Marketing assymmetric multihulls

Discussion in 'Multihulls' started by rayaldridge, Jan 11, 2010.

  1. rayaldridge
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    rayaldridge Senior Member

    How much buyer resistance is there to the idea of assymmetric multihulls? In that category I would include proas, which I think have had little if any commercial success-- I'm not aware of a line of mass-produced cruising proas. (I'm aware that shunting proas are symmetrical along a different axis than a conventional cat, but I'm talking about perception here.)

    I ask because I have an idea for a cruising boat that entails a serious degree of assymmetry. I believe that in the past, even modest departures from symmetry have run into marketing difficuty. For example the MacGregor 36, a giant beach cat, was originally produced with a single board in one hull, and apparently, owners demanded two boards, even though the single board was more efficient.
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  3. bill broome
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    bill broome Senior Member

    one of r. woods' early cats had one board, and i seem to remember others. it doesn't matter much on a cruising cat.

    but 2 boards can be a good idea: maximum performance with less draft is good around the shore, and i often plant both boards in the muck to pin the boat near but not on the beach, saving bottom paint.
  4. rayaldridge
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    rayaldridge Senior Member

    That's true, but unless I'm mistaken, despite the many advantages of harryproas, no one is manufacturing them as a production boat.

    I guess what I'm asking here is whether or not the bias against assymmetric boats is severe enough that such a boat would never be marketable as a production boat, no matter how many compensating advantages the boat might have. I guess you'd need a good crystal ball to be sure, but I welcome any opinions.

    I think the great value of a single board, particularly in a small cat, is that only one hull will be cut up by the case. According to Shuttleworth, in at least one of his designs, tank testing showed that the single board was more efficient than double boards. This makes sense to me, for much the same reasons that one big sail is generally more efficient than two small sails.

    But, I can think of another possible advantage of twin boards-- some folks say that when lying ahull in a gale, the windward board should be down and the leeward up, to reduce the chance of tripping over the leeward hull.
  5. Scrumble
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    Scrumble Oram 46'C MS Builder

    Good Day,

    Most Bob Oram Design cats built so far have one dagger board.

    However Bobs designs include details of how to do two which are slightly smaller than a single. Apart from enhanced performance with one, this also creates more flexibility in the accommodation which I find most important in my own build.


  6. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    The degree of resistance could be described as: humoungous, gigantic, gigamegatonic, etc. Maybe a multimillion dollar campaign could get you a piece of the market, but I doubt it.
  7. marshmat
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    marshmat Senior Member

    So I've heard. Rob Denney is also not without his detractors, of course. The boats themselves are an intriguing and innovative concept. But as Ray points out, I don't think anyone's building them on a production basis. It remains to be seen whether the Harryproa layout is really the best way to do a sailing proa; there just aren't enough of them out there and they haven't done enough long trips yet.

    From what I can tell, proas are rare not because of any inherent technical faults, but rather because:

    (a) They take up a great deal of space. To fit the same accommodations as a 12m/40' bridgedeck-cabin cat or a 15m/50' monohull, a cruising proa ends up being about 24m/80' long and 7-10 m wide. That may be OK for a cruiser who anchors out all the time. But very few people who are looking at 40-foot cats would be willing to consider paying for a megayacht slip to moor an 80-foot proa, even though the boat itself will be of comparable or lower cost.

    (b) People are wary of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on something that seems unusual. People can be tricked into spending extra for all sorts of features of dubious merit, if those features are commonplace on racing boats and on the local club regatta fleet. (Example: Rod rigging and mylar/spectra laminate sails retrofitted to a 15-year-old cruising hull that enters a couple of friendly regattas a year and spends much of the remaining time under power.) But it's awfully hard to get people to shell out for something unusual that they haven't drooled over with a friend the last time a big-dollar racer came to town.

    A valid point. It depends on who you market to, of course, but anyone with their heart set on a particular type (98% of sailors) will probably think you're a bit nuts.

    Still, I don't think there's enough of a bias against asymmetric boats that a good design and a good marketing campaign can't succeed, if it's targeted at the right audience. Larry Graf's Aspen power proa has been widely praised and his 28' version is already in production, with 39' and 48' models on the way ( ). Of course, this thing looks pretty much like a normal cat; the asymmetry is only revealed when you look at it from below. Minor asymmetry in a cat- such as an offset daggerboard- strikes me as being such a trivial issue that I'm amazed people would make a fuss about it, when a simple test sail should convince them otherwise.
  8. rayaldridge
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    rayaldridge Senior Member

    I fear you may be correct. Ah well. Ignoring reality is one of my major skills. I was told many times while I was drawing Slider that there was no market for a 16 foot open cruising cat (because if there were, some real designer would have already drawn one.) But I persisted anyway, and now there are a lot of Sliders a-building around the world. Presently I'm working on the prototype of an ultra-simple 14' cartoppable cat.


