Study Site

Site Map

Contact Us

Can Trimarans Really Sail Well To Windward??

......A definite yes!

The trimaran has now proven itself beyond doubt to be the fastest type of boat to windward, in all conditions, and it usually takes a monohull at least 25 to 40% larger just to keep up.

However, there are many who still cannot believe this, and Jeff Adams recently asked the following on the F-boat forum:

I am considering buying a trimaran but have had several monohull sailors state the are fine for flat water and if you do not want to point very high. They are terrible when trying to point high into waves. I live on lake Superior which can often create big steep waves and also create situations where I would need to point well to get where I want to go.

Also what about the slamming of the boat these sailors describe when pointing into the wind in waves? Is there any objective information out there about how these boats work on lakes such as Superior?


Some answers from F-boat owners were as follows:

You absolutely have to buy an F-boat now. You now have a responsibility to 'educate' your friend by outpointing his monohull and slicing upwind through the waves when the monohulls are turning back because of the slamming.

Pointing ability has nothing to do with trimaran or monohull - If you have a decent underwater foil and good sails you can point well. Many tris and cats have no centerboard and don’t point worth a damn. However the Corsair boats have very efficient underwater foils. My F31 has a 5.5' draft with a long centerboard and can outpoint all monohulls except for the sportboats and hard core racers. However it is not a fast way to sail. You'll make better VMG by not pointing as high and just going faster.

Slamming into waves is caused by the boat having a large flat bow area that is presented to the oncoming waves. The F-boats have far smaller bows and pound far less than any monohull I've ever sailed on. However you may often see an F-boat whizz by in a blast of spray a with water flying all over the leeward side of the boat. This has more to do with the boat speed of 15-20 knots than a problem with bad bow design. If you sail fast in rough weather its going to be wet - however you can always slow the boat down.

Don't listen to your friend - just go and sail one. There is no boat in the market that sails better.

Tim Cahill-O'Brien
F31 #125
San Francisco


Hey Jeff -
You can't trust those monohullers. They don't want to have to deal with yet another of those annoying little things. No doubt they've seen an F-boat speed by to leeward, spray flying, crew calmly sipping a beverage, while they and/or their crew are hanging on to the rail for dear life trying to keep upright. And this after they made the F-boats give them a 10 to 30 minutes head start. At the awards ceremony the F-boat crews are sunburnt, windswept and gabbing about hot jibing angles and sustained 15 to 20 knot boat speeds, while the monohullers are talking about bad spinny sets, busted poles, sickening rolly polly downwind slogs and ...gasp...a blazing 7.5 knot burst.

Seriously tho - the motion of an F-boat in big seas to windward can be difficult. We've been in 4 to 8 footers in the Gulf of Mexico and Baja. We've pounded, but its usually because we were pinching. If you crack off just a bit and go fast, you can steer through the stuff with ease and work to weather very effectively.
Just buy it......

Barry and Sandi Warburton
F-27 #96 Little Wing


Last weekend, at Dillon, CO, in a race with three F-Boats and about 120 monos, a gust front came through. The monos were getting knocked down and were broaching. The better ones got straightened away and started moving, but by then all three F-Boats were flying. Second Chance was the last of them, and we passed many, many, monos, even the fast ones. There was lots of leeward spray compared to the weather side, where I had a crew out riding the float like a bike (she's a bicycle racer) with a huge grin. As we blasted across the lake I explained to the crew that THIS was why people buy these things.

Dave Paule, brand new racer
F-27 hull 80
Second Chance


The only problem that I have encountered with switching to multihulls from monohulls, is that I still have 3 monohulls and I don't care about sailing them at all. My F31R has really ruined my monohull sailing, and I feel very fortunate.

Willie Blevins
F-31RS #181
Loose Cannon


Hi Jeff,
One sail on an F-boat, and you will be a "believer." We also came from a monohull... never again! Our F-27 points higher than our monohull, handles the waves fine (we sail in the Gulf in the winter, mountain lakes in the summer), is more stable, pounds less, and looks really cool doing it all! Good luck with your buying decision.

Jim Bathurst,
F-27 (#451)
Wide Open
Texas/South Dakota


Jeff, I sail an F-28 on Puget Sound. We often develop very steep waves when we have winds against strong tidal current. Yes, you definitely slow down a lot compared to flat water. On the other hand, this means that in the winds needed to generate those conditions, some of the 50' racing monohulls can actually catch you.

As for slamming, it's all in how you steer the boat. If you are active on the helm, and watch the waves, and have the sail plan reasonably balanced, then you can pretty much keep the boat attached to the water by heading up and falling off as you go over the waves. It takes practice, and you have to be able to see the waves, which usually means sitting out on the nets, but if you do it right, it makes a huge difference and you don't slam.

Ron Radko


I have been sailing and racing my F-28 for a little over a year now. Last night I jumped on a Catalina 250. When I got on and we hoisted the sails, "I thought what small sails". What I had forgot already was it does not take much sail area to heel a mono. When we were beating to the mark my other thought was "this boat is not moving". We had 20+ knots of wind and the boat seemed to be stopped in the water. With the F-boat we would have been doing upwards of 12+ knots of boat speed and very little heeling. It is good to get on a mono once in awhile just remember how "spoiled" we get with three hulls.

Bill Edwards


Call me. I sail an F-24 on White Bear Lake, MN. I have sailed on Superior, Leech Lake, with chop. You will not regret your decision to go to an F-boat. I sailed a Benenteau 235 for 12 years before I "got religion!"

Norm Schultz
F-242 #24


Do yourself a favor and look at the Chicago/Mac race results, or any of the offshore racing where there were tris. Objective info will be the finish times. I only have an F-24, but I still whip up on most monohulls upwind in any kind of decent air. We get a little wet, but in the last Ocracoke race, all upwind and choppy, the sportboat sailors in a 30' viper, Capri 23.5,r and a Schock 35 were far wetter and more beat up than my 2 man crew. Oh, by the way, we beat 'em by almost an hour in a 33 mile race averaging 9 knots. Upwind. . Hmmmm...

Ed Saleem
North Carolina


It is also important to note that because of its higher speed, which pulls the apparent wind forward, the trimaran will usually not point as high as a slower monohull. But, slow the tri down to the same speed and it can point just as high or even higher. However, it will then only go to windward at about the same rate as the mono. The fastest way to the windward mark is to let the tri reach its full speed potential to windward (usually over 10 knots), and even though it may not point as high, it will get to the windward mark much quicker.