So, Catalinas... these are great cruising boats with lots of creature comfort but, how do they sail?
We have a Catalina 400, conventional main, wing keel. We are in our 5th season with is boat and we have racked up 700 hours on the engine and considerably more on the sails. The 400 is one of those boats that is impossible not to love.
In my opinion, the 400 was the first of a radically different hull design from Catalina introduced in 1995. It was a flatter wider hull than previous designs. The hull designed was carried through into the 350 and 375. And now into the 5 series boats.
The flatter hull design results in a potentially faster boat than the more tradition hull. Combined with the relatively high ballast to weight ratio results in a boat that does not heel much. If our 400 is heeling 15 degrees, its because we are doing 10 or 11 knots.
I think the 400 is one of those sleeper boats. Most buyers are attracted to the huge aft cabin. Which seems to cater to the cruising crowd. That seems to place it squarely in the realm of a cruiser. However, our 400 has some sailing abilities that will put a grin on your face from ear to ear..
The boat is easily balanced to remove any trace of weather helm and remove the possibility of roundup in a gust if you so chose. This is particularly nice for cruising.
On the other hand, you can tweak the sails to put it on the edge at which point you will be rewarded with surprising speed that will put it well beyond what most would consider cruising.
Going up wind, I go at a very good clip with 90 degree tacks on the GPS. If the sails are properly tweaked. it will accelerate till the apparent wind is between 20 and 25 degrees. This seems to be the limit of the boat, basically it stops moving with a true wing of about 20-25 degrees. Not sure the exact angle.
All other points of sail are as to be expected. And sail trim can always result in a balanced helm if that's what you prefer.
Light wind sailing is quite surprising to me.. Anything above 120 degrees results in a smartly moving boat that will not disappoint even the racers blood in you. We do not have a spinnaker as I am not sure I consider it a necessity.
Fundamentally I am single handing the boat. My wife helps, but I do not depend upon her. Although she loves to take the helm and prefers to take part in raising and lowering the sails and during tacking.
We have been in numerous blows in the 35-45 knot region and the boat handles the wind and waves without protesting. Sails up the boat is always comfortable. Worst wind we have been in is 55 knots, gusting to about 70. (Sails down). I am thinking about a 60 sqft gale sail for winds above 40 knots. I feel the 100 is probably too big at 55 knots.
My wife loves the boat for its spacious layout and aft cabin. I am continually surprised by its performance. It is hard not to love the 400.
Please feel free to ask anything else about the boat..