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

People often tell me "I don't want a fast boat". If I reply "So, you want a slow one?" they say "Oh no!" In fact what they really mean is that they want an easy to handle, predictable boat.

Speed has nothing to do with handling characteristics, for it's easy to think of slow boats that are hard to steer and manoeuver (after all one of the most common criticisms of catamarans by monohull sailors is that catamarans are unresponsive). Many of the early English designs, like Prouts and Catalacs, the S African Dean Cat etc don't sail at all well.

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

The Youtube clip below shows a Skua sailing fast, yet there is little wake or spray. It is hard to tell how fast it is going, that is until it overtakes a monohull (which must itself have been doing 6 knots?)

 

In comparison, trimarans, like monohulls, always look much more dramatic, with spray flying everywhere. Furthermore they heel and the water rushes by much closer than on a catamaran, both factors make one think you are sailing faster than you really are. I vividly recall racing my Eclipse down the Solent with spinnaker flying. Close behind was a Dragonfly 8m, also under spinnaker. We were comfortable and dry, they were clearly pushing hard, yet try as they might they could not overtake.

It is "easy" to design fast boats. 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. Generally racing boats have low resale values and often a short life. Certainly they need skilled crews if they are to benefit from the speed potential.

Having said that, how do my cruising designs compare to the competition?

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 living on board - we sailed the 400 miles each way from Plymouth). 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. At a later meeting another Banshee was voted "best looking multihull" out of 100 boats.

In a French regatta, again on a Banshee, we raced against Erik Lerouge who was sailing one of his 38ft performance cruisers. Again we beat him to the windward mark, by the end of the race he was out of sight astern.

This Youtube video, below, taken from the Multihull Sailors Have More Fun! video, shows us easily overtaking a 32ft Erik Lerouge catamaran on our 30ft Sagitta.

As has been well reported, before going cruising in my Eclipse I raced it in the Round the Island race (around the Isle of Wight, with 1700 starters, 50 multihulls). In the latter stages we overtook Mumm30 monohulls to windward. We were first production catamaran to finish, over an hour (ie 15%) ahead of the next one, which was a 43ft Belize.

Later, when fully loaded for cruising, we spent some time sailing in company with an Outremer 43. First in Spain, then in the Caribbean. Surprisingly we found that Eclipse was faster to windward and about the same speed offwind. The owner told me he bought his boat because of its windward performance, and he was amazed we could beat him, especially as we were 11ft (3.5m) shorter.