Some emails from experienced sailors around the globe who have sailed or seen first-hand a completed W17. Enjoy and hope it helps your own evaluation.
As this was started even before the first boat was properly rigged with spray nets, drains etc, we DO hope you'll also scroll down and read some of the later comments that take you beyond 'the early days'. Thanks!
Nov 23rd 2010
Just a quick note to say the W17 performed great on the weekend. I had her really powered up and many people commented on how fast she was going. We were not allowed to race with the Hobie 16s so I raced in the PY handicap races. They rated me the same as a Hobie Getaway (that has a much higher SA/Wt ratio), so that was tough.
On Saturday we had 15 knots and at about 13 knots of speed, had to let out the main several times. But the sailing was great fun and the boat was a joy to sail. Nothing broke either ;-)
On Sunday we had 10 to 15 but with some gusts up to say 18 knots. I had a big local crew member with me and with the two of us, the boat was just right in the water and there was no rudder cavitation all day. I had to release the mainsheet twice on a couple of reaches. I was pressing so hard, we had the leeward float underwater and the tip of the bow was almost under. Who knows, we might have been on the edge but she came up fine when I eased the sheet.
Some great pictures were taken of the W17 powered up but I can't get those until next weekend. Once I have something, I will email them for you to see.
So now I can finally get to finishing the boat, put on the spray nets and the proper mainsheet track. We will finish the boat for display and I now plan to enter race her in a big race in Feb 2011. 200 nautical miles over 5 days island hopping. So do you want to be the crew or the skipper? ;-)
Still lots to learn about the boat but I'm now already dreaming of a racing version … a W17R. Composite construction perhaps and bigger sails. We can build it the same way as the plywood version but would be lighter.
[Boatbuilder in the Philippines]
Nov 25th 2010
Yes I am slowly coming around… [Ed: to understanding the design approach]. I just need to learn how to handle the personality of a small weight-sensitive boat after previously sailing much bigger boats.
I just checked the updated drawings and noticed you've made the boat fractionally wider at the waterline, slightly deeper, with the cockpit floor slightly raised. That looks like a great mix for a boat built somewhat lighter than mine.
OK. So now when will the W22 be available for building?
I also want the spray nets added now. When we're going fast, water comes over the side between the gunwale and the forward beam hinge. Not all of it is close to the hull as when the boat is slightly heeled, the water is squeezed outwards on its way back aft. Maybe I will try light fabric ones.
Yes sailing this boat really IS fun and I am already looking forward to my next sail. The YC manager and Commodore will also have a chance to sail it over the next two weeks as I'll leave it at the club for them. Then we'll bring the boat back to be painted and put on the proper traveler.
The dagger board moves around a bit so I intend to put a small saddle behind the case slot and add a shock cord around the blade back to this saddle so that the board will stay put. (If made too light it can try to float up)
My crew on Sunday said "you have a really nice boat, Andrew - and fast too". Spectators on shore said they saw the boat really moving and were clearly impressed with the speed.
November 29th 2010
Over the weekend, the YC Commodore … sailed the boat for several hours over the two days.
After sailing in about 15 knots of wind and pushing the boat very hard, Peter made the following comments.
"Boat planes easily down wind. Up and down wind, even in heavy seas there was no tendency to nose dive. The boat has a comfortable motion and feels very solid and stable. It is early days yet but I am excited about the potential of having an affordable boat of this type at the club for class racing."
I am also enclosing a photo someone took during the previous weekend. Should find more to follow.
Dec 13th 2010 from the Philippines
Been very busy in the shop lately but I sailed on Sunday for 5½ hours. People are often asking me to take them out but as Sunday was Race day for the Hobies, everybody was too busy to take pictures.
As soon as I got a crew member, I took off and went around the Volcano with a picnic lunch. You may recall, they decided not to let me sail the RTV event with the Hobies so I now wanted to do it with the W17. We completed the 24 miles in a very respectable 3½ hours.
