When Monsters Ruled the Beach

I was looking at the revived Worrell 1000 site and I see that the race is being held using Formula 18 boats.   That's a great choice, and those are some seriously advanced machines.   

It reminded me though of the excitement of the beach cat scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the Worrell was in full swing and the beach cat market was still much bigger in the USA, with several companies battling for the King of the Beach, and in typical American style - yes, size was a factor!    Without further ado: When Monsters Ruled the Beach:  the over 18' beach cats of the 1980s and 1990s.

NACRA 5.8 - 1982 - Stepping beyond the bounds
The first NACRA, the 5.2 was 17" long, still a foot shorter than the Hobie 18, but none the less a faster boat, albeit a lot more complicated and somewhat less beachable with the long  daggerboards (ask me how I know!).   By 1982 it was time for the category killer, and NACRA came out with this 19' weapon.   They got something right.  The boat is still in production in Australia (albeit with modernized sails), and is one of the largest one-designs down under. 
LOA: 19'  Beam: 8' (not 8'6")  Weight: 390 lbs  Sail Area: 241 sq. ft.


Prindle 19 - 1985  - A big fast boat for traditionalists
Looking a bit like a scaled up Hobie 18, and using the same retracting centerboard, the Prindle was their salvo in the battle of the over 18" beach cats.  It enjoyed a strong following and success in racing, where it's rival was always the NACRA 5.8   It was Prindle's swan song as a manufacturer.  After their acquisition/merger with NACRA, the new company did not continue with the Prindle brand name.   The boat had a reputation as quite robust and fast.
(19'2" X 8'6"   390 lbs.  Sail Area: 247 sq. ft. 



The still sexy lines of a Prindle 19, this nice looking 1985 survivor pictured on the beach, and  offered for sale in Oklahoma for $3,600 recently. 

NACRA 6.0 -1988 - First of the modern giants  
Not to be outdone by Prindle (who they shortly thereafter merged with to form Performance Catamarans) NACRA answered the Prindle 19 with the NACRA 6.0 - a full 20' x 8.6" platform    NACRA had already experimented with beyond 8' beam with the 18 squared , so they had some background with big boats.  The 6.0 was designed to meet the revived (1985) Worrell 1000 20' rule. 

20' X 8.5"  420 lbs.   Sail Area:  264 sq. feet   (Originally no spinnaker, I believe the "NA" was the spinnaker upgrade, with the distinctive forward spreader)



Tom Roland designed the original NACRA, the 5.2 in 1975.    By 1988 Roy Seaman had taken over the pen for the NACRA 6.0. 


he still lovely lines of a 1995 NACRA 6.0, recently sold in Texas

The Hobie  Cat 21 - 1987 Too much of a good thing 
While the developing idea of "Formula 20" (along with the Worrell rules) kept the performance beach cats caged in at 20 feet LOA,  Hobie, who had always been big into recreational sailing saw an opportunity to go hog wild and built a giant beach cat for pure fun.    The Hobie Cat 21 came in several editions SE and SC (Sport Cruiser), with various goodies. including a front trampoline.   The "wings" were a big Hobie thing at the time, the Hobie 17 single-hander came standard with them.   At 10 feet across it needed a tilting trailer to transport, which along with the girth didn't help popularity.  It lasted only 3 years in the market. But one might say some of it's DNA lives on in Hobie's rotomolded Getaway, albeit in a diminished format.  
LOA: 21' 4"  Beam: 10'  Weight 639 lbs.  Sail Area:  Main: 229 sq.ft.  Jib: 88 sq.ft.  Asym Spin: 312 sq,ft,



Finally a beach cat answering the question: where do we put the beer? 

Hobie Miracle 20 - 1991.The Empire Strikes Back
Hobie seemed to have finally taken up the challenge of Nacra, Prindle and Supercat and left behind their 60s design vocabulary with the 20.   It was 19' 7" long, with a 195 sq. ft main, 55 sq.ft. jib, and huge 226 ft. asymmetrical spinniker.  This stuff is common now, but not then. At 420lb it wasn't *that* much heavier than a Hobie 18. 




Supercat 221992 -  The Beast from the East 
Off on the East Coast designer Bill Roberts had developed the Supercat as an early alternative to the Hobie.   A 15' and 17' were both popular.   By 1992 Roberts seemingly decided to enter the giant beachcat war with his own statement, the Supercat 22'.   Living and sailing in California I never saw one of these, although there were a couple of the older, smaller Supercat's around.  Robert's went on to build even larger beach cats: the RC-30.    Roberts restarted as Aquarius Sails and still sells a lightly updated version of the beast, and other Supercat designs, under slightly modded names. 
LOA: 22'   Beam: 12"  Weight: 475 lbs   Sail Area: 362 sq. ft.


