- Trimarans are three-hulled vessels comprised of a main and two outer hulls sometimes called outriggers or floats. Most trimarans are sailboats, which are often theorized to sail faster than the speed of the wind and boost better performance standards than their counterparts—monohulls and catamarans.
- Today's trimarans are professionally built and versatile so they can be raced or cruised depending on their design.
- There are many different types of trimarans, including large cruisers, racer/cruisers, sport cruiser/racer, kayak trimarans and power trimarans.
- See all trimaran listings.
If catamaran aficionados say that a monohull is half a boat, then what would they call a trimaran? Trimarans are three-hulled vessels comprised of a main and two outer hulls sometimes called outriggers or floats. Today’s vernacular is taken from Malay and Polynesian languages where the vaka is the main hull, the ama is the outer hull and the aka is the framework or cross-member that connects the ama and the vaka. Most trimarans are sailboats but the hull form has been seen on ferries and even warships like the USS Independence.
Theoretically, trimarans can sail faster than the speed of the wind (nearly two times faster) and generally their performance is better on all points of sail than monohulls or catamarans. You may remember the 33rd America’s Cup in 2010 where BMW Oracle won with their 113-foot trimaran called USA 17 that sailed 1.65 times the wind speed in the first race.
The concept of the trimaran is not new. Outrigger canoes have sailed oceans for hundreds of years. In the 1970s, trimarans caught the imagination of recreational sailors and a number of DIY and kit boats emerged on the market. Mostly, they were boxy and strange designs that were clearly home built. Some complaints said that a trimaran, although fast, was a tradeoff that could never offer the space, comfort and practicality of a catamaran because the amas were traditionally too narrow to be used for much other than stowage or carrying fuel. Times have changed.
Fast forward a few decades and the trimaran is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. Today’s trimarans are professionally built and versatile in that they can be raced or cruised depending on the design. Let’s take look at examples of some trimarans that are making waves.
NEEL Trimarans is a French company started by Eric Bruneel (hence the name). An ocean racer, Bruneel won the OSTAR in 2004 on a trimaran of his own design and subsequently launched a company that builds boats for fast cruising. The first of the NEEL cruisers was a 45-footer and now the four-model range extends up to 65 feet. Like cruising catamarans, NEELs have their saloon on the main deck. But unlike older trimarans, the amas are large enough to house sleeping cabins. The larger models even have a flybridge that features the helm and a supplementary social area. Although NEELs haven’t popped up in the charter trade, they are capable offshore cruisers that can reel off miles quickly and in substantial comfort.
See NEEL Trimaran listings.
Racing trimarans come in all sizes and one of the latest is the Rapido 60. Designed by the renowned Morrelli & Melvin team, the Rapido 60 is technically a cruiser but it will blow your hair back when it gets going. Accommodations are a bit more Spartan than on the NEEL since it looks like it was built to do offshore races. A skilled and athletic couple can sail a Rapido, outrunning storms and generally arriving in port long before their single and double-hulled companions. These boats have a muscular and fast profile and will fly a hull while still maintaining a stable and safe platform.
If you’re a serious racing sailor, you may want to look at Corsair trimarans. Owned by Australia’s Seawind Catamarans, Corsairs are built in Vietnam and have been showing up on racing circuits around the world. Models range 19-37 feet and are wicked fast. Started in San Diego, California in 1984, the company was founded by John Walton, the son of Sam Walton who founded Walmart. The original mission was to build a fast, trailerable trimaran. Besides excellent performance, Corsair’s main benefit is that the amas fold in so the boat can be transported by land or stored in a narrower slip or even in a garage. Corsair’s main pitch is that the boats can be rigged quickly: from trailer to sailor in 30 minutes. Some models are built with lightweight carbon and are offered with high-performance laminate sails, adding to their already impressive strength and speed. These high-end boats aren’t inexpensive and they aren’t for beginners.
See Corsair listings.
Danish-built Dragonfly trimarans are pitched as easy to sail. With a motorized system that folds/unfolds the amas even when the boat is moving, these trimarans can be trailered and fit into most monohull slips. Models from 25-40 feet offer basic accommodations so a couple can easily tow one to their favorite body of water and spend the weekend in comfort. Dragonflys will scoot along at 10-15 knots and have a tabernacle mast, which folds down quickly for fast trips on a trailer zipping down the highway.
See Dragonfly listings.
Trimarans don’t have to be big, expensive or complicated. For beginners on a budget, Hobie builds the Mirage Adventure Island that is a fun combination of sailing kayak and outriggers that will keep you happily sailing all day long. Lightweight and very affordable, this Hobie uses their Mirage Drive pedal system so you can sail, paddle or pedal to get from one beach to another. The amas tuck in close so you can put the whole thing on your roof rack and when under sail, the retractable centerboard minimizes leeway. Great for one sailor and her gear, this Hobie has a 400-pound carrying capacity and is 16 feet of rotomolded polyethylene that needs virtually no maintenance.
See Hobie Mirage Island listings.
Not all trimarans are sailboats. Although rare, power trimarans for yachting are appearing at docks around the world and they have been sporting some funky designs. Some examples of superyacht style trimarans are designed by Nigel Irens. His Xplore 70 and Origin 575 are sleek and futuristic and although they seem to be mostly concept boats at the moment, they will be something to behold if you catch one on the water. Irens’ 65-foot Ilan Voyager was launched in 1988 and sped along at nearly 30 knots with excellent fuel economy that delivered a range of over 1,500 nautical miles.
So, are three hulls really three times the fun? Maybe that’s not exactly the way the math works but trimarans are gaining popularity and commanding more ink and buzz just like catamarans did 15 years ago. There are more than 20 production trimaran builders and that’s not counting all the one-off designs already afloat. Is it time you tried your hand at the tiller of a trimaran?
See all trimaran listings.