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How to Tack: XCAT Catamaran

Updated: Jun 1

Super easy way to tack XCAT Catamaran with the Auto-tack method! Due to their design, catamaran sailboats do not tack as smoothly as a single-hull sailboat. That is a trade off for the extra stability (very difficult to capsize) and better speed in slight wind. But XCAT has a 100% easier way to tack! Read on.

How to tack XCAT catamaran
How to tack XCAT catamaran

Some experienced sailors in Fukuoka who tested my XCAT have found it impossible to tack. But after understanding the special technique that is required, it is actually very easy - especially for beginners.

There are 2 ways to tack an XCAT. The traditional way, and the "Auto-tack" method.


Here is a concise breakdown of the "auto-tack" method, as shown in the official videos (video link below the numbered-text):

  1. Sail in close-haul, with main sail and front-sail sheeted-in.

  2. When ready to tack, fix the tiller extension into the holder, and then let the rudder go free. (This prevents the tiller extension from jamming the automatic rubber turn that will happen later.)

  3. Do not attach the rudder to the "auto-steer" rubber band. We want the rudder to swing freely during the tack.

  4. C rew and helm both walk forward. In low wind, both people go stand on the front cross beam.

  5. Boat will turn into wind as the weight of sailor sinks the front of the boat down, changing the wind load distribution of the sail.

  6. Wait for wind to blow into the front-sail to cause a "back-jib" (front-sail catching wind on the "wrong" side). This will take a fairly long time, especially in low wind. Be patient.

  7. Wait for the boat to turn into the new direction. The completion is indicated by the main sail swinging to the new side. It will be a rather gentle shift as the main-sail was sheeted-in at the start of the tack.

  8. Crew and helm can walk back up middle and back of the boat, and release the jib sheet of the old side, and fasten the jib sheet on the new side.

  9. The rudder automatically swings back to normal position.

  10. Helm grabs the tiller-extension, sail in new tack (direction).

The above assumed 2 sailors on the boat. If you sail solo, follow the same steps. It is really easy. You just need to be patient in step 6.

  • This method will work 100% of the times on an XCAT. I have seen a Hobbie Cat instructor struggling to make a successful tack in his YouTube Video. I think this method will not work on a Hobbie due to the double-rudder design. I have not tried this on the MiniCat that I used to own, but I suspect it won't work as the inflatable hull will cancel out most of the weight movement.

Traditional Method

To tack using traditional method (without walking up to the front), stronger wind is needed, and both helm and crew must move as much forward as possible, to shift the wind-load pattern on the sails. Hold on to the tip of the tiller-extension, the helm needs to sit near or past the side stay. Crew (if onboard) should sit or stand on the front cross beam. The usual trick of bearing away first to gain some speed before the turn will help. But the key point is shifting the weight forward as soon as the turn is initiated. In my experience, back-jibbing is a must. Practise to get the timing right. Do not expect a smooth and quick turn as you can do in a Laser or RS.

XCAT is a very versatile, light weight and portable sailboat. It is fast for veterans, and easy for beginners.

Have fun!

XCAT portable catamaran sailboat
Each hull is only 17kg!

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