The Balance brand was conceived by Phil Berman the founder and owner of the Multihull Company. A champion racer with a passion for sailing well and fast in the right boats, Berman has represented a number of well known performance cruisers such as Catana and Dolphin.
But to get his notion of a true performance cruiser just right, he finally struck out on his own, created the Balance line and started building boats. The first Balance was the 451 that was introduced to North America in 2014. That boat accomplished two big objectives: it showed that good sailing performance did not have to come at the expense of finely finished accommodations and it proved that building offshore in China and South Africa can work very well if done with the right people.
The Balance concept is simple and direct: the boats are modern, technically advanced cruisers that offer a very satisfying turn of speed in the 10 to 12 knot range yet are elegant and practical floating homes capable of crossing oceans and exploring the world.
The new 526 is being build in St. Francis Bay, South Africa by Jonathan Paarman who is a well known expert in lightweight, technically advanced composite boat building, i.e, he knows how to build boats that are light but stiff and durable. That translates into high top end speeds and high average speeds. The 526 should be able to sail at 16 knots or more in the right conditions and will be comfortable and easy to handle sailing in the targeted 10 to 12 knot range.
The new boat is the brainchild of Berman, designer Anton Du Toit and builder Paarman. The boat was designed to weigh just under 20,000 pounds so it was a great pleasure for the team to have her meet this requirement when finally launched.
Du Toit commented soon after launching, “It is a testament to Jonathan and his team to have met our targets. To achieve them, he elected to build his own composite sliding doors, removed stainless steel from her deck, used composite railings and seating, used carbon extensively in her layup and made each piece of furniture with cored sandwich parts. I am quite convinced she is as light and strong as any catamaran could be for her size, volume and payload capability.”
After launching and rigging the boat, the team took her out on to Cape Town’s Table Bay for her first sea trials. Phil Berman commented, “Unfortunately we had very light winds to work with for the days of our photo shoots and test sails. But we learned she is very happy to sail at wind speed in eight knots of wind or better fully laden for cruising. Upwind, she liked to dial in at about nine to nine and a half knots in 12 knots of wind, but that was with the screecher remaining up the entire time and sailing with the blade jib. It is obvious to us that she will be the 10 to 12 knot average cruising catamaran we envisioned. We are quite confident that in 15 knots of wind or more on the beam or behind her, she is going to sail nicely at 13 to 16 knots. We will learn a bit more about her performance under spinnaker and screecher on the long delivery to the U.S. over December and January.”
The 526 has a tall rig built by Sparcraft that has an air draft of 74’5”. She has daggerboards that will greatly enhance her upwind sailing capabilities and high aspect rudders that give her helm fingertip control.
The main living areas—cockpit and saloon—flow together via the large, custom sliding doors so you can enjoy real indoor-outdoor living. The saloon has six-foot, nine inch headroom and large vertical windows all around so the space will feel open, bright and airy.
Visibility from the cockpit forward looks amazingly good and the builders have made good use of that fact by creating a unique pivoting helm. The steering wheel’s pedestal can pivot from vertical to horizontal thereby creating two distinct helming stations, one on the floor of the cockpit under the hard top and the other at the raised seat to starboard where you steer looking out over the top of the cabin. When the weather is fine and you want to man the helm with the wind in your whiskers and the sun on your back, you can pivot the pedestal to vertical and away you go.
If, on the other hand, you are in rainy or cool weather, or making a passage in rough conditions, then you can pivot the pedestal to horizontal and run the boat from the protection of the cockpit yet still with good visibility forward over both bows.
The 526 is a family cruising boat and offers excellent accommodations. The cockpit has a bench sofa and a table that will accommodate six for al fresco meals. The saloon has the U-shaped galley, chart table and a dining table that will seat up to eight. The starboard hull is the master suite while the port hull has two smaller cabins or guest cabins that share the amidships head.
The fit and finish of the 526 is high-end yacht style yet still practical for a family living aboard and cruising. It has plenty of tankage for fuel and water and room to store all of the gear and supplies you need for world cruising.
As MQ went to press in mid-December, the boat was on its way north from South Africa headed toward the U.S. after which MQ will give the new Balance 526 a full sail trial and boat test. For more information log on to www.balancecatamarans.com.
Draft(boards down) 6’4”
Displ. 19, 845 lbs.
Engines (2) 45-hp. Yanmars
Water 206 gals.
Fuel 266 gals.
Waste 32 gals.