Evolution of FINN, n53-01


In 2000, I did a two boat build program with Peter Johnstone in Cape Town. We agreed on hull shapes, pilothouse profiles, and forward cockpit for our cats. Pete Melvin did a great job designing the hulls. We each customized our own boats using a common platform. After my 62ft Safari  was launched, the iconic look became Gunboat. Although I never had financial or management interest in Gunboat, I was always proud to have made a strong contribution at a pivotal moment in cruising evolution.

Our family sailed tens of thousands of miles on Safari. It was the perfect boat for that moment in our lives. Yet, I felt as if something was still missing. I felt I was missing an intimacy with the experience and sheer thrill of sailing.

Cats are great at accommodations. But all those berths mean mouths to feed, which means more time provisioning, which means more time trying to figure out who is going where in the dinghy and when, which means more time waiting for everyone to be ready to go ashore at once, which means more time fixing things, which inevitably means less time sailing.

So I made a basic decision: my next boat would be for daysailing with 10 if I wanted, but coastal and offshore cruising of 4 adults and two kids max. Two cabins and one fabulous head is enough to maintain. More people meant more laundry meant more time not sailing. Crew or no crew, thats what it means.

The sensation of sailing a cat is a bit like trying to sail a tennis court. There can also be a false sense of security with a cat. You are stable and upright, until you are not.

So lets take a look at why a trimaran, when done right, really makes sense. But first, let me say upfront, if you want to race a boat, build a race boat. If you want to cruise, build a damn safe and fast cruising boat. Safety is about speed. Speed means you can outrun weather systems, have less exposure to crew fatigue, and less stress on the boat. When you try to build a race and a cruising boat there are all kinds of compromises that sometimes don’t work out so great.

A trimaran provides the greatest righting moment between monohulls, catamarans, and trimarans. A properly designed trimaran will give you the most stable platform in any sea state.  A monohull’s response to wind is to heel first and then move, spilling power initially. Unlike a catamaran which carries its mast on an unsupported bridgedeck, a trimaran carries its mast is on the main hull. Since the windward ama on a trimaran is always flying, this additional leverage provides valuable righting moment when power reaching and in gusty conditions. Therefore, the response of FINN with the additional advantage of a canting rig is to heel less and go more.

One of the many outstanding design characteristics of FINN is the X-beam construction. Instead of using less expensive parallel crossbeams, Renaud designed the beams in an X pattern which has the advantage of far greater lateral rigidity and requires less reinforcement and therefore weight on the main hull deck. I am constantly amazed at how stiff the boat is in all conditions.

FINN’s hulls are exceptionally gorgeous. The amas have knife-like entry, then flare high and proud to high volume at the forward crossbeam. This allows the platform to accelerate quickly without pitching, and to power up safely when reaching. As the main hull lifts, you can feel the boat release. The wake smooths into a jet stream. The sensation is one of ease.

At anchor, the main hull appears impossibly narrow at the waterline. Down below, the cabins  are exceptionally spacious. This sense of spaciousness is accomplished by the bump out at hip and shoulder level in the main hull. The main salon is improbably enormous. Also, the companionway is a half spiral on the port side which allows for clear passage to the aft cabin. Down below, even a giant can stand with ample headroom.

Another trick to increase space was to offset the engine by 400mm to port. This allows walking access without having to walk over the top of an engine box. The fuel and water tanks are offset to starboard. All of the weight is low and centered to compliment the fine sailing manners of FINN.

FINN’s 43ft beam is a huge advantage in any condition. When I’m reefing or doing work on the foredeck,  I run downwind, and the boat just stops. Period. Incredibly stable and safe. I do my business, and then head back on course.

FINN’s 18ft carbon daggerboard (drawing 11 ft upwind) exits the main hull below the mast step and provides the perfect rotational point for a truly balanced helm. The upwind performance is like nothing ever experienced in a cruising boat. I looked at doing foils in the amas, but I felt a safety line would have been crossed for cruising.

