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drunknsailor
24th January 2010, 03:07 PM
Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to charter a brand new Sunsail 384 in Phuket. I wanted to put together a review on the usability of this boat as well as some information on its performance. I will not be giving a detailed walk through as that has already been done. The performance analysis is at the end of the article so the speed junkies can jump there first.
Usability
My wife and I as well as two small children (1.5 and 3) spent a week aboard this boat. The short answer is that we loved the boat and found it very well thought out. I will comment on the various areas of the boat that were noteworthy, both positive and negative. We will start at the stern of the boat, move forward, and eventually inside.
Rub rail- This boat has a rub rail at the correct height for floating docks. The rail is carried around the transoms. With the stern lightly loaded the rail tends to rise above the dock height. Any wave action will leave the rail smacking the dock from above. If you have the boat lightly loaded make sure you get a fender far enough back to keep the stern away from the dock. If the boat is fully(over) loaded the rail should be below the top of the dock and you won’t have this problem.
Dinghy davits- This is a well thought out system. The whole davit assembly is lowered to the water using an electric winch installed in the hardtop. It is by far the easiest dinghy retrieval system I have ever seen. However, the only thing holding the dinghy up is the winch line which is undersized. This was an area of concern for us as shock loading could occur with the boat pitching and bring down the whole assembly. I sent an e-mail to the manufacturer about this issue and they will hopefully come up with some sensible redundancy system in subsequent hulls. If they don’t, it will not be difficult for an owner to retrofit one.
There were no lifelines across the stern of the boat. I complained about this as well. Again, not a big deal to retrofit.
We found the cockpit lounging areas very comfortable. The only place with sufficient visibility for a lookout in the cockpit is sitting at the back of the table. This is also the only uncomfortable spot as the “flipping” seatback is not comfortable in that position. It is quite comfy for sitting the other way though. There are two large storage lockers in the cockpit. Unfortunately, the aft one has the life raft and the starboard one has the propane bottles. There is plenty of space in both lockers to stow additional small items but there is no space for anything big.
At 5’10” I found the helm seat quite comfortable. My wife is 5’5” and her feet did not reach the floor. There is no footrest so she spent most of her time sitting sideways. The hardtop works well and the canvas cover over the helm is ugly but functional. There is a window in it as well so you don’t have to roll the whole thing back when you want to see the sails.
Overall visibility at the helm is quite good and the station is well set up for single handing the boat. You will not have enough line storage space if you bring the halyard and reef lines back to the cockpit.
There are two solar panels on the hardtop which I think were another brilliant thought. They will be less shaded if the traveler is brought all the way to one side when not sailing. Access to the hardtop is easy from the coach roof. Getting to the coach roof is not as easy as with the older leopards but was easy enough for me. Owners with vertically challenged crew members will need to add a step or two at the base of the mast to keep the aforementioned people happy.
The controls at the mast are well thought out. They have given the mainsail a double purchase halyard which makes raising the main a surmountable task. I will add here that the mast winches are in an excellent location to catch the jib sheets while tacking. Unfortunately that is something that all manufacturers seem to get right.
The anchoring setup is fine but the chain locker is on the same side of the mast and right in front of the windlass remote. This means that in order to see the anchor chain going out of the locker, you must straddle the opening of that large locker because the remote cord is not long enough for you to stand off to one side. This is impossible to do if the anchorage is rough for the obvious safety reasons. The two easy answers to this are to get a longer cable and mark the anchor chain so you don’t need to open the locker whilst running the windlass.
The switch panel/counter is best described as adequate but the fridge/freezer setup is the best I have ever seen. We stored a week’s worth of cold stuff, some drinks, and a bag of ice in there with no trouble. The freezer took a while to freeze the meat but once we emptied her out a bit the water bottles froze quite quickly.
The galley is quite user-friendly. Sunsail provides a lot of cooking equipment so the galley was quite full with stuff before we boarded. A prudent owner will need change the inventory a bit and optimize the storage locations to get the best use of the galley cabinets. We found the best place for dry food storage to be in the cabinet forward of the fridge and in the two huge lockers underneath each side of the dinette. These are only accessible by pulling up the seat cushions though. It would be very easy to make a cabinet door to improve access.
The salon is quite good for lounging and visibility is excellent. The air conditioning units are under the forward dinette seats and the valves for the water tanks are behind the cushions of the dinette. There is a fan at each aft corner of the salon and two opening hatches in the forward windows. This gives excellent ventilation when the wind is from ahead or from astern but we found the salon quite warm with the wind on the beam.
There is a large shelf area under each side salon window. We found them quite useful but they would be more so if the fiddles were higher. Again, should be an easy fix for a woodworker.
The heads are fine but there is no shower door. This reduces some of the benefit of a stall shower but it is still nice to have. It would be easy to retrofit a door or a curtain to gain a drier head.
Access to the through hulls is easy through the under floor access panels.
Storage is pretty much the same between the forward and aft cabins. A long term owner would add drawers to some of the shelves. There is also a large locker under the mattress for those hardly used items. The aft cabin berth is much larger but the ventilation is much better forward. If you sleep on a queen or a full sized mattress at home you will be fine with the forward berth.
These were some of the highlights of the boat. We found the boat very roomy and the livability very good. If you were to have 4 couples plus a couple of kids it would be a bit tighter but still manageable; anything less than that will not feel cramped at all.
Performance
Electrical-The boat is configured with 3 4D AGM batteries. I believe they were lifelines which quote 210ah per battery. Bottom line, we ran the engines about 2-3 hours per day, had the fridge on max, were really lax with our light/fan management and never got down to 50%.
Motion- she handled the lumpy seas quite well and had minimal slamming in 4 foot steep waves. She was quite comfortable at anchor but she did seem to sail on the anchor quite a bit, even with the bridle setup. We spent one windy day/night anchored behind a Venezia 42 and he did not swing around nearly as much as we did.
Steering- We found her quite responsive but the steering gear is quite stiff even with the wheel tension set very low.
Motoring/sailing performance
I need to add two disclaimers before I start.
1. I am not an experienced cat driver. This was my second catamaran experience ever
2. I have two very small children so I did not get to tweak out the boat very much or spend as much time gathering data as I would have liked. You will probably get better speeds than we did.
The knot meter was not in use so these speeds are SOG off the GPS. There were currents involved so I have attempted to correct for them. The boat was lightly loaded for this trip. There were 2 adults, 2 kids, a dinghy, a kayak, 1 week worth of provisions aboard along with full fuel and water.
Here is a table of motoring speeds under various configurations. This boat has the upgraded 29hp yanmar engines:
configurationSpeed observedNotes2 engines at 2800RPM7.5knCalm wind, main up, no surfing1 engine at 2800RPM5.8-6.2knCalm wind, range due to current1 engine at 2500RPM5.0knMain up, 5kts true wind from ahead1 engine at 2200RPM5.0KnMain and Jib 5kts true wind at 50 degrees app

