Copyright 2020 - 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, Gypsy, Flica 37, Sango

Review of 1999

As always, MOCRA held a Multihull Grand Prix over the last May weekend. This year I raced on a Dragonfly trimaran belonging to Simon Forbes - chief measurer at ISAF and a long time friend. Unfortunately we did not do very well, but it is nearly 20 years since I last helmed a trimaran in a race (back then it was Chay Blyths 54' tri Great Britain 4). But we had some fun and some close racing. It is certainly a lot harder to sail a trimaran than a catamaran in short round the buoys races, one reason why the trimarans race with 3 crew and the catamarans with 2.

But the main event of the weekend was before the first race when a line squall came across Plymouth Sound bringing with it winds over 60 knots (measured by the RNLI lifeboat) and torrential rain. When the squall hit we quickly dropped all sail and ran downwind under bare poles at 6 knots, just clearing Drakes Island and only 200 yards from Plymouth Hoe. As the shore came ever closer we began to get concerned but fortunately the worst of the wind quickly passed and we were just able to round up and enter the marina. A few more minutes of 60 knots and a lot of boats would have been on the shore as no one out that day was able to do anything except run before it. A good lesson on the potential dangers of a lee shore and the need for searoom at all times.

Gypsy sailing during the PBO boat test

The June 1999 issue of Practical Boat Owner contained a review of my GYPSY. The reviewer was very impressed and finished by saying:

"To me it all makes a lot of sense. In fact of all the cats I've sailed the Gypsy presents about the strongest case in favour of cruising on two hulls."

I was away all of July delivering a FLICA 37 back to the UK from Majorca. An 1800 mile sail with the wind never aft of the beam. As usual the Med was one long motor. We waited in Gibraltar for 3 days until a westerly gale had blown itself out before slogging up the Portuguese coast against wind and current. (Moral: Don't try to sail against the trade winds).

Approaching Gibraltar








The Portugese coast is one long sand dune, with an increasing number of new holiday developments. Not a very attractive cruising area, made worse by the huge number of fishing pot markers that made it risky to sail at night. The rias of N Spain were a lot more attractive, not that we could see much as there was thick fog for 2 of the 3 days we were there.

The trip finished with a 500 mile beat in winds up to 30 knots back to Plymouth. The owner normally kept his spare toilet rolls in the bilges!? they remained dry but we did have to close the companion way door at one stage as we had water in the cockpit - the first time I've had to do that in 12 years. So not a particularly enjoyable trip, but a few lessons learnt. The first that living on board and sailing catamarans is normally very comfortable while anyone who cruises a monohull is crazy! The second that the Flica is a very comfortable boat and still works extremely well. I'd only make a couple of minor changes to the design, a seat just inside the companionway would be useful as would a better sound deadened engine (I was sleeping above it).

Surecat sailing

I understand that eclipses cross a particular spot on the earths surface once every 400 years. On August 11th at 11am there was a total solar eclipse that passed right over the Woods Designs office. Although the weather was cloudy so we couldn't see the sun, it did go completely dark. 10 of us were sailing my GYPSY and we were out near the Eddystone rocks when the light was turned out. It was certainly the weirdest and most spooky experience any of us had experienced.


Having fun during the eclipse








Pitch black for 2 minutes, but all around the horizon we could see light as the "black hole" passed along the English Channel and across into Europe. It was definately THE event of the year, much more so than the advent of the new millenium which after all is just another midnight.

So I thought we should celebrate its passing with a new boat. There has been a gap between the Sagitta and Banshee in our range of performance boats. We have found in practice that both these boats are about the same speed in all conditions except when sailing to windward in a F5 or more, when the extra length of the Banshee helps it power away.

Obviously the Banshee has more carrying capacity for cruising and lots more room. But we found from personal experience, having sailed both boats extensively, that the Banshee is a big boat for just a couple. So it made sense to draw a boat in between the two, fortuitously that makes it 9.9m long.

Hence the Eclipse 99. It will have standing headroom in the bridgedeck, 6-8 berths and like the Sagitta, a choice of daggerboards or LAR keels. Although the SANGO design has been around for a few years I have only recently had the opportunity to sail one. Similar in concept to the WIZARD but 1m longer it is a much quicker boat and has a more seakindly motion. With the same headroom in the cuddy and hulls as WIZARD it looks a lot sleeker as well. But compared to the WIZARD the rig is larger and that makes it harder to trail and step the mast. Sango under sail