The initial inspiration for the Balance 486 and 526 came from our passion to design and build – from the ground up – the finest performance voyaging catamarans for a couple or small family who really want to go places in speed and comfort yet carry significant cruising payloads. We set out to design both boats to be simple to operate and to maintain while offering gracious living.
The 486 and 526 are the brainstorm of multihull racer, author and designer Phillip Berman, naval architect Anton Du Toit, and famed catamaran builder Jonathan Paarman. These exceptional yachts are designed and built by a team with a lifetime of experience sailing, racing, cruising and fabricating blue-water catamarans. The 486 and 526 are also the byproduct of direct sailing experience and customer feedback we have gained managing the sale of over 500 catamarans around the world. No design and build team has the depth of hard-fought experience we hold in catamaran design and fabrication.
The 486 and the 526 will obtain top speeds in excess of 20 knots. Our primary aim, however, was to design catamarans that will sustain high average speeds, fully laden, without being hard-pressed. The 486 is designed to sustain speeds between 9 and 11 knots over a 24-hour period. Her big brother, the longer, leaner 526 was designed to up the performance ante sustaining speeds between 10 and 12 knots over 24-hour periods. It is important to understand that the 486 and the 526 share the same hull tooling and that both boats carry similar interior volumes. The 486, however, carries plumb bows and a shorter, steeper stern, while the 526 carries a narrower, longer bow and sterns.
LIGHT, STRONG AND SAFE
Speed is safety provided your yacht is engineered and built to stand up to the worst weather nature delivers. The Balance 486 and 526 are strong, but also light. The 486 weighs in at 9.5 tons lightship, while the 526 weighs just a bit over 10 tons. Both yachts are built using a combination of E-glass, Carbon, Closed Cell Foam, Composite Bulkheads and the entire laminate structure is Epoxy. If there is a need to run from weather, or position away from it, the Balance 486 or 526 will take you safely where you need to go with alacrity. Fast, rugged, unsinkable.
DUAL DAGGERBOARDS WITH PROTECTIVE MINI-KEELS
We are happy to build the 486 or 526 with fixed-performance keels, but most of our customers request our high performance fully retractable dual daggerboards, which draw less than 3’ 6” inches of water when retracted. Shallow waters are no longer off limits. Upwind performance is dramatically improved with the boards in the down position, while off wind performance is enhanced with the boards raised. In dangerous cross seas, with the “boards up,” the 486 and 526 will sideslip to avoid the tripping effect associated with large fin-keeled cats.
Both the 486 and 526 may be built with fixed keels, daggerboards only, or daggerboards with mini-protective keels.
SEA KINDLY, HIGH CLEARANCE, HEAVY PAYLOAD CARRYING HULLS
The 486 and 526 were designed carefully to center the weights as much as possible to dampen fore and aft pitching. Both yachts carry sharp, high bows to pierce the seas and high underwing clearance to avoid slapping and pounding. No protrusions or chines are found in our hulls. They are “pure-form” shapes that inhibit drag, increase speed, and reduce sea-induced motion. Our hulls also minimize drag regardless of the payloads you carry. As payloads grow so too does the beam of our hulls, increasing hydrodynamic drag incrementally for the loads you need to carry. Unlike so many flat sided performance cats that sail smartly when empty but slow dramatically with loads, the Balance 486 and 526 will only see marginal speed degradation when loaded for cruising.
SAILING MADE EASY
With the Balance 486 or 526 there is never a need to wait for crew. We’ve designed both boats to be easily piloted single-handed. Our self-tending blade jib, reefing station, and innovative Versahelm design now make it possible for almost anyone to single-hand our catamarans safely in any sort of weather.
