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: Bee, Eclipse, Flica 34, Janus, Meander, Skua


While I guess most of you were sitting by a warm fire over Christmas, I decided to sail my 32' Eclipse to the Scilly Isles. 30 miles out into the Atlantic, the most western part of the UK. You can see more of the Scillies at Scillyonline

Eclipse anchored off the Scillies - look no boats!

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were spent anchored off the beach in Bryher, see photo above. Then sailed home on the 26th. Old films on TV, turkey and all the trimmings, roasting chestnuts on the solid fuel stove... it just had to be Christmas!

Not a bad trip, there was ice on deck only one day, and the wind never got over 45 knots apparent (Eclipse was sailing fast (over 17 knots) downwind in the biggest gusts). And there were no other boats out sailing (can't think why!?)


Lorrie Wood, (no, not a relation, notice the lack of an S at the end of her surname), an American sailor, has been working with me for the past few months, both sailing and assisting in the office. Her most recent project has been updating the web site and the newly redesigned article section.

Lorrie writes-

"Catamarans don't go to windward, don't tack well, and go turtle every chance they get, right? They might be OK for daysailing, but they aren't proper bluewater cruisers, isn't that what you heard? I had heard it all too, but still thought I should give it a look. I read the information on Richard's web pages and was convinced that he, at least, thought they were safe and his designs looked sensible too.

So I sailed over to England, and have been sailing on the Woods 9.9 metre Eclipse for the past few months. I am entirely persuaded it is the fastest, most comfortable, and safe boat I have been on. The Eclipse's stability is great and I don't miss heeling one bit. We sailed fast and comfortably in sea conditions that I have experienced on monohulls and wouldn't have called comfortable. She has reached speeds in excess of 20 knots but it hardly felt like it.

After two Trans-Atlantic crossings on larger monohulls (38' and 44') and as a professional crew on sailboats in the 70'-80 range I can't believe the difference two hulls make. While as a cook I can not say enough about the galley, which even has a window to look out. I do get a bit of the mal-de-mer at times when working in the galley or when hanging upside down to work on an engine while inhaling diesel fumes, but that was not the case here. I never felt a twinge of seasickness even while preparing dinners underway. I don't miss rolling and heeling a bit. After spending a full week aboard without putting my foot on dry land I had not a bruise nor bump. What they say is true, "It's no bruising, cruising." That's not only what I heard, that's what I now believe. I am a thoroughly convinced catamaran convert."


We don't often get news from our rowing boat owners, but recently received the following

"I thought you might like to see a picture of BEE at speed. I am pleased to report that our BEE successfully completed the Great River Race down the Thames from Richmond to Cutty Sark in 3hrs 24 mins. Result
111 out of 252. We had cox'n; 2 x scullers and a passenger. Interestingly on the day with four up she was less stable than in practice with only three up, nothing to worry about though.

You will note that we fitted a tiller. Quite simple, we pinned a piece of 3x2 into the stern rowlock positions and then put a 12mm dia mild steel shaft down with a 150mm sq plate on the end. It worked very well. We used 8ft long douglas fir oars and found them heavy. So have bought fir strips to make hollow oars. I'll let you know how she performs when I finish them next spring. Need some time off from boat building now!" regards Bob Spackman

Bee at speed

We also heard from Frank and Boris of Germany who recently bought a five year old Skua "We hope to visit you in Millbrook next year by boat.Our first trip, cruising the boat across the German Bight last week was great fun. Much more than with the Hinemoa I have sailed from '96 - '99. O.K., we are used to Hobie 18 - standards for the last two years. We are looking forward to do a lot of voyaging the next years."

