Class Captain – A Harris

Fast Handicap Catamaran Fleet 2011 – Fleet Information.

Now established as the second largest fleet in the Club, the Fast Handicap Catamaran fleet has continued to grow with the regular addition of new boats and new members. But it’s not just new members to the Club that have helped grow the fleet. Whilst both the Dart 18 and 16 are undoubtedly successful cats and remain popular at the Club, they are not suited to everyone, particularly crews with a combined weight above 150 kilos. Above this weight, you’re firmly into the Fast Cat league whether it be 18ft or 20ft. But fast does not mean unmanageable. All the cats that fall into this class are specifically designed to carry larger sail areas, many including spinnakers. Twin trapeze is the norm and equipment levels allow crews to easily control the increased power. All this translates into faster sailing which is why we all buy catamarans in the first place and is why a number of Club members from other fleets have decided to move up to the Fast Cat fleet

Jonny Harris sailing Spitfire 159

You may also be thinking that faster means more expensive but this is also a myth. The newest models of Fast Cats are expensive, being aimed at the top 10% of racers who want the best equipment that their sponsor’s money can buy. Obviously, club sailors want the latest and greatest as well, so you will find a good smattering of the latest boats at any club. Markets being what they are, the acquisition of the latest kit creates a supply of last year’s kit, which everybody knows is really to all intents just as good as this year’s. This makes for an excellent supply of top quality equipment at knock-down prices. The first wave of spinnaker boats now sell for about a quarter of their original value, and still have many years of service left in them, especially for the club sailor. The two-sail designs are slightly older and are now mostly available in the £1,000 – £2,500 price range. These boats probably have another ten years useful life in them – at least!

A quick scan of the ‘for sale’ pages on will reveal a number of cats at very attractive prices. Second hand Prindle 19’s and 18-2’s, Hobie 18’s, and a variety of Formula 18 cats can be picked up quite cheaply and will still give years of competitive service.

Does old mean ‘no hope’? Not in our fleet! As a ‘handicap’ fleet, when we race, we adjust our actual elapsed times by a handicap to reflect the boat’s theoretical design speed (whereas one-design fleets such as the Darts race on the basis of first home wins). Hence, in a handicapped fleet, a ‘slow’ boat sailed to its potential will win races over ‘fast’ boats that are not sailed as well – so in our club, results are NOT about what you spend. We take this principle one step further by additional changes to the handicaps for the older designs, as we recognise that although the national bodies might see an old and a new boat as equal, in reality the old design is a little slower. So you can enter our Fast Cat fleet on an older boat and get a leg up in the handicaps.

So what are the best cats to look for?

Which Cat?

Formula 18

Formula 18 is as close to a one design as can be whilst allowing any manufacturer to produce their own boat to the same rules. In the UK the popular boats are the Nacra Inter 18/F18 and Fusion, Hobie Tiger, Capricorn, and Hawk. No one design has proved totally dominant with major National and International events being won by a wide variety of boats. F18s are raced regularly at the club.

Hurricane 5.9 and 4.9

A well established class in the UK with a successful racing circuit. Designed as a trainer for the Olympic Tornado it has recently been up rated with the addition of a spinnaker. There are two 5.9’s at Dee, and a 4.9 is expected to sail this year, in single-hander mode!

Nacra 6.0/5.5

High performance catamarans from the USA, the birth place of beach cat sailing. Nacra 6.0’s are ideal for the ‘heavier’ crew. Described as the ‘biggest, the fastest, the ultimate’, the 6.0 is surprisingly manageable and gives a superb ride. The Nacra 6.0 is an excellent sea boat having been used for the Worrel 1000 race over a number of years and is therefore the perfect large cat for the Dee Estuary. There are three 6.0’s at Dee.

Prindle 19/18-2

American built equivalents of the Hurricane 5.9, ie designed as training boats for the Olympic Tornado. The 19 is for heavier crews and both boats can be picked up second hand at very attractive prices but will still give years of great sailing and racing.

Hobie 18

The Hobie 18 is a high performance, twin trapeze cat for medium weight crews. There are two Hobie 18’s at Dee.

Inter 17

A single handed flying machine complete with asymmetric spinnaker. Other options for the solo sailor could be the various F16s, Hobie FX1 or the Hobie 17. There are two Inter 17’s at Dee.
Spitfire and F16

A recent new variant at the DSC is the Spitfire, with two now at the club. This is a 16′ high speed flying machine suited to the lighter crews, and is currently giving the F18s a run for their money on the water. Other Formula 16 Cats are more specifically designed to be sailed by a solo sailor without the jib, as direct competitors to the A Cats, or two-up with the jib in direct competition to the F18s. The Stealth is the most popular of the UK F16 variants – apart from the Spitfire!


The latest recruit to the fleet is the Shadow one-design single-hander. This has the same rating as the Inter 17, and is a little smaller at 16 feet, and a lot lighter!

Topaz 16 CX

The Topaz is another newcomer to the fleet. This is a verstatile entry level boat, suitable for one or two-up sailing, with the excitement of twin trapeze and spinniker.

Other Handicap cats at the Club include Hobie 16 and a Prindle 16. There are of course other options and all are welcome.

2011 Racing Programme

Club racing consists of five main series with three races each Sunday. Courses have been specifically designed to suit the faster cats with longer legs. Courses are typically triangular with upwind/downwind orientation, so all points of sailing can be experienced. The full programme is available in the Racing Events section of the web site.

The Fast Cat Fleet is active in the North West, typically taking part in all the local open events, such as Bala at the May Day Holiday weekend, Pwllheli Long Distance Race in May and Red Wharf Bay’s ‘Angelsey Offshore Race’ in late July.

So, if you’re looking for great racing in the fastest cats at very reasonable entry costs, then look no further than the Fast Handicap Cat Fleet at Dee SC.

Sailing Calendar 2023