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Review of the W17 ..... by a noted European racer

INTRODUCTION:   In 2020, I was contacted by a Farrier racer in Germany who was interested in upscaling his F82R for race performance.  He had already built and mounted new amas of a more modern design as well as adding C-foils for added stability, so was now looking to update his rig.   With new sails planned, I ended up designing a new Mark.ll Wingmast for him and the excellent results he had with this in subsequent years led this intrepid skipper to become interested in the new design work I was undertaking, presently represented by the W17.    As an engineer with an enquiring mind, he expressed an interest to come out to North America to see and test the W17 for himself, something that I was totally supportive of.    His name is André Baetz and as there was another W17R not too far away, I organized that André and I would trail my boat out to Maine on the US East Coast, so that he would have a 2nd boat to sail and therefore not confine his input to just one source.   As André is a respected and successful skipper in Europe, I consider his observations worth sharing, so after a week sailing in Maine and another two in Vermont, André returned home with an agreement that I would get a report from him in the coming days or weeks.   True to his word, I now have it.

So here it is with some pics added.   I have added André's sailing bio at the end.                                                      Mike.


My Review of the W17 trimaran  ,.....   (by André Baetz,  August 2023) 

Great to have two boats as we could sail against each other to compare things.  Both boats (called Magic and Merlin) felt very solid and other than the integrated hinges on the beam tops, there is no physical indication that the boat is foldable for a trailer.

My very first reaction came when I prepared to lower the rudder.   Compared to my long deep transom-hung foil on my F82R, this one looked like a postage stamp!   I was told it was small to be able to sail in shallow draft but also, that because it was installed UNDER the bottom as a spade rudder, it was more efficient.  This way the bottom of the main hull works as an endplate, something which is not possible on my F82R where I partly fly the main hull. The rudder blade of the W17 also has an upper fence to cut risk of ventilation when heeled, but I was still skeptical, and rather condemned it even before trying it.

After pushing off, my first sense was that the boat was very quiet and seemed to just slip through waves like it was specially lubricated.  Rather eerie but also very satisfying. 

I have to admit that although the main hull looks like a box in section (something I had never sailed in before), as soon as I was sailing, that thought was completely erased, as the boat sails far better than any box I could have imagined!   The amas have an asymmetrical trapezoidal shape that I came to appreciate only later when working upwind and also sailing in waves .. but more on that later.       (Image: André being dropped off for a test sail)

The boat sets a tall modern flat-top rig on a rotating wingmast (as does my own boat), so I was immediately at home with that.

Once under way, the light helm was no surprise to me either … but I have to admit, the boat responded better to that ‘pocket handkerchief of a rudder’ than I expected. Guess the effect of being tucked completely under the main hull is worth more than I first thought.   Related to any change or correction of the boats course. the rudder angle is higher than on my F82R so I still think that a rudder with the same area but of higher aspect ratio could make steering even more immediate and further reduce the drag of the boat.  Of course, that tweak will depend on whether sailing in shallow water is a requirement or not.

The rudder of the W17 still kicked up easily when it hit the bottom and this brought with it a wedge of the hull bottom .. an arrangement I had not seen before.  But with a wide alloy hinge at the deck and being pocketed in at the hull bottom, it would be even stronger than the standard 'pintles and gudgeons' used on most small boats I’d seen.

In fact, the design is bristling with new ideas which is fine with me, but only if they work better than other proven solutions.   Surprisingly, they all seemed to.

For example, the halyards that exit the mast wall are kept tight to the surface with a new circular disc cleat that Mike developed.   This allows the rope tension to ‘pinch’ the rope after one revolution, so that the small flat camcleat below it, only has to hold the end down.  It’s light, compact, low cost and fast to use and was still working well after 8 seasons of use on the designers personal boat.  

Tiller extensions are 2 meter long, but virtually unbreakable as they are inexpensive PVC tubes.  If the tiller load were high, these would not work well in compression, but the load is hardly measurable so they are a great solution for this particular boat.

Unlike most small boats with a daggerboard, this one is designed to kick back about 30 degrees, so absorbing the initial shock on any underwater obstacle. As I once sailed my rigid daggerboard onto a rock, I really like this one.   But with the slightly overlength case and slot, I was surprised how little water slopped up, as the cockpit floor is only about 5cm above the waterlevel when sailing. Although I could not see it, I was told this was mainly due to the rear of the case interior having 3 large inverted ‘teeth’ that serve to kill any synchronous slop.    If so, it’s simple and it works.

During most of the days I sailed, there was no water or spray coming on board so I’d rate the boat as much drier than most as the near vertical sides of all 3 hulls just slice through the slop and leave it remarkably undisturbed.  It has to be the main reason it’s also so quiet. Between the main hull and the amas of my own boat I always observed two waves, one from the main hull and one from the ama bow which meet in the middle of the gap between the hulls causing a wave crest. These waves just don't exist on  the W17 so I’m guessing that the wave making drag must be measureably lower.

(Image: note the low bow wave from each hull)

I had read that this boat “goes upwind like a witch”.  Hmm, saw no broom here ;)  But it certainly likes this orientation to the wind and I felt no side crabbing that many monos and early multis exhibit.   Then the boat owner smiled and said, “keep sailing your course” … and then whipped out the whole daggerboard!    I hardly felt the difference.  It was quite remarkable how this boat tracks and now that shallow rudder started to make some sense as this boat can sail to windward in just 60cm of water!      After that, we mostly sailed with the daggerboard only down to the depth of the rudder.  Without the asymmetrical hull shapes of this boats’ amas, I am quite convinced this would not be possible.

