February 27th, 2015
Firstly a declaration of interest: I own Weta #325 which was built in 2009 and purchased in Australia in 2010. I acquired it in 2013 and have really enjoyed sailing it but I’m aware that it has a few issues due to the age of the boat. Also my sails are still the originals – fine in a blow but not so good in light-moderate winds.
However, my main reason for considering updating my boat is that the Weta has been selected for the Sailing Regatta at the 2017 World Masters Games in Auckland, New Zealand and The Australian Weta Class is intending to ship our boats over for the event. During a recent holiday in New Zealand I took the opportunity to try the revised 2015 Weta while also taking advantage of the opportunity to meet with “Mr Weta”, Roger Kitchen and the rest of the Weta team.
The first thing that struck me about the new boat is the nose job – the gunwale has been made deeper all around the hull but especially at the bow to reduce the amount of spray that squirts back over the trampolines. While the Weta is never going to be a fully dry boat, this change makes a significant difference to the amount of water that sprays over the crew.
According to Roger, most of the changes are internal rather than external and the new mold was created from scratch incorporating lessons learned in the production of the first 1000 boats, now in use worldwide, as well as the expertise of Xtreme Sailing Products who manufacture dinghies for a number of makes from their base in Singapore.
Roger produced a new white Weta for me to try – although I was using the existing Gaastra Sails rather then the new North Sails that are now standard. The most obvious change is the raised strip along the bow centre which was introduced partly to reinforce the bow but also because it allows any repairs to be made more easily.
The less obvious change is that the 2015 boat has added small shelf supports built into the sides of the rear of the cockpit which the transom bar is bonded to – Weta have also taken advantage of the XSP parts bin for a few items including the improved rudder supports and tiller extension universal joint.
The amas (floats) are now joined vertically which allows for a much easier joining process and there’s no more overlap seam between the two halves. Also the ends are now flush (without the lip) which makes it much easier to ft the watertight portholes compared to earlier boats.
All of these changes have resulted in a boat which seems stiffer and possibly lighter – although I didn’t have a set of scales available to validate this.
The daggerboard fits tight (but not too tight) in the new precision slot where it is held in place by a nylon brush strip at the top and bottom of the slot, reducing turbulence.
The blocks that were mounted on the deck for the trampoline tie-downs have been replaced with blocks attached to a carbon pad. This gives an improved angle for keeping the trampolines tight and also makes them less uncomfortable to sit on.
Roger took out an original version boat and we drifted around while waiting for the sea breeze to finally come in which it did on cue at 4pm – but this meant a slightly shorter test when the 10-12 knot breeze finally arrived.
Compared to my boat, the new sails created the largest improvement as I was was able to point higher – but the boat felt tighter overall and there was no hum from the dagger-board. However, I missed some of my mods such as the padded trampoline edges and crossover jib sheets.
I was able to catch Roger on the upwind leg (I’m probably 6 kg heavier than he is) but he must have been channelling his son Chris on the off-wind leg and flew off while it was marginal planing conditions for me to start with (and I had no stern toe-strap so couldn’t hike out the back).
In conclusion I’d suggest that any existing Weta owner looking at the 2015 Weta may not be able to see much difference from the outside, but once you’re sailing it becomes clear that improvements have been made. The 2015 Weta also provides those who want to buy a used boat an opportunity to acquire one at a bargain price as existing owners trade up.