ALL WEATHER PILOTING
The first of its kind in catamaran design, our all-weather Versahelm blends the best of both worlds for serious voyagers. In fair weather you open up the sliding hard top and sail upstairs in open air. In inclement weather you close the hardtop and drop our cantilevered wheel into the aft cockpit. From here you pilot in total protection looking through our large vertical salon windows. The down position enables you to see all four corners of the yacht for docking and offers a safe, warm and comfortable place to sit watch and pilot the 486 or 526 in any sort of weather. We have labored sedulously to eliminate the ugliness and problems of two-tiered hard tops that must be covered with plastic or glass for cold weather sailing. We see no reason why a modern catamaran must look like a fishing trawler but find every reason to believe she must often be piloted like one – in any sort of weather in comfort and safety. Sailing must be fun whenever it can be but warm and safe went it cannot. Fatigue is the start of every crisis when voyaging and at Balance Catamarans we design our yachts to fight this threat at every turn.
VERSA HELM DESIGN – BECAUSE ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL
Most catamaran builders appear to assume everyone is the same size, forcing shorter people into living with helm stations and sight lines that are unworkable, or constraining taller people into contorted postures when helming or operating winches. At Balance we find this unacceptable. We’ve designed a unique retracting helm standing platform that can be raised to increase sight lines for those who wish to pilot “over the bows” up narrow channels or crab pot cluttered rivers and estuaries. If you are shorter than most, or taller than most, you will celebrate our thoughtful design.
REEFING AND LINE HANDLING MADE EASY
The Balance 486 and 526 reefing station enables a single handed sailor to hoist, reef, and trim the mainsail and genoa with ease. At Balance we believe reefing and sail handling should be managed as near as possible to the primary helm station in a dedicated work area. Our design places all of the winches and stoppers in the ideal location for ease of use. Raising the mainsail, reefing, and adjusting the sheets has never been easier. No more reaching up or over winches in contorted postures to lift or close a stopper. No more spaghetti piling up on the floor or tripping over throttles or instruments. Our line storage systems are the best ever devised. Nobody has thought through these issues with the intensity of our design and build team to finally achieve a solution to these persistent design flaws found on dated bulkhead helm designs.
GRACIOUS LIVING, ELEGANT DESIGN
After selling over 500 catamarans we know that our customers wish to turn their yachts into gracious, elegant homes. We’ve spent hour upon hour examining our interior sight lines. We’ve profoundly improved upon catamaran living ergonomics – our beds, toilettes and showers, as well as our cabinetry and finishes are truly state-of-the-art.
360 DEGREE INSIDE-OUTSIDE VISION
In keeping with modern design the 486 and 526 aft cockpit and salon floors are on the same level, increasing the openness of the salon to the aft cockpit to provide amazing visibility in all directions whether inside or outside. Our salon carries over 6 feet 8 inches of headroom and high, vertical windows to present a panoramic vision of the world outside. No matter whether you are standing or sitting in the salon, or the aft cockpit, you will be connected to the sea. This not only makes piloting the boat safer, but living more pleasant.
HEAT RESISTANT DESIGN WITH MASSIVE NATURAL VENTILATION
The 486 and 526 salon roof carries a brow over her large vertical windows to reduce heat buildup inside the salon. In hot tropical locations you no longer need to cover your salon windows with UV covers or constantly run the air conditioning. We’ve set a new bar in natural air flow with our unique “Forced-Air-Dorade” hatches that power air from the forward cabins aft in the most efficient and cleverly designed manner yet devised. We’ve also designed as many of our hatches and portlights to be left open in a tropical downpour.
KEEPING IT SIMPLE
We designed the Balance 486 and 526 to be as simple to operate and maintain as possible. You want to go sailing, not hang around marina’s cajoling contractors to repair your overly complex systems. We have worked overtime to design the simplest, most bullet proof wiring, plumbing, and mechanical systems possible. We do so based on our lifetime of experience as boat builders and sailors who have attended hundreds of surveys. We’ve chosen the vendors who produce the best and most reliable products because nothing second best is good enough for us.
“In addition to being a yacht of the finest quality, the new “Versahelm” design of the Balance 526 is so elegant, wise and functional one wonders why nobody thought to do it before…”
“I stepped off the Balance 526 thinking it might just be the new scratch boat in the payload-versus-performance multihull debate.”
“It was clear that Berman and Dutoit had spent hundreds of hours to design what they felt was the ultimate blue-water performance cat.”