By: Peter Nielsen
The sleek blue hulls of the Balance 526 catamaran were quite the scene-stealer at Strictly Sail Miami in February. Recently arrived from South Africa, this innovative cat looked in excellent shape and sported some clever ideas. The most obvious was the “Versa” helm design, brainchild of Multihull Company president Phil Berman. The large wheel pivots between “sailing” and “parking” positions—with the helm down, you can see all four corners of the boat, which is usually not possible from a conventional bridgedeck helm. What’s more, the helm floor and seat are both adjustable to suit drivers of varying height.
The fresh thinking continues belowdecks. The three-cabin, three-head version on show at Miami featured an owner’s suite to starboard, with a large, luxurious shower and head in the stern and the queen-sized berth arranged athwartships under the bridgedeck. This layout permits better ventilation and gets you away from engine noise. The saloon settee can be used as a passage berth.
Ease of handling for a small crew was paramount in the design process, and all sail controls are led over the cabintop to a pair of electric winches. The boat on show had an in-boom furling main, but this choice is down to the individual owner; a self-tacking jib makes sailing solo a breeze.