Copyright 2021 - Woods Designs, 16 King St, Torpoint, Cornwall, PL11 2AT UK
  • production Strider 24

  • 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

Note: this press release was written in 1994

The recession has taught boat builders a lesson. They have been building boats that were too large and expensive. Although some people want large boats (to go ocean cruising in for example) the majority of people still only sail at weekends and during the annual family holiday. They have no need for a large boat, with its associated heavy gear, and high charges for marina berthing and upkeep. The family sailor would prefer to have a boat that could be taken home after every sail, and certainly for the winter.

These requirements have made many people look seriously at trailable boats, but unfortunately they do have several problems. For a start trailer bearings seize if immersed in salt water while damage can occur when on the slipway waiting for the trailer to arrive or when manoeuvrering it under the boat. Because they need ballast for stability trailable monohulls are slow as well as being heavy to launch and trail. Furthermore, with all the accommodation in one cabin there is no privacy.

Trimarans are fast, but have the same accommodation problems as monohulls. Traditionally catamarans are as fast as trimarans - thus 2-3 times faster than monohulls. They have large level useable deck areas, but accommodation is limited to the hulls, so a double bunk is not possible except under a cockpit tent nor is it possible for the crew to sit round a saloon table together.

Wizard is Different!

It is roomy. In its 22' length there are 5 berths in 3 cabins for privacy (3 singles in the hulls and one double on the bridge deck), a seperate toilet compartment. Galley and a dinette seating 5. There is standing headroom in the galley using a "pop bottom" in the bridge deck.

It is fast, The computer predicts speeds of 10 knots under power (with a 15hp outboard) and 16-18 knots under sail (with the racing rig). Yet it is manoeuvrable and easy to sail singlehanded. It has shallow draft and is beachable.

It is legally trailable worldwide behind a family car. One person can assemble and rig it in under an hour ready for launching with no heavy lifting (eg the mast is raised using the trailer winch). Wizard overcomes the trailing problems outlined earlier by using separate launching trollies. The road trailer uses swinging "gallows" to allow the boat to be raised clear of the ground (again using the trailer winch). When in the "up" position the crossbeams hinge and the hulls swing under the central cabin to reduce the width to the 2.5m trailing limit.

WIZARD is the first boat that we have genuinely trailer sailed and we can see the attractions of the idea. Leave Dover lam, sail in S Holland 3pm the same day! We trailed Wizard behind a 1900cc Peugeot 305 van, averaged 45mph and 35 mpg. About 10 micromultihulls arrived in Holland on the same ferry, we were the first to be sailing, despite never having assembled the boat from the trailer before.

Although we went abroad to race rather than cruise, we did spend a couple of weeks living on board (including 3 nights "on board" when on the trailer when travelling to Holland). The WIZARD proved extremely comfortable, both the pop bottom and pop top worked brilliantly. The top was always up in harbour and the bottom gave genuine full standing headroom when right down, and could be "reefed" depending on the number of people on board. 5 adults were very comfortable sitting in the saloon. At the Micromultihull championships we were the only boat racing with an oven on board so Lilian made a point of baking cakes on the day of the long distance race, and presenting one to the committee boat as we finished.

When we race we use a large rig, with mylar sails, but for cruising we use the standard rig - which has proven an ideal size for coastal cruising and it is great to be able to handle the boat easily when singlehanded. In strong winds (force 5 or above) we often sail under mainsail alone, even so WIZARD tacks round easily.

In 1994 the racing was in France and, instead of going by ferry to Cherbourg we decided to sail the 120 miles from Plymouth. To break the trip we stopped at Salcombe and Alderney on the way over, but sailed back nonstop making the crossing in 17 hours - pontoon to pontoon - despite having to motor for 30 miles. It was all very comfortable, the auto pilot was used nearly all the way, which allowed the on watch crew to sit in the cabin, staying warm and  dry, but still with all round visibility and instant access to the cockpit if needed. As always we found the decks stayed dry and, being flat, sail handling was easy and safe.

We only ever race with two, but as the photo shows we often cruise with more - 5 people, plus a baby, in the cockpit and room for more eg the photographer! Sometimes it's hard to remember that WIZARD is only  22' long!