I did not keep an exact engine log but we used 77 litres of fuel over the week and over an approximate 28 total engine hours. That comes up to 2.75 litres/engine per hour. Most of our time was spent at 2800 RPM so 6 knots on2.75 litres/hour or 7.5 knots on 5.5litres;/hour not too shabby. This is also quite close to what the Yanmar data sheet says the engine should use at those RPMs.
Under sail, we were quite impressed with her. She seems easily driven and she tacks quite well. I did not need to backwind the jib but releasing the traveler as we came through the wind helped quite a bit.
Here is a table of speeds that I observed compared to the polar I have from the manufacturer. The wind instrument seemed to be off by about 5 degrees to starboard so I have averaged the numbers from opposing tacks. At all times during this trip the wind was quite fluky. The AWA and AWS are observed. The true figures were calculated.
AWAAWSBoat SpeedTWATWSPolarDifference60 deg11-13kt6.3-6.9kt92-95deg9.6-11.3kt6.75-7.25kt~-.4kt35-45deg10-12kt4.5-5.0kt57-67deg6.8-9.2kt4.25-5.8kt+.25kt--.8kt90deg12kt6.5kt118deg13.6kt7.5kt-1kt135deg15kt6.5kt148deg20kt8.5kt-2kt50deg10kt4.5kt76deg8kt5.6kt-1.1kt40-50deg18-20kt6.5-8kt58-72deg14-16kt7.2-9kt-0.7kt--1kt40deg15kt6kt60deg11kt6.1kt-0.1kt

For the observation row that is in orange, we were sailing with genoa only. The polar number is for main and spinnaker. It is given to show what advantage the spinnaker would give under these circumstances.
My observed speeds were less than the polar predicitons even with a light boat. I attribute this to the following factors:
1. I am not an experienced catamaran sailor
2. There were contrary currents of up to a knot on some of these observations(I did not note the current when was scribing these)
3. The wind was really shifty and it was difficult to get the boat in the groove for any length of time
4. It took me most of the trip to get the genoa sheet leads set properly
5. I was watching kids so my attention was not fully focused on the task
6. The sea was often quite confused creating a lot of wave impacts.
Conclusion
We spent a week aboard the boat and had a great time. She was a comfortable home and a good sailor. There are some minor issues with the design but we did not notice anything serious. The bottom line is that this was a sea trial for us and we have elected to purchase the boat so that must say something.
I hope this helps anybody considering this fine boat

drunknsailor
24th January 2010, 03:09 PM
Ah, my tables disappeared. If a more senior member can help I will fix them tomorrow.

