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60th anniversary of the first crossing of the North Atlantic by catamaran

by Hanneke Boon 4 Oct 08:20 UTC
The 40ft catamaran Rongo © Hanneke Boon

On 30th September 1959, Rongo sailed into the Conway River in North Wales after crossing the North Atlantic from New York.

The 40ft catamaran Rongo was the first catamaran to have made this difficult West-to-East voyage, sailed by the now world-famous catamaran designer and OCC member James Wharram and his two German companions, Ruth Merseburger and Jutta Schultze-Rohnhoff.

Rongo was designed and built by Wharram in Trinidad in 1957-58 after the three sailors had already crossed the Southern Atlantic in 1956 along the trade wind route from the Canaries to Trinidad in their small 23'6" catamaran Tangaroa, also designed and built by Wharram in England in 1954.

In the 1950s, catamarans had not yet been acknowledged as viable seagoing sailing vessels and James Wharram pioneered their concept and proved their inherent seaworthiness with his Atlantic voyages.

In 1965 James Wharram started designing catamarans for other people and this soon blossomed into a thriving business of designs for self-builders; hundreds, and over time, thousands, were built. Many have made incredible ocean voyages, including the smallest catamaran to sail around the world in the 1990s, the Tiki 21, Cooking Fat, sailed by Rory McDougall.

Wharram Designs are nowadays a very distinct type of catamaran with very traditional looking lines reminiscent of Polynesian double canoes and are seen in many harbours all over the world. They have a worldwide following of builders/sailors who follow the philosophy of Wharram of how people can become Sea People by living a simple life on the sea.

With the expanding development of luxury catamarans for the charter market in the last 20 years, Wharram catamarans stand out by being different; they resonate with nature and traditional boat design.

Further details are on the Wharram website.

This article has been provided by the courtesy of Ocean Cruising Club.

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