Ocean Cruising Outriggers: Pros and Cons

Discussion in 'Multihulls' started by mcm, Jul 13, 2013.

  1. mcm
    Joined: Sep 2006
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    Location: Port Townsend, Wa., USA

    mcm Senior Member

    What are the pros and cons of tacking Outriggers for ocean cruising?

    Say a fifty footer of about 14,000 lbs. displ. Vaka & Ama

    Intuitively it seems ideal, but there must be reasons why i don't see them out

    Any opinions from knowledgeable sources would be appreciated.
  2. keysdisease
    Joined: Mar 2006
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    Location: South Florida USA

    keysdisease Senior Member

  3. CutOnce

    CutOnce Previous Member

    There are only a few truly knowledgeable sources with on the water experience, and I sure do not qualify, although I've done a lot of research & planning.

    • Fast
    • Faster to build that a tri or cat
    • Cheaper to build
    • Less stress on beams than a cat - no mast/dolphin striker on aka

    • Narrow, about 25-30% less accommodation space than a tri or cat of the same length
    • Tacking outriggers are not Pacific or Atlantic proas - they have to be both at once, with issues because of this.
    • Longer length costs more to dock, store and move than shorter boats
    • Backwinding true proas can be riskier than boats that do not have this issue.

    I've done a lot of soul searching on this in terms of what I would build, and the best compromise I've found is the Russell Brown-style Pacific proa. He does not sell or even promote them, but he's worked in concert with Paul Beiker to design one. Chesapeake Light Craft has their Madness design (which Brown consulted on). Both of these are smaller than 50'.

    Tackers have rigging problems - on one tack the mast is well supported by stays from the ama - on the other tack it is barely supported and needs to be very robust to self-supporting. Pacific proas rigs only need to be supported on one tack - and they are stayed to the ama (providing they don't get back winded).

    I would not get caught up in the supposed "weirdness" of shunting instead of tacking - once you master the concept it actually makes more sense than tacking. It takes a slight bit more time - and I would not want to shunt continually in narrow channels, but if you've got space it is no big deal. Shunting is less dramatic - both upwind or down. The drama of tacking and gybing goes away with a proa. Proas were outperforming Western designs 200 years ago, and the current World Record holder (Sailrocket II) is closer to a Pacific proa genetically than any other boat type.

    Pacific proas get their righting moment from lifting the ama up, while Atlantics get their righting moment from pushing the ama down into the water.

    In mechanical terms, a Pacific proa is an optimal rig for light fast boats because the akas work in concert with the windward ama to allow great righting moment, minimal rig stress and light weight.

    It all depends on how much space and accommodations you need - a 35' trimaran or cat will have as much space as a 50' proa. The 50' proa will be cheaper, just as fast and probably have a smaller rig to do so.

    Proas have a specific balance of cheap, simple, light, fast and limited space - as soon as you start mucking with the formula too much, they get slower, more expensive, bigger and over complex. It really depends on whether you fit within a proa's mojo formula - not if you can alter the formula too much.

  4. mcm
    Joined: Sep 2006
    Posts: 158
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    Location: Port Townsend, Wa., USA

    mcm Senior Member

    Thanks CutOnce,
    That's exactly the kind of informative reply i'm hoping to get.

    About standing rigging support on the opposite tack - on the few outriggers i've seen, the akas continue about 8' beyond the main hull on the opposite side from the ama precisely to provide a base for greater shroud angle that supports the mast regardless of tack.

    I suppose i'm thinking of outrigger over Proa, because the rig is solidly supported even if the wind backs on me before i can react.

    Moreover, i'm thinking that (unlike all other multihulls including Proas) outriggers can be righted from a capsize without any outside assistance.

    Still the advantage of a Proa in that the ama is never digging in, because it's never to leeward is definitely something to consider.

    But Russel Brown does say that one should never relax when sailing a Proa.
    That alone could take some of the fun out of it.
  5. CutOnce

    CutOnce Previous Member


    Given where you live, why not find Russell Brown and talk with him? He's in Port Townsend. I think he's actually out on Jzerro right now with his wife up in BC cruising/delivering some stuff, but he's due home any day now.

    If I lived anywhere close, I'd sure find him and beg to sweep up the shop in exchange for watching him work. Can't hurt to show up with some cold beer and say hi.

    He's equipped Jzerro with an autopilot, so he does relax once in a while. There is a video of him and his wife doing around 20 knots making tea in the completely flat boat surrounded by spray. I'd kill just to walk Jzerro and and get a feeling for the lines and proportions.

  6. sprit
    Joined: Jul 2013
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    Location: Lexington, MA, USA

    sprit Junior Member

    How do the big proas do without wind, with outboard power?

  7. El_Guero

    El_Guero Previous Member


    Did you get to talk with him?

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