The International Hobie 16
Introduced as the bigger Hobie 14, the 16 revolutionized the multihull scene when it first appeared in 1971. Forty plus years later, this boat continues to attract great sailors. Powerful enough for the world champion, yet forgiving enough for the novice, the 16 can be characterized as the Laser of the catamaran world. It's a dual trapeze boat for two or more crew that can be sailed in strong winds.
The initial class rule minimum boat weight was 315 lb., but actual weights were much heavier. In the mid-'70s, the class rule minimum weight was changed to 340 lb. to more accurately reflect the weight of the boats. In 1984, a new manuafacturing process allowed a significant weight reduction to 320 lb. and the class rules were changed accordingly. Actual boat weights crept up during the late '80s into the 340 lb range again, but since about 1994, the boats have been manufactured closer to the class minimum. New boats are built to tight standards today and all weigh within 10 lbs (usually lighter) than the 320 lb. class minimum.
The class minimum crew weight is 285 lbs. combined, however youth and women's events use a lower weight of 250 lbs. and 260 lbs. respectively. For open racing it's generally accepted that the optimum crew weight is 285-310 lbs.
The Hobie 16 sails well in all conditions but excells in breezy and wavy conditions. Originally designed to sail in the surf right off the beach, the 16 still is one of the best catamarans on the market for sailing off the beach. The boat powers up in about 12 knots of breeze where most teams will begin double trapezing upwind. Downwind in waves, it's all about surfing and the 16 loves to surf waves. In breezes over 15 knots the 16 provides an exciting ride. Similar to the Laser, there aren't many strings to pull but the boat continues to challenge even long time Hobie sailors.
While incremental changes have been introduced over production, a 1972 Hobie 16 will look very similar to a new one. Changes over the years have improved and standardized boat production around the world. New boats today are built with better hardware, hull weights are tightly controlled and a new boat needs only a few racing modifications. In recent years, the major changes have been the introduction of cross bars where the traveler tracks are inegrated into the cross bar, hardware upgrades and carbon fiber EPO2 rudders.The sails went through an upgrade in late 1990's and are now made from higher quality cloth. The jib was also recut in 2000 to allow more mast rake. Since mast rake is a critical component of upwind performance, there have been many tweaks to all sorts of parts, from the mast step to the mainsheet boom bail, to the shroud length to increase mast rake.
Modifications for Racing
A 6:1 downhaul system, an adjustable jib halyard system and fiberglass or carbon fiber rudders are common racing modifications. A 6:1 low profile mainsheet system has been standard equipment for many years but if your boat has the older 5:1 ssytem this is the first thing you need to replace. The Comptip mast has been standard equipment for over 25 years and is required for racing.
Like most Hobies, the 16 is very robust, however, there are some a few things that will extend the competitive life. Water left in the hulls is not good for longevity of the hulls. Keeping the boat clean and covered when not in use will not only keep your boat looking nice but will help keep everything working. Rudder systems need special attention to maintain the locking cams in good working order. Carbon fiber rudders need extra-special care. They must be kept out of sunlight when not in use and you should avoid all bottom contact.
What to Look Out For in a Used Boat
Hobie 16's have been in production for 40 years and it is still common for find used boats on the market from the early 1970's. As a general rule, "you get what you pay for" when shopping for a used boat. As a starting point when looking at a used boat you want to ensure it is a 'complete boat' with all it's parts. Replacing major components that are missing (i.e. sails or mast) can be costly. Delamination of the hulls is the most common issue seen in very old hulls. Delamination leads to a wavy or spongy softness to the fiberglass. This is a serious problem that can lead to catestrophic hull failure if not addressed. Small areas of delamination can be repaired but a hull that has delamination over it's entire length is generally not repairable. All wires and standing rigging should be carefully inspected and replaced if more than a few years old.
If you intend to purchase a used boat to be used for racing, you will want a 320 lbs. boat. You should look for something manufactured since 1993. Fiberglass or carbon fiber rudders are a plus but can be obtained separately. Sail condition is a consideration. Typically the racing life of the sails is about five years but some replace their sails more frequently. The new style jib cut was introduced in 2000 and will allow you to carry more mast rake.