    I guess you can never tell how something strange is going to go over. I have some hope that multihull enthusiasts are more flexible mentally than more conventional sailors. What do you think?
  9. rayaldridge
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    rayaldridge Senior Member

    Matt-- excellent points.

    I confess to feeling a little dubious about proas myself, even though on a strictly rational basis I can't quite say what I think is wrong with them-- so everyone, me included, probably has some sort of irrational bias when it comes to boats.

    Yes, I found the bias against a single board astonishing. It seems like some sort of magical thinking is at work there, but I once had a discussion with a good, well-known naval architect who had never heard of using only one board. To his great credit, when I pointed him at a Shuttleworth article detailing his tank testing of that variation, he decided that maybe there was nothing wrong with it. I've noticed that the less knowledgeable folks are, the more rigid they tend to be in their opinions, which I guess is natural enough. The more you know, it seems, the more you're aware of the quantity of stuff that exists outside your personal knowledge base.

    The power proa you linked is a fascinating idea. As you say, it isn't immediately obvious that it's assymmetric, which may make it more marketable.
  10. rob denney
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    rob denney Senior Member

    I had no trouble marketing assymetric boats, but how much of this was due to assymetry and how much to the harryproa attributes of lighter weight, lower cost and greater speed, I don't know.

    Apart from 50-odd early adopters who have built or are building, most of the enquirers wanted to see a boat sailing before they committed. This has proved much more difficult to achieve for various reasons. Mostly my failure to stop experimenting and build one capable of crossing oceans, but also owners dying, running out of money, being reclusive, unsuccessfully modifying the plans, etc. All of which took the steam out of the marketing effort, to the extent that I have stopped marketing for the time being.

    There is a 5m proa being produced in China, the first of which are in NZ and France and there are half a dozen being built for a sailing school in China, and another couple for a German yacht club. Build quality is high and the boats are performing well, after a few hiccups. We expect to ramp up production of these in the coming months.

    Proa owners are pretty individualistic, so production versions of the bigger boats are unlikely. Production is also not the best way to get low cost, light weight boats. I have developed a build technique for the hulls, beams, mast and rudders which is cheaper and lighter than using moulds and requires virtually no fairing and finishing. Owners decide their own parameters (within reason) and their own layout. To prove the concept, I am building a 15m weekend cruiser/short handed racer. Hulls are pretty much finished, 200 hours, $AUS8,000/$US7300, 300 kgs/660 lbs.

    In my experience, multi owners by and large are just as inflexible as mono owners. Many of them have used up their allotment of daring just by getting a multi. Two boards or one is a frivolous marketing issue.

    So, do your marketing, but as with Slider, your sales will come from actually getting out there and going sailing, proving that it does what you say it does and documenting/filming it.


    I do indeed have detractors. However, very few of them actually criticise the boats, prefering instead to criticise me.

    Your second point is correct, for most boat owners. Your first is an exageration. A 15m/50' cruiser has 2 doubles, and 3 singles, bathroom, galley and table for 6 as well as an enclosed cockpit. There is nothing to prevent a full bridge deck proa, with all the space of a similar size cat. Unfortunately it would also perform as poorly as one.


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  11. marshmat
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    marshmat Senior Member

    Glad to see you chime in, Rob :)
    This is true, of course. However, I see no point in going with an unusual configuration unless that configuration's advantages are going to be exploited. One of a proa's main advantages over cats or tris is that it can have a much longer waterline for similar displacement and cost- the performance/cost ratio is one of the main reasons to choose a proa configuration.

    You certainly could build an asymmetric 40-footer with the same accommodations as a typical 40' charter cat, but such a boat would probably have no performance or cost advantages over its more conventional counterpart. Thus, you would not be able to sell it. A 70' proa with the same accommodations as that 40' cat could have a performance advantage and would not necessarily incur much (if any) construction cost penalty, thus could be marketable. (Just be sure to give it good ground tackle, because the dockmaster will have dollar signs in his eyes when you toss him the springline.)

    Rob's boats, from what I have seen, demonstrate this quite well: Compared to a 'conventional' cruiser of similar building cost, they are much longer but seem to have roughly comparable living space. For now, his boats seem to be mostly either trailerable or capable of fitting in normal marinas; scaled up to world-cruiser size, it'll certainly become harder to find a parking spot. I haven't seen one in person yet- just photos and drawings- hopefully that will change at some point.

    As for the Aspen boats- I think one of the big factors working in their favour here is that people hate paying for engines and their maintenance. Being able to offer most of a cat's advantages, but with only one engine room (thus only one motor that the mechanic can bill you for), will certainly appeal to people who like the idea of a cat but shudder at the cost of having a second engine in a tiny, cramped, expensive-to-reach space.

    In my part of the world, unfortunately, there isn't much in the way of "unusual" boats. Anything more exotic than a Hobie cat is a rarity around here.
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