Copyright 2017 - Woods Designs, Foss Quay, Millbrook, Torpoint, Cornwall, PL10 1EN, UK
  • home built Flica 37

  • plywood Romany 34

  • lightweight 14ft Zeta mainhull

  • Strike 15 trimaran at speed

  • 28ft Skoota in British Columbia

  • 10ft 2 sheet ply Duo dinghy

  • 24ft Strider sailing fast

  • 36ft Mirage open deck catamaran

Just a few words about my design philosophy.

First, I won't make claims that I couldn't personally prove. Too many designers say a boat is suitable for ocean cruising yet wouldn't themselves take one offshore. Similarly I won't say a boat will do "20 knots" unless I have done it in flat water and a F5 (any boat can surf at high speeds down waves - but that doesn't count). I know that that attitude costs me sales, but I think one should be honest about a boat's capabilities.

Second, I only design boats I'd like to sail myself. This means the boat must be fun to sail and have an optimised performance (not necessarily fast, but, rather, is efficient) I won't design a boat based purely on a "country cottage" style accommodation, because boats like that tend to sail like cottages as well.

As I've said elsewhere, I only like to design boats that are fun to sail. I also know from personal experience just how much effort is involved in building even the smallest boat. I've found that it is the psychological effort that's particularly hard, especially if you are a home builder building alone in your spare time. I also know that there are other people, like myself, who's keeness to build is not matched by manual dexterity.

So I try to design boats that are straightforward to build. In simple terms, if I can build it then anyone can! I always try to visulise what a particular design would be like when sailing to windward at 2am in the rain. Or when reefing. Or of course when drifting downwind on a very hot humid day.

I tend to own a fleet of multihulls. Sometimes I just go for a day sail, sometimes I race for the weekend, and most years I spend a long time living on board (I spent every Christmas living on board a boat from 2001 - 2011). All this experience means that I have personally faced nearly every situation you can meet when sailing and I use that experience in my designs.

People often say "I don't want a fast boat" but then admit they don't want a slow one either. What they mean is that they really want a boat that handles well, is controllable and basically does what they want, on demand. Much like when buying a car - few buy the fastest car but no-one wants to buy a car that is awkward to drive.

For some reason people think I like sailing when it's rough and windy - I don't! So third, I only design boats that are safe, comfortable and easy to handle. I am not a good boatbuilder (even my best friends say so). So I design boats that even I could build (the implication is that if I can anyone can).

Because I don't like boatbuilding I want to get the boat built quickly so I am a great believer in using flat panels where-ever possible. I have done a few fully rounded boats - notably Wizard, Wizzer, Sango and also a 45' one-off years ago. But they take much longer to build and offer very little gain in return. Maybe my boats appear too slow for racers and too fast for cruisers, but I think they are just right.

One problem with efficiently designed boats is that they make little spray or wake. For example, the Strider "Striderman" shown sailing on the web page "Why Sail a Multihull?"doesn't look as though its going fast, yet was photographed as we sailed through the lee of a larger Dragonfly trimaran whose owner later reported that he was sailing at a steady 18 knots.

In 1988 the CTC (the Dutch Multihull Association) held a major symposium/regatta. All the major designers were there and after the lectures about 40 multihulls had a race. In a F3 we were first to the windward mark in our 35' Banshee (despite a foul bottom). Close behind was John Shuttleworth in his open deck 35' performance cruiser, while Malcolm Tennant on HIS 35' performance cruiser was with the rest of the fleet, ie out of sight behind. Unlike the others (which had Dutch owners) we were also living on board and had just sailed 400 miles to the meeting.

Then the wind dropped and it started to rain so we all motored home. But we had shown that our boats could take on the rest and win. I can design fast racing boats but such boats always have a low resale value and personally that puts me off owning one. I want my customers to get good value for money from their boats so please think carefully before buying too extreme a boat.