Now that the W17 has had a couple of months of hard sailing with its Cruising Rig and no structural issue has shown up, it's time to give in to those looking for more on-the-edge performance and come up with a Racing Rig for this boat. In areas of strong wind and open water, or for coastal cruising, I'd still recommend to stay with the cruising rig and if you get around to building the wing mast design (that you get free once your prove the main boat is half built), this adds about 10 square feet of effective area, anyway. With a boat somewhat overweight and using the Cruising rig on a shortened Hobie 18 mast, the W17 has already been timed at 14.9 k by GPS and will no doubt exceed that at some point, especially when built to weight and matched with the wing mast. For a cruising boat of just 16 ft average hull length, I think you'll agree that's already a fine performance!
The Racing Rig is really for racing—or for use in areas where winds are typically below 15 k. There's a good reef area indicated that I'd not be shy to use when winds are over say 18 k. It all depends on your experience, who you have as crew and whether there is ready assistance if you either push over the limit or get caught by some freak wind gust—and that CAN happen when you least expect it. The only time I came close to flipping my personal tri (a 25‑footer!) was in just 10 k of wind when a totally unexpected downdraft (of what I estimate was over 30 k) hit with great down force and I was caught relaxing with another experienced sailor, while a novice sailed the boat. Despite jumping quickly to action, we just could NOT release the main under the increasing pressure (100+ lbs on the 10:1 mainsheet) and we saw the full 1800 lb buoyancy ama pressed several feet underwater, before the gust thankfully eased and she slowly came up. Since then, I've always recommended a new cleat system that DOES release under such high load and now recommend it to everyone. (Spinlock's™ rocker cleat that I even linked to a foot release to keep fingers well out of the way.)
For the moment, this new Racing Rig will be set on an standard alloy mast, although I have a new carbon fiber wing-mast design for home building that I will be testing on my own boat and if this works out as planned, the design will become available some time in the future. In such a case, the racing sail should really be trimmed back about 3" (75 mm) at the luff, or the wing mast will add even more area.
All builders of the W17 will receive this drawing of the Racing Rig option as standard supply.
Feel free to send in specific questions or comments via my Questions Form, that I may select to answer through this webpage if considered of broad interest.
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