Asia Catamarans, Phuket’s most successful boatbuilding company, was officially launched in 2013. Today it has built 25 sail and power catamarans.

The company’s manager Alan Carwardine designed and built his first stealth catamaran in Brisbane, a Stealth 12c called, As mad as a cut snake, which he launched on 2007 while he was the Manager of Allyacht Spars (that boat is still doing well on the Australian race course winning a Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race not too long ago). Prior to this period Alan designed and built many of Australia’s fast monohull sports boats and trailer-sailers.

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At that time, there wasn’t a designer out there who could design a cat Alan liked that focused on performance, ergonomics and was suited for tropical climate conditions so he designed one himself. But he soon realized that catamarans couldn’t be built profitably in Australia because of the costs associated with labour, sheds, service, and insurance – Alan always knew he had to go to Asia if he wanted to build boats for a business. Alas, many designers can’t sell their designs because they can’t get their boats built.

Alan moved to Thailand in 2009, working as the Asia-area manager for the UK deck hardware company Lewmar. During that time, he met Roger Diggelman of Composite Yacht Constructions, having helped consult on the Andaman Cabriolet catamarans Roger was building for Grenville Fordham and Bob Mott.

Alan’s second Stealth cat was Sidewinder, a Stealth 12.6c, which he built in Brisbane, but cut up and shipped to Phuket in a 40-foot container where Roger assembled it at his yard in Phuket. It was launched in 2010 just prior to Phuket Raceweek, and sold to John and Libby Punch in 2012. They renamed it Nautilus and is now based in Darwin. It won the Darwin to Ambon Race a few years back and has been continually cruising thru Indonesian waters since bought.

Alan thought that joining forces with Roger would tick all the boxes for a future boat building and design business. Roger had a small company with eight employees that Alan believed needed funding to expand the business, to build a new shed, and purchase some new tools, consequently the idea of Asia Catamarans was born. Most boat designers would kill to have the situation Alan has now, whereby he has his own facility to build his own designed boats but Alan is also much more multi-faceted than most designers given his boat-building and managerial background.

Realizing that an alliance with Roger would work, he informed Lewmar at the start of 2013 that he would be following his dream of being a full-time designer and builder of catamarans. With Roger and Alan as 50/50 partners Asia Catamarans was formed and immediately started production.

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Alan then started with a brand-new page of Autocad and re-designed the Stealth hull and deck for a better look and better performance. The earlier two Stealths were a little “nose-divey” and pitchy. A new hull and deck mold was made and modern building techniques adapted. The first boat under this new design was Hurricane, a Stealth 11.8s, built for Alan and his wife June, launched in January, 2012.

Alan knew he couldn’t compete with European production boats and Australian designers were not adapting to the Queensland tropical conditions so the focus on the new design was all about light weight performance cruising/racing and being very livable in the tropics, a niche market for sure but none the less, an unfulfilled market.

“We made a big effort with Hurricane to win as many regattas as possible,”: Alan says. “That caused a lot of interest in Australia and elsewhere with people following performance catamaran designs. 5 Kings Cup wins and 6 Phuket Race Week wins resulted in great marketing. The ability for the Stealth’s to sail at ‘faster than wind speed’ while cruising in the dominantly lighter airs of the tropics and the excellent air flow of the design had great appeal for cruising people. The design was aimed at people that weren’t necessarily racers but liked performance cats and the enjoyment of sailing a nicely balance and responsive catamaran. (Hurricane was sold in 2017 and is now based in San Diego)

The second boat out of the new mold and the fourth Stealth was Afterburner, a Stealth 12.6s. It was launched in January 2013 for Daniel Reno and then sold to Guy Scott from Singapore in 2016. It was later sold again to Bob Engel and is now based in Phuket and re-named Lady Luck.

The fifth Stealth was Java, a Stealth 11.8s, a sistership to Hurricane. Launched in June 2013 for John Coffin and Java Yachting.

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John then proposed that Alan design and Asia Catamarans build a Stealth power cat, feeling that you didn’t need a mast and sails for Asian charter work so Rendezvous, was launched in Sept 2014.

Roger, Alan and friend Marc Chapus then started Asia Catamarans Sailing, a charter company, which would lease the power cats the company built. The 43ft 3.6-ton Rendezvous, was the seventh Stealth and could carry 22 guests and 3 crew with a maximum speed of 19 knots and a cruising speed of 15. After great charter success it was sold to a Russian charter company based in Phuket in 2017.

The sixth build was a Stealth 13c, Gale Force for Gokova Yacht Charters. It was launched in Dec 2013 and after years of solid charter work was sold in 2018. It is now based in San Francisco.

The eighth Stealth was the 14GT Wow, the first liveaboard, for David Liddell, which is currently doing a circumnavigation of the globe. It was stuck in Tahiti during the height of COVID, but previous to that won the Heineken Regatta in Antigua 2018.

Next up was Allegro a Stealth 13c liveaboard which was launched in September of 2015. The owner Bob McInytre lives on the boat at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club Marina.

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The next boat completed, the largest to date was a Stealth 47ft day charter powercat called Infinity, which was put into the Asia Catamarans Sailing fleet, managed by Marc Chapus, whose idea it was to build the 47ft power cats. They were fast, light, and had low fuel consumption and low maintenance.

