The cruising bug bites a lot of people. The more experienced among them know what it takes to cruise under sail and live aboard for extended periods of time. These couples usually look for reliable, well-built, fast-sailing and smartly put together boats. These are the people who will appreciate the new Balance 442 the most. The new model is the smaller sister to the Balance 482 which was launched last year and although it’s four feet shorter, it delivers on all the same promises.

About The Builder

Balance founder, Phil Berman, prides himself on delivering a balance (pun intended) of excellent performance and easy living. The Balance 442 is the work of Du Toit Design and like all Balance catamarans, she’s built in South Africa. You may think it’s easy to create a duplicate of an existing boat that’s just scaled down, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Delivering all the systems, comfort and sailing gear on a smaller platform is very difficult indeed but the new model pulls it off.

Balance cats are built for performance and strength with a vacuum infusion construction and the use of e-glass and carbon fiber reinforcement in structural elements. Since these cats tend to venture off the beaten path, they also have crash boxes in the bows to prevent catastrophic results in case of collision. Fixed keels are available, but the tapered daggerboards (finished with graphite to help them slip up and down more easily) are a Balance trademark and will likely be spec’d by owners looking for performance and high pointing ability.

Balance 442 Catamaran Sailboat

Above: A 2023 Balance 442 Catamaran Sailboat. Photo by Balance Catamarans.


A Sparcraft rig carries 1,205 square feet of upwind sail area between an easy self-tending jib and a square-top mainsail. All lines are led to two Harken winches and nine Spinlock clutches. Specifying a third winch will help with line handling.

Making full use of the daggerboards for our upwind progress allowed us to point up to 40 degrees apparent wind angle (AWA) where we held onto 6.5 knots of speed over ground on the mostly flat waters of Chesapeake Bay in 16 knots of true wind. Sailing as high as 40 degrees is a big deal on a catamaran. When we eased to 70 degrees AWA, we ticked up to 11.2 knots and the fun really started.

The self-tending jib is a snap but it was the screecher that made the boat fly and we were pleased to see it worked well all the way up to 60 degrees AWA so it’s not just a downwind sail. A cruising couple can easily manage the jib/screecher sail combination even in a blow.

Our test boat was equipped with the upgraded 45-hp Yanmar diesels and we motored back to the marina at 7.4 knots at 2200 rpm. You can add a knot to that at full open throttle, but it will cost you at the pump and won’t really get you home any faster. We hoisted the daggerboards almost all the way up when motoring because there was no sea state to speak of and because we wanted to reduce drag. You don’t want to raise them completely however or the hulls won’t track since there are no keels. Keeping the boards down at rudder protection depth – just under four feet – works well. For best results, keep them at the same depth when maneuvering in tight quarters because you’ll have counterintuitive results with uneven appendages below the waterline.

Helm Station - Cruising Systems That Make Sense

Balance is built for distance cruising and offshore passages with proven systems that sailors love. First is the signature Balance Versa-Helm that pivots into three positions from upper to mid to lower helm steering. The wheel moves on an arm and at its lowest point, lets you steer from the protected comfort of the cockpit where there is a second set of electronics to provide navigation information. When it’s time to steer and manage lines, the wheel moves to the upper helm position where there are winches and clutches.

This helm arrangement is no gimmick. It adds versatility and comfort, especially at night or in inclement weather when 90% of owners steer from the down position. Visibility is good down here because the driver can look forward through the cabinhouse windows that were made larger on this model and that are also made of glass rather than Lexan to reduce distortion. And since you’re in the cockpit, visibility aft to the transoms is excellent.

Energy Management

Energy management is a constant concern for cruisers which is why Balance offers an upgrade to one or two Integrel units which are high performance alternators. When combined with a 48-volt house bank of lithium batteries, the Integrel is so efficient that most owners skip the expense, noise and smell of a traditional combustion engine generator. You can choose one Integrel or one on each engine. Add a 2200-watt array of solid solar panels on the coachroof and you can expect energy autonomy for up to three days at anchor.

Additional smart systems include dual racor filers at each engine (standard), raised deck hatches that don’t catch debris (standard) and a Karver hook that makes raising and lowering the mainsail easy (standard).

Living Aboard - Cabin Layout

Cruisers who plan to spend weeks or months at time aboard are likely to choose the owner’s version which is what we had on our test boat. In this layout, the entire starboard hull is dedicated to the owner’s suite. The bed is forward and athwartships with a hatch above for air. The head aft is larger than a bathroom in many small apartments and has a massive shower that also serves as a wet locker. You’ll also find good access to the inner workings of the Versa-Helm in the corner for maintenance needs.

The salon enjoys the same 6’ 8” of headroom as the rest of the boat. The galley is to starboard and is sandwiched in both fore and aft so the cook will be safe even when the boat is pitching in head seas. Refrigeration drawers and a U-shaped dinette are to port. The amount of stowage space throughout is impressive and it can be customized to a degree right at the factory, so each boat is personalized to its owners needs.

Outdoor living is centralized in the cockpit that divides into sections. The lower helm takes up most of the forward starboard corner. Aft of that is a doulble lounge and a plancha grill and sink integrated into the transom bulkhead. To port is the dinette with a narrow table and a large seat spans the transom. With three cabins, it’s reasonable that up to six people will be aboard and they won’t be bumping elbows inside or out.

When You Know, You Know

The Balance 442 isn’t a starter cat. This boat is designed for experienced cruisers looking for something smart – something more. It isn’t a standard production cat that you’ll find in charter but it isn’t a high strung carbon speedster that will scare a cruising couple to death. It’s for Goldilocks sailors bitten by the cruising bug and looking for something that’s just right.

Designer: Anton du Toit
LOA & LWL: 44’ 4”
Beam: 25’ 0”
Draft: 3’ 10” – 7’ 1”
Air draft: 65’ 8”
Bridgedeck clearance: 2’ 9”
Sail Area: 1,205 sq ft
Displacement: 26,014 lbs
Water: 184 gallons
Fuel: 212 gallons
Engine: 40/45-hp Yanmar
Price: $1.2 million sail away

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