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

Boats mentioned: Eclipse, Flica, Gypsy, Linnet, Merlin, Mira, Rhea, Strider, Skua

For some years I had been keen to show my designs in the USA and so in late October 2002 I left the UK in my Eclipse bound for the east coast of the USA. I followed the scenic route, ie via Spain, Portugal, Canary Islands and the Caribbean before heading north through the Bahamas to the East coast of the USA eventually reaching Maine in August 2003. Then we sailed south to Cuba and Belize.

News from builders and sailors

Pat Lynch wrote: "I bought Ron Holback's Flica 34 "Toucan" a little over 18 months ago. I've been very happy with the boat. Ron did an excellent job and the design has garnered lots of compliments. I sailed from Ft Lauderdale (from 2Hulls) to Annapolis and was very pleased with the handling and sailing characteristics. On two separate 36 hour stretches we averaged 9.5 kts with speeds hitting 15 kts whilst surfing. I've since added a roller-furler and a spinnaker to best take advantage of mid summer breezes in the Chesapeake."


The new Strdier 25 on its maiden sail, designer at the helm

Our Strider design (especially the Club version) is probably our best known design, yet it has not been available as a production boat for over 10 years. Fortunately that has now changed as new builders, Strider Marine, have made a new set of moulds, and, as the photo above shows, have launched their first boat.

While making the moulds we took the opportunity of updating the design. It now has increased freeboard, to give more interior space, and sugar scoop transoms to lengthen the waterline (so the new boat is called the Strider Club 25) and provide a boarding step. The most significant change, though, is that we have increased the rig size to 25 sqm. When originally designed the Strider Club had a very small rig, purely for economic reasons. However this did mean it needed at least a F4 (15 knots wind) before it would perform well. The new rig has transformed the boat. Its now great fun to sail in even light winds and its easy to get 11-12 knots on the GPS offwind in a F4.

Boats are available from the yard in Portsmouth at a very competitive £15,000

September

Banshee wins 2 handed Round the Island! Eclipse comes second! Read more in the newsletters.

Roger Axon is having fun with his Gypsy, beautifully built and launched a few months ago "Yesterday we averaged 7 knots from Cameret to Audierne and as we approached Audierne we did 10 knots and kept up with a Hobie. Its not sailing, its low level flying - and no bruises either - yet!"

Scott Brown, www.themultihull.com, has photos of Roger's boat and also some of a German Skua, see below. Owner Frank Schernikau recently reported "we had a fantastic crossing of Bay of Biscay, 49 hours from Audierne/France to Cedeira/Spain, almost all the time under screecher, the colour of the water changing to a phantastic blue and watching dolphins playing around the bows at night".

Not bad for a boat designed as an inshore racer! Incidentally, the Skua is now available with increased freeboard, a longer cabin and a bigger, updated rig.

German Skua having fun in Guernsey

August

English Gypsy owner Mike Appleby has one of the most travelled Gypsys around. Only he hasn't finished it yet! Currently the cuddy is lying finished in one country while he finishes the hulls in another. Gypsy is designed to be built in sections and assembled at the end of the project, but I never expected people to build parts in different countries!!

Mike Appleby on his Gypsy, this bit is in Holland!

Nigel Sheppard and his partners are building a really nice strip plank Eclipse. I last saw the boat in April when Nigel was still working on the hulls. He has since moved all the bits (to the yard where Team Phillips was built), and as the photos show, now has a structurally complete boat.

strip plank Eclipse  nearing completion

When I visited they were sanding the decks prior to painting, launching is due early next year.

strip plank Eclipse

To accommodate 4 single men, Nigel has made a few changes to the layout, and also lengthened the main cabin a bit to allow access to a forward bunk, see photo below.

Interior strip plank Eclipse

At the other end of the building scale, this link leads to the Cullison Small Craft site, from which the following quote comes:
"This brightly coloured catamaran (Pixie) was built by my daughter Sarah, when she was 16..."
I'm sure her father would be keen to build you one of our small boats.

July

The original Banshee (now 16 years old) comes second in the Round Britain Race!

Eclipse wins her class in the Round the Island Race!

Joe steering downwind after rounding the Needles

 

Joe always gets nervous when there's no boats in sight!

More details are in the newsletters section

June

For a complete change of pace, I spent the Queen's Jubilee weekend cruising on Eclipse in company with my cousin David and his family. His wife Jane now works in the Woods Designs office and the photo below shows the two "receptionists" who help her.

Peter and dog on watch on Eclipse

Despite the appalling weather we've been having in the UK this "summer" a few people have managed to get sailing.

Simon Mansfield wrote: "Last week we brought Tardis (a modified Scylla) round from Cornwall to Essex. I must say at once that she behaved impeccably. She inspires confidence, is easy to sail, and impressed us with her speed. The six of us ranging in age from 68 to 5 completed the sail in three days including two night sails. My father, a confirmed Prout man, overcame initial scepticism and warmed to her seakeeping and sailing qualities. The three children had a great time. There was very little seasickness - and I am sure that this is largely due to the seakindly motion."

A couple of builders have also written in. From Australia a Gypsy builder wrote: "I don't know what happens when you start building a boat, always searching for an alternative usually cheaper way of doing things, even though deep down you know that the standard method is probably best. Currently ready to glass the second hull, completed the cabin shell and thoroughly enjoyed the whole process so far (why do people go on about what an effort it is to build a boat?)"

