How to Sail a Trimaran

by Contributor

For hundreds of years, sailors of the Pacific and its island nations have used trimaran constructions to maximize their boats' sail speed and maneuverability. While trimarans, or boats with three hulls, present some new challenges to a monohull sailor, they also open up new techniques and, most noticeably, opportunities for speed. Follow these steps to sail a trimaran.

Sail "off the wind," or on points of sail that have the wind coming across the boat or from behind it. Plan your voyages so that you can maximize off-the-wind sailing since this is by far the fastest point of sail on a trimaran.

Tack with the main. Catamaran sailors might groan at the thought of tacking the boat by back-winding the jib and hoping that the bow turns through the wind. The center hull of a trimaran, however, makes tacking with the just mainsail very doable. Practice a few tacks where you're ready to back-wind the foresail if necessary, but aim to tack with just mainsail power.

Make a capsize plan. One of the distinct disadvantages of trimarans is that they are very difficult to right after a capsize, especially when compared to a monohull boat. You need a very clear and precise plan to deal with cases of a capsize so you can get you and your crew on a lifeboat or on top of the trimaran (which will almost always float when upside down) until help arrives.

Tweak the helm. On any multihull sailboat, getting a part of the boat's windward side out of the water decreases drag and increases speed. You can fly a trimaran's windward hull (or "ama") to about 10 to 12 degrees off the water, compared with 5 degrees on a catamaran. Pay attention to feeling on the helm and the depression of the leeward ama to judge how hard you're pushing the boat as it flies.