My illustrated presentation to members of my Club Fleet Thursday Night
We often hear that great boat designs begin with a conversation in a bar and are originally drawn up on a paper napkin with a ball point pin.
A comparable urban myth is associated with the origins of the Wyliecat-30.
Designer Tom Wylie says the idea for the first Wyliecat originated in 1988 when he and his builder, Dave Wahle, were chatting about a fix for the most common problems facing yachtsmen.
One of them (not sure which one) posed the problem facing many of us in this manner:
If we could be in five yacht clubs at the same time anywhere in the world, we'd hear sailors talking about the same three things:
· I can never get enough crew.
· I can't take the boat out for a sail during my lunch hour.
· I never have the right jib up for the weather.
To answer multiple quandaries like these, a prototype Wyliecat, Mustang Sally, was built within a year and she's still sailing today. To date, 21 Wyliecat 30's have been built and splashed and an additional one currently in the oven.
They are hard to find on the used market. My information is that LINX built in 2002, just became available on the pre-owned market. Although an email communication with the owner earlier this year indicated to me he was not a motivated seller.
I had to select Wyliecat 30 as my dream boat because, as Trophy Wife will tell you, I've had it on and off my wish-list for more than decade. I've actually sailed it two or three times.
One time was a two-person sail from Newport Beach up to Long Beach in about 10-12 knots, steady. For my body I found it most comfortable: the deck combing is slanted perfectly for the helmsman's comfort in mind. I never needed to be relieved from the tiller.
This week I read that Tom Wylie has been plagued by a bad back for the past two decades, and that what motivated him to design a boat that would be extremely comfortable for bad backs.
The other memorable sail was in about 15-20 knots, when I realized that I could practice all of my old Laser skills, especially dead down wind.
Except, I could not induce any of those death-rolls!
What's unique about the Wyliecat 30?
First of all, it obviously has no jib and or spinnaker. That makes it a catboat.
That doesn't mean it's comparable to the famous Chesapeake Bay catboats, which have
· beamy hulls,
· massive "barn door" rudders,
· shallow-draft centerboards,
· and inefficient sails and riggings.
The Wyliecats, are designed to state-of-the-art technology. That means hull features like
· a fine entry,
· optimized underwater foils,
· light displacement, low-wetted surface,
· and a heavy bulb on a deep keel.
A 55% ballast to displacement ratio is rendered. You can also order a Wyliecat with either the standard sail for with high winds areas or a larger, light air sail for light wind venues.
This modern catboat rig means that whatever part of the race course you are on, you always have your maximum sail area aloft.
Today the PHRF is 129 for an outboard and 132 for an inboard. So, for our fleet they rate a little slower than my friend's Choate-30 (126) and a little faster than Grappa (135).
Equally obvious, a second unusual feature is its unstayed mast. As on The Good Guys', it allows the rig to carry a huge mainsail, unrestricted by backstays.
A large roach gives the mainsail an elliptical shape which renders much less drag than a triangular shape. The shroudless carbon fiber mast is precision engineered to bend off and depower and flatten sail as the wind increases.
The only reason we have triangular sail-plans is because we have wires that hold up the masts, and this necessarily makes sails triangular. Because if you have wires in the way, you don't want your sails to chafe on them. And the triangle is absolutely the worst conceivable shape for a lifting surface. The closer we get to a wing shape the better off we are.
Thirdly we have a wishbone boom.
The wishbone tensions the sail at an angle, pulling the sail both back and down. This trims the sail more efficiently than forces applied to a sail by a conventional boom, outhaul and vang. The wishbone is also more effective at bending the carbon mast.
The only way in which a conventional mast could be similarly bent is with the use of running backstays, which are typically seen on crew-intensive boats.
Conventional boats must have mainsheet travelers, outhauls, boom vangs, and furlers. Not to mention low-swinging booms menacingly sweeping across the cockpit.
All this gear has been eliminated on the Wyliecat. Mainsheet travelers are unnecessary because, going to weather, you sheet the sail on a Wyliecat more like a genoa than a mainsail. That means at 8 to 12 degrees off the centerline for upwind sailing.
Outhauls and boom vangs are also both unnecessary because the wishbone performs these functions with a device call the choker.
The choker attaches the forward end of the wishbone boom to the unstayed carbon fiber mast. [WC30-Crinan-Choker.jpg]
Furlers are not needed because there is no jib to furl. Wyliecats have built-in mainsail furling as part of the wishbone. When the sail is dropped it automatically flakes itself into the integrated lazyjack system attached to the wishbone boom.
This greatly reduces the work necessary to put the boat away. Dropping the sail is a one-person job!
You also do not need a large crew on the rail to be fast and stable upwind on a Wyliecat. These boats are designed with light displacement balsa core hulls. Their 5'3" deep bulb keels guarantee a low center of gravity. So that upwind, they carry a lot of sail well and are stiff and fast.
Because Wyliecats are so stable and the rigs are so easy to de-power, you very seldom need to reef, even in windy areas such as the San Francisco Bay.
When reefing does become necessary, the tack and clew reefing lines are led aft into the cockpit for quick, easy handling.
On this point, Tom Wylie was curious as to which part of this Wyliecat rig was the weakest. A few years back, on one of San Francisco's windiest days, he had three sailors single-hand their boats in a practice race. The only rule was no reefing.
Here is a shot taken that day: Remember these unreefed Wyliecat-30's are sailing single-handedly in 30 knots -plus of wind.
Only after the wind increased to above 40 knots, did these un-reefed rigs fail. In each case it was the wishbone boom.
But in my book, under 35 knots and unreefed , this boat sails like any dream boat should...... But I think I would like some company aboard.
Now for the bad news.
I think the boat may be too young for me.
Santa Rosa Junior College English professor Pat Broderick recently raced his Wyliecat Nancy to first place in his class in this year's Double-Handed Pacific Cup from San Francisco to Hawaii.
I'm not up to that. But that's okay! After all, Broderick is only a kid at 70 years old. And, I'll never see 70 again.
But this boat will get any of you down to King Harbor and back in a style to which you could become accustomed!!