Economic cycles, as those of us in the business know all too well, are particularly tough on boatbuilders. Periodic recessions and fuel crises take a deadly toll. Many businesses fell during the recent Great Recession.
Over the last four-plus decades—from the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973, which caused once-prosperous powerboat builders to actually try their hand at building and marketing (gasp!) sailboats—industry leaders have taken several distinct tacks in their search for business plans that offer protection from the vagaries of the economy. One is to diversify beyond the marine sector. TPI, under the guidance of Everett Pearson, sought safety by utilizing its composites skills to build everything from telephone poles to people movers, wind turbine blades, and swim-in-place pools—diametrically opposed to the second tact, with the credo: Do one thing exceptionally well and stick to it. A good example is Precision Boat Works of Palmetto, Florida (subject of an upcoming article in PBB), in business nearly 40 years building small sailboats, with a few forays into larger boats or other industries.
It could be said that Multimarine Composites Ltd of Cornwall, U.K., founded in 1988 as Dazcat and later re-formed as Multimarine Composites in 1999, has adroitly managed both tacks by expanding its projects beyond sailing catamarans to include powercats, custom and production partnerships, as well as a few nonmarine engagements—carbon fiber toilets, egg-shaped concrete baths, amphibious floats for a Land Rover to cross the Bering Straits, motorcycle fairings, even a speedboat cum submarine—all the while confining its work to its specialty skills: advanced composites.
Beyond a 2010 Web posting, we first reported on Multimarine in Rovings, PBB No. 109 (page 18), for its construction of the futuristic-looking MarySlim, a VSV (very slender vessel) designed by Adrian Thompson. With an LWL of 65.6’ (20m) and a beam of 13.7’ (4.2m), her length/beam ratio is 4.8. She’s powered by a 1,650-hp (1,238-kW) Caterpillar diesel and KaMeWa waterjets, with a range of 1,800 nm at 30 knots.
That got our attention, as did Multimarine owners Darren “Daz” Newton’s and Simon Baker’s interest in developing multihulls for the disabled.
Newton: “Our first disabled-accessible yacht was Paradox, three-time winner of the Round Britain and Ireland race, built for Alan Grace. The second was Impossible Dream, all-carbon 60’ [18.3m] cat built for Mike Browne and used by Geoff Holt, a quadriplegic sailor, to cross the Atlantic unassisted in sailing. This boat now resides with the Shake-A-Leg organization in Miami.
“We built Desiderata, a 50’ [15.2m] Powercat for Paul Solely, also in a chair. We have built two smaller 525 and 695 Powercats for wheelchair users as well. Our next project is a Dazcat 1495A for another disabled client, who is going to sail around the world; this is quite interesting, as it’s powered by fore sails only.”
Impossible Dream, a one-off wet-preg project built over a male mold, was exhibited at the 2008 enAble trade show in Coventry, U.K., where it was the only boat, among 120 other exhibitors, earning Multimarine distinction, respect, and future contracts. Now serving the Shake-A-Leg Miami watersports organization in Florida, she recently competed in the Conch Republic Cup regatta between Key West and Havana, Cuba.
After years of straddling operations between two sites, Multimarine recently consolidated operations in Millbrook, Cornwall. Its line of Dazcat catamarans has slowly expanded, with the most recent being the 49’ (14.9m) 1495 performance cruiser. The first, named Hissy Fit, was developed for participation in transatlantic and RORC race events to the West Indies, followed by family cruising. The 1495 hulls are infused and the deck hand- laid; materials include foam sandwich with multi-axial E-glass, Kevlar, and carbon fiber, with vinylester and polyester resins. The cockpit has gelcoat, while the hull and deck are spray-painted. The twin daggerboards are carbon. The second 1495, Apollo, was recently launched.
The smaller Dazcat 995 (33’10”/10m) is offered as a “structural shell” for owner completion or “fully kitted,” ready for cruising and racing.
At 28 years and counting, Newton and company impress by working hard, staying creative, and keeping life in perspective. Writing on the company website, Newton says, “We are hatching a plan to do something very special to celebrate [the 30th anniversary] in two years’ time. This could include racing to the Caribbean as well as events here in the U.K., so let’s get together to see how many Dazcats fancy an adventure and a run to the sun.”
Dan Spurr is Professional BoatBuilder‘s editor-at-large.