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RS Sailing 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Where is Balance Catamarans today?

by Balance Catamarans 8 Jun 2021 07:56 PDT
Balance 526 Sailing Catamaran © Balance Catamarans

Balance Catamarans was founded in 2013 by Phillip Berman, a lifelong catamaran sailor and racer. Today, the company is a prime example of how the right catamaran, at the right price, with cutting-edge design and an authentic connection with its buyers makes for a great success story.

Berman drew on his has 40 years of sailing and competitive racing experience to take Balance Catamarans to where they are today. "From Day One we've been a company that was built by sailors for sailors," says Berman.

He grew up sailing dinghies and keelboats in Southern California, and then in his teens got into Hobie Cat sailing - the beginning of his love for catamarans. In 1979, Berman won the fifth Hobie Cat 14 World Championships in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa - an event that boasted 72 entries from around the world. Hobie Alter, the legendary sailing innovator, handed him his trophy.

This visit to the country was the start of his passion for South Africa. Today, there are two Balance Catamaran factories in South Africa, which is the second largest multihull producer in the world after France.

Berman started in 2001 by founding The Multihull Company, a brokerage exclusively for used catamarans. He was on the cutting edge of the catamaran sailing revolution.

Since then, The Multihull Company has sold thousands of catamarans to sailors across the globe. It is this vast experience in catamarans and the many conversations with his clients about what they longed for in the "perfectly balanced" catamaran that prompted Phil to found Balance Catamarans and immediately co-design the Balance brand range with South African naval architect Anton du Toit.

Berman found most cruising catamarans far too sluggish - and on the other side of the spectrum, he found most performance sailing catamarans not suitable for voyaging in terms of comfort and liveability. A balance was what he was seeking and that lead to the brand name, Balance Catamarans.

Berman and du Toit set out to produce a catamaran that was not just fast, but very fast, yet practical, robust, easy to sail and one in which voyagers could live on in real comfort. What followed from those designs has been a range of catamarans that are innovative, gorgeous, and fast. The Balance 442,482, 520, 526 XP and custom 680, 760 and 760 XP are all now part of the full line of Balance Catamarans.

"We have quickly become the fastest-growing catamaran builder in the world with our smart designs and the five-star building talents of our teams," says Berman.

Berman put together a team at Balance Catamarans of highly experienced sailors, yacht designers, and boat builders with a deep passion for sailing and craftsmanship. Together, the Balance team designs and builds high-speed blue water adventure catamarans to cope with the rigors of serious offshore sailing. South Africans are accustomed to building bullet-proof vessels going back generations as a result of their challenging coastline conditions.

Balance Catamarans has one of its factories in Cape Town and one in the beautiful holiday town of St Francis on the southeast coast.

The Balance Cape Town Factory, headed up by veteran boat builder Mark Delany, who has been building catamarans for 30 years, is 9,500 square metres in total. Here, the Balance 482s are in production as well as the Balance 442s. The first Balance 482 is due for launch in the third quarter of this year. Both the Balance 482 and Balance 442 have enjoyed an impressive order book even before the launch of the first vessels.

In addition, the factory manufactures custom Balance Catamarans over 65 feet, namely the Balance 680, Balance 760F and 760 XP and the Balance 820.

The Balance factory where it all began is in St. Francis Bay, headed up by the highly experienced duo of brothers Roger and Jonathan Paarman. Roger and Jonathan have spent a lifetime engaged in composite construction and are avid watermen and surfers. Jonathan, a former professional surfer, pioneered South Africa's largest breaks and is a legend in surfing circles the world over. The St. Francis factory they run has a capacity of 5,000 square metres and builds the 526 and the Balance 620.

Balance Catamarans in St Francis is also starting to tool a new, full carbon Balance 580. With this incredible amount of boat building activity, the factory is adding an additional 2, 000- square metres of space.

So, who are the sailors who buy Balance Catamarans?

To date, most buyers have been American, which is no surprise as Balance Catamarans is headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. But, news of the sleek designs has reached European buyers who are now contracting for the catamarans at a brisk pace. If Balance buyers have anything in common, it is that they want to spend lengthy periods on their vessel voyaging, and they want to sail with speed, and in comfort. They want a vessel that is spacious and easy to live on, easy to sail short-handed, and easy to maintain. The Balance range has provided all of that and more.

Berman's invention of the VersaHelm has won over countless buyers and recently been copied by other catamaran builders - a trend Berman calls "the ultimate compliment!" The helm allows sailors to be both inside and outside depending on weather conditions with a simple, single-handed movement.

"Thoughtful innovation has come too slowly to sailing," he adds. "At Balance, we are using our own experiences and those of our sailing customers to inform our designs. We listen because we know that no one knows more about what makes a great sailing catamaran than the sailors who are out there in all sorts of weather conditions."

Berman works personally with new buyers. As does Capt. Andrew Hodgdon, who specializes in the 442. Like Berman, Hodgdon is an experienced sailor who brings vast experience to the table to help customers.

"We have a personal relationship with our clients," says Berman. "In the whole process of ordering and building a Balance, the owners deal with me and Andrew. During the build, they deal extensively with Mark or Roger directly on the build side, and with Anton on the design side. And once our clients are Balance owners, they become very much a part of our Balance community."

"I always tell people to 'Stay in Balance' because it is great life advice as well as representative of the community of sailors Balance Catamaran owners have become."

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