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Speed, space and style: Seawind's founder began making catamarans in 1982. His 26 years' experience is evident in Seawind's most-advanced build to date. The Seawind 1160.


You walk into the local wine shop and scan the shelves, all heavily laden with wines ranging from excellent to far from excellent, and one label emblazoned with gold medals leaps at the eye. However, while the medals are reassuring, there is no guarantee that this particular wine will satisfy your palate; you need to sample it. So you buy it and try it.

It's a similar set of circumstances when it comes to the Seawind 1160 cruising catamaran. The front cover of the brochure promoting this yacht features six gold accolades from Australia and the USA, all recognising it as one of the best boats going around. That in itself is impressive, as is the fact that more than 80 have been sold since its release four years ago (numbers that would certainly please any monohull yacht builder or distributor in this country). But, as was the case with the wine, the question remained: Would the Seawind 1160 live up to its credentials?

I had to try it.

First up, it must be said that some people, including me, might not see the proportions of the Seawind 1160 as totally appealing, but as I was soon to discover, you have to look way beyond that. This is a product that is very logical for the market, and appealing in many, many ways. I was destined to realise that the 1160 was like a good wine in a very different bottle.

This yacht is part of a remarkable success story in production yacht building in Australia, all because of the energy, dedication and vision of one man, the company's founder and managing director, Richard Ward. Since 1982, when he started building the small Maricat off-the-beach catamarans, he has concentrated on the multihull market. He has seized opportunities, survived the downturns that have ended the run of so many other boat builders, and created a palatable range of cruising yachts that the market wanted.

Ward, a man who in his younger years gained considerable experience racing and cruising monohulls to many points of the globe, moved into producing larger cruising catamarans in 1987 with the Seawind 24, a design that was soon recognised as an international success with some 350 sold in Australia and beyond. The Seawind 850 came in 1991, the Seawind 1000 in 1994, and then the 1050 and 1200 in 1998.

In 2004, with nearly 600 Seawinds from across the range already launched, Richard Ward packed all his expertise and knowledge into one boat, the Seawind 1160. It was a concept that the market was obviously waiting for; it enjoyed instant success and now, four years later, one 1160 is being delivered every two weeks.

For the most part, the 1160 represents a blend of the best design features to have come out of the 1000 and the 1200. It also reflects Ward's ongoing desire to listen to his clients and then incorporate into the planned product qualities that would hold wide market appeal.

On the latter point, it was very satisfying to step aboard the 1160 on Sydney Harbour and immediately realise that this boat displayed many of the ideas that I would today incorporate into a new offshore cruising catamaran, having already built a 43-footer some years ago. Catamundlepigeons, a fast cruiser/racer, was my first venture into large multihulls after years of racing monohulls offshore. It was a boat that incorporated many efficient monohull ideas, particularly when it came to rig, deck layout and sails, but in being a multihull first-timer the one thing I didn't do was take full advantage of the potential that a cruising catamaran design offered, especially when it came to internal volume. The Seawind 1160 certainly does this.

With Seawind Catamarans' marketing manager, Brent Vaughan, as my host, it proved to be an ideal day for a sailing test--there was a brisk 1520 knot south easterly blowing across Sydney Harbour. Also on board were Royce Black, (who is the full-time delivery skipper for Seawind) and the owner of this newest Seawind 1160, John Walker, from Melbourne, along with his family. Our outing was to be the yacht's final shakedown before it turned right out of Sydney a few days later and headed for its new home port.

Space, glorious space, and light, lots of light, were the immediate impressions that claimed my attention after I climbed the aft stairs leading to the cockpit. There were many reasons for this a sensibly planned and uncluttered cockpit with nicely located dual helm stations, but more importantly a 2.3 metre wide entree into the main saloon--it was indoor/ outdoor living as you want it; an outstanding feature that was created through the cleverly designed triple doors leading to the saloon. The two outside doors fold over the middle one so they can then be retracted ever so neatly into the cockpit roof. Equally impressive was the size and area of the windows in the main saloon. They let the outside world come into the boat and delivered 360-degree views no matter where you were located in the cockpit or main saloon.


Once inside the saloon the spaciousness of this design was quite enthralling. Ward and his designers have fully embraced the benefits that can come from gunwale to gunwale accommodation, and it all leaps to life with the use of large windows wherever possible.

I was immediately in a comfort zone--images of being laid back and totally indulgent in a secluded tropical anchorage came to mind, but there was a nice breeze beckoning there and then; it was time to sail ...