Then I took some other people out. The boat was really flying in 15 to 20 knots of wind. We pressed the leeward float under many times but no drama. I think we hit 15 knots boat speed but no GPS to confirm. Great fun and very satisfying.
We have an amputee sailor here who clearly loves the boat because she is repeatedly pestering me for a sail and has asked me to lend her the boat so she can sail solo 400 nm (!!) from her home province at the north end of Luzon back to Manila. A publicity event to promote disabled sports. Actually it's a great idea but as I still have work to do on my boat, I am trying to persuade her into building her own W17, and if she could, that would make her story so much more appealing.
The other crew/sailor was an engineer from Malta and this was his first time out in the W17. He is building a 24-ft Woods catamaran at home. We had a great time and he rated the W17 as 'fast, lots of fun and a great little boat'.
My painters at the shop are presently very busy working on other boats. But we plan to bring the W17 back there and probably paint her between Christmas and New Year while I am visiting family.
I've finally had 2 spray covers made out of strong white tarpaulin material. I will lash these on like wing nets up forward and see how that works.
As it's the mad time of the year with Christmas parties and holidays, it's hard to get much else done here, so sorry, no new pictures yet.
Dec 30th, 2010
Just a quick text to let you know I have survived the worst of my journey and only have a safe day's sailing left to complete this 200‑mile adventure.
Just want to say that I'm very impressed with the seaworthiness of this little boat! I have been in places I clearly should not have been, and in some very bad weather too, partly due to not always knowing where I was at times. Had some rough weather, hit bottom several times, lost my anchor in rocks etc, but thanks to this tough little boat, will be returning home in one piece. Will be in touch later.
Andrew — Island hopping in the China Sea.
See Report on recent 200-mile Coastal Cruise
These notes were patched together from several short emails we've received.
"We've finally tried a W17 with canvas spray deflectors each side of the bow. Oh boy, what a difference! The boat is now as dry as you predicted it would be and certainly much drier than a Hobie at the same speed.
Also tried the curved mainsheet track and that also works great.
Just back from a week-long trip, escorting the Hobies on their tough Philippine Hobie Challenge over some 300 nm. We got caught one night with a wind change and were blown ashore through the surf. We tried to push out but that proved impractical, so we put up full sail and just powered out. The boat was terrific driving out through the breaking waves. Lots of fun. (Next time, I'll know ;-)"
Here's a brief review of the race program and some pics: Hobie Challenge
July 8th, 2011
I live on the island of Romblon, Romblon. This is in the middle of the Philippines where we just hosted part of the 11th Philippine Hobie Challenge Race Tour. Teams from around the world took part in this event that started off Luzon Island, not far from the capital, Manila. The sailors then braved open ocean conditions as they sailed from one island to another (some 40 miles apart!). As they arrived on Romblon, we were experiencing big wave conditions with high winds at the time, so I was surprised to see Andrew Johnson (and a friend) had sailed his newly built W17 along with the group of racers, just for the experience, since the race was for Hobie boats only. Andrew arrived safely in Romblon along the rest of the racers, being careful not to get in the way. But his W17 was hardly left behind and handled the open ocean very well for such a small boat. Everybody took notice of his Ferrari red trimaran that he beached on the white sand seashore not far from the port of Romblon. I was amazed at how the boat was shaped above the water and how it had the look of much larger trimarans. Yet the boat is only a fiberglass-sheathed plywood design with no complicated or expensive forms to build. Andrew commented he may very well not even use fiberglass on the sides of his next hull in order to make it lighter, since the fiberglass on the bottom alone seems to work fine. (Ed: a viable option for the main hull but interior glass sheathing is still recommended for the amas.) Andrew is a professional boatbuilder and engineer with many years of sailing experience so he knew just how he wanted to outfit the boat. I was so impressed that I promised to build one myself after I finish my home that is currently under construction. Seeing is believing and the W17 is impressive. What a great design!
