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I am a novice sailor (at best) and natively German-speaking, so the question might contain incorrect use of sailing terms and further misconceptions - thanks for any pointers in comments.

In high wind it's clear: You lean out over the side of the boat to help keep it upright. In lower wind, there seems to be two counteracting effects regarding speed:

  1. More heel (not/less leaning out): Second hull has no/less water contact -> less friction.
  2. Less heel (more leaning out): More effective sail area towards the wind (better angle).

Are these statements even correct? And if they are, which is more important? And/Or are there other (more important) effects I didn't think of?

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As you mentioned, a vertical sail gives you more power, so where possible that should be your goal, but the drag caused when heeling is enough that for most catamarans you want to minimise it as much as possible.

So aim to keep the windward hull just out of the water in calm seas, and a little higher in rough seas, in order to avoid a rough ride.

If the wind is very light, and by this I'm thinking 2-3 knots, you may want both hulls in the water, just to get a vertical sail and maximise effective sail area, or possibly even a slight heel to windward, which can feel odd, but avoids some of the lift losses from air spilling over the top of the sail.

I had a look across various boats to see if there was a consistent recommended heel angle... And there isn't. The 30 or so I looked at range from 8 degrees to 33!

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    Your last line is the key, ideal heel is class dependent. You need to look up what it is for the class you're using. – Separatrix Jan 15 at 15:17

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