Pictured here in the 2009 Key Largo steeplechase, a point-to-point beach cat race, which it won. 


G-Force 21- 1989 The sound of a different drummer
G-Cat had made their mark building fun off the beach cats in the popular 16 and 18 foot lengths.  Their original hull design was boardless, like the Hobie 16, but in place of the Hobie's asymetrical hulls the G-Cats employed symetric hulls.  The G-Force 21 kept this unusual design as it super-sized it.  At some point in the1990s the rules for at least one running of the Worrell 1000 were changed  to allow production boats up to 21" - and the G-Cat got in on the fun, and finished second (against Randy Smyth, who then as now was pretty hard to beat). 
LOA: 21'  Beam: 12'   Mast height: 31' 


The front tramp made it an interesting mix of simple, comfortable and fast.  
Not many were made, and like the SC-22 I've never seen one in real life. 

CODA:  After the age of giants
Most of the giants are gone, indeed most of the companies that built them are gone!  Today we have the F-18, a very successful class that is perhaps near the ideal for a towable, beach cat with a maximum beam of 8'6"  (towing limit in the USA).    

NACRA alone has continued to evolve their NACRA 6,0, into todays Nacra 20 Carbon FCS.  It's a beautiful boat and frequently wins line honors in European point-to-point races like the Round Texel (and a very expensive one at a cool $50,000).   But it's rarity, focus, expense and exotic construction somehow separate it from the vintage boats of the Age of Giant Beach Cats. 


1. Sailboat Data .com
has specs on a lot of these boats.  (I don't know how accurate they are) https://sailboatdata.com/

2.  There were a variety of rating schemes at use at the time.   Today the SCHRS  (Small Catamaran Handicap Rating System) seems to have won out as the most up-to-date and universal data set.   Many of the boats discussed are rated there.  (Site seems to be down at the moment). 

3. It's interesting. Formula 18 seems very healhty, judged by their web site and many events.  Formula 16, perhaps less heathy, and active in fewer places. The main Federation web site seems to be gone, which can't be a good thing.  Formula 20, meanwhile, never really took off - and the B Class didn't thrive either. 

4. Of course, the original oversized beach cat is the Tornado - originally designed to meet the IYRU "B Class" rules of 20 ft. LOA,  10 ft. beam and 235 sq. feet of sail, it won the test the IYRU held.  It was then selected as the Olympic multihull, and from 1976 for 9 successive Olympics, ending it's run in 2008, was the only multihull in the Olympics.  The first (and only) time I saw one was around 1985, on a trip to Bermuda.  It was inspirational!  The first - and some would argue - still the greatest of the 20 footers.  It got a new sail plan in 2001, inspired by the antics and innovations of it's cousins, I am sure. 




Left out the Mystere 6.0 :)  I had the privilege of racing in the Catamaran Racing Association of the Chesapeake (CRAC) when open races still attracted sizable fleets.  Nacra 5.8s and 6.0s, Mysteres, Hobie 20s, Prindle 19s, and the old single-trap Tornados mixing it up with the occasional Nacra 18 Square.  A good sailor on any one of these might beat any of the other brands.  Fun times; pretty much went away along with the 100-boat plus Hobie events :-(  

ps:  I'll take the A Cat over any one of these for ease of setup and moving on the beach :)



I'm still enjoying my Nacra 5.5 (ex 18 sq) with a bunch of local og's.  Our group has owned and sailed most all of the above and now sails P19s, 18.2s, Tornado, Acats, Darts and even a Weta.  I've sailed on plenty of boats but in the right conditions there really isn't anything more fun than a good beachcat.



New member
The A-cat truly wins in terms of ease of use. It's crazy to see how much design has changed since the 80s. I guess we have to thank the America's cup for that... 



Sacramento area
I've sailed on plenty of boats but in the right conditions there really isn't anything more fun than a good beachcat.
Yup. There are dryer experiences, you could foil for more speed, and some folks want the thrill of matching shirts with fellow rail-meat... but for broadest grins at 10-20 knots, for my paltry dollars, beachcats are the best!



I remember drooling over pictures of a Hurricane 6.5, with a lacrosse racket trapeze, heady days.

Thanks for putting that together.

The A-cat truly wins in terms of ease of use. It's crazy to see how much design has changed since the 80s. I guess we have to thank the America's cup for that... 
For beach cats, aside from foiling, which is obviously a breakthrough, has the beach cat really changed that much?   I can see it both ways.  Lots of small changes add up, but also it's not that different? 

I'd argue that there was more change between the Hobie 16 and the NACRA 5.2 than between the NACRA 5.2 and the NACRA Infusion. 
And how much difference is there really between the Infusion and the Evolution?  