Since I have four young children I may even consider building the larger W22 if not more than double the expense of the W17. So how much more impressive will be the W22?
Thank Andrew for visiting and congratulations on making a long but safe journey in such rough conditions. I am convinced the boat design is very seaworthy even if it was not designed for such open water. I will be in touch with Mike about his W22 plans. Also find attached a couple of pics that I took of the boat on shore.
Romblon, Romblon, Philippines
Était en vacances dans le Vermont, Etats-Unis et a appris que Mike avait presque terminé un W17, donc je suis allé jeter un coup d'œil.
Looks like this sleek boat with its asymmetrical amas and deep fine bow should ride the waves with minimum disturbance and therefore maximum dryness. She'll hit the water in the next month or so, as she's only missing the tramps, rigging and some fittings.
While visiting, I was also shown the new carbon fiber wing mast that Mike has designed and built, and this is an impressive piece at 8 meters long. Mike intends to test this for a while and then issue plans for one-off construction. He was able to show me a short sample of the mast section and explain the various construction steps. Time consuming but ingenious, it saves the builder a lot of expense if indeed they want a CF mast to reduce weight etc..
Also, we opened and closed one of the W17's amas together, and it was a pretty easy task!
Finally, we rolled out the new race mainsail on the grass and this was indeed an impressive experience. High-aspect ratio, dynamic styling and with a square top, it looked very high performance and seemed very well made by Hyde Sails (who apparently have their head office in Britain, only meters from where Mike used to live and sail as a teenager).
J'aurais voulu y rester autour pour le lancement et les essais en mer, mais peut-être que je vais venir dans cette région l'année prochaine.
Va être un superbe bateau!
St-Jean de Luz, France
I just had the privilege to go for a sail with Mike Waters on his new W17R. My first impressions are, without hesitation, straight 10s! The boat really accelerates, cutting through the water without effort, and the overall feeling is one of exhilarating smoothness. The fine hulls sliced the waves giving the feeling of no resistance. The new carbon fibre rotating wing mast (that Mike designed and built) not only looks great, but seems to perform faultlessly. Although the helm felt light, I had a sense of total control with good sight lines to the leeward ama and sails, and the boat seemed to have almost no leeway upwind. Handling the main felt intuitive, requiring very little physical effort and a light flip of the wrist would easily release the sheet for unexpected gusts or adjustment.
The surprisingly small rudder felt responsive and we had no trouble tacking, though a slight backing of the jib may typically be needed in waves. In 15k of wind, we were sailing conservatively with one reef in the main, but without pushing things we recorded 13.1 knots on the GPS. I feel we could easily have managed 15 if we had chosen a more aggressive approach but the boat and rig were brand new and Mike was watching me closely ;) This boat is very comfortable, although as crew, I preferred to hold on to the jib sheet as I’m used to hiking straps and a trapeze handle. The W17 promises to be a real thoroughbred performer and I very much look forward to sailing her again ....especially with the planned addition of a trapeze!
Ed: Mark owns and sails both a Mistral dinghy (with trapeze) and a Farrier F25A in which he has sailed from Duluth, Minnesota (the most western port on the Great Lakes) USA, to Halifax, NS.
November 8, 2013
Living only about 25 miles away, I just visited Mike and had a couple of trips on his newly launched W17 with the racing rig. Having owned a sporty Kraken 18 trimaran myself at one time, I was certainly interested to compare my fondly entrenched memories with this new boat and to be honest, I was a little skeptical about the performance of a flat bottomed boat, compared to the round, cold-molded Kraken.
