A catamaran is generally more balanced on the water and can be faster than a multi-hull vessel.
Unless you compare them to foiling monohulls like the new America’s Cup boats that sail at over 50 knots, they are not recreational vessels.
In this article, we will look at how fast each type of catamaran will go.
Here are the numbers before we dive into the details:
|Catamaran Type||Top Speed|
|Sport Catamarans||30 knots|
|Cruising Catamarans||15 knots|
|Racing Catamarans||45 knots|
|Power Cruising Catamarans||70 knots|
|Swath Catamarans||30 knots|
Average Speed For Sailing Catamarans
Catamarans can vary in size from 14 ft to over 100 ft. Catamarans can come in a wide variety of design types.
Sailing Catamarans have been attempting to make advancements over their mono-hulled counterparts.
These advancements include:
- Foils that assist with lifting the vessel out of the water.
- Stability advancements.
- Racers that can maintain their speed while out in the ocean.
3 Different Types of Sailing Catamarans:
1) Sport Catamarans
One type of sailing catamaran is a sport catamaran, which is otherwise known as recreational. These are typically supposed to have a small crew and launch and land on beaches.
Sport catamarans do not normally have living quarters and are ideal for day trips. Resorts or other rental services often use these.
These can also be used for racing.
Sport vessels have been known to travel over 30 knots but can speed over 40 knots in the proper conditions.
2) Cruising Catamarans
Another type of sailing catamaran is a cruising catamaran. These often come with complete living accommodations, so they sacrifice speed over their sportier counterparts.
They can average between 9 and 10 knots, depending on the conditions. The top speed is typically around 15 knots.
It would be best if you were careful with catamarans that have living quarters. The more you weigh it down, the less speed you will have.
3) Racing Catamarans
The final type of sailing catamaran is an ocean racing catamaran.
These boats are large and can reach over 100 feet in length.
The top speed of this type of catamaran is around 45 knots.
Because of the prize money for entering these in races, much research goes into their advancement.
Average Speed Of Power Catamarans
Catamarans with power motors fill a different type of boating category.
These are commonly used when speed and smoothness are favored over space or capacity.
Because of their stability, catamarans are good vessels for combating seasickness as well as transportation. We have a separate article here with all you should know about catamarans and (how to overcome) seasickness.
On a commercial level, these can be used for ferries for both people and vehicles. They are used for short term travel, often to or from islands.
Like sailing catamarans, there are a few types of power catamarans.
1) Power Cruising Catamarans
Similar to sailing cruising catamarans, they also have power cruising catamarans. These also have living quarters and are stable while out on the water. The speed of these vessels highly depends on the motors equipped and the size of the boat itself.
Like passenger transport or ferries, catamarans have a high speed of about 40 to 70 miles per hour.
These are made to travel at great speeds to allow their commuters the shortest possible ride to their destination.
The military also utilizes power catamarans. They use power catamarans to transport military cargo. These ships are ideal because of their speed, holding capacity, and ability to venture into shallow ports.
2) Swath Catamarans
They also have small-waterplane-area twin-hull vessels. These are called SWATHs.
These differ from the average catamaran because they also have submarine-like hulls that stay completely under the water.
Due to the hulls being submerged, they are not normally affected by waves. These are used most often in the ocean as research vessels. They can also be used for certain types of yachts. Because of their stability, they are good vessels for furniture that will not require as much securing.
These often travel between 20 and 30 knots.
Some catamarans are designed for wave piercing. These are made to pierce through waves rather than sail over them, causing them to be faster. These can be used as passenger ferries, yachts, and military vessels as well.
3) Whitewater Catamarans
There are also recreational catamarans made for whitewater travel. These are sometimes called “cata-rafts.”
They are made using two inflatable hulls connected with a scaffold. These are lightweight and perfect for whitewater sports.
They are even able to be packed away in a backpack. They can take up to 20 minutes to assemble, including inflation.
They have high speeds on white water rivers and can be most compared to a canoe, kayak, whitewater raft, or other white water vessels.
Performance Characteristics Of Catamarans
Catamarans require four times the power to double their speed. A mono-hull vessel, however, would require eight times the power to double their speed.
This is because a Catamaran has less resistance in the water.
This is also good for conserving and using less energy.
Catamarans are also more stable in the water. This stability is effective at resisting heeling or capsizing. A multi-hull vessel would require four times the force to capsize as a similar-sized mono-hull vessel.
The general sailing in a catamaran is smoother and allows for activities that are not always possible on a mono-hull sailboat.
Are Catamarans Faster than Mono-Hull Vessels?
Because catamarans have less water resistance, they are generally faster than mono-hull vessels.
This is because their hulls are smaller, which means they have a smaller bow wave to fight.
A bow wave is a wave created by the displacement of water by the bow of a ship. After a certain speed, a boat has to start hauling itself over its own bow wave.
The larger hull a ship has, the larger its bow wave will be and the more power required to fight it.
Catamarans have two small and narrow hulls, so they do not have much of an issue with their bow wave. This is one reason they are usually faster than a similar-sized mono-hull vessel.
Catamarans can be between 20-30 percent faster than their monohull counterparts.
Issues with catamarans over mono-hulls are that they can take more time to turn.
How Is The Speed Measured?
Boats commonly measure speed using GPS tracking devices to measure distance traveled. Speed while sailing is measured in knots. A knot is one nautical mile per hour, which equals about 1.15 miles per hour.
How Fast Are Catamarans Compared To Other Boat Types?
- Sailing catamarans typically average about 10 knots.
- Pontoon boats average about 20 mph.
- A powerboat cruiser can average anywhere between 30 and 50 mph.
- Cigarette boats can even reach close to 90 mph in the proper conditions.
- Sailboats average between 6 and 12 mph depending on wind conditions.
This includes mono-hull between 6 to 8 mph and catamarans and trimarans between 9 and 10mph
Two different factors can determine the speed of sailing ships:
1) The hull type as listed above.
Different hulls rest in the water more or less than other types. The less of the hull that is underwater, the faster it can go.
This is because the less of the hull in the water, the less drag created while sailing.
2) The length of the boat
The longer the boat, the faster it can go. Every boat has a maximum hull speed that cannot be exceeded unless the boat can plane on the water’s surface or be lifted on hydrofoils. For most boats, the longer the boat, the higher the maximum hull speed is.
Speed Vs. Comfort Considerations For Catamarans
If you are looking for a catamaran, you have a lot of options.
You can choose to prioritize speed or comfort.
After deciding to purchase a catamaran, the type of catamaran you should look at depends on where and what you are using it for.
You will want to make sure that you look at what type of water you will be traveling in, how many people you are traveling with on average, and what type of speed you hope to achieve.
One thing you will want to keep in mind before the purchase of a catamaran is storage. If you intend to store your boat in a marina, you are often charged for two slips due to the beam, or width, of a catamaran versus the standard mono-hull vessel.
Catamarans can be beneficial for those who get seasick because they offer a steadier ride and the ability to have more open air space. Because the living quarters are not inside the hull and under the water’s surface, you have more windows and visibility.
Both sailing and power catamarans are viable options. Also, sailing catamarans can come with back-up power engines for low winds or situations such as docking in a marina.
Catamarans that have twin engines can offer more control and precision than those on a mono-hull vessel. This is good for tight and busy areas or navigating marinas.
Overall, there are plenty of options for you, and they offer many benefits over their mono-hull counterparts.
Shelby Sullivan is our specialist when it comes to pontoon boats and recreational watercraft. She is often found sailing the freshwater lakes of Michigan. She is also a light-traveler who enjoys camping and traveling the world. Read more about Shelby here.