When sailing we have found that WIZARD's performance compares with most 30-32' monohulls when on the wind, and is of course significantly faster off wind. However, at all times WIZARD is easy to handle and steering is very light and predictable. What suprised us was Wizard's stability, despite weighing only 825kg and carrying a racing rig we never felt the need to reef when racing, even in a F5/6. At the end of the sail, the 8" draft means that WIZARD can sailed right up the beach, which opens up a huge cruising ground inaccessible to keel boats. Where ever you sail in the world most people find that it is the coastline and shallows that are the most interesting.

WIZARD was designed as a cruising boat that would sail well, which means that few WIZARD owners will want to race their boats. However we enjoy racing, while all agree that it is the only real way of comparing performance with other similar boats.

The prototype WIZARD was launched in mid July 1993 which gave barely enough time for sailing trials before being trailed to Holland for the Micromultihull European Championships.

17 boats entered from 5 countries, Wizard being one of the slowest, but because the boats are handicapped, in theory we all had an equal chance. However we knew before the event that we would not/should not win because we had not sailed the boat enough and were desperately out of practice - we had not raced micros together for 5 years. Even so we hoped to fmish in the top 5. In fact the quality of the fleet suprised us all, as it was far superior to anything we had seen before. At least  12 boats were in with a chance, and all the crews were very experienced racers.

Our performance slowly improved as we began to learn how to sail the boat properly. Despite being 1.5m (5') shorter than the others we beat boats like the the Farrier F26, Shuttleworth Arrow, 8m Freely trimaran etc on elapsed time. In the last race 3  F24's were invited to race unofficially. Despite one balking us badly at the start (very bad manners) we beat them all convincingly over the line (two were over a leg behind).

In the Olympic triangle races we were generally 6-7th and about l0th on elapsed time. Unfortunately our chances of doing well were dashed in the long distance race (counting extra points and not discardable) when along with 6 other boats we sailed round the wrong mark in a rain squall.(There were 23 marks in the race, and over 70 in the race area, but that is still no excuse).

So we ended up l0th overaIl. Slightly disappointing, but we were still at the bottom of a steep learning curve and knew that we would improve significantly before the 1994 championships.

The 1994 event was held in mid July in Cherbourg. Although numbers were slightly down on the previous year the quality was even higher. For example, Reg White - Olympic gold medallist - was campaigning the new Firebird II, while the fleet also included 4 previous winners of micro championships. Light winds dominated the event, we often had to wait several hours waiting for the wind to fill in before being able to race.

Once again we were the smallest and slowest boat, but the results showed that we were the most consistent finishing 4th overall and discarding a 5th place, all without actually winning a race. In the light winds the trimarans naturally had the advantage to windward, but we could pull back offwind, particularly against the Dragonflies. Surprisingly, when the wind did  blow, we found we picked up places to windward. Clearly the windage of the cuddy did not affect performance as much as people had expected.

We sailed better than the year before and the boat was going faster, so we were always close to the larger boats. In one race we actually beat a Firebird on elapsed time, and beat 2 Dragonflies in another. After 2 races Reg White told us to slow down, which we took to be a compliment. Overall he beat us by one point, with a modified F26 winning and an Dragonfly Mk I coming second.

WIZARD hulls and decks are built using strip plank cedar and epoxy, while the central cuddy, beams and cockpit are sheet plywood. Professionally built hulls are available, while the central section is very easy to build, and is small enough to be built in an ordinary garage.

We had the hulls for our WIZARD professionally built, but built the cuddy cockpit and beams in our garage (5m x 4m) - the boat was deliberately designed to make that possible. Although strip-planking is a straightforward technique which we've found produces the fairest hulls, the prospect of building two round bilge hulls is daunting to many people. However the flat panel decks and beams are another matter.

For final assembly we hired a shed at the local boat yard for a couple of weeks. It was certainly an efficient way of building a boat quickly and we spent the minimum on overheads.

The full building plans contain full size patterns for the hulls, decks, window cutouts, cuddy frames etc, as well as 6 AI sheets and around 45 A3 sheets that contain detail drawings and photos of the boat we built ourselves.