“…nothing short of spectacular…” 

Aboard Atlantic 55 ‘Saphira’ April, 2010 

Hi Chris, 

Over the last year, Jen, Holly (14), Tucker (12) and I have sailed about 8,000 miles on Saphira. 

As you know, I am a beginner on catamarans. While we have chartered six or eight different designs, including the Gunboat 62, this can hardly be called sailing experience; and Hobie cats probably can’t either. On the other hand, I have sailed more than 100,000 miles on monohulls over my 57 years (!), including five Atlantic crossings and two or three Pacific crossings depending on how you count them. I have sailed in all seven oceans, rounded Cape Horn and Stewart Island south of New Zealand, forged through ice over 80° north and cruised in the canals of Europe. I have been a member of a winning US Admirals Cup team and raced Fasnet, SORC and all the northeast circuits a number of times. I even did reasonably well in Tempests back when they were popular. All this is intended as a way to say that I have some perspective on sailing in general and Chris White Designs A55monohulls in particular.

Saphira is nothing short of spectacular for our purposes. Jen and I are like reformed smokers; catamarans are the way to go and we don’t hesitate in sharing our views. I feel fortunate that we picked the Atlantic 55 for our first experience. The forward cockpit is terrific. I feel like I am really sailing, unlike the sensation that I have had on most of the cats that we have chartered. Invariably people, who haven’t tried it, say, “Doesn’t it get wet?” We answer, “Of course, if you are on the wind you can get some spray, but then we move our bedroom-slippered feet inside to the incredible wheel house/main salon.” We have been pleasantly surprised by how much air flow the forward door creates in the main cabin, keeping us cool during our year in the tropics.

Saphira’s speed has been put to good use. We have averaged about 220 miles a day offshore this year. We have been planning for 200 to 210 miles a day and showed up early in Bermuda (from Nova Scotia), early in the BVI (from Bermuda), early in Cartagena (from BVI) … ditto in Panama (from Cartagena), Honduras (from Providencia) and Key West (from Mexico). You would think that we would learn, but I just can’t get my head around the average speeds that we are achieving. 

Our longest day’s run was 260 miles. Our fastest speed was 23 knots and we have had plenty of time at 16 to 19 knots (there is a nice video of this on our website). We sailed 97 miles in one 8 hour segment coming from Puerto Morelos, Mexico, to Key West, but there was some current with us. We covered that whole leg of 360 miles, on the wind (fetched it), in 33 hours and had to slow down again by three hours to have light for our entry into Key West. I don’t think that we are pushing it too hard; after all, we have two kids aboard and on that leg, they started to take a watch together as opposed to joining one of us on watch. Pretty cool! 

We often point out to visitors (and we have many visitors, Saphira attracts a crowd) that, in our view, your designs are practical and tested. The fact that you have cruised for many miles in your own designs shows up in the big and little details that just work well. The little tab on the end of the rudders, for example, makes a more than sufficient swimming ladder, even for me with old and unhappy knees. We found that the Gunboat, that we chartered, didn’t “work” anywhere near as well as Saphira has. Speaking of old knees, I am not sure that I could cruise today on a monohull with my gimpy pegs. While this isn’t unique to the A55, it is a compelling argument for us to be cruising in a cat – it is so much more comfortable at sea and in port! 

We have been in the Bahamas for the last 6 weeks or so. Is our 3 ½ foot draft a luxury! We get to go places that many others can’t (especially monohulls). 

Best to you and Katie,
Peter and Jen Francis