James Wharram

James WharramJames Wharram 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 is 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 prefers 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 is now 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.”

Polynesian Origins...
Aboard ‘Lapita Anuta’ en route to Tikopia (Lapita Voyage 2009). Photo by Ingo Inensee
Aboard ‘Lapita Anuta’ en route to Tikopia (Lapita Voyage 2009). Photo by Ingo Inensee.
To the ancient Polynesians, who often spent months at a time at sea, it wasn't a catamaran, it was a raft; a living platform upon which they continued daily life as they sailed from island to island.

Large family groups would travel the ocean together feeling just as at home on their 'raft' as they did on dry land..

The Polynesians were the original 'Sea People'. During the Wharram visit to Tikopia, it was discovered that the Tikopians had no mental concept of a 'large land mass'. Living life on an island only a mile or so across explains that to some degree, but when the human mind lacks all concept of 'large land', reality must become so much more focussed on a single ocean world with large living areas - their world of small islands, and small living areas - their double hulled sailing (c)rafts.

James Wharram After 50 years - there's no stopping James!

James Wharram