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Aquilon 26

1999 August 6

Multihull cruiserr

After more than 20 years of writing these reviews I've seen just about everything that qualifies as a sailing boat. I've seen some iterations far too many times, and these near clones stretch my ability to write something new. That's usually when I pop in a recipe or wine recommendation. I also try not to be too narrow-minded, although as I see boats come and go it can be a struggle. At first glance this little cruising cat built in France made me groan, but I fought through that initial reaction, and I think when we look closer we will find a unique little cruising multihull that may find a market in the United States.

Why would you want a small cat? They don't heel much and for some people that's enough to open up the prospect of sailing. The brochure says this is a fast boat and that certainly has an appeal. The light weight means it's trailerable (the boat can be disassembled in about three hours or transported as is with a width permit), which opens up a lot of inland lake sailing. These pragmatic aspects may be enough to lure sailors to this type.

This cat is also a natural step up for Hobie Cat sailors who have no interest in monohulls, or newcomers to sailing who may be intimidated by any boat smacking of the traditional approach to the sport. The total lifestyle of sailing with its jargon and seemingly complex sail-handling systems may be overwhelming for some. Purchasing a catamaran establishes from the start that the multihull sailor is not buying into the esoteric world that so many of us hold dear. There's a fun factor here that sets these boats apart. I think the J-Boat group has done a good job of trying to bridge that gap. Just the word catamaran conjures up a whole different philosophy of life on the water.

This 26-footer weighs 1,875 pounds giving it a D/L of 60.55. That's light enough to hint at some good speed potential. The keels are strange-looking, low-aspect-ratio shapes that will protect the rudder when you beach the cat. But to my eye will do very little to aid in VMG to weather. I'm not wild about the big radius on the bows. I prefer a leaner and sharper cutwater. When you see a photo of a boat and there is a plume of water shooting up at the stem that's resistance. I like to see a bow slice through the water.

This accommodation plan uses the cockpit as the saloon. There's a full bimini to keep the crew out of the weather and a table in the cockpit. Down below you have a dinette and galley in the starboard hull and a stateroom with a double berth and head in the port hull. This is anything but a conventional layout. But that might be its appeal. The bulbular cabintrunks allow for a very unusual window arrangement. It's kind of like sitting in a bus, but there is a lot of light below and visibility is superb.

The rig is conventional with the exception of the boomless mainsail. The bowsprit allows a large asymmetrical chute to be carried. I think the rig is big enough on this light cat to give it good boat speed. The brochure claims an average 10-knot cruising speed, which is impressive, although I'd have to see it for myself. The brochure also says the boat will do 25 knots on a beam reach in a lively breeze. Forty knots is lively.

This is an unusual boat, but carefully thought out. It's not my cup of tea, but I don't mind heeling.