I cannot stress the value of a good long traveler track. Anything shorter is dangerous. Take a good look at how long the track is on FINN. This allows for the helmsman to depower in a heartbeat. It keeps the boat from rounding up during a gybe. To reef upwind, stay on course, luff and shorten sail. Its that simple.

Big multihulls are all about the mainsail. Control of the main is where FINN excels. In total, there are three ways to dump the main without getting out of your seat. At each outboard helm seat: sheet-in foot switch, slow-ease hydraulic foot release; traveler winch for fast dump; nav pod mounted fast dump hydraulic release.

We have all seen sailboards with their masts raked back and windward and the sailors weight well aft. FINN does the same thing. With a rotating  and canting Lorima high modulus carbon spreader-less rig, and an aft ballast tank, the trim and righting moment are greatly enhanced. During a tack, touch a button at either helm pod and the hydraulic ram releases the rig to drop to leeward. Push the tiller over and release the mast rotation and you come out of a tack in less than half a boat length with very little loss of speed. The self tacking Solent  is on a very wide arcing track for complete tuning capability. Tacking is agile and fast as it should be.

Spreaders are a failure point. Each turnbuckle is a failure point. They are a pain in the ass to tune. Take a traditional rig off and you will spend days tuning the rig, often with professional help. I can’t thank Bruno and Renaud enough for advising me to do a spreader-less rig. It is possible because of the large beam of a trimaran. It’s not only bomb-proof, its always in tune. The two shrouds meet and then join to spectra which is connected to a ram on the aft side of the aft crossbeam. When one ram lets out, the other pulls in. To cant, the rig is either dropped before tacking, or pulled hydraulically while sailing with the press of a button on the nav pod. This same setup allows the rig to come off the boat in minutes by pulling the three large terminal pins. Its simple and robust, a characteristic of French racing designs.

Couple the canting rig, rotating rig  with the wave piercing bows, FINN sets a new benchmark for how a boat should tack and behave. There is no fore and aft pitching that is common on cats, just a smooth piercing of wave crests as the spray is shed to leeward and the main hull and windward hulls stay bone dry.

Cockpit space is hallowed ground. You have to have good space on a cruising boat. FINN sports a cockpit that is 25ft from seat to seat. Sitting at the weather tiller, you are flying over the water. No one is in any ones way. There is plenty of space for ten people in the cockpit or spread out on the nets. A built-in deck drink cooler keeps requests to a minimum and the fun factor up. As a car guy, I just had to add molded in cup holders at nav desk and either end of aft bench.

The tiller is finger tip light. Your connection at each helm with the wind and the water is absolutely pure. No sloshy hydraulic or cable steering. All three rudders are connected by titanium cones on carbon tubes. The main hull carbon rudder is designed to kick up in its carbon case in the event of contact. In fact, the MoD70 3rudder steering and canting rig is so balanced that you can let go for minutes at a time. FINN tracks that perfectly. Don’t forget to grab a drink as you walk from one helm to another while tacking. Its that casual.

Crew Protection should be a key design consideration on any boat. The pilothouse is flared to provide complete wind protection for the 10ft aft bench. The flares also provide complete spray protection for the winch drums, which have never seen salt spray. Sun protection is always found under the pilothouse (awesome dive platform). During inclement weather , the pilothouse provides all the comforts of home. As a final safety precaution, there is a centerline carbon tiller which can connect to the main hull rudder for hand steering from the nav desk.

I looked at everything though the lens of maintenance, paint included. How do you keep the matte paint on a boat pristine season after season? Ceramic coating is the answer. Its permanent. Soap water and a good rinse and its is exactly like factory new. Every surface on the boat, inside and out, was coated at the factory. Because of this, even the exterior upholstery is in great condition years later.

I’m a car guy. I make my living taking pictures of the world’s best cars. I study their lines. Every line is a form of expression and has a purpose and a voice. I could not resist a few signature touches. The “power blister” on the pilothouse is reminiscent of the 60’s American muscle cars, but it has a functional purpose. It provides excellent ventilation to the pilothouse under all conditions.  Each tiller has a Hurst cue ball shift knob…yes, I just couldn’t resist.