German Skua


As always, the end of a sailing season brings more boat launchings.
You can see photos of a Brazilian Janus at
Airton wrote "Winds at 25 knot and 2m waves reduced our sail to 35 or 40 minutes, just to check the boat under strong winds. When closed hauled she pointed very well!! The boat tacks very easily no matter the wave effects.
After a last tack we got running and the boat was really flying. We saw the breaking waves coming from the stern but they could not reach us."

and an Irish Flica at
Robin Mackay wrote "After 22 months work we finally launched on the morning of 8 September - and it (she?) is still afloat. It really looks great and has got lots of compliments including one enquiry for your website"

Meantime, we were back up to the Solent to have the Eclipse available for viewing at the Southampton Boat Show. Typically, the day we took a couple out for a test sail was the worst of the week. Rain and a maximum gust of 50 knots when sailing under double reefed main and half rolled jib. Bryn had sailed monohulls for years, but Kate had never been on a boat before and was justifyably nervous. But that didn't stop her taking the helm as soon as we'd hoisted sail, and Bryn will never be able to live down the fact that it was Kate who recorded the highest speed of the day - 14.46 knots.

There is no point is designing a fast boat if only experienced, skillful sailors can sail it. A few weeks earlier we'd taken a family out sailing, the 11 year old daughter was very proud that she'd sailed at over 13 knots when her father only managed 10.5. We seem to have got used to sailing Eclipse at speeds in the high teens. On our last three Channel passages our highest speeds have been 21, then 19.6 then 18.8 knots. The boat will go faster but we are lazy. Higher speeds would mean hand steering and someone tending the sheets. We prefer to sail with sheets cleated, auto pilot on and be sitting back admiring the view.

Strip plank Ecclipse deck framing

Progress on Nigel Sheppard's strip plank Eclipse is progressing well. The photo above shows the starboard hull after 1100 hours work (the port hull is equally complete). Somewhat confusing to visulise, but that's because Nigel's building shed is his extended garage and also because he's fitting all the deck stringers before the hull topsides have been planked. It makes sense as its easy to get to all parts of the boat, but you've got to be as skilful a builder as Nigel is to avoid making mistakes when most of the boat is empty space!


At last I was able to get away and have a proper sail in the Eclipse. We sailed up to the Solent to watch the 150th Anniversary Americas Cup Regatta. The link leads to a page of photos, as you will see some of the boats were very big!!

Two of us sailed Eclipse the 130 miles to the Solent, Lorrie had just crossed the Atlantic on a monohull, but this was her first sail on a catamaran. The wind slowly increased as did our speed, until approaching Portland Bill and its famous race we touched 21 knots with regular steady non surfing speeds in the high teens

. Eclipse passing Old Harry's Rocks Swanage

The main race was the re-enactment of the original 60 mile Round the Island race that started the whole Americas Cup saga. The race started in glorious sunshine and 20 knots of breeze - ideal conditions! Joining in with the IMS/IRC racing monohull fleet we were rather surprised to find ourselves sailing faster and outpointing a 50' ketch, see photo below

50' racing ketch .

We let them go in the end, but it was obvious the 15+ crew were not impressed to be beaten by a catamaran 20' shorter crewed by 3 people, plus 3 month old baby! Peter spent the whole time sleeping on the saloon seats, quite oblivious to everything

Peter oblivious to all the excitment!

Later we chased the boats back up the Solent on the run to the finish and in particular had fun trying to beat Extra Beat, the only boat I've seen with 6 spreaders. We almost made it! It wasn't clear quite what sort of boat she was, the 6 spreaders implied a racer, but she only carried an asymmetric spinnaker.

6 spreaders on Extra Beat

We also met a stray Gemini which disappeared rather quickly into our wake. Maybe they weren't sailing it very well. But unlike us they had empty davits, no solid fuel stove and probably didn't have a generator, boatbuilding tools etc on board

.Gemini being overtaken


It's been another busy month, fortunately this time that meant going sailing! Testing and trying out my new Eclipse and also finishing off the interior. Most of that is now done, save a few corners, plus carpets and table. The photos show part of the saloon and one aft cabin.

