For fast yet undemanding sailing, easy trailing and simple camper-cruising, the Astus 20.5 trimaran is likely to find wide appeal says David Harding
Astus 20.5: Fast, fun and affordable trailable trimaran
Astus 20.5: Fast, fun and affordable trailable trimaran
Boats that are small and light enough to keep in your driveway and trail to where you want to sail make a lot of sense.
One drawback, however, is that they tend to be slower than bigger boats – especially if they’re of a size and weight that allows them to be easily managed short-hand, both afloat and ashore.
If you want to sail from Poole to Weymouth for the weekend in a 20ft trailer-sailer, for example, it might take a while.
This is where speedy trailable trimarans like the Astus 20.5 come in.
When I sailed its predecessor, the 20.2, about 10 years ago, we regularly hit 15 knots on a reach without breaking sweat and maintained an easy 6.5 knots upwind.
You can cover a lot of ground at those sorts of speeds.
I first met the Astus 20.5 at the Düsseldorf Boat Show in 2019. Since it’s a newer boat and designed by no less a design team than VPLP, I had high hopes that it would offer even more than the 20.2.
Quite apart from the sailing potential, the trailing is as simple as can be with a boat like this.
If you choose the resin-infused hull, the Astus 20.5 weighs under 500kg (1,100lb), or just over 500kg with the standard solid laminate.
The lighter weight means you can use an unbraked trailer, saving money, maintenance and yet more weight, so you can trail it behind a normal hatchback vehicle.
Getting somewhere fast under sail is one thing. Having somewhere to sleep when you arrive is another.
Though its cabin is smaller than on a monohull of similar size, the Astus provides seating, stowage and space for a companionable couple to be able to stretch out.
Then of course you have the trampolines each side on which you can rig a tent for more sleeping space.
The opportunity for a sail on the Astus 20.5 finally came when Hein Kuiper of Boats On Wheels brought his first demonstrator to the UK.
In fact we went out twice – first for a photo session in Poole on a brisk winter’s day and then a few months later in Chichester Harbour.
Since the boat arrived in Poole on its trailer, I was able to see how it went together.
Pulling out the hulls is pretty straightforward: their aluminium beams slide in and out of the fixed beams on the main hull. You can do that ashore or afloat.
There’s nothing complicated about raising the rig, either, and it can all be done singlehanded.
The whole process, from arriving with the trailer to sliding the boat into the water, took Hein a couple of hours or so the first time or two (comparable with a monohull of similar size, he reckons) but would undoubtedly get quicker with practice.
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Whether you choose the standard or the Sport version, the mast is the same height.
The difference is that the latter comes with a square-top mainsail to give appreciably more sail area.
If you want to save as much weight as possible and make raising and lowering the mast easier, you can have it in carbon. A wing mast is another option.
The rig and hardware don’t appear to be modified in any way as a concession to the boat’s trailer-sailer nature.
Here and there, the odd ready-made loop or strop would save fiddling around with bits of line.
All that is forgotten as soon as you’re under way.
On our second outing, once the electric outboard had pushed us out of Northney Marina – where the boat proved to be surprisingly manoeuvrable with the centreplate fully down – we headed off on a beam reach at 12.5 knots in 12-15 knots of wind.
In most boats, 12.5 knots would be going some. In this 20-footer, it felt perfectly relaxed.
Over the course of the following couple of hours we covered every point of sail including, of course, reaching under spinnaker.
With the gusts rarely exceeding 16 knots in the flat water of the harbour, we didn’t quite manage to break 15 knots.
It wasn’t a bad speed-to-effort ratio nonetheless.
The boat felt rock solid the whole time, and I knew from the photo session in Poole that she could carry the kite on a beam reach in appreciably more wind than we had in Chichester.
It’s hard to imagine that 20 knots wouldn’t be perfectly achievable.
Upwind we maintained between 7 and 8.5 knots most of the time.
As you would expect, you need to keep the bow down a little to maintain full power.
You also need the purchase of the 6:1 mainsheet to maintain sufficient tension in the upper leech. It makes a big difference.
Tacking was pretty positive provided we had adequate boatspeed going into the tack, and leeway appeared minimal.
All told the Astus 20.5 was great fun to sail and easy to manage two-handed.
There was little for a third person to do except enjoy the ride or contribute to the righting moment by joining the helmsman on the windward trampoline.
If you were racing, you could use a longer tiller extension and fit toe-straps to maximise the advantage.
Beating our way back up the harbour, we demonstrated the windward ability of the Astus 20.5 by sailing straight past a 15m (49ft) monohull.
Creature comforts aboard the Astus 20.5
Above decks the Astus offers a vast amount of sitting and lounging space thanks to the trampolines.
Down below, the hull’s narrow beam makes things cosy but you still find a seat either side, space for a chemical toilet under the aft end of the berth and a fair amount of stowage beneath and to either side of the companionway.
The centreboard is offset to port to leave the middle of the boat clear.
The finish is simple and uncomplicated, largely to save weight. There would be plenty of scope to fit a slide-out galley and devise lightweight stowage solutions to make better use of the space.
Astus 20.5: the test verdict
More than anything else, this boat is tremendous fun.
She feels taut and responsive to sail. I found that it took an hour or so to begin to find her sweet spots, but after that she just makes you want to sail her.
She inspires confidence and is easy to handle, too. In most conditions you could manage perfectly well single-handed and for cruising you won’t need more than two.
Then there’s the speed. No matter whether or not you’re in a hurry to get anywhere, it’s easier to slow down in a fast boat than to speed up in a slow one.
Speed is fun in itself, and it’s hard not to enjoy sailing straight past a monohull more than twice your length.
Niggles are relatively few.
I thought the rudder blade could do with a touch more balance and I wasn’t sure that the fixed end of the 2:1 jib sheet was quite far enough aft on deck.
Other than that, it all works.
Hardware is mostly from Harken and the spars are by Sélden, so there’s no skimping in these departments.
Would she suit you and your crew?
The Astus 20.5 will attract attention. Several people stopped for a chat and to admire her back in Northney having seen her on the water.
If you’re a dinghy sailor moving up but not ready to slow down, this is a good choice.
Just as much interest is coming from big-boat sailors moving down or wanting a second, smaller boat that still has a good cruising range. Few boats of this size go so fast with so little effort.
As for the inevitable monohull-versus-multihull debate, there are trailable, family-friendly boats of this size with one hull that sail very nicely.
I have clocked over 12 knots in one or two, but only under spinnaker, with good sailors on board and not for sustained periods.
As long as you’re prepared to accept that sailing regularly at double-figure speeds means sacrificing some interior volume, the Astus could suit you perfectly. And for exploring harbours and estuaries, camper-cruising and nudging into the beach, it’s absolutely ideal.
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