The reverse wave piercing bows have made the boats look different, finally.  

Ye' olde banana boat: 1971


NACRA 5.2:  1975   The modern architecture established? 


NACRA Infusion :  2008  -  33 years of refinement


The NACRA Evolution: 


Maybe Tom Roland doesn't get enough credit for how good his design of the NACRA 5.2 was.  The "Evolution" is well named. 
The much loved Hobie 16 was an evolutionary dead end.  Hobie kept trying to borrow design notes from it for 20 years, but finally gave up with the Miracle 20,  which, let's be honest, looked a lot like a NACRA.    With the Tiger I believe they licensed an existing boat from the French designer.  

Getting back to the Worrell 1000 -- here's the breakdown of the boats by brand/model: 

  • 4  --  NACRA Evolution
  • 3 --   NACRA F-18 / Infusion 
  • 2 --  Goodall C2
  • 1 --  C3 
  • 1 --  Edge
  • 3 --  unspecified F-18

It's interesting to me how confident so many people are in the Evolution.  I guess some people are getting experienced with them, but  I've wondered if it's really a better design for the open ocean than the older Infusion.  I notice no one (as far as we can tell) is entering on a Hobie Wild Cat.     Maybe I'm just still looking at the reverse angle wave-piercing hulls with a too much skepticism still.   But the Wild Cat did get a reputation for preferring smoother water as I recall. 

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Super Anarchist
One major 'KING OF THE BEACH' claim that the Prindle 19 had was that it was one of the first cats to have an asymmetric spinnaker thanks to Smythe's Worrell exploits 



The Hobie 20 was a ( licensed?) version of the Hurricane, but with daggerboards instead of the Brit boat’s centerboards.  I can’t say how much the Hurricane copied from the Pringle 19, or vice versus.

That is cool!  Which one is your boat?   
I just grabbed all these off the net, because Sailing Anarchy does a lot better with URL's than uploads! 

*A belated thank-you to all the people providing images to this thread* 

And, here's a couple pictures of the missing Mystere 6.0 



Aa for specs or history - it's a bit of a mystere ! 
I think my location in Santa Cruz during the Age of Giants meant that I 
saw a lot of West Coast manufactured cats:   Hobies, NACRAs and Prindles, 
and not very much of anything else (except I do remember the Supercat 17, but they Supercat was owned by Boston Whaler at one point, so they had serious distribution. 

thanks for the great writeup, the Nacra 5.8 is indeed going well in Aus, we had 21 on the start line for the National titles last January and were expecting a lot more this year at Hervey Bay for the Nationals but due to Covid that has been put off for a year. IMG_4059.JPG IMG_4153.JPG


david r

The way i remember the past is that the Tornado came out first in the late 60's, taking the fastest production sailboat honor from the Shark (also 20x10).  My first crewing gig was on a Tornado 1968. The hobie 14 came out also late 60s.  Tornado wasn't used much in the Worrell since it isn't good to run up on the beach at full speed because of the centerboard gaskets for one thing.

There was a 10m foot wide alfa cat from the guys that made nacras before the 5.2 came out.  The 5.2 being more like a tornado as an answer to the popular hobie 16.  we destroyed the naca 5.2 fleet in sfo multihull championships with a hobie 18 in the late 70s.  Also beat a bunch of 5.2s with an gcat 5.0 in hurricane gulch earlyn 80s.

Prindle with Richard Loufec made the 19 as a tornado training boat- very similar hulls, crappy centerboards, but a bigger rig.  Smyth and others put a asy on the 19 and won the Worrell.  There were 2 -19s and some nacra 5.8s all with asy rigs that year.  The asy was rigged off the leeward bow in the beginning.  I raced 1 of of the 2 boats in the fleet w/o a spi. and got crushed.  I later realized that if we had tipped over with that front tramp on, we would not have been able to get back on the boat very easily after re-righting.  A very dangerous situ.

The worrell was started on H16s by Mike Worrell, and was non stop in the beginning.  The race lasted for nearly a decade on regular hobie 16s, IRRC.



Super Anarchist
Benicia, CA
From the side, my current trimaran looks a lot like these 19 footers.  But it weighs double or more.  Little doubt which is the more exciting ride.   image.png



Pompano Beach
Miami to Key Largo was always fun too......huge number of boats at the start. Bill Roberts in the RC33 used to cream everyone.

Worrell was the stuff of legends. My 6.0 was still my favorite cats (just behind the Prindle 18.2)...........really was a great boat in the in the ocean.....

We all kept our boats on the beach anchored with a 5 gallon bucket of concrete buried in the sand, ahhh, the good 'ol days!!!!


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