowess, stamina, agility and strength to maneuver this boat at wind-speed or beyond. Weekend warriors in particular will do well to hit the gym a few times a week to get and stay fit.
- Take lessons that offer hands-on instructions on how to sail a catamaran. Until the skipper has a natural feel for counter-balancing the wind and moving the boat, it pays to have someone walk him through the ropes.
Remember that even after learning how to sail a catamaran, the process of discovery does not stop. It is a good idea to devise a launch sequence that details what equipment to check prior to taking off, and also, to limit outings only in wind conditions the skipper knows he can master.