As everything was brand new and, on his boat at least, untested, Mike wanted to start in a reasonable breeze so it was in the 10k range I’d estimate, nothing wild but plenty for moving around and getting the initial feel of the boat on the water. The boat has a great looking rig and in the very first moments under sail, it quickly became obvious that this was indeed a pretty slippery boat through the water! She accelerated quickly as soon as the sheets were pulled in … so very smooth, and as I’m used to a little more gurgling than this boat was making, the uncanny quietness was kind of eerie. Initially Mike sailed the boat and it seemed to do everything that he expected, judging by the little smile on his face. We tacked and jibed at will and the acceleration in the puffs felt very efficient and rewarding. After a while, he passed me the tiller and the first thing I noticed was that it was VERY light. About as neutral as one could imagine, yet the boat still responded well to the small balanced rudder that's tucked efficiently away under the flat bottom. (I wondered how this small rudder will work if sailing with the mainsail alone but we had no time to try that out as yet … and it may not even be important anyway.) I also became even more aware of how efficient the hull shapes were that Mike had come up with for this boat. Perhaps there's something to being a reputable naval architect after all! :)
Mike made sure that we sat quite forward when going upwind and in this trim, the fine bow just divided the water like a knife through butter and there was no noisy slapping that is typical of most flat bottomed boats.
Mike's son was on the shore and although we were about ½ mile off, managed to snap this shot that really shows how cleanly the water ran past the main hull.
For this racing rig, Mike has designed and built a pretty neat all-carbon mast and as this rotates almost too readily, it's rotation is controlled by a limiting tiller that is attached to a lead and cleat on the boom.
A few days later, I sailed with Mike again and this time there were some waves to contend with. Mike rolled in a good sized reef but the mainsail still looked good as far as shape was concerned. (With the sail now rolled around the boom, we had to run a line from the aft boom end, through the reef ties, to the mast tiller and cinch that up pretty hard to control the mast rotation. It seemed to work but might need adjustment if sailing for long in strong winds.) Now we had to learn how to tack in one smooth turn as this pretty light boat could sometimes have 3 hulls running into waves and we occasionally got caught and thrown back on an old tack. There's clearly a trick to this and both heel and trim are important to getting consistent tacks in tricky conditions. While backing the jib helps, this has the tendency of slowing the boat to a standstill which then makes the rudder ineffective, so finding ways to 'sail around' is far more efficient and it did not take us long to figure out that turning on 2 hulls was easier than 3. But if you're sloppy and take your mind off things, it's easy to mess up when the waves are resisting you. Downwind, the boat was ready to surf at the slightest provocation and from the roomy cockpit, we were quickly able to slide aft to help that happen. All boats have wave limits but it's too early for me to say what this will be for the W17. Mike and I will certainly push the limits come next summer but most owners will (and should) sail more conservatively. This is a tall rig for the boat but well appreciated in the lighter airs. One just needs the discipline to 'reef early when in doubt' :)
So far, Mike has only used the mainsail and jib but there's also a genny and asymmetrical to play with when the wind is light and a crew is on board. It will sure be interesting and no doubt exciting, to pile more sail on this boat. She already feels quick and responsive as a thoroughbred, but she's also wide and stable. The boat is also very comfortable, with the seat height, cockpit depth and small backrest all aiding to make a boat that you could sail all day without feeling cramped. Its general 'smoothness' through the water will help that too … like driving a BMW or Audi after driving a truck ;-)
There's still a lot to learn and discover about this great little boat but from my first couple of trips in her, she certainly feels eager to go and it was sad that Mike was only able to have the boat in the water for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, the Spring and early Summer weather had been really wet, so no work could be done on the carbon fiber mast (built outside) for 2 wet months and that really moved the whole launch plan later than planned. I can sense that Mike is just itching to get sailing again and this will be a really fun boat to own. Day sailing for the sport of it, or fast cruising for the adventure of travel, this boat can do both. After sailing the boat, it's no longer surprising to me that over 80 plan sets have already been sold and I'm sure that this will continue to climb. I later helped Mike drop the mast and fold the boat for the winter and while Mike was missing a forward mast support that will save time and manpower, it all went pretty well for a first effort and there were no anxious moments.
