Designer and builder Frank Butler is
in many ways a contradiction in terms.
On the one hand heís an innovator
and a risk taker. On the other, he takes
those risks and uses those innovations
to build boats for the common man; good
solid boats that combine performance
and comfort without costing an arm and
design philosophy is perhaps best expressed
in the Catalina 30, a racer-cruiser
that set the trend for many of today's
most successful lines and is itself
still going strong after a production
run of 25 years and more than 6,500
Introduced in 1975, the Catalina 30
was intended to "offer more for
less" in a way that had never been
done before. Butler gave the boat extra
beam and freeboard for accommodations
as well the option of a standard or
tall rig, and deep and shoal-draft keels
for different performance characteristics.
Inside, he used the then cutting-edge
practice of installing hull liners with
premolded berths and seats to create
even more space, and moved the engine
compartment closer to amidships to open
up room for a large double quarterberth
on the starboard side.
Compared to today's performance cruisers,
the dimensions of the Catalina are fairly
conservative. But at the time, Butler
was venturing into unknown territory,
and in doing so pulled off a real coup,
creating a boat that was new and different
but still "yare."
He also created, in many ways a dark-horse
speedster, a boat that, while comfortable,
is winning races in both one-design
and handicapped fleets to this very
Within months of its introduction, one
of the very first Catalina 30s sailed
to back-to-back victories at the Newport-Ensenada
and Marina Del Ray-to-San Diego races,
under the old LOR rule. The Catalina
National Regatta regularly draws up
to three dozen boats. The Catalina 30
La Maria won its division at the 2000
Southern California PHRF Championship
regatta held by the Southern California
Yachting Association (SCYA).
"The boat has probably been out
designed with new materials on newer
boats, but we're still pleased with
its performance," said Catalina's
long-time production chief Gerry Douglas.
Thousands of Catalina 30 owners couldnít
Todayís Catalina 30 Mark III
comes equipped with a walk-through transom,
a redesigned rudder, and 1-shaped cockpit;
the earlier shoal-draft fin has been
replaced with a shallow winged keel.
Beyond that, however, the 21st- century
version of the Catalina 30 is essentially
the same as the boat that rolled off
the production line a quarter century
ago, with an identical canoe body, deep
keel and rig that makes it class compliant
for one-design racing against other
boats that are more than two decades
Catalina Yachts has a policy of never
discontinuing a model as long as there's
a demand for it, which means this milestone
in yacht design is far from a museum
"As long as people keep buying
them, weíll keep building them,"
Douglas said, of Catalinaís attitude
toward the venerable 30. Butler himself
said he never likes to "kill"
a design unless absolutely necessary."The
boat has always been one of my favorites,"
he said. "You can make a lot of
mistakes on her and sheíll forgive
you. She loves heavy air."
Clearly, it's a good thing the practical
and affordable Catalina 30 will be introducing
sailors to both cruising and racing
for years to come.
Cart, SAILING Magazine