Review of the 2003/04 Season

Eclipse spent the 2004 hurricane season in Mario's Marina in the Rio Dulce, Central America, which is probably the safest hurricane hole in the Caribbean. It's a secure place to leave a boat - in every sense. Just look at our security guard!!

In late 2004 we sailed to the San Blas islands, in NE Panama via the Bay Islands, Honduras; Providencia, Colombia and the whole north coast of Panama. In March 2005 we left Eclipse in a Panamanian marina, and went home to work for the summer.

The map above shows the route from Oct 2002 to March 2005. To see the latest news about our trip please CLICK HERE , while to see more of the first part of the trip please CLICK HERE

An extract from my Eclipse log book won the 2004 Venture Trophy, presented by MOCRA (the British Multihull Association) for the best multihull cruising story published in 2004. To order your own full copy (which is a much more comprehensive report than found on this web site) please go to to the Shopping Cart.

Although I wrote articles and worked on new designs, see below, we also spent time travelling around Central America and the USA. To see more about these trips please Click Here, but a word of warning! These pages contain little sailing content!!

News from builders and sailors

Chris Braun was one of the first Surfsong builders and he recently sent me a long article about the building of his boat. Click Here to read it, which is published warts and all. It's also a good read for those interested in building my other early deep V designs -Windsong and Mira.

Practical Boat Owner magazine in the UK published the three articles about my cruising preparations and trip across the Atlantic. They also published the article on my lightning strike. You can read these (less photos) by going to the articles page.

Although I am away sailing at present I am still drawing new boats. For some time its been obvious that I need some boats in the 11-11.5m (36-38ft) range. Accordingly, the first of these is a larger Eclipse, called Transit, see sketch on the Latest News page.

More details will appear on the "New Designs" page as the designs evolve. It may take some time as, although I do draw on the boat, other things sometimes have priority!

Just because I am away sailing doesn't mean that nothing else is happening!

Strdier Tigger at speed

Although the heading photo changes frequently, the April/May issue of the on-line MOCRA news has a great photo of Ben Goodlands Strider "Tigger". He has been racing it with huge success, as the MOCRA reports show. Not bad for a 18 year old boat and a 22 year old design. I think it mainly has to do with the crew though!

Having said that, I know that the older designs Merlin and Gwahir are faster all round boats than a Strider and that the newer Wizard and especially Wizzer are faster again. To support that comment, here is part of a letter from long time Strider owner David Marshland after he had sailed a Merlin "What really impressed me with Merlin was the way the finer bows cut through the slop in the Solent when a Strider would have been stopped almost dead. The steadier motion clearly allowed her to develop more power where the bluffer bowed Strider simply bounced and lost drive.." But he then goes on to say "...My Strider was a lovely boat and I have an affection for her which her successor has never really inspired. At least partly because on a value and competency per dollar basis I don't think any boat compares with a Strider" So he clearly likes both boats!

Probably the major news of early 2004 is that the May issue of Practical Boat Owner magazine (the UK's largest yachting magazine) carried an excellent boat test on the Eclipse. Furthermore, I will be writing several articles about my trip across the Atlantic that will appear in future issues of the magazine. I can't reprint the whole article here for copyright reasons, but I think I can use these excerpts.

"Even in the light airs of my first outing, the Eclipse's 615sq ft (57sq m) of sail made sure that she felt comfortable. In 10 knots of breeze and a slight chop, when some cruising multihulls would have bobbed about aimlessly, we recorded up to 6 knots of boatspeed to windward in the flatter patches and tacked through about 100... "

Eclipse racing in the UK

"...I was keen to see the boat in a bit more breeze, so we headed out again a few months later into a south-westerly Force six that followed several weeks of gales. Not surprisingly, the seas off Penlee Point were still on the lively side. We made good progress upwind nonetheless, with 5.8 to 6.3 knots showing on the log most of the time on port tack. The extra breeze brought our tacking angle down to between 80 and 90 and, with the seas at a more comfortable angle on starboard tack - as they often seem to be off Plymouth in a south-westerly - we picked up to nearly 9 knots at times.

Inevitably in those conditions, sailing downwind was the most fun. Had we shaken out the reef, we'd easily have exceeded the 13.2 knots we achieved surfing down a wave, but we kept the slab tucked in, ready for the reach back up Plymouth Sound. In terms of handling qualities, the Eclipse was as undemanding as you could wish for. I counted remarkably few thuds from under the bridgedeck and found the boat quite happy to sail herself upwind with the traveller eased down the track. Tacking was fast and positive, though the daggerboards must have resulted in more positive handling - and better upwind performance - than could be expected from LAR keels..."

Eclipse in Hopetown, Bahamas

As you will read on the 2002 review pages David sailed with me in the Round the Island Race (1700 starters, over 50 multihulls). We won our class, but David's comments comparing our performance with that of the monohulls are interesting.

We were five minutes faster than the first Sigma 38 and, in the latter stages of the race, we found ourselves in close company with the leading Mumm 30s. They had gained on us around the back of the island, where our need to gybe the angles downwind pushed us out into the tide. In situations like that, boats with conventional, poled-out spinnakers can hug the shore more closely. We were not surprised to find ourselves level-pegging with the Mumms on the two-sail reach from Bembridge to the fort; what nobody had expected was to see us pulling away from them on the windward leg back to the finish line off Cowes.

Summing up he wrote:

"Something worth saying is that the Eclipse makes you realise the value of a designer's practical, hands-on experience. Everything works: the hulls, the foils, the rig, the deck layout and the arrangement below decks. And while the boat is more expensive - at least in ready-built form - than most single-hulled alternatives of similar overall length, don't forget that her accommodation and performance put her on a par with monohulls a good deal longer....Whatever your inclinations, it's hard to deny the practicality of a cat such as the Eclipse for long-distance sailing. Or even for a quick whizz around the Isle of Wight".

You can get a full boat test if you visit www.ybw.com and click on the appropriate link.

I have also heard of a Banshee (the photo above shows sistership "Dasher") that has recently arrived in New Zealand, having sailed there from the UK. Also in the southern hemisphere Ray Gunnell wrote from Australia about his Meander "...Beautiful to sail, so safe! Plans bought 1989, been sailing and living aboard her about three years."

One of the joys of sailing offshore is that you can play your favourite music loud and no one complains! I was introduced to the music of Eileen Quinn about a year ago. I now have all her CD's and can't stop playing them. Visit EileenQuinn.com to see why.

To see a review of the 2002 season please Click Here