A young couple start a sailing training business aboard a performance trimaran

Darren and Amanda Seltzer
The Seltzers offer offshore training and stints in the United States, the Caribbean and Europe on their Neel 45, red panda.
McCormick Grass

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The breeze was blowing from the tidy anchorage of Anse Marcel on the French side of the Caribbean the island of Saint Martin, where a dozen multihulls were hoisting their sails and preparing for a rapid crossing of the choppy Anguilla Channel. It was the second day of the inaugural rally component of the annual Caribbean Multihull Challenge.

With one exception, the fleet consisted of performance catamarans from builders such as Balance and Lagoon, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the slick graphics and clean lines of the single trimarans in the fray, a Neel 45 named Red panda. The boat was one thing, but I was actually more interested in the young couple who sailed it, Darren and Amanda Seltzer. We had met the previous summer when chance and a mutual friend brought us all together for a pretty wild day of sailing on a race boat off Newport, Rhode Island. I had told them about the rally at the time, and now, surprisingly, they were there.

Amanda and Darren sail a pretty cool trimaran, but their unlikely journey on the high seas to the islands – while also starting a business offering potential cruisers, as they once were, opportunities for learning and adventure. – was even cooler.

They met in Orlando, Florida, each pushing pencils at corporate gigs; both came from active, outdoor-loving backgrounds, neither of which involved sailing. Accomplished divers, they were actually posting dive videos on YouTube (“Don’t back down!” Darren said) when they came across the Sailing SV. Delos channel and a light went out.

Wait what? Could you dive from your own sailboat?

“We instantly went down this YouTube rabbit hole of sailing videos,” Darren said, with Amanda adding, “Hooked. That’s what we were.

They traded their jobs and possessions for a 39ft Amel Sharki they named Panda (nickname of Amanda), with the idea of ​​a liveaboard-diving safari in the South Pacific.

When the pandemic hit and the islands they dreamed of exploring shut down, they turned to what was open and available. “Greenland,” Darren said. “It was like sailing through Yosemite or Yellowstone but with ice.”

From there it was to the UK and a long winter spent on the River Hamble, where they had the idea of ​​making their new profession their calling with their own YouTube videosand by offering training trips and passages on their own boat. Of course, there were plenty of other people with the same idea, but on a multihull?

“We were looking for something different, something that would stand out,” said Darren, explaining their choice for a new trimaran, this one called red panda. “It had to work well. Where do people who buy a multihull go to gain sailing experience? This is the opportunity we saw. And the one they seized.

Their second transatlantic crossing, a 16-day return to the islands, was significantly faster than their first on the Sharki. When I met them in St. Maarten, they had a few clients on board, an itinerary and a two-year business plan that would take them back to the east coast of the United States with a return trip to the Caribbean. For 2024, they are planning an ambitious Atlantic loop with stops in the Azores, Scotland and the Canary Islands before crossing the pond again towards the tropics.

“From the time we got into sailing until we made it our business, we had the same approach,” Darren said. “We’re all in, with 100% effort.”

And that’s where they were, at least figuratively, when I saw them disappearing over the horizon, bound for Anguilla. With the spinnaker set and the spray flying over a trio of hulls, red panda was in control and tracking like a freight train. Exactly like the couple who sail it.

Herb McCormick is a C.W. editor-in-chief.

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