Hassle-free was the only way to describe the sail setting procedure. With the mast having an external track, and each full length batten carrying a batten car on the luff, the mainsail snaked its way aloft ever so easily --there was an electric winch fitted to make life even easier. Next, the self-tacking jib was unfurled and we were off.

I could go into a lengthy dissertation about how nicely the yacht handled on the day--surprisingly responsive to the helm; satisfying when it came to speed; very well balanced, as was apparent by the smooth and effortless way it tacked; and it went upwind in a very efficient manner. Later, a smart run under gennaker from Rose Bay, west towards the harbour bridge, brought more pleasure. But even more notable was how effortless it was to reef the mainsail; using an uncomplicated single line system, Royce had a reef in place in 35 seconds. And, there was never any need to leave the cockpit as all control lines lead aft.

What about a real test, though, a trans-ocean experience with an 1160? Well, in recent months there have been two achievements of note. In August the Seawind 1160, Caprice, owned by Americans Dan and Carol Siefers, docked in Sitka, Alaska, after a cruise of more than 10,000 nautical miles from Sydney that took in nine tropical islands dotted across the Pacific. They described the last leg, covering 2,700 nautical miles and taking 18 days from Hawaii to Sitka, as "the perfect crossing", and "relatively uneventful ... days of great sailing in 20 to 28 knot winds."

At the other end of the scale was the 200-nautical-mile passage experienced by Mec and Ann Waring with their 1160, Shamal. It took them from Napier, on the east coast of New Zealand's north island, around to Wellington, and they found themselves trapped by some unexpected bad weather. They copped one gust of 53 knots while offshore, but it was coming into the harbour at Wellington in huge seas that things became really interesting: "We turned to starboard and commenced our approach", said Alec, who is a commercial jet pilot. "With the engines at idle, bare poles and 50 knots plus up our stern, Shamal was doing 10 knots. Surfing off one wave we got up to 20 knots plus, and we were on that wave for several hundred metres. We don't know what our maximum speed was, however the maximum wind gust was 60.8 knots. We were never in danger of pitch poling as the bows never dug in, even a little. I made sure to keep up our speed by catching a wave and veering off. After a few more big waves we were inside the harbour. The good news is that Ann still wants to go sailing, but not quite in those conditions".


That tells you plenty about the Seawind 1160 when it comes to being offshore. Without doubt, one of the reasons for it not nose-diving is the step that is built into each hull to provide greater reserve buoyancy, and the shape of the underside of the wing deck.

The design comes in three models--the three-cabin island bed layout, the three-cabin regular layout, and the four-cabin charter layout. The test boat was the island bed layout, and for me this is the best. It means that the owner gets his/her privacy by having an entire hull as dedicated accommodation. It's roomy, comfortable and functional, and the island bed in the forward cabin can be accessed from either side. In this configuration the entire aft cabin becomes a large bathroom/toilet while in the starboard hull there are two queen-size doubles, a well-planned galley amidships and a bathroom with shower and toilet forward. Another nice feature is that the layout makes it possible for whoever is in the galley to remain in touch with social activities in the main saloon and cockpit. The table in the saloon is also a smart element in this yacht; it's multi purpose--dining table or coffee table, and it also converts into a neat double bed, should that ever be needed.


Cross ventilation is another big plus. There are two large forward opening hatches fitted into the windows in the main saloon and two big hatches in the windows of each hull--just what you need to keep those refreshing summer breezes fanning through the boat.

Access to the foredeck from the cockpit is excellent, and there is plenty of space forward for sunning oneself, or just lazing about while enjoying cocktails at sunset.

The 1160 also gets another big tick for having dual helm stations, and there is the ideal amount of vision through the saloon windows to both bows, a feature that makes docking even easier. Engine propulsion comes from two 29hp Yanmar diesel Sail Drives.

Yes, it was a nice day at the office the day I sailed the Seawind 1160 as I came away all too aware of why there are already 80 happy owners across the world.

Those accolades on the brochure were certainly justified.

For further information, Tel: +61 (0)2 4285 9985 or visit

 6.5m BEAM
 11m DRAFT
2 x 29hp Yanmar DIESEL SAIL DRIVES
 3601 FUEL
 $570,000 PRICE INC.GST
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Title Annotation:Seawind 1160; Richard Ward
Author:Mundle, Rob
Publication:Offshore Yachting
Article Type:Product/service evaluation
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Oct 1, 2008
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