The Challenge of Changing the Culture

Published on November 12th, 2018

The multi-stage Tour de France à la Voile had undergone a massive makeover in 2015 and would use the new VPLP-designed Diam 24 trimaran for the re-launch of its three week endurance race along the French coastline.

When the French-built multihull made it to the USA the following year, it was deemed the overall winner of Sailing World’s Boat of the Year awards, with the judges praising its clever features, affordability and easy speed.

But despite this affirmation, growing interest has come slow outside of France, even across the English Channel. Phil Cotton, president of the British Diam Class, discusses the challenge:

It’s unfortunate, but perhaps inevitable that there’s always much publicity on social media and in the printed press whenever the Diam capsizes.

We’ve only ever had one capsize in the UK and it was a team that had never sailed the boat previously. They went straight into their first regatta and perhaps they were pushing too hard. Sadly, all the photographs and the publicity of that event was on this boat upside down.

The main concern of potential buyers of the boat is how do you get it up? Our main challenge in the UK is persuading new people to come and have a go and to demonstrate that it is forgiving if handled correctly and if a capsize does occur, there is a tried and tested methodology to right the boat. When we are racing there are always RIBs on hand to pull you up again. If you are sensible it’s a very forgiving boat.

People see us from their J/70, J/80, Fast 40+, whatever… monohulls, and a lot of people admire the boat but I still think in England there is a perception about multihulls, catamarans, trimarans that they are profoundly not serious racing. Despite the America’s Cup, the GC32 Circuit, Extreme 40s, M32s and Nacra 17, there is still a resistance in multihulls.

I think it’s cultural. Unlike in France, where people love the multihull, in England it’s just a historic thing. Traditionally, people seem to prefer slow monohull boats. It’s persuading people out of monohulls to come and have a go on a Diam, come and try it.

Upwind it’s just like a monohull but faster and more interesting. And downwind, now so many monohulls have asymmetric sails, they are familiar to the driving angles so we just need to sway a few more of them to come over to see how it goes.

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