South Hero, VT
Ed: Phelps has sailed all his life and still sailboards and kayaks in sometimes tough conditions. He also takes more interest in the technicalities of how sailing and hull lines interrelate with wind and waves, than most sailors I know.
This note just came in; Feb 6th, 2014
"Hi Mike. I am so looking forward to sailing again on your W17 this coming summer, and also trying out the trapeze. I was thinking about that one sail I had with you last fall and recently told a friend, "I cannot remember ever sailing on a boat that felt 'just so damned efficient' ... it was really a very unique feeling".
Ed: Mark was also very enthusiastic about how the wing mast seemed to work.
Feb 25th 2016
I had the thrill and pleasure of going out with Mike in his W17R on several occasions during the summer of 2015. Before stepping on board I was immediately impressed with the aerodynamic lines of the sailboat, both the curved beams above water and the hull forms below, which I know was no accident when a naval architect as talented as this guy designs a high performance sailing machine. As I found out while underway, the sinuous curves help the boat feel like it's slipping through the water and air, unlike any other sailboat I have ever been on. I kept thinking, in contrast to my monohull Catalina 22, this W17 feels more like it's flying, as it slips over the water with such agility and efficiency.
During my time on the W17 I have experienced light wind, moderate winds and some really rough conditions*. In all cases the boat was a thrilling experience and handled exquisitely. We always seemed able to move at the speed of the wind - amazing!
Can't wait to 'go flying' again next season!!!
Bill L, Virginia.
As reported in an independent review, published in WoodenBoat Magazine #254
“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 from boxy hulls, and easy handling with high-tech sailing. But in his W17 trimaran, designer Mike Waters has synthesized 60 years of sailing high-performance boats, 30 years of professional ship design, and 35 years of owning trimarans, to conquer these apparent contradictions.
Sailing [the W17] does make one smile. 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 ……... She steers lightly, deliberately, and intuitively, with fingertip effort …. [and] tacks were crisp, with no hesitation in coming about. On my first outing we consistently topped 11 knots …... but [the W17] remained very calm and comfortable at speed. I never felt on edge and saw no sign of the dreaded beach-cat tendency to bury the lee bow. She is also remarkably dry. Over 3 seasons, [Mike] has logged over 800 miles and reached an observed speed of 14.5 knots and he handily demonstrated many of the W17’s finer points: acceleration off the wind, pointing ability, and her speed response to changes in crew trim. She also responds to pushing and sophisticated sailing. After finding it absolutely natural to step aboard and sail the W17, I can confirm that she is fast, fun and hospitable, and would be welcoming to all ages and interests”.
Geoff Kerr, professional boatbuilder and sailing instructor. Regular contributor to WB.
Living in MA, I make an annual trip to the WoodenBoat Show in Mystic, CT. As I’d already seen the WoodenBoat Magazine article on the W17, I was very pleased to meet up with the reviewer, Geoff Kerr, at the show. His continued enthusiasm for the boat and designer Mike Waters, soon had me interested to see it for myself and try to get in a test sail.
My 10 yr. sailing experience has been with mono hulls which have been larger and heavier than W17. While sailing all boats is fun, I now believe that the amount of potential fun is in inverse proportion to the boat’s size. I was looking for a smaller boat with more on-water feel and if the speed of the boat related to wind speed lived up to the article, then I could also expand my day-sailing grounds. I imagined it could be beached easily for picnicking or island camping. Trailerability and easy set up could expand my sailing grounds to other areas. I love building projects, especially boat construction and knew I would have fun at it. After spending several evenings reading through Mike’s website, I was getting really excited about the W17.
Late summer I contacted Mike through his website and within a few days I was heading north and by 9.30am one sunny morning in late September 2017, I was not only looking at the boat in 3D, but got the chance to sail her too. As many readers might also wish they could do this but are too far away to make it practical, I thought my thoughts and impressions of the experience would be interesting to share. (For clarity, I’d never met Mike before and only knew of the W17 through the WB article and then through his SmallTriDesign.com website).
