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The Evolution of the Catamaran

Vol. III, No. 27

AC42s sail in last year's America's Cup World Series in Newport. Photo by Allen Clark /

AC45s sail in last year’s America’s Cup World Series in Newport. Photo by Allen Clark /

The decision to race catamarans in the America’s Cup in recent years has brought cats into the spotlight among sailing enthusiasts.   The AC72s hardly resemble the traditional concept of a sailboat at all. In fact, they better resemble boats that have been used since the beginning of recorded history!

A Polynesian cat

A Polynesian cat

The word catamaran evolved from the Tamil word kattumaram, meaning “tied wood,” or really, logs tied together. Interestingly, this was originally used to describe a raft made by the Dravidian people that would technically have been called a monohull.  But the word evolved to refer to a vessel with two hulls.

The Polynesians developed their own style of catamaran–the outrigger canoe–to get from island to island safely and quickly. Over the centuries, several populations came up with their own way to make a boat by tying two hulls together.  Check out the full history on wikipedia.


Today’s AC cats are quite evolved, but in spite of their advanced materials and airfoil technology, it’s neat to think that they’re also still basically two hulls tied together.