We get asked this question alot. Regarding maximum speeds, we have done 15 knots surfing on the crossing from Grenada to Dominican Republic in about 20 to 25 knots true wind. Luckyfish regularly hits 10, 12, 13 knots, all completely level, calm, tracking dead straight under wind-vane self steering alone. It is quite an uncanny feeling. Without looking at the log showing our speed, the only hint we are surfing is a low rumble sound we hear in the cockpit. That causes us to look up at times and go Wow!, then we go back to whatever we are doing. There is a recent account of a Wharram Tangaroa (36 foot) surfing at 17 knots and that is not at all surprising. The narrow waterline beams of these boats and low drag hulls combined with great tracking ability makes these speeds completely within reach if you want some fun and remain safe. But, for the real adrenaline junkies, do check out this video. A new speed record of 18.9 knots for a Tiki 38 set in 2017. Incredible.
Top speeds are not of great importance to cruising sailors. What is important is performance. To be able to dial up some speed when you need it, (perhaps to out-run a storm as we have done) and to control speed without alot of effort when you don’t. Maintaining consistent high average daily runs, without gear breakages is the objective. Wharrams, being light with very little loading on rigging and attachment points meet these objectives well.
Luckyfish does better than half the wind speed up to about 12 knots of true wind, on a close reach through to a broad reach. She will do 8-9 knots with ease in a steady 18 to 20 knot true wind. We tend to reef at 15-18 kts true wind but there are accounts of Tiki 38’s carrying full sail in 30 knots. There is one account of a Tiki 38 bending her aluminium mast under full sail in a 50 knot gust. I guess that is another safety valve. We are conservative sailors, opting for comfort and feeling relaxed on board rather than white knuckle rides.
On the recent passage from Grenada to Exumas we covered 1058 miles in 6 days 21 hours ave speed 6.44 kts in a variety of conditions including calms. Pretty respectable! Our transatlantic of 5,000 miles from Namibia to Barbados included passing through the doldrums and several days of very awkward seas. We averaged 5.5 knots over all (132 miles per day). Again, very respectable considering we had a novice crew and didn’t push the boat. Our best 24 hour run so far is 190 miles. If you really want to go for it, how is this? Rory McDougall made a 24 hour run of 220 miles in a mad dash in his Tiki 21 Cooking Fat. Wow.
Currently, there is a growing anticipation in the cruising world for the first true foiling “cruising” catamaran. One that will foil across the ocean gliding at breathtaking speeds, skimming the wave tops, all under the control of an electronic nerve centre… located no doubt in a dry place out of the sun.
I don’t share that anticipation. While the marketing agencies are drooling with the prospect of promoting these new trinkets, I think we need to take a breath and reflect on what draws many (most of?) us to living on and with the sea. Isn’t it about getting back to our inner selves? back with nature again? How much speed do we really need to satisfy that simple desire?
For example, when Tuya, Zaya and I left St Helena Island for a 700 mile crossing to Ascension Island we deliberately under-canvassed Luckyfish to savour the voyage. We had spent 3 weeks on St Helena watching the trade wind blow like a machine. It is like a Swiss watch! We were in the middle of an ocean with no influence from land on weather for a thousand miles in any direction. Watching the weather, there was simply no reason to rush this moment in our lives! We sat back and savoured that brief moment, as slowly as possible, as it would pass too soon.
As another example, I recently listened to a podcast from a family who sail an Open 50 mono, marginally converted to suit their cruising lifestyle. This is a very high performance boat indeed. The skipper/husband said they planned to sail into the dead-centre of a High Pressure system. Once there, they would just chill, becalmed. For how long? It didn’t matter. They wanted to watch the sun and moon rise and set and live free. I really related to that. Their daily runs will in no way reflect their enjoyment!