Monday, March 10, 2008

Potted History of Prout Catamarans

So I thought it was worth delving into the history of Prouts for those not so familiar.

Francis and Roland Prout were at the forefront of the development of the catamaran as a successful cruising boat.

Left Francis Prout in 2003 - Right Francis & Roland Prout

They came from a Canoeing background and some of their first cats were simply 2 canoes strapped together.

As the boats developed they became more sophisticated but the basic catamaran form was still ground breaking for the Western world in the 1950s.

For those interested, plenty more history can be found at the BBC and Multihull Maven

This is definitely a potted history of the (modern) Prout catamaran - the original concept goes back to the 5th century AD - more can be read on here.

It was only in the 20th century that the Western world re-discovered what other cultures around the world had known for sometime. Some of the Prout brothers first experiments were with a cat design called Shearwater which led them to win every race going including the 1954 Burnham regatta.

It was this success that led them to build a very successful business selling a series of Prout cruising Catamarans from 26 feet to 50 feet. Many of these have circumnavigated developing a reputation for solid and dependable cruising boats way before catamarans became as popular as they are today.

I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that the dependability of Prout cats was a significant factor in overcoming much of the early prejudice against cruising catamarans and contributed to making catamarans in general the force to be reckoned with that they are today. Many circumnavigations (one of which in a 33 just like mine has been published in a book) and Round The Island wins also enhanced the Prout reputation. (1968 and 1998 RTI wins in Prout Snowgoose's or is that Snowgeese?)

Sadly the good times didn't last forever, ultimately after a series of corporate takeovers and mismanagement Prouts went bankrupt at least twice (!) and finally out of business on in February 2002. There is a lot more written on the downfall here.

The story didn't quite end there though.

In 2001 Broadblue catamarans was created. The old managing director of Prouts, Richard Underwood moved to BroadBlue as part of their leadership team and miraculously the BB 385 looks somewhat familiar to the Prout 38 one of the last models of the "old" Prout line.

Broadblue seems to be making a success of things but faces a large challenge from Fontaine Pajot, Lagoon and other modern producers to win back the customers and market share lost during the mismanagement of Prout in its dying days. But the design of my Prout can trace its heritage back to these first ground breaking craft.