FINN has a few unusual details which make perfect sense. Bruno Laurent (yes, that Bruno Laurent) designed and installed the deck layout and the hydraulic canting rig system. He was boat captain on BMW Oracle trimaran with no failures, and is now on Sodebo Ultim. He helped supervise the build. I joke that he and Renaud are part of the French multihull sailing mafia. The port winch pod is largely devoted to halyards (Constrictor), the starboard one is for sheets. The gennaker sheets cross so that you are always trimming the gennaker on the windward side. There is an UpSideUp system installed with fast dump buttons in main salon, nav desk, and each outboard winch pod.

The 800L stern ballast tank, located under the owner berth in the aft cabin, doubles as a static pickup tank for the water maker. This completely solves the aeration problem underway and the clogging seagrass problem at anchor while making water. With the Spectra CapeHorn Extreme located under the aft bench seat, the unit directly discharges water overboard without the need for through hulls. Messy filter exchange is as easy as taking a book off a shelf. No muss no fuss. Watermakers and bilges do not mix.

In a nod to safety and simplicity, I deleted propane from my systems. Instead, I installed diesel powered Wallas cooktops, oven, and central heat. Not only did I eliminate a dangerous fuel onboard but I also eliminated the dedicated space and monitoring systems necessary for propane. I cannot speak more highly of the Wallas products. Their fuel usage is negligible. They are virtually maintenance free. They are completely odorless, silent, and powerful. The cooktop is easy to clean as well.

With FINN, my 150L Isotherm reefer is more than ample to carry supplies for days. When offshore, I carry trays of prepared food that stays frozen (150L freezer) and is available without hassle every day during a passage. Just thaw and then heat in the oven. The hydrogen easily keeps up with all of the power draw. While at anchor 4 custom Solbian solar SB88 panels keep the boat topped off.

I cannot speak more highly of the Watt and Sea hydrogen. What a beast of power generation. FINN is a 24v boat. The reefer, freezer, three nav stations, instruments, autopilot, water maker and hydraulic winches are no match for the input from the W&S race leg on a custom vertical sliding transom track. Once FINN hits about 6 kts (which is right when the main goes up) the charge starts coming on strong. The leg runs constantly day and night. Positive charge over house draw usually starts at about 6kts boat speed, which is right about when the main goes up.

And yes, the head is carbon, the counters are carbon, the full length mirrors are polycarbonate. There is a terrific deck shower and a wonderful shower in the head.

FINN sports two anchors, which is only prudent on a cruising boat. Her main anchor has 250′ of 3/8″ chain. Secondary anchor is 100′ chain and 150′ of 3strand. It seemed counter intuitive to carry the anchors and the weight forward in a wave piercing design. Therefore the weight is centralized in the forward crossbeam lockers. The capstans and chain lockers are easily accessible. When deployed, the main anchor is flown forward on a captive ring between the ama and the main hull bows. The stormsail halyard provides the vertical lift between the bridles. Its a brilliant system that Bruno worked out. The result is the boat is rock steady at anchor and simply does not tack even in a strong breeze.

The goal of FINN was to achieve a truly sensational sailing experience with an unrivaled interior on a platform that was easy enough to maintain, and begged for more time at sea. A platform that left the most experienced sailor thrilled to be a kid again, and the kids happy to be afloat.

I hope this provides some insight into why,

-Clint Clemens


Mix the guy who developed the hulls for the trimaran BMW Oracle and Sodebo Ultim, with one of the best race boat builders from Australia and Asia, with the most experienced trimaran spar builder, and the know-how to build sails for thousands of offshore racing multihull miles…to create the ñ53. A  truly fast  cruising trimaran optimized for safety, speed, single-handed cruising. When plugged into handicap formulas the boat appears to be the same as a Formula 40.

Priority design considerations (in order): safety, speed, max reliability, ease of maintenance, least complexity.

Wave piercing bows.  Tiller steering at out board tractor seats. Three rudders. Main hull daggerboard.

Hull #1 cruising grounds: Eastern Maine to Grenada.

