Small Trimaran Design

About the Author


Picture of Michael Waters
About Michael Waters N.A.

Michael (Mike) Waters started to sail at 10 years old in his native England and built his first small sailboat at 12 after reading Arthur Ransome's Swallows & Amazons. He went on to successfully compete in several National Championship events as both skipper and crew. He lived and sailed in the famous Solent‑Hamble River area, sometimes racing against the likes of Uffa Fox, Ian Proctor, and John Westell (of 505 fame). He designed several successful dinghies, one being the Flying Moth that was a forerunner to the single-handed Europa dinghy and started a company in England to build them, called Singlehanded Products.

After graduating as a Naval Architect and Marine Engineer and then teaching for a year (both in Southampton, UK), he came to Canada, in his mid twenties. He then spent 30 years designing large Marindus cargo liners and tankers, etc. for international markets, as one of Canada's most noted and successful naval architects, but meantime, always sailing for pleasure, and dabbling with small boat designs that he often built and sailed himself.

It should be noted that Mike is a very independent thinker, something that he believes came out of having to work with very basic ’junk’ materials while growing up during WWll in the UK when everything was incredibly scarce.  With a smile, he also admits he ‘grew up with old Meccano pieces not Lego’.   (Meccano supplied basic metal pieces of all shapes and sizes yet one could build working models of just about anything the mind conjured up. First Patented in 1901, its worth reading the story.  Production finally stopped in 2023 after it developed ‘perhaps too much detail for its own good’, leaving far less for its young constructors to imagine.  Check out “WIKI Meccano”)

Ever since becoming an engineer, Mike’s approach has been to first, clearly Define the Issues … the Needs .. the Goal ...  and then draw on basic science, research, nature and even the miracle of evolution, to find the most efficient solution.    Sometimes this confirms traditional solutions but sometimes it does not.     Mike tends to apply this approach to everything he does, not only to design a new boat, mast or even a car, but also any new design concept to solve a specific issue.  His most provocative trigger as a young man, was to hear the word ‘Impossible’.  It still challenges him today at 90.

His dogged approach has also shown up dealing with such diverse things as learning a new instrument, composing, fighting health issues or even rethinking concepts to ‘solve’ political issues.    ‘Efficiency’ (see below), is a key word for him, but solutions that are ‘cost-effective and environmentally supportable’ rank high also.   But he also believes that esthetics is important as, owners will look after something better if they are proud of how it looks, so that factors into all his design work.  It’s also worth noting that none of the articles posted on this Website were written until the author was 75 years old, so they come from at least 60 years of experience and constant reconsideration.   

So while Mike may embrace some traditional things, it will be because they have proven to best satisfy the Design Criteria, not because ‘it was always done that way’.   Along with that comes new ways of creating things or even just thinking about things.  The rewarding thing is that most of them have proven to work remarkably well, despite sometimes challenging tradition or the status quo.

“Efficiency” to Mike can mean a lot of things, but the basic for him is ‘the ratio of some positive factor compared to those that challenge it’.   It can be Low Resistance vs. Weight; High Lift vs. Drag; Boat Dryness/Comfort vs. Speed; High Performance vs. Cost (Bang vs Buck); Security vs. Cost; Strength vs Weight or Cost; Performance vs Complexity; Economy vs Ugliness; or even for concepts as far out as: Planets Future vs Mankinds Lifestyle; Tolerance vs Ignorance, or Peace vs Differences.    Everything faces compromises, so choosing the best of those becomes the challenge.

Throughout his career, Michael was an established Member of the Society of Naval Architects, the Royal Institute of Naval Architects and the Professional Engineers of both Canada and Quebec, up until taking retirement from the industry. He was also author of several published papers, covering a range of things from cargo liners to the design of sailboards. Always the inventor, his illustrated Record Book (1953-20xx) covers over 130 items of which about 1/4 are boat related.  One of the first of these (#23) was a centerboard that permitted an adjustable angle of attack to reduce leeway, while a couple of later ones (#114-115) are boat safety items.   One describes the design of a semi-automatic mainsheet release to reduce the risk of a multihull capsize; a concept that should soon be in production and made available through a new company called SeaSafetyTech.com).   Another unique concept has presented the opportunity for the more adventurous to build their own wingmast.   In 2018, concept entry (#122) defined a range of CAF's (circular assist foils) that could be retrofitted to existing trimarans.  This and recent ingenious work by a fellow sailor and engineer in Germany, is leading to another new company called Foils-Marine.com that will help progressive sailors with improved foil designs for one-off rudders, daggerboards and lifting-foils, offering optimized performance, improved stability and sail-carrying capacity for motivated sailors & racers alike.    So stay tuned ;) 

In the early 1970's Mike became convinced that the concept of multihulls was the way to go, and after attending the first World Multihull Symposium in Toronto in 1976 (along with 750 equally passionate enthusiasts), became an ardent supporter of trimarans as the most ideal form for multihulls under 35ft, especially if upwind performance and helming satisfaction means anything to the owner.  Over a period of 40 years, he has owned two Crowther Buccaneer trimarans, plus being a long time (16 year) owner of the first, most famous Dragonfly, 'Magic Hempel' that won awards in the rough/tough 1985 Round Britain Race for "Fastest boat for its length' plus "First in Class". 

He more recently (2013) built one of his own W17R's and continues to sail and test 'Magic' extensively, and says "she's proving to be the ideal boat to bring both pleasure and adventure to ones senior years, yet still offers the thrill and excitement of speed and high efficiency, along with a comforting degree of safety even when caught out in rough water.".   Over the last 40+ years, he has taken every opportunity to sail other multihulls from 12 to 60 ft, and has also sailed the F24, F25A, F28 and F31 folding trimarans by the noted designer, Ian Farrier.    With a strong desire to freely share what he had learned and experienced over more than 75 years of designing and sailing, he started this website in 2009. 

See About the Site for more detail on how best to use the website and what also to be wary about.

To learn what small boats (and ships) Mike has designed, try this Boat Design Summary that was published early 2021



From the Webmaster … under the radar ;)

Unknown to many, Mike also has a second time-consuming passion, other than boats.     That’s classical music.   He graduated in piano performance as a teenager, winning many competitions*  and completing all his exams for the LRSM (Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music, UK) with distinction.    As a happy diversion, he’s since coached many young people in music interpretation and enjoys staying in touch with them as they take off with their own careers.   He got into composing at 60 (check here if intrigued) and then taught himself cello in his late 60’s.   Although he finally dropped that to start this website, he still played piano & accompanied through his 80’s and still volunteers as Music Director for a local Art Center, having organized over 100 classical concerts in 4 towns, over the last 30 years.    So if he does not get back to you right away, perhaps you can cut him a little slack ;)       

*At 14, he once lost a talent competition in the UK to a 13 yr old 'up-start' opera singer.   Her name was Julie Andrews (pre-Mary Poppins time  ;)