Boats & Gear

CATANA 58: A Luxury Cruising Cat With Speed Potential

Catana 58

This is a high-end performance cruising catamaran from France that tries to split the difference between high-speed sailing and posh liveaboard comfort. The design by Christophe Barreau includes all the important features that keep cats sailing their best--narrow hulls, high bridgedeck clearance, very little solid structure forward of the mast, plus high-aspect daggerboards instead of low-aspect keels.

The boat’s construction is also pretty high-tech, with an emphasis on lightweight strength. The hull and deck are fiberglass laminate set in vinylester resin vacuum-bagged over a Divinycell PVC foam core. The hull has an inner skin of Twaron aramid fabric laminated over the core to increase stiffness and impact resistance. The deck joint is bonded then glassed over to form a monocoque structure. The only solid laminate is in areas where hardware is mounted. All furniture components and floor sections are also cored with Divinycell foam; the internal bulkheads--21 in all--are laid up with Nida-Core honeycomb coring.

To flesh out the comfort side of the equation, these boats are normally equipped with lots of heavy systems--generators, watermakers, a hydraulic dinghy lift, large engines and battery banks, washer/dryers, and the like. This is especially true of the 582 version of the boat, first introduced in 2001, as opposed to the somewhat simpler 581 version, introduced in 2000. The 582 (later marketed as the Catana 58 Ocean Class) also features a more luxurious interior finish with leather upholstery and lots of high-gloss hardwood veneer.

Dinghy lift

One of many heavy luxury systems: a hydraulic dinghy elevator on the transom

This all adds up to extra weight, of course, which turns out to have been controversial, as one irate owner evidently sued Catana when he found out his boat was heavier than advertised. Catana as a result stopped publicizing the boat’s original lightship design displacement and from then on published very conservative figures that belie the boat’s performance potential.

Another concession to comfort is seen in the hull form. The hulls are narrow at the waterline with a slightly splayed-out asymmetric shape that helps to create lift and increase form stability. Their inboard sides, however, flare out in a pronounced hard-angled box chine just above the waterline. This increases interior volume for accommodations, but the flat bottom of the chine is close enough to the water to increase resistance and underbody slamming in a seaway. On the other hand, the bow form below the waterline is also slightly bulbous--Catana terms it a “tulip bow”--which increases buoyancy forward. This limits pitching and helps prevent the bows from submarining when sailing at speed.

Catana hulls

Note the big box chine on the inside of the hulls. These allow for more living space inside the boat while keeping hulls narrow at the waterline

Having sailed transatlantic on a 582, I can attest that the boat’s creature comforts (which are considerable) have not entirely smothered its speed potential. The generous sail plan features a fat-roached mainsail and solent jib for windward work, plus a long fixed bowsprit for flying a lightweight screecher or asymmetric spinnaker. Though aluminum masts were available, all Catana 58s were ordered and delivered with carbon-fiber sticks. The 582s also feature Kevlar fiber standing rigging, plus carbon-fiber booms and bowsprits. (The 581s have aluminum booms and sprits and stainless-steel rigging.)

The boat I sailed was systems heavy and carried a lot of extra gear (like scuba gear and a compressor to jam tanks), but still was quick and lively when pressed hard. Beating to weather early in our voyage we maintained apparent wind angles of about 40 degrees while carrying 7 to 10 knots of boat speed under a triple-reefed main and full solent jib in winds blowing 25 knots apparent with gusts to 40. Off the wind with a chute up we could easily maintain double-digit boat speeds in apparent winds over 15 knots. With 20 knots or better on our quarter, we maintained double digits under the main and screecher with the solent belayed out to the windward bow. Reportedly the boat can hit 20 knots off the wind when the wind is blowing 35 or harder.

The most distinctive feature of the 58's deck layout is the central electric cockpit winch to which much of the running rigging is routed via a large tunnel that runs under the cockpit and bridgedeck saloon. This allows most line handling to take place in a single location, with the inevitable spaghetti kept reasonably well sorted in line lockers on either side of the winch. Unfortunately, lines lost up the tunnel (as we learned during our transatlantic passage) can only be retrieved via ports under the bridgedeck that cannot be accessed while sailing. The mainsail meanwhile is controlled with a twin-sheet bridle rather than a traveler.

Central winch

This view from inside the saloon looking aft shows the central electric winch, mounted vertically, with a large battery of rope clutches beneath it. All these lines running aft from the mast are routed through a tunnel under the cockpit and saloon

None of the sail controls are within reach of the two helm stations, located aft on the outboard hull corners, so the boat cannot be singlehanded without an autopilot, though it can be handled by two people fairly easily. The outboard helms are also far from the shelter of the hardtop bimini that protects the central cockpit, so you need a good hat or some foulies when it’s sunny or rainy outside. The upside is you can feel the boat much better from out there and have an open view of the sails.

Catana helm

The outboard steering stations, one at the back of each hull, have fantastic sight lines forward, but are open to the elements

What really makes it possible to mix comfort and performance on a cat like this is the sheer size of the thing, as is evident in the accommodations plan. The boat is big enough that the low-profile bridgedeck saloon, which also has a relatively small horizontal footprint, is still quite spacious. Likewise, though the hulls are narrow, there’s still room enough to live large inside of them.

There are a few different layouts, but all put the galley at the back of the saloon, giving the cook direct access to the cockpit via a sliding window panel, which works very well. In some versions the owner’s stateroom occupies the entire starboard hull; in others it gives up space to a small segregated crew cabin forward. The port hull meanwhile is given over to guests with twin singles aft and a double berth forward. In one version these two cabins are segregated, with separate entries and en suite heads. In another they share the same entry and have much smaller heads.

Layout plan

One version of the layout with crew quarters forward in the starboard hull

Catana galley

The galley layout is very efficient, with lots storage and counter space and easy access to the cockpit via a sliding window behind the sink

Catana saloon

The saloon layout includes space for a large nav station

Stateroom

Owner’s starboard-side stateroom looking aft on the fancier 582 version of the boat

Head

The roomy owner’s head with a separate shower stall

A total of 27 Catana 58s were built over a period of nine years, 18 of which were the fancier 582 version. The last new hull, built in 2008, was priced at $2.4 million. Used 58s can now be had for a fraction of that. They are still expensive boats by any ordinary standard, but they do represent an excellent value for a boat of this type. If you can afford one you’ll find few boats as fast and as comfortable.

Specifications

LOA (including bowsprit): 62’4”

LOD (including transom steps): 58’0”

LWL: 57’0”

Beam: 29’11”

Draft

-Boards up: 4’7”

-Boards down: 10’2”

Displacement

-Design lightship: 35,840 lbs.

-Post litigation: 52,910 lbs.

Sail area

-Mainsail & solent jib: 1,797 sq.ft.

-Mainsail & screecher: 2,540 sq.ft.

Fuel: 416 gal.

Water: 211 gal.

D/L ratio

-Design lightship: 86

-Post litigation: 127

SA/D ratio Design Lightship

-Main & jib: 26.39

-Main & gennaker: 37.30

SA/D ratio Post Litigation

-Main & jib: 20.35

-Main & gennaker: 28.77

Nominal hull speed

-Design lightship: 15.6 knots

-Post litigation: 13.8 knots

Typical asking prices: $650-900K

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