Discovering the Discovery 20 Small Trimaran

Imagine a fast, small trimaran that enables you to not only move out to windward on a trampoline when it starts to fly, but also offers something many small trimarans do not … a “very comfortable” seating situation for up to 4 adults.

As a matter of fact, the small trimaran I’m referring to allowed its designer to take his 75-year-old mother in law out for a comfortable ride in this day cruiser. And would you be surprised if I said a renowned trimaran (and catamaran) yacht maker created this sailboat?

Probably not.

After all, a yacht designer tends to think about what offers sailors comfort. Most of the time, however, they’re doing this on a grander scale than what you’ll ever see for a small tri. But hey … many of us small tri guys over 40 are willing to look at any boat features that may consistently allow for easier sailing experience overall.

So when a friend in Maine asked well-known multihull expert Chris White to draw up a small trimaran for him that would serve as a fun, well-behaved daysailer, Chris told me he decided he wouldn’t try and “out-Hobie Hobie.” Since Hobie Catamarans already offer high performance on wet trampolines, why not create a small multihull that offers relaxed, cozier seating for its riders?

As it turns out, that is exactly how Chris White’s 20-foot sailboat model named the Discovery 20 came into being. This boat isn’t just somewhat unique in it’s design, but it’s relatively inexpensive to build … probably around $5,000 or so (at least that was the cost before the American dollar began to free-fall in value this past year). Chris still sells the plans for this model on his site for just under $300.

From what I’ve gleaned from various postings around the Internet, most Discovery 20 owners seem very happy with their boats. Very few of these sailboats ever go up for sale. And by all appearances, these boat owners like to keep them for their own enjoyment.

Chris told me the boat can easily reach speeds in the mid to upper teens (in knots) but he’s never really raced it. It handles extremely well under sail. And it has a great safety record … even when sailed under heavy conditions.

Like many would-be small trimaran owners, many people don’t want to build a sailboat. But building a sailboat turns out to be a way to get a boat they really want. (My interview with Chris is a featured chapter in Small Trimarans: An Introduction).

(By the way, since first posting this article, one former Discovery 20 owner emailed and assured me that his boat DID go faster than any Hobie 16 or 18 out there. His boat was equipped with larger amas, a carbon fiber rig and 20% more sail area than called for in the original plans though).

Here are 3 pictures of the Discovery 20 small trimaran found on various places on the web: (Please email me if any of these links get broken in the future … moreinfo AT SmallTrimarans DOT com)
Discovery 20 Trimaran picture #1
Discovery 20 Trimaran picture #2
Discovery 20 Trimaran picture #3

And here is a link to multihull designer Chris White\'s website.

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4 Responses to “Discovering the Discovery 20 Small Trimaran”

  1. dave trey Says:

    Curious if you have pictures of the 20 w. carbon rig, as mentioned above ?
    thanks, Dave

  2. Small Tri Guy Says:

    Hi Dave, the only pics I have of the Discovery 20 trimaran are of the boats displayed when you click on the above links. They are the ones featured in my first book.

  3. Daniel Says:

    How about getting that mast up and down, any handy method of doing that ?

  4. Doug Says:

    Reply to Daniel: As designed, the Discovery 20 uses a hinged mast base, Dwyer part number DH 2121H. I think, with one bolt in, two people could lift this mast fairly easy.

    I am currently building a Discovery 20, and like the design (so far…will really know after sailing it, of course). Unfortunately, Chris has failed to respond to the email I sent with some questions concerning the construction. Plans do not come with any build directions beyond the notes written on the plans, and if the designer does not answer questions after he has received the payment, I would not suggest this design for any but builders experienced with cold-molded construction.

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