I've been very pleased with its performance, it certainly seems to be in the Banshee/Sagitta speed range.

part of the Eclipse saloon

For example, on a 40 mile beat from Plymouth to Falmouth in 20 knots of wind I easily beat 3 Sigma 33's despite sailing singlehanded. (I say "easily beat" because when I was steering and had full rig I overtook them very easily, I then reefed and put the autopilot on and still beat the first one in by over 15 minutes. So I was taking it easy, they of course had all their crew on the rail). A Moody 40 and Bavaria 37 left at the same time, they disappeared to lee and were out of sight behind in only a couple of hours sailing. Sigmas are well known as fast boats to windward and have been one of the mainstays of UK monohull racing fleets for the last 10 years or so.

On the trip home, again with autopilot on, I did 15.5 knots under spinnaker. On a later sail with my (elderly) parents on board we did 17.5 knots in flat water.

And all very comfortably and easily - no bridgedeck slam and finger light steering at all times.

Eclipse aft bunk

My brother is a keen Laser sailor and with his help and the masthead spinnaker up we did 8.3 knots in 4 knots apparent wind (10 knots true) and later 8.5 knots to windward, tacking through 80 degrees on the compass, or 32 deg to the apparent wind.

Eclipse under spinnaker sailing at over 8 knots

The photo below is an enlargement of the one above and shows the log reading 8.31 knots in 11 knots of wind

Eclipse log and wind instruments


The prototype Eclipse was launched on May 31st. Still needing linings, unfinished below and missing cockpit seats it has now been test sailed about 100 miles.
We are all very pleased with its performance so far. Hands off sailing at 7.5 knots to windward for long periods. We beat a Sigma 38 (production cruiser racer) to windward in 15 knots apparent. 9.5 knots easy off wind on gps running as if on rails. Tacks as fast as I can get from one hull to the other. And no bridgedeck slam.

Two Eclipses are now being built. One is quite near me. Nigel Sheppard is building strip plank hulls to the knuckle and ply topsides. I viewed progress in early July and he's making an excellent job! Both hull bottoms are now finished, the topsides are going on, he has also made the bulkheads, beams, bunk boards etc. We thought we had problems building a 20' wide boat in a 17' wide shed, but Nigel is building in his extended garage. When he's finished the individual hulls and decks he's going to move it to his local boatyard (where Team Phillips was built) for final assembly - sometime in 2002.

Eclipse being launched

Eclipse under sail

When launched Eclipse floated

about 70mm high at the stern and 50mm high at the bows, but since then I have fitted the dinghy in davits which has helped trim. Most of the stores, and of course all the crew, will be aft which will help trim the boat correctly.

Still to make are the cockpit seats. Interior lining is the other major job (Oh and fitting the 6 disc CD player and solid fuel stove chimney!)

Eclipse motoring






Other news:

A web site well worth viewing is It is a free site for all those building multihulls and has the facility to add photos of your own boat during the build. Currently a Brazilian Janus, an Canadian Strider and a Norwegian Quattro 16 can all be viewed on line.

A Wizard can be seen at
Other builders have also emailed me photos direct. Jim Rajaratnam of Malaysia sent photos of his recently launched round bilge Meander. He wrote " Thank you for your plans, help and advise that you have given me to successfully complete the boat in about 18 months.
Malaysian Meander

Robin McKay from Ireland is busy building a plywood Flica 34. After a years work he's got this far. He says "only another months work before launching." (But he also says he's said that for several months already!)

More photos of your boats, either in build or sailing are of course always welcome!

Finally, Australian builders may like to know that we now have a new agent: Bruce McConkey at


Clearly the big news is that you are now viewing my new web site. It has taken much longer to put on line than I had hoped. The original concept, graphics and coding was done by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., currently building a Sagitta.

One reason why its taken so long is that we are also busy drawing the Mirage and the Romany, as well as finishing off the prototype Eclipse.

Romany is a larger version of Gypsy, while Mirage is based on a hard chine version of Mira. The prototype is being built in Canada. Study plans for both boats are now available.

Review 2000