PassageMaker’s former Editor-in-Chief Peter Swanson recently had a conversation with Stuart Hegerstrom, founder and director of The Powercat Company, builder of the Horizon line of power catamarans.
PassageMaker: Stuart, I’ve always thought I had a pretty good handle on the PassageMaker crowd, but when it comes to power cats, I’m not sure I know who they are and where they come from. What can you tell me about the kind of people that form your customer base?
Stuart Hegerstrom: What has been fascinating to me is the diversity of our buyers, everything from motoryacht, sportfish owners and mono-hull sailboat owners, to sailing cat and power cat owners, plus many first-time buyers. Trying to define our market segment was the first question I asked myself before we went down the road, and the expense, of designing the PC Series. From my experience, the market segment is too broad to be defined. How these buyers end up in a catamaran, can to some degree, be attributed to the charter industry.
PassageMaker: So just like many of our trawler readers began in monohull sailboats, you are saying a number of power cat owners may have developed the taste for cats by sailing them?
Hegerstrom: Having been intimately involved with a successful charter company in the BVI (Sailing Catamarans), it was very apparent that once cats came onto the scene, it was a serious game changer for the entire charter industry. If one does the math, taking every charter cat around the world, (and you can guess that number, I estimate it to be well over 1,000 worldwide), each doing an average of 25 weeks of charter a year, multiplied by an average of six guests per charter. That’s a conservative estimate of 150,000 guests a year that would have had a vacation on a catamaran, which is quite staggering. These boaters have all been educated in the benefits of catamarans, many of which are yacht owners and become potential buyers.
PassageMaker: Maybe its worth noting that you are South African. It seems to me that there are two nations that have an affinity for multihull designs based on the number of cats built in both places--South Africa and France. Assuming you agree, why do you suppose that is?
Hegerstrom: You are right about the two nations having dominated catamaran development over the past three decades and I’m pleased to admit that I have been at the forefront of this development, with sailing cats, hydrofoil-assisted cats and cruising power cats.
Looking at the South African history, it really started with the arms embargo during the bad old apartheid days in the early ’70s. The government was investigating new vessels to patrol the coastline, which is a frighteningly hostile part of the ocean, to say the least. Numerous vessels were tested and the cat hull proved to be the most capable of handling the rough conditions and were far more efficient, and this pretty much set the trend which then led to sailing-cat development.
France is unique when it comes to yachting and sailing. In my early days, I was a professional sailor, and competed many times out of various French ports. The experience was totally incredible. The French treat their top sailors as celebrities and true heroes. Sailing is a serious sport in France, and they are seriously good long-distance sailors. They led the development of extreme cat and tri-sailing in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s.