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For what clientele is the W17 Trimaran most suited ?

QUESTION:

I was recently interested to see that CLC Boats (USA) had developed a Small Boat Selector Widget to ‘help choose the right kit boat’ from the many they offer.  I was pleased and excited to note your W17 Trimaran kit was recommended in the design aspects considered, but under these two specific headings…‘High Performance Sailing’ and, for the ‘Experienced Builder’.    However, based on the Jan 2017 article in Woodenboat Magazine magazine, this might discourage a significant group of which I will soon be one.   So my question to you is, “when retiring at 65, will this boat be too hot for me or even too hard to build?”  

What are your thoughts on this please ?                                                                                Philippe-L, St Hubert, Quebec

   

REPLY:

Well, before I give you my personal take on this, let’s see what the independent WoodenBoat tester and reporter Geoff Kerr had to say back in 2017 (WB#254).  He opened with: “Refined high performance in a 17' backyard-built plywood boat seems rather unlikely. Equally contradictory are the combination of easy construction with sophisticated engineering, high speed with boxy hulls, and easy handling with high-tech sailing”.    

"Cost-consciousness and ease of construction quickly pointed Waters toward plywood for the new boat’s main hull. This hull has a flat bottom, which makes the W17 easy to beach and to transport on a trailer. Its topsides are nearly vertical, and the resulting low wave resistance contributes to good speed. With the amas, or outrigger hulls, providing stability and buoyancy, no flare was necessary in the main hull’s topsides, making it easy to build. The amas, too, are designed with simple, nearly square sections, but with a twist ……………....."

Mr Kerr further reported that “she does make you smile …. and is calm and quiet at speed and easy to tack and control” 

“She sails incredibly flat and is smooth and steady at speed, with no pitching and no spray, which is rather a revelation for the uninitiated. ......... and ........ she steers lightly, deliberately, and intuitively, with fingertip effort …. and is remarkably dry”.

He also closed with this:  “It was absolutely natural to step aboard and sail the W17 and I can confirm that she is fast, fun, and hospitable, and would be welcoming to all ages and interests”

I certainly have no issue with any of that as after 10 years, it’s now all proven facts to me and for many new owners who have reported in, confirming many of the same attributes.

While this clearly covers a far broader range of use and purpose than indicated by CLC's grading, let’s also look at this from another angle.   Let's see ‘who seems most attracted to the boat ?’.  Looking at the profile of the nearly 200 who have bought plans (from 33 countries), the principal age group is 55-75, and these individuals commonly voice the following.   That they are looking for … ‘something even first timers can build from a kit, that is safe and secure as they grow less agile; something for general fun sailing that they might also camp cruise with, but also a boat a little sophisticated in design with a very satisfying performance and great looks’.   The W17 clearly satisfies all those things, while the CLC grading as you point out, does rather imply an ‘on the edge performance and needing an expert builder’ to put her together’. 

                  

I can tell you that John Harris of CLC has seen the boat (though not sailed one yet to my knowledge) and I’m confident he would not misrepresent the boat intentionally. In fact he said “I’m sure I would enjoy to sail this boat” when we met at the 2016 WB boat show and not long afterwards it became CLC's first and only trimaran kit, and one of his more expensive kits.   So either, someone else choose the categories or he is just not well informed about who is building and sailing the boat or its now proven capabilities.

I think the independent report of Geoff Kerr should be heeded here, as obviously my own opinion might be ruled as biased even if I always 'try to be fair and realistic’.

Geoff and I need to tell both CLC and those like yourself, that as good as her performance is, it comes easily and naturally from the design itself and does not require special knowledge or over-the-edge effort that we typically see the sailing youth employing while sailing boats that commonly trade-off stability for performance ... not to mention staying dry! In significant contrast, this stable trimaran takes away much of the athletic demands of the typical High-Performance boat and offers something more like a ride in an Audi than a powerful Go-Kart.  As Mr Kerr correctly reported, ”I was immediately comfortable to sail her and she is welcoming for all ages and interests (purposes).

One ‘purpose’ leads me to mention that the W17 has already clearly proven itself as quite a voyageur, with the first prototype having been sailed both hard and far, with an attitude of “let’s see what breaks!”  Well, after about 2000 n.mls with some inter-island sea crossings of up to 60 miles, the Aussie skip had to admit that 'nothing did', and wrote this to me “I was in places and rougher conditions than I should have been, but this tough and remarkable little boat is finally bringing me safely home”.  He went on to tell me that “when I made mistakes, Pegasus (his W17) covered them over and compensated instead of making them worse"  ... as many boats could have done.

So this boat is also for Cruising and Exploring, as she not only has excellent storage space for a small trimaran, but is clearly very safe, dry and seaworthy …  particularly with her self-draining cockpit that (to me) ALL cruising boats should have!  Many who are building are thinking of camp-cruising her, with specific current examples in Australia, Norway, Britain, Canada and the USA, so a cockpit tent is definitely on the horizon.  Despite all this, the most common use-to-date has been just Casual Sailing as she really IS a pleasure to sail …. being super-smooth, comfortable and dry, with many different sitting positions that allow the sailor to never get stiff or bored. In fact, this Norwegian Blog posts a dozen pics showing 8 different positions to sail the W17 from!   Not only did WB tester Geoff Kerr allude to this but many more testamonials have also done so since.

As far as building one, at least ½ the builders are indeed ‘first time boatbuilders’, so I think that proves one does not have to be an experienced boatbuilder to succeed .…. but perhaps the 100-plus detailed pages of the Build Manual has helped with that.   But I will agree that this boat has a lot of plywood parts and will take 4-500 hours .. certainly more than most of CLC’s simpler small boats.  But there are indeed a lot of small parts in a trimaran, especially with all the features the W17 packs in.     There are simpler small trimarans out there that may also cost less ... but there's only one pro-designed W17 that not only delivers satisfaction and performance in all areas, but most admit she also looks really good.  So yes, it will take a little longer to complete but 'is well worth the time & effort', as per those who chose this design.

So if CLC Boats does another kit promotion like the one you saw, I do hope they will look more seriously at the W17 and give the boat the broader appreciation it deserves.

God willing, I hope to sail and safely cruise mine into my 90’s .. and that’s not even so far off for me.  VERY few boats can offer that.  So as far as your personal choice is concerned, you have nothing to fear re being too complex to either sail or build … “Go for it”, as the W17 has shown me and now many others that this is one very special boat that does many things very well.  Even according to Geoff Kerr back in 2017 .... casual sailing is easy and welcoming ... and it's smooth performance, dryness and low pitching is quite a revelation for the uninitiated.

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Fair winds Philippe and happy sailing.

Mike 2022    

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