The average household’s budget for recreational gear has taken a hammering. So what if you could buy an affordable land yacht and catamaran, all rolled into one? The Katalyst is a marine twist on the blokart - a compact, easy-to-assemble land-sailer-of-the-people, which was pioneered by Papamoa-based Blokart International.
Thousands of one-class blokarts have been sold world-wide from Blokart Heaven (the country’s only land sailing track); the adaptable karts can be used in a parking lot – or they can run on ice with skate-type fittings, or sand with balloon tyres fitted.
The highly manoeuvrable wind-powered three wheelers were conceived nearly a decade ago, when founder Paul Beckett, took the old idea of a land yacht, and completed revamped it. Now the Katalyst is taking the blokart ‘back to the water.’
The Katalyst is essentially a kit that converts a blokart to a light-weight catamaran. You start with a ‘pro’ model blokart, made from seawater-resistant stainless steel with a fibreglass mast. Your Kat is ready to sail in minutes; just bolt the two hulls together, assemble your blokart and fit it to the hulls. Rig your sail and connect your steering...ready to sail.
If you don’t already own a pro kart, the whole package costs around $8,500. As Manager of Katalyst Marine (set up as a separate company to develop the Katalyst) Jimi Vannoort says, you’re getting for a low price, a craft that will run on land or water (Comparison: a new Hobie 16 cat alone could cost you $18,000).
The Katalyst is very much in the same vein as the blokart in its compact and collapsible nature – easy to take apart and transport.
While the blokart zips up into a bag that fits your car boot, the Katalyst consists of two 3.5 hulls and cross members that will fit on your roof rack – without the need for a large, specialised trailer.
Fibreglass was chosen, says Jimi Vanoort, to keep the Kat as light as possible. Other materials could have taken the weight of the hulls to 30 kgs apiece. This would have taken it “outside the design spec, and the aim of being able to transport it very easily.”
The hulls weigh 12 kgs each which means they’re “easy to put on a roof rack by yourself,” he says.
The blokart is simple to sail with just one rope to hang onto, and the Kat continues that user-friendliness. The normal standard sail is 5.5 metres but there are four sail size options, depending on the owner’s weight.
A unique feature of the blokart rolled into the Kat, says Jimi, is the softer mast designed to take care of the wind gusts you can encounter. “What that does on the water, is that as soon as you get a gust, the mast basically spills the air so it’s a very, very stable craft.” He adds that because of the feature, “it’s actually very difficult to fly (raise out of the water) a hull.” In testing, the craft has been virtually impossible to turn over. For novice sailors, those who’ve never been on the water, or out in the surf, the Kat naturally provides an “ideal” entry to sport.
A unique and surprising feature, especially for long-time sailors, is that the Kat sailor sits facing forward, as in a blokart. The ‘face forward pilot’ is in contrast to the traditional yachtie’s position of sitting sideways on the windward hull. (The feature means that sailors with limited mobility such as paraplegics, have access to the sport). The Kat has no complicated rigging or a tiller to deal with: steering is with the blokart’s handlebar described as ‘just like riding a bike.' There is no tiller steering system to figure out.
Launched at the Big Boys Toys fair in Auckland in November last year, and then taken to the Auckland Boat Show, the reaction so far has been tremendous, says Jimi Vannoort.
People who’ve tried the craft have been really enthusiastic, he says, adding that many sailors have needed some time to overcome their surprise at seeing a narrow-looking craft with the pilot sitting forward. “They step into the craft expressing their questions and their doubts, he says. “But give them 20 or 30 minutes and they’ll be completely converted, and raving on about it.”
With winter fast approaching in New Zealand, Katalyst Marine has wisely focused its marketing efforts on Europe and boat shows happening across the Continent.
At the same time as the Kat was launched in Auckland, two Katalysts were shipped to Europe as demonstrators for the boat shows. Shipments are also being sent to the Middle East where there’s been a lot of interest – acess to the water there enhanced with the construction of artificial islands.
After living in Europe, Jimi Vannoort sees strong potential for the Kat in the “big sailing community” of northern Europe, countries including the Netherlands, Belgium, England and France.
He also sees potential to sell the Kat along with more blokarts to Meditterean countries. With the Kat as a sailing product, they hope to grow interest in the blokart at the same time. Later in the year, Katalyst Marine – set up to ‘develop the world’s best portable sailing solutions’ - hopes to launch a new, stand alone version of the Kat, a “real catamaran” that doesn’t depend on the blokart. The new model will have its own tramp mat and a special mast and sail, giving it a lot more power than the present 5.5 metre blokart sail.
To find out more about the Katalyst:
Manager Jimi Vannoort tel 07- 572 4256