Luxury high-end cruising cats with high-performance DNA have occupied an established if somewhat rarified niche in the sailboat market ever since Peter Johnstone launched the first Gunboat in South Africa just over two decades ago. Kinetic Catamarans is an interesting new player in this field. An American company also building boats in South Africa, it launched its first model, a 62-footer, in 2019. The company’s latest offering, the slightly smaller Kinetic 54, designed to appeal to active sailing couples, is a highly attractive, thoughtfully designed craft that snagged a nod from SAIL as Best Large Multihull in our 2022 Best Boats compilation.
Design & Construction
As is de rigueur for boats of this type, the design and construction of the Kinetic 54 tips straight out of the world of go-fast racing. Its hulls are narrow and svelte, with sharply angled wave-piercing destroyer bows. The bridgedeck is set high to reduce resistance from passing seas and is cut back toward the middle of the boat, with only a light forward crossbeam and a central longeron carrying headstay loads. Construction is at the cutting edge of lightweight strength—all carbon everything, including interior furniture, cored with foam and vacuum-infused with epoxy resin. Even the toilets on this boat are built of carbon fiber.
That said, there are also some important variations on the theme. Where daggerboards are normally favored so as to maximize performance to windward, Kinetic offers centerboards, which are much less vulnerable in groundings (with daggerboards as an option if an owner prefers). Also, like many modern performance cats, the Kinetic 54 boasts a forward working cockpit just ahead of the cabinhouse, but has its carbon mast-mounted outside the cockpit aft, with the maststep set on the very forward end of the coachroof.
The heart of the boat systems-wise is a sophisticated 24-volt C-Zone distributed power system designed by Cay Electronics of Rhode Island. This automatically balances high loads and feeds juice to a bank of lithium batteries from a large coachroof solar array, a DC genset (which fires up on its own as needed) and high-output engine alternators. It includes online diagnostics that allow for detailed remote tech support.
The Kinetic can be controlled from three different helm stations. The primary station is inside at the front of the bridgedeck saloon just behind the working cockpit. From here you can easily access the winches and running rigging by stepping through a nearby forward-facing door and also operate engine controls, navigation electronics and board controls. A large moon-roof directly above the wheel allows you to easily keep an eye on mainsail trim.
The other two wheels are aft, one at the back of each hull, with full sail controls and a B&G multifunction display at each station. The Jefa steering system linking the three different stations is segregated with clutches, so that only the wheel being used is actually connected to the rudders. When the autopilot is engaged, no wheels are connected. The break-default mode, which engages automatically when anything goes amiss, connects all wheels to the rudders. All sail controls, including the furlers, and the board controls are push-button powered systems, with load sensors to prevent over-tensioning and breakage.
Unlike many catamarans with aft decks dominated by long mainsheet travelers, the Kinetic’s traveler is mounted atop the back of the long coachroof, with a nicely curved track that carries sheet loads more efficiently. This saves lounging guests from accidentally tangling with the mainsail controls and creates a convenient space for an outdoor electric grill and fridge. It also allows for a unique fold-down transom that connects the back ends of the two hulls and transforms the rear of the boat into an immense swim platform spanning its entire breadth.
As we’ve come to expect with modern catamarans, the Kinetic is available with two basic layouts: a four-cabin/four-head plan with double berths in the back and front of each hull; or a three-cabin/three-head plan, where one hull is given over to a vast owner’s stateroom. The most important space, as on any cruising cat, is the bridgedeck saloon. On the Kinetic this truly does have wrap-around views of the outside world, thanks to the absence of the mast forward…