The Hobie 18


The Hobie 18 was designed by Hobie Alter and Phil Edwards and introduced in 1977 as the performance cat that would take the Hobie family of boats to the next level. Designed with symmetrical hulls and daggerboards the boat also incorporated equipment not available on the earlier Hobie 14 and 16 designs such as a rolling furler jib and a loose footed mainsail. The boat was an immediate success and competitive fleets sprouted up in North America, Australia and to a lesser extent in Europe. The Hobie 18 became a ‘World Sailing’ International Class in 1990.

Boat Weight - The advertised weight of the newly introduced Hobie 18 was 400lbs but the early boats were far heavier than that. Hobie was selling boats as fast as they could build them and not much attention was paid to the amount of fibreglass and resin that was used. During the early to mid 1980’s hull weights started dropping but premature failure at stress points became problematic. This failure was addressed by adding shroud anchors that spread the load at the shrouds and the same part is used to strengthen the boat at the anchor points for the front crossbar. Boats built from 1986 to present generally will weigh in very close to the factory specification.


Versatility - The Hobie 18 is one of the most versatile catamarans ever built. There are still active and competitive fleets in many countries. It is equally enjoyable both as a racer and as a day sailor. With the jib furled, it can be easily single handed like the Hobie 14, or wings can be added and it becomes a very manageable family day sailor/cruiser. It can easily be sailed off the beach, and yet is much less “active” than its smaller cousins, stable and forgiving without being as technical and “spirited” as the Hobie 20.


Crew Weight - The minimum crew weight according to class rule was changed in the late 1990’s from 285 lbs up to 295 lbs where it remains today. The boat is most competitive when sailed with combined crew weight between 295 lbs and 320 lbs. It still competes very well with combined crew weights up to around 360 lbs. Due to the tall bows and high volume hulls it can be a lot of fun with 3 or 4 adults and still day sails very well with 500 lbs of crew weight.

Sailing Characteristics - The Hobie 18 is incredibly versatile. The boat handles well over a wide range of conditions. It will point a higher than its asymmetrical cousin the Hobie 16 although it is a bit wetter in heavy winds because the trampoline is closer to the water. It is built like a tank and will stand up well to as much wind as you are comfortable sailing. The tall bows make it very difficult to “pitch pole” and it is a much smoother ride than the smaller Hobies. The Hobie 18 can be sailed well with relatively inexperienced crew, because while there are many more adjustments than on the Hobie 16, they are not nearly as critical to the overall performance of the boat as they are on the Hobie 20 or the Hobie Tiger/Wildcat.

Production Changes - While the original Hobie 18 SE has seen no significant changes during its lifetime, Hobie added wings and introduced the Magnum 18 in 1984. Sometime around 1990, Hobie added longer wings, a taller mast and vertical cut Mylar sails in and introduced it as the Hobie 18SX. Very shortly after the SX hit the showroom, the Hobie Miracle 20 made its debut and the performance orientated sailors embraced it and never looked back at the Hobie 18 SX. There are very few SX’s still available and the only nationally active Hobie 18 racing class is the original incarnation, the Hobie 18 SE. In 2004 Hobie ended production of the Hobie 18 in any configuration. In 2011 Hobie Cat Australia made a limited run of ten sets of hulls for loyal owners that wanted many more years of sailing from their Hobie 18 platform. Nine of those sets were shipped to the USA.


What to look out for in a used boat - The Hobie 18 is a very well constructed boat however, over time, two common problem areas are soft spots in the deck just in front of the rear cross bar where the skipper sits. Also be sure to inspect for cracking where the front crossbar attaches to the hull. As with all Hobies, be sure and drain water out of the hulls after use, and leave the port off to allow humidity to escape. Decent used boats are generally priced in the $3000 to $6500 range depending on age, condition, and whether or not it has wings.

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