While in Thailand this Janus is being beautifully built by Walter Platzer

Janus hull building in Thailand

May

Eclipse wins her first race! Against 12 multihulls, for 40 miles and in light winds, Plymouth to Falmouth. Again, to read more please see the newsletter pages.

Eclipse entering Fowey

The photo taken by Scott Brown from themultihull.com shows us entering Fowey harbour on the return leg with Joe calling the shots and Mel trimming, while I do what I'm told.

April

As always, we get a steady stream of boat launching news. This photo is of Robin McKay's Flica 34 that he built in Ireland and has now begun to enjoy sailing. Roger Axon's Gypsy was also recently launched. There are now 3 Gypsy's in the Plymouth area.

Irish Flica recently finished

The photo below shows a photo of one of several dolphins rubbing its back on my Eclipse. Please see the newsletters page for more details of a rather strange encounter.

Dolphin rubbing against the bows of Eclipse

A boat I didn't design is Playstation. I was lucky enough to be out sailing when she started her record breaking run Plymouth to La Rochelle.

Playstation under sail at last!

Playstation boom

Look at the man on the 60' boom. It took 10 men 10 minutes hard work to hoist the mainsail while head to wind. Glad I don't sail on it!

March

At long last I think my Eclipse is finished! Although I've been sailing it for 9 months, there have been more than a few minor completion jobs to do. (I'm afraid I never finish a boat before launching, I'm always too keen to sail it). Some jobs were more complex than I expected. For example the table doesn't have conventional flaps as these are awkward to open when you're already sitting at the table, but rather it has draw leaves. I have never seen these on a boat before, and having had them made I can see why. Worth it in the end though.

Eclipse table with leaves shut
Table with leaves shut, showing crockery stowage under
Eclipse table with leaves open
Table with leaves open
Some things are simple, but ease comfort and convenience enormously. For example, the wet locker has a shelf for hats and gloves as well as a boot rack. While the aft cabins have proper vanity units, complete with light and make up mirror (its not there for me!)

vanity unit shut

Vanity unit shut, looking forward.vanity unit open
Vanity unit open, showing mirror, looking aft

February

Italian Rhea and happy builders

This month seems to be Italian month. The photo above is of a Rhea, being expertly and quickly built by Euro and Gianni Caselli, the photo shows progress after about 6 months work.

The photo below is at the other end of the scale, a Linnet "Domenica, 3 febbraio was a nice day to launch and test the new Linnet, she's great! Best wishes gian michele"

I also had the following message from Xen Zambas

"Back in '95 we started building a round bilge Mira in Saskatchewan, Canada. We completed the boat and moved it to B.C. where we lived on-board for a couple of years while getting used to the boat. We then sailed down to Mexico and then made the jump to the Marquesas. We now find ourselves in New Zealand and plan to be here for two or three years while we work and decide what to do next. We have been so happy with your design. Despite being loaded down with all the cruising gear she performed well and we always felt safe. Structurally there have been absolutely no problems and we look forward to many more miles cruising in her."

January

One of my new years resolutions was to have a major clear out of my filing cabinets.

I found some interesting things including the photo below. It was taken back in 1987 during the first Plymouth Multihull Grand Prix. Lilian was sailing our Strider (left), I was sailing our Banshee (centre) while the biggest boat in the fleet was the 70' John Shuttleworth design Novanet. I have always thought that it is quite a fun photo, but its probably surprising to learn that all three boats were sailing at the same speed! We had all started the race at the same time, and the photo was taken at the end of the first lap. Ultimately Lilian won the event and I was second. Better still, this was one of the first fully sponsored events, between us we won £750!!



(the vertical pole in the foreground is the mast of another boat, not something connected to Novanet!)

Another find was a MOCRA newsletter dating from December 1993 which included the following article written by David Kayll

"All monohull sailors should be forced to sail a multihull sometimes in their lives. My wife and I have been well and truly converted, hesitation has now turned to enthusiasm. All our lives our family has cruised and raced in monos, from ferro, wood, glass to strip cedar we built, sailed it and sold it. Each boat was going to fulfil the dream of the perfect boat, but as we approach 50 we realise that perfection is an illusion, and satisfaction is only reached with compromise.

So why did we build and sail a multihull? Our families last boat was a fast cruiser racer designed by Ron Holland to the IOR rule. We built her in strip cedar with a varnished finish - it took three years. Having campaigned on the UK's East Coast, completed a 2STAR and taken part in Cowes Week, we finally threw in the towel. The sheer pressure of organisation and high cost forced a re-think of sailing pleasure. On the 2STAR we watched helplessly as cheaper multihulls disappeared over the horizon ahead of us with far less effort, knocking almost a week off our transatlantic crossing. There had to be something in being level and fast. We had to try it.

David's Merlin on its trailer

We fitted out a strip plank Merlin. We were amazed how easy she was to sail, no furious sail changing, no hordes of crew clambering over the deck. My wife and I alone sped along at 8-15 knots with minimum effort. Soon we were thirsting for more speed, a taller mast and taking out surplus weight produced more power. We were hooked. Every monohull friend who came to sail was amazed at how easy it all was - all glued to the speedo - willing it to hit the stop at 20 knots.

We sold the Merlin and built a Javelin. Sailing her for the last three months has been wonderful. We have had the worst summer for years but nothing takes away the thrill of sailing and tuning a new boat you have built. Surprisingly nothing has broken, bent or groaned (maybe we built her too heavy?) In some heavy weather she powered to windward with little fuss at about 8-10 knots, making short work of steep seas."

Spilt Second, David's Javelin under spinnaker

Review of 2001