And my notes. Not nearly as poetic as Richard’s.
Every so often a catamaran design appears with its helm forward, usually just aft of the mast. The old Searunner trimarans had that configuration also. With a sort of amnesia, observers get quite excited about it as a new design phenomena, every time. And I now hear the phrase “If Gunboat does it, it has to be good.”
It does solve the classical problem of the helm person having to see over or through the house cabin. Beware however the unintended consequences.
There are several. And long ago I learned that just because the famous do something doesn’t make it right. Gunboat also eschews traveler cars and tracks.
Most important, protection from wind and water is almost totally gone. Especially monohull sailors have no idea that a sweet looking cruising cat can do 25 knots on a reach. Subsequently they have no idea how much exploded water will be deluging them at speed. With no protection, even with no waves, it is cold, especially at night.
In a storm, the connection to inside is a door on the front of the cabin. When there is a firehose of white water blasting the front of the cabin, nobody will dare open that door.
On modern cats, the big sailing engine is the mainsail. That is aft of a helm forward. On a traditional helm aft, one can keep an eye on the mainsail trim and still watch where you are going. With helm forward, that will be cricking your neck to keep an eye on the power sail back up behind you.
Related to the mainsail as the power engine is safety. How often does the traveler car or the mainsheet block jam during a tack? If the problem is out of sight and 7 meters behind you, that is a safety problem. More, if a mast fails, or a mast base block explodes, the helm person is right in that impacted area.
On modern, powerful catamarans, being able to release the mainsail in literally an instant in the event of a crisis is critical. Having the entire mainsheet line in clear view and easy access is so important.
In the real world, the benefit of shorter halyard lines, and down low clear view is far outweighed by the exposed and dangerous location of that helm forward.