Mind you, it would be hard for me to accept that this boat would not do even better with the board fully down, but this would have to be carefully measured to be sure, as more board is more drag.    But with rounded hulls that have precious little side grip, a long board adds more lift than drag so clearly pays off.  With the W17, I am now not so sure that still applies.

I also had a day when it was blowing 20k so it was a chance to try out the storm mainsail.   On the W17, the aft-facing wingmast-tiller needs access to the boom to limit mast rotation but on this boat, the mainsail rolls around the boom.  So the designer has suggested a tight strap to go around the rolled sail, with a D-ring for attaching the mast-tiller line.   We had a prototype of this strap on-board but the high load on the tiller dragged it forward, so allowing excessive mast rotation.  But we figured out a solution,  By lashing the strap back to the outhaul, it could no longer slide forward.  That worked much better.  I could now concentrate on the reduced rig.

The boat handled this so easily that there was no panic in the strong wind and we continued to make good ground to windward.    We had strapped up the ½ furled jib to try and balance the rig but the jib partly pulled out high up, so the shape became pretty inefficient.   In the short waves, we missed a couple of tacks and had to sail in reverse to get on the new tack.  We also stuffed the bow under a couple of times in the near 1 meter waves that were also very short, but never lost way, so that ‘pocket handkerchief rudder’ continued to surprise me.  

After talking with the designer, we went out on another windy day, this time with the full jib.  He explained how it’s often beneficial to trim weight aft when tacking in waves and sure enough, I did not miss another tack after that.   So, like all new boats, there are little tricks to learn and then they become endearing to you as part of your growing unity with your boat.

(Image: Andre sails Magic across the bow of Merlin)

I also got to sail the boat singlehanded and the reduced displacement was immediately apparent as the boat really accelerated in the puffs in a most satisfying manner and the boat was frankly a thrill to sail like this as it demanded very little physical effort from me.   Clearly worth keeping it light.

Overall, for what is still a small boat (mine is 27ft after all), the W17 felt very stable and seemed perfectly capable of looking after me in all realistic conditions.  With her ama buoyancy well forward of the main hull buoyancy, much pitching is dampened out so pitching was never an issue in the 3 weeks I spent sailing the two boats.

There are lots a different places to sit and they are mostly comfortable ones.  There are also no less than 8 small ‘deck’ lockers to stuff things into, excluding the two large ‘holds’ forward and aft.  All great for any future camp cruising.

I started to imagine what a larger boat with these hulls and general layout would be like and the thought is so appealing that I left thinking there might well be a W19 in my future in a few years.

Overall, this is one impressive boat and I can see why it has become so popular for older sailors who still want efficient performance without all the backache and jumping around that a mono of this length would bring.   This boat is also very different from say 'an outrigger' like the WR17 (Windrider) as it's higher off the water, has a far more spacious cockpit, goes way better upwind and is much drier and more wave-capable too.  So where you place the ‘R’ in the designation is important.  I mention this as I have seen occasional confusion on boat Forums. What I was testing was a W17R, not a WR17 ;).    For myself, I would not consider the Cruising rig as the boat is very stable and sail area can always be reduced.  Having more for the lighter winds would be what I would be looking for, but then, I still have racing in my blood and that’s not everyone's choice.   It does after all take extra discipline to reef early.

Image: Andre returns Magic to the ramp after another day of sailing

So yes, after 3 weeks of playing with this new toy, I have to give this design a very positive ‘thumbs up’ and if its design goals match yours, just plan a couple of years boat building as this one is not a production boat …. at least, not yet.

Plywood kits are apparently available though: .... in Europe, Australia and North America, and the CNC tape can also be purchased individually from the designer for making a kit using your own plywood.   

As the health gurus say “JUST DO IT!”

Regards, André  


BIO of André Baetz Ing. (European  trimaran racer)

André Baetz was an infant when he first cruised in his father’s boat called Flaneur, so he came naturally to the water.   But his first trimaran (F82R) came only in 2015 and André also named it Flaneur in memory of those early days.  Since owning it, André has annually made a raft of improvements to get it to perform at progressively higher levels, building new carbon composite amas, plus solid CF C-foils for added stability plus a new rudder and daggerboard along with lighter weight interior finishing.  Then came a new CF Waters Wingmast, Dyneema rigging and hi tech sails to match. 

Finally, in 2022, it all paid off as he finished the 950nm MidsummerSail Race up the Baltic taking two trophies (First Multihull and First Solosailer) plus also setting the Record Time for the Fastest Multihull up the course for the 7 years the event has been held ;… competing against monos and multis of 40ft.   He then re-entered the same race in 2023 and despite all the different weather and new boats, some now over 50ft, AGAIN won the same trophies, so proving this was no fluke.  While the new tweaks are now inevitably getting smaller and smaller, he presently plans to do this Midsummersail Race marathon at least one more time, but this time with a crew as singlehanding for a whole week costs a huge price in lost sleep (if not halucinations) and he still needs to hold down a full time job. 

Since writing this review, André returned to the European racing scene and in Sept 2023, entered the most popular race in Europe, the SilverRudder … where 450 boats race the 130 miles around a large Danish island.    There were two multihull classes, “Over and Under 28ft”.  André made the Small Multi group but was up against a couple of very fast demountable DIAM 24 trimarans’-  lightweight hi-tech open day boats just perfect for the moderate conditions.   In this hotly contested race and despite not having enough wind to benefit from his added foil stability, André still took a 2nd place.”

Here is the boat that André owns and races in Europe .. a much modified F82R, here sporting her new sails and Mk.ll wingmast.

Congrats to André once again, and many thanks for his effort to cross an ocean to check out the W17 for himself.   He said, "it was definitely worth it".

POSTSCRIPT:  André and his boat Flaneur will be a major feature this fall in YACHT, one of the principal yachting magazines in Germany.



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