three hulls, two people, one trip around the world…

How it all started…

Having returned home from England and settled very close to Hamburg, there was only one thing missing: water sports. 

Sailing had a positive connotation for me from childhood, memories of tours in a wooden dinghy with the dog on the platform in the bow, awe at the skill of my dad, who could hold the mainsail all by himself while my brother and I struggled together with the jib. (At that time I had no idea about pulleys and power transmission). 

There was a small sailing club in Hamburg-Harburg that had two boats moored on the Alster in Hamburg. So I decided to get a sailing licence. I was never good at school sports, which is why I thought I was unsporty, even though I did a lot: Bike tours, swimming, karate up to brown belt. According to the motto “If you start karate in your mid-30s, you can also start sailing in your mid-40s”, I was looking for an equally “unsporty” comrade-in-arms. I found one in a good friend who is also really funny. Only, my prejudices were not right with her either. It turned out that she had sailed a lot as a child and teenager and always knew which way the wind was blowing (a talent I don’t have). Fortunately, in both cases the apparent lack of athleticism was not an obstacle and we complemented each other very well. We found an experienced student from the sailing club as an instructor and had a super-fun time every Tuesday morning on the Alster. On sunny days, it’s a beautiful sailing area for small boats. The Alster steamers, rowing boats and the backdrop of the surrounding city with its streets and beautiful old villas makes every true Hanseatic’s heart beat faster.

For us, the hours were definitely sailing sport. We drove from the village south to the big city, put on our sailing gear, get the boat ready, jib and then concentrate the whole time so that we don’t act too scatterbrained. 

At the end of the summer, we both passed the inland and sea boat licences.

Now it was a matter of getting the rest of the family excited too. Our three children were already in optimist courses, but the two girls were not too enthusiastic. Then came a holiday at Lake Plön. There were TopCat beach catamarans there, which appealed to Mathias more than normal sailing boats. He did a catamaran course together with our son and started to get interested in sailing as well. 

At the Hanseboot we met Stefan Sachau from the Surf&Sail sailing school in Sehlendorf on the Baltic Sea. He invited us to Hohwachter Bucht and we actually spent a summer there, renting catamarans from him and gaining our first sailing experiences together. In the second year, we bought our own TopCat K1 catamaran and a second-hand K3. Our son could sail better than we could and enjoyed it very much. Unfortunately, his good mood was expressed by quoting Otto Waalkes non-stop or singing loudly. His singing talent is not particularly pronounced, whereas Mathias is very musical. A dilemma that can only be solved by a sufficiently large distance on the water, hence the second boat!

During 4 more seasons on the Baltic Sea, we learned how to sail and were the limits of safety actually are. In the beginning, we had to capsize several times. We also learned by trial and error the limit at which wind strength makes sailing with a beach cat no longer fun. At least there were some nice scenes from that time, which I was able to use for two films on You Tube. We often went to the tour meeting of the TopCat community in Croatia. There we benefited from excellent tips about boats and sailing from the other participants, who were often much more experienced than we were. 

Around my 50th birthday, the thought germinated that maybe you don’t want to squeeze into a wetsuit forever and push a not-so-light boat in and out of the water. But switching to a yacht? Sailing along comfortably? Not an enticing idea. Mathias already enjoys fast sailing – so a fast boat with “creature’s comforts”: galley, bed, toilet.

At the Hanseboot fair again: The trimaran from Dragonfly did it to us! What a sleek piece! And a real boat from the inside with all the trimmings! The side floats can be folded in. Everything is solidly built. 

After receiving the price list, we first had to sit down and do some soul-searching. First, we decided to take advantage of the charter offer and only decide after the week of test sailing. The trimaran passed its test.

It should be a Dragonfly 28 Sport Trimaran with a carbon mast! And it should be red!

Comment from the people at Dragonfly: “We’ve never sold so much red for a boat before.” The exterior paint, the seat cushions, the foresail cover are all in my favourite colour. Together with the teak for the interior and the teak flooring, it looks really chic. 

This was followed by 5 seasons of sailing with the “Red Pearl”, as well as some charter trips to bridge the winter season.

At some point, the sailing holidays always seemed too short, at the same time Mathias’ earnings increased pleasantly, but so did his workload. The sailing hobby became more and more important as a balance to the crazy working hours and stress. Which of us first had the idea of getting out and going around the world can no longer be fully traced, but we were both very quickly enthusiastic about it.

In the beginning, books were read. First realisation: one should not sail eastwards to Australia, but due to the prevailing wind directions sail the other way around the world, i.e. first across the Atlantic. Aha.

Second realisation: The “Red Pearl” is too small. Aha.

But again, switching to a yacht was out of the question. A catamaran? Hm, rather a larger trimaran. There wasn’t much to be found on this keyword on the internet, and it took a while until I came across the NEEL shipyard from France.

NEEL’s trimarans do not fold, but they offer a lot of living space and sail as fast as a performance catamaran. 

The proof of the pudding is in the eating: The first time was at the “Salon International du Multicoque” trade fair in La Grande Motte in France, then a charter holiday over Christmas with a NEEL 45 off Martinique. 

This trimaran turned out to be a beautiful boat that mastered the compromise between space and comfort on board and faster sailing characteristics to our satisfaction. There were only two shortcomings: I couldn’t find the right regular place from where you could get wind around your nose and still look ahead. This was only possible from the helm. The amas were usable as sleeping cabins, but in the warm climate they were more like dripstone caves than cabins or good storage space. As luck would have it, the shipyard soon had a solution for this: the whole new NEEL 51.

Again I made a pilgrimage to La Grande Motte, this time with our son. There, in addition to the NEEL 45, the No.1 of the NEEL 51 was also presented. We fell in love with this boat right away! The space is breathtaking. The kitchen is nicer than in our children’s student flats, the float hulls can be accessed from the mid-hull and can be converted into guest cabins with en-suite bathrooms, there is standing height in the mid-hull engine room (even for our son with his 1.95m). And completely unobjective, but decisive: For the regular place with the nose in the wind and looking forward, there is a whole couch up in front of the mast and next to the steering position! 

After this appointment, everything went very quickly.

Already at the fair NEEL received the first 8 reservations for the NEEL 51 trimaran. By the time we had reported to Mathias and he could decide, the orders had reached hull number 14. We reserved this number. 

But before the contract had to be signed, we went to La Rochelle for a test sail.

Our NEEL 51 should be ready in May 2019.

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