The Trimaran was conceived and created by several people, one of who is Steve Burg, a conceptual and storyboard artist. Working along with Kevin Costner and producer Charles Gordon, Burg's first task was to come up with a "hero boat" for the leading character. "I knew nothing about boats," admitted Burg. "So the first thing I did was research. We knew we wanted it to be a very unique craft and we discussed building a catamaran, which is a sailboat that has two parallel hulls. In the course of doing my research, however, I became very interested in trimarans--which have three hulls--because they had more interesting possibilities. The first thing I did was draw a trimaran and a catamaran, both with the same treatment and said, 'What do you think?' Everybody agreed that the trimaran was much more intriguing." The judgement was both aesthetic and practical: in addition to being visually appealing, the trimaran also offered the most stable sailboat design available.
It was known from the start that the hero of Waterworld was a loner who lived a completely self-sufficient existence on his unique, highly customized craft. The idea for the boat was almost out of The Swiss Family Robinson--counterweights would cause the hero to fly up to the top of the mast; cranes and rigs set at multiple control stations would provide for every conceivable need. An early concept rendering showed a vessel so covered with planks and gadgets that it was almost unrecognizable as a boat. Scaffolding ran up to the top, with plants in containers growing along the back. A small house, reminiscent of a grass hut, was erected on the deck. It was a vision of a scavenged existence at its most inventive.
While doing research Burg had looked through a sailing magazine and come across a racing boat by a French company called Jeanneau. It seemed possible to obtain a contemporary boat that offered state-of-the-art technology while providing a suitable foundation for the modifications called for in the script. Besides that, production designer Dennis Gassner and everyone else agreed that the trimaran was an absolutely stunning piece of work. The French racing single-hander was the fastest of its class in the world. Intended for transatlantic open-ocean racing, it was at once powerful and exotic. As soon as the filmmakers saw the sailing machine in action, they were enthralled. Moreover, Jeanneau was equally intrigued with the Waterworld project and agreed to collaborate in the trimaran's design and construction. It was clear that the sailboat from Jeanneau was the perfect hero boat.
Burg had originally been working on designs for a futuristic-looking craft that would be aged to seem centuries old for the movie--sort of the Millennium Falcon idea from Star Wars. Instead of the earlier river barge concept, the notion of a boat that could transform from a clunky, utilitarian trawling mode into a sleek, high-powered escape mode had evolved. The Mariner, as the hero character was now called, required a vessel that could be handled by one person, while being equipped to manage such a transformation. The logic was that the Mariner had spent a lifetime on this boat and had customized it to serve every conceivable need. It was equipped with such essentials as a urine purifier, a harpoon gun and other weapons, along with various other gadgets that included a solar-powered hot glue gun for repairs. An eggbeater-style windmill spun drowsily in the wind, dredging up potential treasure from the ocean floor below. It was the perfect survival craft in every way. At the first sign of danger the Mariner could instantly transform his waterborne homestead into a no-nonsense racing craft. The designs were now adjusted to suit the parameters of the sixty-by-forty five foot French trimaran, which would be modified and dressed to suit the reality of Waterworld.