Copyright 2022 - 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

We go sailing to enjoy ourselves which means that besides having a boat that is fun to sail it must also be comfortable and reassuringly seaworthy.

We conceived the Sagitta as we sailed our 24' Strider Clubs singlehanded to Tallinn - then part of the USSR. The Strider is an excellent boat for coastal day sailing but despite successfully completing this trip, it is really too small and uncomfortable for offshore sailing.

Besides the Strider we also owned a 35' Banshee, which we had cruised (eg to Holland) and raced (eg to the Azores) extensively. However we found that it was just too large for 2 people and our occasional guests, while it didn't have the same feeling of responsiveness and contact with the water that we had enjoyed on smaller boats.

So we knew that our next boat would be around 30' long yet it had to be as fast as a Banshee, be easier to handle and still have good accommodation (but not too many berths as we don't think it is comfortable to cruise with more than 4 people on a 30' boat).

We wanted a good galley and heads compartment and a saloon with all round visibility. Of course we also wanted plenty of lockers to store food, clothes, sails, never mind fenders, bicycles, sea anchor, fuel cans etc, etc.

We find standing headroom in the saloon a mixed blessing. A high cabin adds to weight and windage, makes it awkward to reach winches and significantly reduces visibility from the helm and cockpit.

So on Sagitta we decided to have a small cabin, and to have 2 companionways so that access to the hulls and saloon seats was easy. The small cabin also meant that we could keep the large cockpit and easy access to the mast that we so liked on the Striders. All sail handling (apart from hoisting the spinnaker)could be done from the safety of the cockpit.

Catamarans are extremely comfortable cruising boats, with no rolling, heeling etc. However, most have low bridge decks which cause considerable slamming and thus they are very uncomfortable/alarming to sail even in moderate weather. On Sagitta we have kept the bridge deck not only high and short, but also started it a long way aft so it is rarely slapped by waves, even in the roughest conditions.

After 2 years plug and mould building our grp Sagitta was finally launched in July 1991. It has exceeded all our expectations. It is indeed as fast as a Banshee in most conditions. We have day sailed with 12 people on board (and did 16 knots) and then all sat comfortably round the cockpit table for evening drinks, while 4 people have lived on board for a couple of weeks.

In the 12 months since launching Sagitta sailed over 2500 miles in all conditions from the calms of the Round the Island to a boat test in a November F7 , from hot sun to icy decks.

Racing gives boats a high profile, but racing accounted for only about 20% of our sailing distance, yet did provide many of our more memorable experiences (eg sailing 40 miles in 3 3/4 hours, beating Sigma 38's to windward, finishing 2nd in the Round the Island Race etc). In fact in 13 races, held in  F0-7, Sagitta had 7 firsts and was clearly the UK's most successful cruising catamaran of 1992.

But of course most of our sailing has been cruising and Sagitta is a boat that we really enjoy sailing as it has proved to be the most comfortable and (for its size) the most easily handled boat that we have ever sailed (and as we have owned 10 boats in the last 12 years, and sailed thousands of miles in others before that, we can speak with some experience!).

As expected, the padded wrap round cockpit seats are a huge success, watches drift on past their allotted time as steering is so comfortable and relaxing; although with all-round vision and instant access to the cockpit from the saloon, it is safe to spend the night watches inside (we have found that Sagitta is so light on the helm that the cheapest autopilot is sufficient).

It all makes for more enjoyable offshore cruising as the crew is always rested, warm and relaxed. The wide beam and high freeboard makes Sagitta a dry boat to sail, spray only occasionally making its way into the cockpit. Although we have carried full sail in 30 knots apparent wind when racing, we usually reef at 25 knots when cruising.

OSTAR veteran and and experienced multihull sailor Geoff Hales tested the boat one horrible November day. Driving rain coupled with a lumpy sea and wind that often reached over 35 knots are not ideal for a boat test, but we were all very happy with Sagitta, as Geoff wrote in Multihull International:

"The boat certainly performed very well, going upwind at a comfortable 8 knots plus, while feeling as though she was doing no more than 6. The motion was remarkably pleasant, there was certainly no discomfort out in the cockpit, nor inside when I tried the saloon for comfort.

Helming was a delight, partly because the boat handled so easily and felt responsive without any pressure on the helm, and partly because one could sit on a comfortable cushion and lean against a comfortable backrest. The view is excellent and you are nowhere near the edge of the boat. Richard demonsrtated just how easy sail trimming is, with everything to hand on the coach roof between the two saloon doorways.

Overall Sagitta proved a comfortable boat at sea with an easy motion even in the prevailing lumpy conditions and easily ran up to 14 knots on a reach despite not increasing sail area. She tacked positively in the open sea and handled easily under power, so that altogether she makes a very attractive boat."

Other reporters have also been enthusiastic about Sagitta, both Yachting World and Practical Boat Owner have tested the boat, while Yachts and Yachting reporting on the 1991 Multihull Boat Show (23 exhibitors) called Sagitta "the most innovative and impressive offshore cat at the show".

GRP boats are now built in S Africa as well as the UK, while plans for home building Sagitta in wood are selling steadily. In fact, our Sagitta was not the first one launched, that honour went to a wood boat, which has since sailed round the Baltic and is now in the Med.

In short, Sagitta is a boat that can do it all; equally at home racing inshore as it is offshore or ocean cruising. It is definitely a boat that we will enjoy sailing for years to come.