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Excerpted from Practical Boat Owner, February 1989


Detuned For Cruising

Dave Greenwell sails the cruising version of the Woods designed Strider catamaran

Designed by Richard and Lillian Woods, the Strider Club is a 24' long by 14'2" beam catamaran and her pedigree is that of a highly successful racing micro-multihull successfully bridged the historical divide between sensible cruising and highly competitive catamarans. But she has been detuned with a smaller rig and is one of the few small cruiser/racer catamarans aboard which the complete novice can cut his teeth without putting himself or his craft at undue risk.

There's no doubt that the most striking difference between the 'racing' Striders and the Club is that the Club sets just 202 sq. ft of sail compared with 385 sq. ft beneath the waterline things have changed too. Instead of the twin daggerboards that occupied the space alongside the raised cabin area of each bull, the hulls have been given long, shallow fin keels, resulting in a draft of 1 ft 10 inches compared with just under 10 inches with the daggerboard versions - boards up. The fixed keels may result in a small decrease in windward performance - though not much - but the advantages of simplified sailing, more room inside the hulls and full protection for the rudders when taking the ground, not to mention the fact that they make it far easier to dry out and scrub off her bottom, far out weight any loss in performance. Doing away with the dagger boards has also allowed the repositioning of the hatches leading into the hulls.This gives easier access into the hulls and creates a more comfortable and protected area for the helmsman. Below decks it makes much more useable space with areas equally divided between the ends of each hull.

Another change, important to the cruising owner, is her large box-section moulded GRP mast-bean in place of an aluminium extrusion, and a solid GRP bridge deck in place of the main trampoline. This gives a secure feeling to the boat and gives good protection from flying spray. It also creates a 'fenced in' area where younger members of the crew can frolic without being in danger of falling over the front...a tent can be rigged beneath the boom to enclose around two-thirds of the bridge deck and extending out to the gunwales, encompassing the companionways. This provides a snug yet spacious living area and at night, two can sleep in comfort on an airbed on the bridge deck. An upstand forms a threshold to the tent to keep the interior dry and leaves an area of the deck free for boarding and so on. When sailing in light winds or rain, the tent can be left rigged to give shelter for the family.

But how did she sail? The short answer is that she's a very enjoyable craft to helm. I sailed her in a light breeze and in the shelter of Plymouth Sound, she slipped along without fuss. Out of the shelter of the sound the breeze strengthened and she really started to move. They claim that she can do nine knots in twenty-knot s of wind and I'm sure they're not exaggerating.

Compared with her racing counterpart she has a dinghy-like sail area and is somewhat heavier, she is still a performance craft with a jolly good turn of speed. But although she's exciting to sail, I didn't find her frightening nor was she particularly difficult to handle - though a couple of times she did demonstrate that apparent wind direction is far more relevant to multihull sailing than to monohulls. And I gained the distinct impression that in anything of a breeze, you need to be ready to ease the main sheet the instant a gust hits the sails...

As for windward performance, she is certainly close winded and tacks round without fuss. She sailed under jib alone but is happier under main when we sailed with just one sail set. Her controls could not be more simple, with only two sheets and a kicking strap to worry about. To reduce sail she has conventional slab reefing on the main and roller reefing on the jib. On all points she is great fun to sail. She's light on the helm and responds quickly to her rudders.

Considering her background, I was interested to know how far she could be pressed before things become too lively for steady family sailing. I put this point to Richard Woods who explained that the Club could be taken up to the top end of force five with full sail set without flying a hull. This figure is based on having a crew of three adults aboard...

For the newcomer to multihull sailing who wishes to combine fast cruising with family day sailing and learning to handle a lively catamaran, the Strider Club takes a lot of beating. If you are a competitive cat sailor used to fast lightweight catamarans, but now wish to take the family along, she will not disappoint.

A complete copy of this article can be obtained from Practical Boat Owner