Who buys a Broadblue Catamaran?
The fourth in our series, and this time Ian Hopkins shares some tales of the sea and some tips for catamaran sailors.
We have been chatting with several of our owners about their experiences on Broadblue catamarans and they have kindly allowed us to share their stories and tips with our future owners.
This is the fourth in this short series. Today we hear from Ian Hopkins, the current owner of A’r môrdirion, a Rapier 400. Ian has enormous sailing history, and this is just a snapshot!
“I began sailing dinghies on Llangorse Lake in Wales as a teenager. Ten years later I was asked to crew for the weekend in the Solent. RYA courses and Solent races soon followed. While working in Hong Kong, I owned my first keelboat, a Sonata. In my thirties I was invited as crew on an autumn trans-Atlantic crossing. This proved to be an exhilarating and eventful crossing. It involved a hurricane called Charlie, leaving me with a false front tooth!
I later bought a Beneteau 393 and put it in the Sunsail owners’ charter programme. As well as our own boat we had the opportunity to sail many other equivalent boats in their world-wide programme. There were several exciting times. The most extreme experience was lying on two anchors, caught in a tropical storm, in Guadeloupe, and getting struck twice by lightening.
We took the option to take the boat over at the phase out. We turned her from a spartan charter boat into a comfortable live-aboard for longer trips. This we did in Trinidad after cruising slowly down through the Windwards and Leewards. We spent several wonderful winters based in Trinidad at the TTSA yacht club. We enjoyed reading Columbus’s logs in the Penguin Classics edition of his sailing in this area.
In this boat, we accompanied one couple on their second trip up into the Orinoco delta. We enjoyed reading the description by Sir Walter Raleigh who made the same trip in 1596. We exchanged cloth and fishhooks with local people who lived on thatched platforms in the river. They were pleased to show us their way of life and even shared a meal of stewed iguana with us.
I believe that being able to single hand a boat easily for a long trip is important. This was certainly true of the 393 and is also true of our Rapier 400. I singlehanded the 393 along the Venezuelan islands off its Pearl coast. A special memory is Isla Cubaqua settled by Spaniards in 1499. Uninhabited now, I explored the ruins crunching along the original streets still paved in mother of pearl.
There is a Caribbean maxim, in winter, expect wind and current always from the east. The wind is rarely more than 30 knots, and waves less than 3 metres, and if the weather exceeds those maximums, it is never for long. We have been very fortunate and sailed throughout the Caribbean. Dominica, the Dutch Antilles, Jamaica, and Hispañola being our favourites.
Eventually we ended our monohull sailing days at a yacht broker in the BVIs. Monohull sailing is very physical. As age crept up, we decided to sell the 393 and began looking for the stability of a catamaran.
Finding a suitable catamaran proved a challenge. Delivering a Wharram, from Cay Largo to an off-grid retirement home in the Golf de Chiriqui Lagoon in Panama, confirmed my priorities for a catamaran. These were accommodation, protection, ventilation, independence, and sail-ability. The Wharram scored highly in the latter categories, but failed for me to score at all in the first two!
At the other extreme, many catamarans sacrifice speed and sailing ability for luxurious accommodation much of it enclosed or below deck. Rather than connecting with the outdoors these designs seemed intent on letting in the sun and keeping out the breeze. For us, living behind an aft facing sliding glass door, was being insulated from the very outdoors we wanted to experience.
In contrast to the enclosed interiors, many catamaran helm positions were often high and off-centre, somewhere where you could feel the wind on your skin but where you were often exposed, lacking adequate protection from the sort of weather to be expected on passages to somewhere nice.
It became clear that finding the perfect catamaran to match all my priorities wasn’t going to be easy. But, we decided that with some adaptation, the centre helm, long coachroof, open cockpit, Rapier 400, with galley up, could be developed and would do the trick. It ticked many of the boxes and Broadblue were happy to work with us.
We motored our new 400 through the German canals, down the Rhine, through the Zuiderzee to Flushing and across the Channel. It was rigged in the UK on the Hamble. We became SOLAS compliant and joined the ARC Portugal Rally in 2017. Since then, we have based ourselves on the Atlantic coasts of Spain and Portugal.
The completion of our fitting out, in American White Oak, took place in Spain. The cork floors were added in Portugal. Our current sailing ground takes us through the Straits into the Med and extends to Morocco.
Unfortunately, yet another maxim has become apparent. If the combined ages of any sailing couple exceeds 150 years, they are advised not to sail offshore unless accompanied by a suitable, responsible younger person. Sadly, we are several years past the 150 total so this will be the last sailing season on our own boat.
And lastly, tips.
For anyone sailing the Caribbean and beyond, good ventilation is essential. The 400 has good built-in hull ventilation. Be sure all living and workspaces on the boat are mosquito proof and, that, even when the sun is low in the sky, you can sail in adequate shade. Get an arch to carry an ample solar panel array.
Family live aboard boats should be able to be sailed single handed. In this context, the Rapier is a capable “single-hander” with all lines led back to the helm. My tips for potential 400 owners, get three reefs in the powerful main and a long, controllable main sheet track. Add coach roof hatches.
“Reef early” “In a catamaran, you can never come alongside too slowly” “A chart is only as good as the date of its last revision, even when displayed digitally.” “Low resolution shows you the distance not the dangers”.