paulrack
25th January 2010, 02:48 PM
Thanks for taking the trouble to gather all the information, it is always great to see results achieved in practice. I look forward to seeing the table in a readable format, perhaps you can attach the excel sheet.

drunknsailor
25th January 2010, 04:16 PM
I could not figure out how to get the table to load in the original thread. I have attached the word file that has the tables intact:)

paulrack
26th January 2010, 06:31 AM
Great, thanks for the information.

jkd
26th January 2010, 05:15 PM
The boat you sailed would have been one of the first ones out of the China facility. Had you seen one out of Cape Town to give a comparison?

John

drunknsailor
27th January 2010, 06:03 AM
unfortunately I have not. I should see one later this year.

Chris Tweedy
13th November 2012, 02:03 PM
I found your report on the 384 very interesting. I have also bought one which is based in the Ionian at Vounaki. I was particularly interested in the sailing performance figures you produced. I am pretty new to catamarans and sail with a crew who is a little nervous particularly when the flappy things go up! Were you reefed at any point during these readings? The owners manual indicates you should start to reef above 10 knots and keep taking in another reef every 5 knots after that. It is probably my sailing but I have found that we do not really start to get moving until we have about 8-10 knots of wind. I know it is important to reef early on a cat but are these figures for reefing overly cautious?

JustCatamarans
13th November 2012, 02:47 PM
I found your report on the 384 very interesting. I have also bought one which is based in the Ionian at Vounaki. I was particularly interested in the sailing performance figures you produced. I am pretty new to catamarans and sail with a crew who is a little nervous particularly when the flappy things go up! Were you reefed at any point during these readings? The owners manual indicates you should start to reef above 10 knots and keep taking in another reef every 5 knots after that. It is probably my sailing but I have found that we do not really start to get moving until we have about 8-10 knots of wind. I know it is important to reef early on a cat but are these figures for reefing overly cautious?


IMO, with the Leopards, it is safe to put the 1st reef in at 20kts, but then again that is personal opinion:D

dmmbruce
13th November 2012, 02:54 PM
I found your report on the 384 very interesting. I have also bought one which is based in the Ionian at Vounaki. I was particularly interested in the sailing performance figures you produced. I am pretty new to catamarans and sail with a crew who is a little nervous particularly when the flappy things go up! Were you reefed at any point during these readings? The owners manual indicates you should start to reef above 10 knots and keep taking in another reef every 5 knots after that. It is probably my sailing but I have found that we do not really start to get moving until we have about 8-10 knots of wind. I know it is important to reef early on a cat but are these figures for reefing overly cautious?

That does seem very cautious to me.

The conventional view is that monohulls reef according to the general wind speed, because they can heel and/or luff to relieve any gusts.
Cats however reef according to the gusts.

The typical wind speeds I have learnt from posts here and in practice are 1st reef about 18kt of wind forward of the beam. 2nd reef round about 25 kt and 3rd reef 30kt.
If sea conditions are nasty, I reef earlier than that.

I would not start reefing at 10kt as my old, slow cat needs that much to get going!

Mike

victor
13th November 2012, 03:46 PM
Thanks for your report it's much appreciated by us I'm sure.
I personally like to know the the angles that multihulls tack through as this is a true indication to me on it's ability to perform. Unless of course you are always off the wind and never intend to go uphill.
Different horses for different courses....

Chris Tweedy
14th November 2012, 03:38 PM
Many thanks for you feedback.

drunknsailor
15th November 2012, 01:45 AM
The lawyers have gotten to the reeding table on later model year boats. My boat's chart has the first reef go in at 15kts true wind, which works out to about 20kts apparent wind going upwind. This seems about right. With the wind on or aft of the beam, I take a reef at about 17 knots apparent. The risk of broad reaching with toouch main up in this boat is that she develops quite a bit of weather helm and can round up quite aggressively. This is due to the fact that the jib is small and you can't ease the main out far enough.

I suppose the other solution is to fly the spinnaker/screecher with the full main in these conditions to help "balance" the boat. If anybody has tried it let me know.....;)

dmmbruce
15th November 2012, 06:29 PM
.....

I suppose the other solution is to fly the spinnaker/screecher with the full main in these conditions to help "balance" the boat. If anybody has tried it let me know.....;)

You might have to be a "drunknsailor" to do that!

::)

Mike