The 60th Anniversary of the First West-to-East Crossing of the North Atlantic in a Catamaran
On September 30, 1959 the 40-foot catamaran Rongo sailed into the Conway River in North Wales after crossing the North Atlantic from New York.
Rongo was the first catamaran to have made this difficult voyage, sailed by the now world famous catamaran designer James Wharram and his two German women companions, Ruth Merseburger and Jutta Schultze-Rohnhoff.
Rongo was designed and built by Wharram in Trinidad in 1957-58 after the three sailors had already crossed the Southern Atlantic in 1956 along the trade wind route from the Canaries to Trinidad in their small 23’6” catamaran Tangaroa, also designed and built by Wharram in England in 1954.
In the 1950s catamarans had not yet been acknowledged as viable seagoing sailing vessels and James Wharram pioneered their concept and proved their inherent seaworthiness with his Atlantic voyages.
In 1965 James Wharram started designing catamarans for other people and this soon blossomed into a thriving business of designs for self-builders, hundreds, and over time thousands, were built and many have made incredible ocean voyages, including the smallest catamaran to sail round the world in the 1990s, the Tiki 21 Cooking Fat sailed by Rory McDougall.
Wharram Designs are nowadays a very distinct type of catamaran with very traditional looking lines reminiscent of Polynesian double canoes, and are seen in many harbors all over the world. They have a worldwide following of builders/sailors who follow the philosophy of Wharram . . .
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