A Brief History
In 1988, Duncan Lethbridge, a successful real estate developer, builder & sailing champion, decided to take his family cruising. Angelo Lavranos, an acclaimed naval architect, was commissioned to design a comfortable cruising catamaran.
The launch of his first St Francis 43 led to an unprecedented demand from friends and the local yachting fraternity, a small factory was built to meet the needs. This has grown to become a modern 4000m² building facility situated in St Francis Bay, approximately 100km West of Port Elizabeth, where the moderately dry climate with small temperature variations (between 16 and 25˚C) produces a naturally air-conditioned environment, ideal for GRP manufacture.
Through a program of continuous product development we have refined our original 43 (still sailing and doing well in the Arc Race) to become the ST Francis 44 MK II, in which we won the Cape to Rio Race convincingly beating all other catamarans, including three 50 footers to be the first multihull to cross the line and first on handicap.
Customer demands for more luxury required a total rethink, as the weight of generators, air-con, electric WC's, holding tanks, freezers, watermaker, fridges, new electronics and large tenders on a 44' put on such a load that killed its speed lively brisk handling. The solution was to spread the same load over a larger area hence still maintaining and surpassing the 44's handling.
Angelo Lavranos was again put to the test of designing our new 50, which on its debut won Cruising World's "Best Cruising Catamaran" of the year 2006 and the South African award for best sailing craft over 10m. Although we were prohibited from entering the same competition with the same design we have not stopped our development. Modern weight saving and other improvements are still being sort.
Some firsts in the development of St Francis Catamarans:
Swapped centre boards for keels
Advantages - shallower draft, protects sail drive, props & rudders, able to dry out in tidal zones.
Midships engines with sail drive leg protruding out to the inner side of the hull
Advantages – weight centralized, engines, batteries, water & fuel, minimizes hobby horsing (pitching). Safer & more comfortable.
First to fit swim platform to catamarans
Advantages – ideal extension to cockpit, easy access to and from water, excellent place to stow tender and clean fish.
First boom extension for davits
Advantages – out of the way and easy to manage, able to lift larger tenders, can be used as a crane.
Stow away swim ladders
Advantages – out of the way especially when boarding from boats & jetties.
Boarding stairs between front trampolines
Advantages – easy dry access when bows placed up on beach, ideal for swimming especially for the elderly as large steps, start about one meter below the water surface.
Solid bimini top with windows that can open to chosen setting and side screens
Advantages – all control lines come aft, safer & dry in inclement weather, an extension to the saloon, can be open or closed. Bimini top can accommodate over 1200 watts of solar panels, ideal for the fitment of satellite domes, etc.
Rain water catchment
Bimini top edge acts as a hand grip and gutter catching rain to be piped overboard or into water tanks.
Forward & Aft facing hatches
Advantages – aft cabins & saloon have forward & aft openings catching the breeze and providing good cross ventilation.
Scoop stern inner side cut off
Advantages – easy boarding from tender with no raised edge to step over
Seats in bow and stern of each hull
Advantages – aesthetic finish and ideal view platform for dolphin watching
Interior ergonomically designed from the sitz bath/shower with laundry bin to no sharp corners or catches, 360˚ vision from saloon, safety stairs, dimmable lighting, dish dryer add up to provide a comfortable safe environment.