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JAMES WHARRAM - World famous catamaran designer.

James Wharram. World famous catamaran designer.

You'd be in a minority if you've heard the name James Wharram in Cornwall, you would of course know him if you live in the village of Deveron, the riverside home home to James Wharram Designs. His fame however, is truly international and to many hardened sailors he's a living legend.

n the mid 50's, based on his research into ancient Polynesian boat design, James Wharram built the
first off-shore Catamaran in Britain and sailed it out into the Atlantic from Falmouth. While the world's yachting community were busy dismissing such a design as a worthy sea-going vessel, James was landing his 23'6" 'Double Hulled, hand crafted Canoe' in the West Indies. There he built a second 40' Polynesian style Catamaran and sailed it back to the UK accompanied by two young German girls, becoming the first to sail a catamaran across the North Atlantic

These amazing Trans-Atlantic crossings and the follow up best seller "Two Girls, Two Catamarans" has etched the name 'James Wharram' into the annals of yachting history.

Wharram design - the Melanesia, an athnic design that can be built in a week.

James Wharram Designs range from simple economical out-riggers that the hobbyist can construct in a week, to the 63'  Wharram Flagship, the impressive 'Spirit of Gaia'. (below).

James Wharram designs - 63 foot Spirit of Gaia.

The Gaia, is a Pahi 63 model; most of James' designs have hard to pronounce names and are based around the ancient polynesian sailing rafts of the south Pacific. Whole communities would spend months at sea on such crafts, where, they not so much traveled the oceans as lived 'at one with it'. The great distances between the Islands of the South Pacific that defined there cultural domain made sea life as much a part of their everyday reality as their time spent on dry land; groups of families, pets, livestock, musicians, actors and often chiefs - small self-contained drifting communities spread across a vast region of the South Pacific: they were true sea-people.

One of James' earlier periodicals was in fact called 'Sea People' a term that is not fully understood until you live the experience. A core principle behind the Wharram approach to catamaran design is his concept of flexi-space - minimal baggage, maximum utility. The psychological aspects of long term sea habitation and the sociological complexities of long term sea residency as part of a group is a subject close to James' heart. To sail with him is a unique experience, to live aboard with him is when you really meet his true spirit, for although he's as down to earth as you'd expect from a Taurean raised in the North of England, a man who has worked with wood for nigh on all his life, his true spirit is never more alive than when he's living 'within' the mysteries and romance of the ocean. His common entourage of 'naturalist' female companions encapsulates the true ethos of the Polynesian sea people's ancient and simple life style. A lifestyle who's whole dependence and security is based on understanding 'from the soul' what makes an ocean crossing vessel as 'at one' with the ocean as much as its inhabitants are. Two inseparable qualities of true Sea People.

The Tama Moana - Child of the Sea. This traditional Polynesian design will allow the people of Tikopia to once again cross oceans.

The Tama Moana - Child of the Sea.

James and his partner Hanneke Boon visited the remote Island of Tikopia a few years ago. The people of Tikopia live a self-contained lifestyle on their tiny island a hundred miles from their nearest neighbour. While they still have traditional fishing canoes, ocean crossing vessels were no longer around. They have to rely on a three monthly deliveries from a container ship for external supplies. Their survival for thousands of years has relied on a micro- maintenance system where every plant and living species on the island plays a unique 'role' in supporting the community. At one point in their recent history all the pigs on the island were killed after a meeting between the four chiefs decided it was more sustainable to source protein from fish and preserve vegetation on the island.

Hanneke Boon, on returning from Tikopia, and while recovering from an operation, had a vision to design an ethnic craft based on a museum piece she found in New Zealand, the last remaining Tikopian canoe capable of ocean crossings to the sister Island Anuta 90 or so miles away. And so the Tama Moana was born.

The Tikopia Project was launched in 2006 to raise funds to build the 'Child of the Sea' for the Tikopians, it has been a successful project so far with plans on target for 'the Child' to return to its Polynesian parent homeland some time next year.

The Wharram website

Cornwall Information - Photos news and Information from Cornwall March 2008