From the end of 2014 Asia Catamarans would only build to customer requests, with their order book filling up quickly 8 months ahead. Next up, were the sisterships Top Cat and Phantom V, two Stealth 13s. Top Cat was launched in March 2016 for Peter Wood. It was later sold to Mike Hoskins, re-named LeVi, and is now based in New Caledonia. Phantom V was launched in Nov 2016 for Andrew and Gaela Hurford. After years of good regatta results, it was sold to John Spencer in 2021 and re-named Zero.

Then came Twister 2 a Stealth 12s, launched in May 2017 for Glywn and Karen Rowlands. The boat is a regular on the local regatta scene.

Integos, a Stealth 12, their first motor-sailer, a very interesting design with a carbon mast you could drop/raise in three minutes to navigate canals in the Mediterranean. It was built for Austrian Franz Rathkolb who took possession of the boat in Turkey and has now cruised thru much of the Mediterranean, including the canals of Venice.

Next to be launched was Maserati, Infinity’s sister ship. These two were the largest boats the company had designed and built and could carry 37 guests and 3 crew with a max speed of 23 knots and a cruising speed of 18. After servicing Asia Catamarans Sailing, both were eventually sold to a Singapore charter company.

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The company then received its first order for a full-on carbon Stealth from Peter Wilcox. The 12m Cosmo (most Stealths up to that time were 20 percent carbon), was fitted with removeable foils on its rudders and daggerboards. It was shipped to Sydney in late 2018 and now has new owners, the 18ft skiff legend Trevor and wife Gail Barnabas.

The seventeenth build was Sea Explorer, another Stealth 47 powercat. Launched for Torben Busk Jensen’s charter company in Phuket, it is equipped with all the mod-cons for high-end diving charters or a live-aboard for up to seven passengers and two crew for periods of up to 10 days.

For its eighteenth boat, Asia Catamarans proceeded to build their smallest power cat Hot Chilli a Stealth 36e, which was ordered thru the brokerage Multihull Solutions for local charter company Far-away Yachting. This small powercat, launched in November of 2019 is packed with space and ideal for economical charter work carrying 16 guests and 2 crew. Hot Chilli can cruise at 15 knots with a full payload with a pair of 60hp outboards fitted.

Asia Catamarans then received a new order (boat #19) for a 12.6c Stealth called Fez from John Coffin, making him the first repeat customer. Launched in September of 2020, it was designed for live-aboard charter use and teaching sailing courses for Java Yachting. By this time, Dan Fidock had bought Java and renamed it Saffron.

Coconuts, a very fast 12.2 Stealth, came next and was originally built for the Carwardine’s to sail through Indonesia, but this idea failed due to COVID. Fully fitted out for serious cruising, the boat has a set of cruising and racing sails. Though the Carwardine’s couldn’t fulfil their cruising dreams, the upside of the pandemic was it increased their orders dramatically. The company only shut down for ten days in early 202I for COVID. Coconuts was launched in September 2020 but to make way for a radical new design whizzing around in Alan’s head it was sold in 2021 to Bob Engwirda and shipped into Brisbane.

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Build 21 was Vela, a Stealth 13.2, which was built for a Brisbane couple Emma and Nick Lyons, and launched in 2021. The boat has been designed and built for circumnavigation but still has all the gear ready for doing the odd regatta.

Number 22 was Luna, a Stealth 12c. Launched in Jan 2022 for Roberto Prever, it was shipped into Italy and now based in Trieste. It was the 1st CE approved Stealth.

Payu, a Stealth 13s and the 2nd CE approved Stealth, was next launched in January 2022 for Joachim and Christina Fietz.

Number 24 was Earthling, a Stealth/Earthling 12, full electric powercat, launched in April 2022 for the Earthling company and shipped into Auckland. This state-of-the-art boat has really been turning heads with a top speed of 20 knots and a “battery only” range of 150 nm.

Stealth number 25, Arriba is the latest, brand new and very radical design called the Stealth X Series 43, which was launched in August 2022 for Alan and June. “The X Series 43 is a totally different design and my attempt to design the perfect cruising boat for a couple in the tropics, not too powerful, has an inside helm for motoring (will motor at 18knots) and outside tillers when sailing. It looks like a trimaran without the middle hull in the water,” says Alan.

It’s really quite remarkable to think the majority of these builds were completed in less than a decade in a shed in Ao Chalong, not too far away from the Phuket Yacht Club.

To what does Alan contribute the company success to?

“We didn’t want veteran boat builders with closed minds. We needed young builders who weren’t set in their ways. So, we asked our staff, who were all from Isaan, if they had any young relatives in northeast Thailand who would like to apprentice with the company. We trained our staff up, as the processes we use are very high-tech for Phuket.
“Traditionally, in the workplace in Thailand, it’s been very difficult for a younger person to tell an older person what to do because of the dreaded loss of face,” Alan says. “But now, our three team leaders can tell the older guys what to do, in a respectful manner, of course. I think it works because they are all friends, they know each other and they know each other’s families.”

Today Asia Catamarans has 25 staff, including folks from five extended families, so to say the company is close knit would be an understatement.

To date Stealth cats have won six Phuket King’s Cup regattas and seven Phuket Raceweeks. Indeed, the Stealth designs have been dominating the Asian regattas in recent years and there seems no reason why this will not continue into the future with more new Stealth designs to hit the water soon.

(Btw, Alan’s son Ben is a qualified superyacht captain and has worked on, Addix, Kokomo 5 and Red Dragon. He is based out of Palma, Spain, and now working as first officer on the 88-metre sailing ketch Aquijo. Alan’s daughter Mia is the Operations Manager of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, having previously served with Conservation International in East Timor.) 

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