Sixty years ago this week the future of sailing was changed forever when a 40ft catamaran built by a Devoran explorer became the first to cross the North Atlantic.

Up to that point catamarans had not been acknowledged as viable seagoing sailing vessels and certainly not capable of completing the difficult west to east voyage from New York to north Wales.

Yet on September 30, 1959 James Wharram and his two German companions, Ruth Merseburger and Jutta Schultze-Rohnhoff, sailed into the Conway River on a catamaran designed and built by James, which was to launch a career and lifetime of adventure for him.

Falmouth Packet:

Rongo during trial sail in Trinidad

The catamaran, Rongo, was designed and built by James in Trinidad in 1957-58 after the three sailors had already crossed the Southern Atlantic in 1956, along the trade wind route from the Canaries to Trinidad, in their small 23’6” catamaran Tangaroa, which he had also designed and built, in England three years earlier.

Their success on the Atlantic proved their inherent seaworthiness and in 1965 James started designing catamarans for other people, which soon blossomed into a thriving business of designs for self-builders.

Falmouth Packet:

Jutta riding the bow wave on the North Atlantic crossing

Thousands have since been built, with many completing incredible ocean voyages - including the smallest catamaran to sail round the world in the 1990s, the Tiki 21 Cooking Fat sailed by Rory McDougall.

Wharram Designs vessels are now a distinct type of catamaran with traditional looking lines reminiscent of Polynesian double canoes, and are seen in many harbours all over the world.

Falmouth Packet:

A map of the Atlantic crossings

To celebrate this first epic Atlantic crossing of Rongo, James, now aged 91 and living in Devoran with his Dutch wife and designer partner Hanneke Boon, is reprinting the original building plans of this design, drawn by Jutta in 1960.

These will be available as a presentation box-set including a photo book of the history of Rongo, and the story of her further Atlantic voyages in 1960-61, plus a signed copy of James’ book about his pioneering voyages ‘Two Girls Two Catamarans’.

Falmouth Packet:

Jutta steering in an ex-tropical cyclone during the Atlantic crossing

The plans can be used to build a model or a full size replica of this famous design. The presentation pack will be available in numbered editions, with a maximum print run of 60, for the 60 years since Rongo’s first West-to-East Atlantic voyage.

Read more: Devoran explorer sets off for expedition to Pacific islands

The cost of the presentation box-set is £225 and orders are being taken in advance, with sets to be sent out by Christmas 2019.

James, who last year won a life time achievement award from Classic Boat Magazine, has refused to slow down with his adventures.

Falmouth Packet: Devoran residents Hanneke Boon and James Wharram next to a model of the canoe.

James Wharram and his wife Hanneke Boon in 2008

Indeed, in his 80th birthday year he and Hanneke embarked on yet another transatlantic sailing adventure, this time to two remote islands in the Pacific Ocean, to oversee the finishing touches to two double canoes that were built thanks in part to the fundraising efforts of Devoran Church and the village's residents.

They kick-started a fundraising to build the two canoes - with a combined cost of £60,000 - that were to be gifted to the islands of Tikopia and Anuta, near Papua New Guinea, which at the time were dependant on a dilapidated boat visiting on an increasingly infrequent basis.