So, here are my first impressions of the boat and how she performed.
First, the W17 looks as good as the pictures indicate and Mike gave me a quick run over of its features as he lowered ’Magic’ off an adapted boat lift and raised the mainsail. The forms of the hulls have a robust look to the volumes. The akas are very substantial and all together there is a lot of boat floating lightly on the water. Mike has designed a strong and sea worthy boat while keeping the total weight down well under 500 lbs. (Mike says his boat was around 430 lbs when first launched).
Winds were light and predicted to fall lower by noon so we wasted little time in leaving the shore. While there is always a bit of magic to sailing off a mooring, it was even more so as Mike’s ‘Magic’ picked up the wind.
I was immediately impressed with the ease with which she moved over the water. I did not have the sense of water being pushed aside and displaced as mono hulls do. The buoyancy of the main hull and amas keep the boat high on the water but the flat bottom of the main hull does not pound in chop because it is designed to stay below the wave troughs. There is minimal wake and, of course, very little heeling because of the trimaran design. The rigging and sail handling which Mike has designed works very well and is fully capable of fine tuning the sail for optimal performance. This boat can really sail! We never had stiff breezes but in light winds we did over 75% of wind speed while beating and running, and sailed at full wind speed while reaching. While sailing close hauled across the lake we pointed to the southern tip of an island and succeeded to go right to it without any noticeable loss to leeward. I expected to see the shore beyond slipping sideways as I would have from my previous mono hull sailing experience. None of this though, and that was really impressive.
The sailing experience was one of smoothness and efficiency. The feel of the tiller was so light I could easily steer with fingertips and often found myself over steering. The cockpit and gunnels are comfortable for multiple seating positions. The ride is quiet and relatively dry because water is simply parted to the sides of the sharp narrow bow. The daggerboard is easily raised for reaching and running and allowed us to sail back to shore to a water depth shallow enough that I could simply step down.
In closing, I am now even more excited about the W17 and I feel that the design meets all my goals for a fun sailing experience. I look forward to the building project and then the thrill of sailing her during the coming summers.
JV – Massachusetts USA
Mike’s boat is currently on the 110 mile long Lake Champlain between Vermont and NY State, and in just the NE corner where we sailed, there’s about 150 sq.miles of pristine water with numerous State Park islands; and with mountains in the background on both shores, this creates what must be one of the finest and most picturesque sailing areas in the country.
Postscript: In Jan 2019, Jim wrote this to me "my basic main hull is about done and your tips for applying kevlar to the bottom worked out well for me. I am planning to write up a description of my equally successful hinge/latch building experience. But to be frank, I am having so much fun building that I am reluctant to stop to start writing! But I promise, you will get it sometime. cheers Jim".
PPS: In August 2020, I got this from Jim (C-132), Jim built a fine CF wingmast for his race rig.
My new HYDE sails just arrived so with the boat now afloat I was eager to start sailing! Tramps and spray nets still not on but not ready to wait for that :)
Just had two great day-long sails on Eggemoggin Reach and beyond in Jericho Bay [Maine, NE Coast, USA]
Sailing my W17 is a blast. It is amazing how smoothly it slices its way through the water so efficiently. My wife Reina, dogged me about making sure I only had two hulls in the water at a time so I showed her how the water trail behind the boat indicated which hulls were in touch with the water. Though we had some time without much wind we never really stopped moving.
I was very pleased and surprised to see how nimble the boat is for tacking. Unlike some beach cats, I could readily turn through the wind without issue. I found the helm very light compared to past monos, and the boat nearly sails itself, hands free. I typically would steer with fingers only. So nice to be able to do this.
More later, as I now need to get these tramps and nets mounted before taking on more wind. Great start though.
Jim/ See full 2021 report by Jim here.
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