The world of luxury catamarans is a small but intriguing one, and that of high-performance luxury cats is even smaller and more intriguing. The genre was defined more than 15 years ago by Peter Johnstone with his Gunboat brand, and now several other companies are dipping their toes into these waters. HH Catamarans is one of the latest of these, and going by its first offering, the HH66, the company will be a real force in this glamorous niche market. I stepped on board hull #1, R-Six, for a 300-mile passage in the Mediterranean.
Design & Construction
Designers Morrelli & Melvin have a longstanding relationship with Hudson Wang and Paul Hakes, who built Gunboats for several years, so it’s no surprise that HH turned to the Californians to design their new line of upscale sports cruisers. The HH66 embodies everything M&M has learned about fast-cat design over the last decade, in terms of hull and rig design, weight distribution and engineering.
The term “state of the art” is much overused when it comes to boatbuilding, yet in this instance it is entirely appropriate. There is little the Hudson Yachts boatbuilders, many of whom learned their trade in New Zealand, South Africa and England, do not know about composite construction. The HH66 hull and deck moldings are a carbon fiber sandwich with a Corecell foam filling, infused with post-cured epoxy resin. The hulls and deck moldings are then laminated together, creating a lightweight and extremely strong monococque unit. R-Six’s hulls were finished in flawless clearcoat, the carbon fiber weave showing clearly through the resin. Interior furniture and bulkheads are also built of carbon fiber composites.
The hulls are stiff enough that no bracing is needed at their forward ends; the forestay is secured to a carbon fiber longeron that also holds the ground tackle. Southern Spars built the carbon rig and boom, and supplied the carbon fiber/aramid rigging. The curved daggerboards and rudders—T-foils are optional on each— are fabricated of pre-preg carbon fiber.
Owners can choose between a full-fledged cockpit forward with a protected helm station, or as was the case with R-Six, twin helms aft with a working pit forward at the base of the mast.
Hang around high-end boats like this, and you’ll soon find that deceptive simplicity is the name of the game when it comes to sailhandling systems and deck layouts. The fewer lines visible, the more sophisticated the systems. On R-Six, sails are set, handed and reefed from the working cockpit forward, and only the headsail sheets are led aft to the twin helm stations. The mainsheet bridle is push-button controlled from either of the two helms and trimmed by hydraulic rams below the traveler in the after crossbeam.
The forward-cockpit version, with a single central wheel set abaft a large working cockpit, would make for easier shorthanded sailing.
Side decks are wide and uncluttered, save for the daggerboards, whose control lines run under the decks. The carbon longeron carries the anchor chain to its extremity; the windlass itself is concealed in one of the capacious lockers in the front of the bridgedeck, which also house the generator, air-conditioning units and water tanks.
Cockpit seating centers around a large table that will accommodate six to eight people, with lounging areas to either side. Teak decking in the cockpit feels good underfoot.
HH’s boats are customizable, so no two will be alike. R-Six’s owner had chosen a blend of dark hardwoods varnished to a high gloss with walnut inlays, and red trim and accents. Finish quality was, as you’d expect, excellent. Co-designer Gino Morrelli, who was on board for the test sail, is on a never-ending quest to maximize the use of the considerable volume in these boats, and there are various layout options: depending on whether the aft or forward cockpit versions are chosen. R-Six’s aft cockpit layout featured a large L-shaped settee forward and to port, a nav station to starboard and a generously equipped galley/breakfast bar aft.
There’s a choice of three- or four-cabin sleeping accommodations, with a luxurious owner’s suite sharing the port hull with a small crew cabin. On R-Six, the two cabins to starboard had ample stowage and comfortable queen-sized berths, and each had its own toilet and shower. Despite the narrowness of the hulls, there is no sense of confinement belowdecks, with headroom aplenty and natural light streaming through the long hull ports and the deck hatches.
Luxurious living is a keynote of the HH sales pitch, and the big cat certainly has all the comforts and accouterments you could wish for. Excess weight is fatal to performance on most multis, but the HH66 is light enough to absorb appliances like a generator, 84,000 BTU aircon units, extra freezers, wine conditioner, ice maker, washer-dryer and so on without complaint. Most of this equipment is standard, as is the top-quality entertainment system, which includes a 40in flat screen TV. There is also space for a second generator. (R-Six carried twin Fischer Panda gensets.) A 720amp hour bank of lithium-ion batteries serves the DC loads.
A complete distributed power system with digital switching is also standard, controlled from touch screens at the nav station and the helms.
The loads on this high-performance cat are such that the powered Lewmar winches are essential equipment. Yes, you could set and trim the sails manually, but why would you? The electrics let a crew of one or two deal with the powerful sailplan with a minimum of stress. The 125 percent Solent jib and square-headed mainsail are the working sails, with a large screecher deployed when the breeze comes aft. An asymmetric spinnaker stored in a bow locker is the light-weather weapon.
The sailhandling systems are not much different from those employed on big racing multis; halyard locks and reef hooks ease strain on rig and gear.
In the course of our 300-mile delivery the wind never came aft far enough for us to use the kite, and indeed remained steadfastly forward of the beam. Nor did we tack until under the shadow of land, when the coastal wind sheer made it difficult to gauge true tacking angles. However, performance to windward was indeed impressive; my screenshots of the B&G Hercules MFD show speeds of nearly 15 knots at an apparent wind angle of 35 degrees and true wind speed of 21 knots. Freed off, the boat will sail at close to true wind speed. The rig is equipped with load cells that help the helmsman gauge the right time to reef—the boat will fly a hull at 18 tons of pressure on the windward shrouds, and the numbers are displayed on the MFD, so that the helmsman can ease or trim the mainsheet to suit changing pressure. The B&G software also matches the boat’s performance against the polars, so there’s no excuse for not sailing this big cat to its potential.
All-around vision from the twin helms aft was excellent, and the helmsman is well protected under a sliding top. The carbon pedestals can also be swung outboard so that you can get out in the fresh air and really enjoy the sensation of helming such a fast and powerful boat.
There was not much in the way of a sea running during our delivery, and the boat’s motion was easy and comfortable.
Twin 80hp Yanmar diesels swinging 21in Brunton folding props on saildrive legs pushed the boat to a maximum speed of 13 knots under power. (Gori folding props are standard.) Engine installations were well soundproofed, and all systems were well organized for ease of maintenance.
Having finally had the chance to make a passage on a big carbon cat, I now know what all the fuss is about. The HH66 is a supremely efficient passagemaker that will reel off 300-plus mile days in comfort and a great deal of style. Given a crew who know what they’re doing, this boat would also be a hell of a lot of fun to push to its limits—wherever they might be—on the racecourse.