The Players

Naval Architecture: Bañuls Design: http://banulsdesign.com/_bd-cms/index.php?page=about


Bruno Laurent: Deck layout, hydraulic installation, commissioning

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xxI59EI8v0 ,   http://winmarracing.com/

HDS Engineering: Home

McConaghy Boats: ‎www.mcconaghyboats.com

Lorima Spars: LORIMA

Incidences Sails: Voilerie Incidences, Sailmaker, leader in sailmaking for multihull and offshore racing boats

ProtagonistClint Clemens


Sail plan

Main sail 105m2

Solent 70m2

Staysail 38m2
ORC 25m2
Genaker 150m2


Carbon, E-glass, M foam vacuum bagged layup.


39 HP Yanmar diesel with straight shaft and Gori 3 blade prop. 100mm Sounddown insulation. Reverso fuel/oil system. High output alternator.

Lewmar retractable bow thruster.

Deck Hardware

Karver furlers

Harken Performa winches

Rig/ Sails

Lorima high modulus carbon fiber spreaderless rotating mast. Navtec canting hydraulics permit 6.5 degrees port/starboard. 800 litre stern ballast tank for blast reaching.

High aspect, square top main. Self tacking solent or staysail. All lines lead to the cockpit.

Incidences Hydronet sails. Main (3 reefs), gennaker, solent, staysail, stormjib.

Navigation Systems

B&G package includes:

1 x Zeus Touch 12“ Displays screen at fully protected centerline nav desk

2x Zeus Touch 9″ Display at each outboard helm

Simrad 4G Broadband Radar

H5000 CPU

3x H5000 Pilot Controllers

Simrad HS70 compas


H5000 Race Display

WIFI-1 Module

B&G V50 VHF/AIS Radio


On deck, FINN is all business with brilliant white gloss hulls and pilothouse, matte grey crossbeams and rig, and a dark red power blister on the pilothouse roof. Going below down the semi-spiral to port, the color shifts warm with Sepele wood veneers, carbon counters and warm white paint. The true luxury of the boat is the utter silence that is achieved by the whisper wall insulation system throughout the interior.

Whisper Wall: The only way to conquer the hard surface characteristics of modern composite interiors is through a whisper wall system. On FINN, the typical panel system weight was eliminated by using a simple track system which creates very tight surface fabric over 25mm of lightweight adhesive backed foam insulation. A weight study showed that this system was less weight than paint and fairing an interior. The advantage is a soothing very quiet environment under power or while sailing, and a cool temperate atmosphere without the need for AC.

Awning System: FINN sports a bow to stern, ama to ama mesh and canvas awning system that zips to the boom and attaches in as little as 10 minutes to provide complete rain protection and ventilation in winds to 30 kts.  All hatches remain open. This means that in the tropics or extended periods on anchor, the interior temperature stays stable and cool with moving air. At anchor, the cockpit is dry in the rain. The downstream consequence of this awning system is that there are fewer mechanical systems with their weight penalties to maintain, and a far more livable floating home.


Forward Cabin:

Queen (plus size) berth with abundant storage and maximum ventilation throughout.

Soft integrated shadowless LED lighting in all cabins.

Reading lamps at all berths

Huge main salon with carbon/Sepele veneer drop down table.

Max ventilation in all cabins.

Clear coat carbon counters.

Amtico flooring

One great head with shower, carbon toilet, carbon sink and counters.

Heated Foul Weather Gear locker

Forced hot air central heat


160 litre refrigeration. 160 litre freezer.

2 burner propane cooktop

Pressurized salt water faucet at galley sink

Drinks cooler built into aft cockpit bench with integrated cup holders

Water/ Heat

50 gallons fresh water. 50 gallons diesel. 12 gal hot water.

Spectra Extreme 300 gal/day water maker.

Wallas central forced hot air heat


LED lighting throughout.

Watt&Sea racing aluminum hydrogenerator

Mastervolt 180 Amp Hour 24v LiION battery

Dedicated LiION start and bow thruster batteries

Design Details

Loop style shroud terminals

13 sq meter with SeaTek non-skid EVA foam.

Spray protection for winches.

Wind and weather protection for humans


Cockpit awning system for full enclosure

Boom awning to amas for sun protection at anchor