With one of the only large cruising trimarans on the market, for the French company Neel Trimarans business is booming. The founder, Eric Bruneel, tells us about the advantages of a trimaran over a catamaran. The company intends to launch its new model at the International Multihull Boat Show in April.
NauticExpo e-magazine: How would you explain this success?
Eric Bruneel: We successfully identified a niche group of customers who have been won over by multihull sailing but who are also attached to pleasant boat performance that meets their standards. They want boats that sail well upwind, handle well on the open sea and have a good level of speed. A multihull isn’t made for moving slowly, it’s meant to have a faster cruising speed than a monohull. The fact that catamarans are slower and of a worse nautical quality than trimarans gives us an undeniable advantage.
NE e-mag: Why does the trimaran have better nautical quality than the catamaran?
Eric Bruneel: The main reason is weight centering. In a catamaran, the weight is shared at 50% for each hull, which completely spreads it out and makes it difficult for the boat to handle well. The advantage of the trimaran is that 80% of the boat’s weight is perfectly centered in the middle of the craft. This explains both why it handles better at sea, with less pitching and rolling, and also why it sails much better on rough water. This is a question of comfort.
Then, in terms of speed, trimarans have always been faster than catamarans. The rigging is perfectly situated on the central hull, which makes for a more powerful craft that sails better. The boat also has three quarters less wet surface than a catamaran, which saves as much surface friction.
NE e-mag: How do you explain that there are so many catamarans then?
Eric Bruneel: That depends what we’re talking about. For races, trimarans have been much more developed than catamarans for quite a while now simply because a catamaran doesn’t stand a chance against a trimaran.
“Basically, the catamaran is missing a hull!”
However, for cruising, until we arrived on the market the only trimarans that existed were small and only had difficult-to-access living space in the central hull. These boats were not hospitable enough to attract a clientele looking for a comfortable cruiser. That’s why the market didn’t take off, especially as catamarans offered much larger, pleasant living spaces.
So everything began when we understood how to fit out a trimaran so it would be as, or even more, comfortable than a catamaran while keeping the nautical characteristics of a trimaran. This is when the concept became really interesting and superior to other boats available on the market. This was in 2010.
NE e-mag: Can you describe your trimarans?
Eric Bruneel: The fact that we have three hulls plus the platform gives us a good amount of space. The owner’s cabin, saloon, cockpit and galley are located on the main deck. All of the living space is on one level, which our customers really appreciate as they don’t have to go up and down stairs on the boat.
“The fact that we have three hulls plus the platform gives us a good amount of space.”
The central hull houses other cabins or toilets for guests. This is also where the very large technical compartment is located, where all of the machinery is including electric generators, heating and the desalinator. It’s an undeniable advantage to have a real technical compartment in which customers can easily maintain their material and verify, or later even add to, their equipment.
Catamarans don’t have a technical compartment, material is dispersed wherever there’s space—often electric generators are under one bed, the desalinator is under another and the heating is somewhere in the back. Basically, the catamaran is missing a hull!
Finally, we also convert the floaters, which means there’s that much more space for other cabins.
NE e-mag: Is the boat heavier than a catamaran then?
Eric Bruneel: No as in terms of equipment it’s the same for all cruising boats. As for the third hull, it doesn’t really add weight as while the central hull is the same width as that of a catamaran, the two floaters are a lot thinner, smaller and less voluminous.
NE e-mag: Do you foresee one day installing foils?
Eric Bruneel: We could install some, but there wouldn’t really be much point as foils work well for ultralight boats. And ultralight means no bathroom, no galley etc.
NE e-mag: Who is your clientele and who are your competitors?
Eric Bruneel: All of our boats belong to private owners. Some of them rent out their boats for part of the year. Our competitors are all cruising yachts. For the same budget, our customers might be tempted to buy a very nice monohull, a catamaran, or even a motorized troller. Our boats cost from 500,000 to 2 million euros.
NE e-mag: What are your projects for the future?
Eric Bruneel: We are going to announce our new trimaran model at the boat show. We are also going to present the new “Evolution” versions of Neel 45 and Neel 65. As for Neel 51, just voted “European Yacht of the Year,” she’ll continue to pursue her career.
Read more about cruising trimarans on NauticExpo website.