Hobie Cats are small racing catamarans used for racing and personal use. Compared to other small sailboats, Hobie Cats are appealing because they offer high performance at a relatively low cost.

In 1967, Hobie designed the Hobie 14 Catamaran. Hobie wanted to make a boat that you could easily launch into the surf from the beach, sail, and bring back through the surf. In 1969 Hobie released the Hobie 16, the most popular catamaran ever and the most competitive catamaran class in the world. Over 100,000 Hobie Cats are sailing around the world.

The boats are considered by many to be overpowered by design due to their light weight, efficient hull design, and large sail area. On the other hand, many seek out the Hobie 16 for precisely these reasons. They can reach high speeds over 17 knots (20 miles per hour) due to efficiency gained from "flying" a hull. When flying, one of the boat's hulls is lifted out of the water due to the angle of the boat. As well as reducing drag from the water, this also takes advantage of the hulls' asymetric design, each hull being shaped to provide a sideways upwind force. With both hulls down, the hulls' sideways forces cancel each other out. The Hobie 16 is surprisingly stable when flying a hull as increasing tilt causes wind to spill from the top of the sail, thus reducing turning moment. Conversely, reduced tilt results in a more vertical sail, thus increasing turning moment; so the boat is self-stabilizing to some degree when flying a hull.

Catamarans are inherently more stable than monohulls but some Hobie cats such as the 16 and 14 have hull designs that don't have a lot of buoyancy in the bows which results in some spectacular "pitchpoles". Most frequently a capsized boat will lie sideways with the sail and mast floating. The hollow aluminum mast is designed to be sufficiently buoyant to hold the boat at 90 degrees from vertical even under extreme conditions. But if the mast leaks, the boat may "turtle" (turn completely upside-down).

Righting a Hobie is a required skill in high winds. Righting is the technique used to lift the boat such that it is ready to sail again. If one imagines a small catamaran sail boat lying on its side, one hull will be floating at the water line and the other hull will be supported about 8 ft above the water. By casting a line over the top hull, standing on the lower hull, and pulling, the sailor can pull the Hobie back into position to continue sailing. This task is easier if the sailors first rotate the bows into the wind by moving their weight forward; the wind can then help lift the sail from the water. Righting is more difficult when there is no wind to help, or if waves are large. Most racing Hobies have a permanently fitted righting-line under the trampoline, held out of the way when not in use by a system of pulleys and bungee-cord.

To counteract their tendency to capsize, sailors have the opportunity to use a "trapeze" system whereby they wear a harness and attach themselves to cables suspended from the mast. Thus suspended, the sailor places his/her feet on the edge of the boat and sits out over the water, providing more torque to hold the boat down. When the sailor's body is parallel to the water, they are providing maximum torque.

It is possible to sail a Hobie 16 (at very low speed) without even hoisting a sail, relying only on the shape of the mast for propulsion.

The Hobie 16 is one of the few small sailing boats that can be rolled end-over-end.

Hobie cat rudders (one per hull) protrude quite some way below the hulls. To prevent damage from the bottom or underwater objects, they have a spring-release mechanism that allows them to snap to a horizontal position. Hobie cats draw very little water and can sail in as little as 4 inches of water when lightly loaded and with the rudders up.

article from wikipedia


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