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January 01, 2011        .

W17 Trimaran — Racing Rig!

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 [see later note added below] 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!

W17 Racing RigThe 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 26 footer!) was in just 10k of wind when a totally unexpected downdraft (of what I estimate was over 30k) 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 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.)

[Updated] Initially, this new Racing Rig was set on an standard alloy mast, but since 2015 has best been paired with a new carbon fiber wing-mast design for home building that has now been thoroughly tested on my own boat and works just great.    The design is now available for home build and many are already sailing or under construction.   Part of the sail area now comes from the rigid wings of the wingmast, which when rotated, give most of the camber to the sail.

All builders of the W17 will receive this drawing of the Racing Rig option as standard supply.


ADDED NOTE April 2020.  Geez, sorry guys, this page got forgotten when updating and now many seasons have flown by !!   As I tend to lean on the conservative side of things without significant tests and experience, I was rather hesitant to give a full-out recommendation for the Racing Rig back in 2011.   But that was then ;)   

I am now much more confident and I would probably tip my preference towards the Racing Rig, EXCEPT for three cases.   If you are really located in a routinely windy area (like San Francisco Bay and certain wild coastal areas); are a Novice sailor who would rather not play with sail reefing; or thirdly, plan to mostly Camp-Cruise at a leisurely pace, then I would recommend to stick with the Cruising Rig.    The 2020 Cruise version will have a flat top mainsail like the Racing Rig but there is 1/6th less sail.   With the Racing Rig, it DOES require more discipline to 'Reef Early' and I then also strongly recommend to budget for the $300 (2020) Storm Mainsail, as in high winds, it will not only save you from reefing your large main, but it will save it from being blown out of 'good performance shape' .., something that can happen with a dacron sail, despite the material itself being very long lasting.   With the Cruising Rig, you can always add in the genoa/Code-0 in case the wind is light, and this can be quickly rolled in.

If you are elderly, but still have good sailing skills and reflexes .... then have no fear, this boat is very forgiving.  At 85 I am still enjoying my Race Rig but am well aware of when to reef.    Watching the bow of that leeward ama and always keeping it least 40mm above the water surface is a safe bet .... and then hold the words of this survival article in your head.    The extra sail area in winds under 10kts is always appreciated .. but just keep 'an eye on the sky' in case a front is heading your way.  The natural stability of this trimaran makes sail changes a breeze and from the cockpit, unlike most monos under 20ft, it's virtually impossible to fall out of this boat ;)    Happy sailing, and for many, many more years.    This is a boat that will grow with you and even look after you, if you look after it!    Like a fine thoroughbred horse ;)


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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