About James Wharram Designs

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James and Hanneke in the design studio with Amatasi model
James Wharram and Hanneke Boon

James Wharram Designs are designers of unique double-canoe style sailing catamarans inspired by the canoe craft of the Pacific. They have their headquarters on the shore of Restronguet creek in Devoran, Cornwall.

James Wharram is the pioneer of offshore multihulls, making his first Atlantic crossing by catamaran in 1956 and the first ever North Atlantic West-to-East crossing by multihull in 1959. He started designing for self-builders in 1965.

Wharram designs are based on years of practical, hands-on experience of building and ocean sailing catamarans.

Wharram designs are renowned for their seaworthiness, stability and safe simplicity. Ask any ocean sailor and he/she will have seen Wharram catamarans in far off ports of call.

Designs from 14’ – 63’ are available for self-building in ply/epoxy with very detailed, easy to follow Plans often described as 'a course in boatbuilding'.

Several franchised yards offer professionally built Wharrams.

To find more about what Wharram has to offer, explore our website. If you want to build your own catamaran and experience the freedom of sailing, your dream begins here.

The Sailing Podcast - Wharram Catamaran Design with James and Hanneke

James Wharram

James Wharram - British pioneer of the modern catamaran
News coverage from 1955 of Tangaroa's maiden voyage across the Atlantic.

James Wharram (1928-2021) designed his first offshore cruising catamaran, the 23' 6" TANGAROA in 1953, before the word catamaran was yet in common use and began sailing with her off the coast of Britain with two German girls, Ruth Merseburger (Wharram) and Jutta Schultze-Rohnhof. He was inspired to do this by Frenchman Eric de Bisschop, who sailed a double canoe from Hawaii to France in 1939. James believed in the innate seagoing qualities of the double canoe and set out to prove them with two pioneering Trans Atlantic voyages on TANGAROA (1956) and 40ft RONGO (1959). (see his book: Two Girls Two Catamarans)

Since then, James Wharram, has been designing, building and sailing offshore catamarans longer than any other multihull designer. Already in 1987 the "Multihulls Buyers Guide" showed that James Wharram had sold three times more plans than any other multihull designer in the world. Design sales have since topped 10,000.

One reason for this success is that James Wharram was a "hands-on" designer having, over his lifetime, built personally many of the prototype designs. These prototypes were built in the open, in barns, workshops and all the range of building sites available to self-builders, in a variety of climate types from northern European to the Tropics.

Because James preferred sailing to building, he has always endeavoured to refine his Construction methods to their simplest form, following the famous Bauhaus motto “Less is More”. The advent of epoxy in boatbuilding in 1980, combined with a Wharram evolved ‘Stitch & Glue’ building method, opened up new ways of achieving this aim.

Together with Hanneke Boon he has developed many new Appropriate Technology building methods. Of special note here are the lashed crossbeam connections and the Wharram Wingsail Rig.

Throughout his life, James has been interested in the history of Watercraft, particularly the origins of the Canoeform craft of the Pacific. He writes papers on this subject and lectures at Marine Archaeological conferences. He was made a ‘Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society’ for his pioneering work in this field.

In 2008, his career came full circle, when at the age of eighty, 50 years after his pioneering voyages, he sailed the arduous Lapita Voyage, the ancient migration route into the Pacific.

James was often referred to as a 'Living Legend' or as written in 'Yachting Monthly' in January 2006: "James Wharram is considered by many to be the father of modern multihull cruising."

James Wharram passed away on 14th December 2021. However, this is not the end. We and all the Wharram World will keep his work alive.

More about James:

  • James Wharram's Philosophical Articles, Papers, and Biographies

    Philosophical writings by James, papers delivered at major marine archeology conferences, and biographies.

  • A Living Legend Lives No More

    On the 14th December James Wharram left this earthly world, joining Ruth, Jutta and his many close friends that departed before him. At 93 years old his spirit has set out on the voyage to sail the oceans of heaven.

  • James' Eulogy

    This eulogy was delivered by Matt Knight at James Wharram's funeral service, which took place at 3:00pm on Thursday 30th December at Truro Crematorium.

  • A Special Hui Gathering For James

    In the summer of 2022, we will hold a special Hui in celebration of James’ life. The plan is to have a fleet of Wharram catamarans and other boats join us.

Hanneke Boon

Hanneke Boon in the JWD design studio
Hanneke Boon presenting ‘Integrating Philosophy with Boat design’ in Amsterdam.

Dutch born Hanneke Boon grew up in a sailing family. She was building and sailing Polynesian Catamarans at the age of fourteen and joined the James Wharram team at the age of 20. She is a very gifted artist / graphic designer / craftworker and became James Wharram's co-designer.

Hanneke's all-round art abilities and practical boatbuilding experience have produced some of the clearest boat building instruction plans ever produced.

Hanneke made two Atlantic catamaran crossings on Tehini when she first joined the team. Since then she has sailed thousands of ocean miles, including sailing round the world on Spirit of Gaia (1994-98) and the more recent 4000Nm Lapita Voyage (2008-09), when she skippered ‘Lapita Anuta’.

She has built, or taken part in building more than sixteen Wharram designs, including developing many prototypes and the 63ft Spirit of Gaia.

She now sails when she can escape the drawing board or the computer. Hanneke loves experimenting with sail-rigs and shares James’ deep interest in Marine Archaeology and the origins of Canoeform watercraft.

The following video is of Hanneke giving a 'Pecha Kucha' style presentation in Amsterdam on the subject of 'Integrating Philosophy with Boat design'. This very short presentation sums up Hanneke’s history from a sailing childhood to becoming a boat builder, designer and ocean sailor. Throughout the theme is ‘simplicity’ as the philosophy behind the designs of James and Hanneke.

Ruth Wharram

Ruth Wharram studying charts in a cabin

German born Ruth shared James Wharram's early pioneering voyages. Ruth was one of the first people to believe James in the early 1950's when he said that the ancient double-canoe of the Polynesians would be the yacht of the future. With her practical determination she has been the driving force behind James in his many projects.

A first class navigator (in the days before GPS) she made 7 Atlantic crossings, endured a severe gale crossing the Tasman Sea, sailed half way round the world on 63ft Spirit of Gaia and made innumerable coastal voyages on Wharram catamarans. She was always in demand to be crew/navigator on all types of sailing yachts.

Her sailing adventures started in the early 1950s and have continued throughout her life. In her late 80s she retired as office manager but kept in communication with her many sailing friends by email and followed James and Hanneke’s sailing adventures on the Internet.

Ruth has been a writer, photographer and film maker. She shot all the footage for the Building and Sailing of Tehini DVD on a hand-wound 16mm Bolex. She had many articles of her sailing experiences published and in 2008 assembled her writings in a Special Collection.

Ruth passed away on September 4th 2013 leaving a big gap in the James Wharram Designs team.