Weta Review - Bob Hodges

August 12th, 2015

In 43 years of sailing a lot of different types of small performance sailboats (Finn, Laser, Thistle, Lightning, Snipe, sailboards, Tornado, Prindle 19, A-Class, and Sunfish), I think I now own a boat that checks off the boxes better than any other boat I have ever owned and/or sailed in terms of easy, fast, simple, and fun.

That boat is the Weta trimaran. I know as soon as the word trimaran is spoken, there will be a lot of “traditional” sailors that will stop reading now. But if you want to know more about a boat that along with designs like the VX One, J-70, and others that are taking our sport forward, than you should read on.

The Weta is a trimaran and there are a lot of sailors that have very inaccurate assumptions about the modern trimaran’s performance potential. Keep in mind that a trimaran holds the record for the fastest circumnavigation of the globe both crewed and solo. A trimaran smashed the transatlantic record (less than 4 days, over 40 knots average speed). The outstanding performance potential of the large ocean sailing record beaters translates well to the Weta design. When you see a Weta for the first time, you’ll note that the center hull does not look like a multihull design. It looks more like an International 14 design with a straight stem, fine entry, little to no rocker, and flat planing sections aft. The floats are clean and elegant. The better description of the Weta is a skiff with training wheels. Since most sailors will never have the opportunity nor the desire to sail a fast but tippy and unforgiving skiff design, this boat brings skiff like performance to the average sailor and sailing family.

The Weta is 14.5 feet long overall. Assembled, it is 11.5 feet wide. The total weight is approximately 250 lbs. The hulls and floats are glass and epoxy construction. The daggerboard, rudder, rudder head, tiller/tiller extension, float beam frames, and mast (2-piece) are carbon. The sails are mylar and currently made by North Sails. The sail plan consists of a boomless, full battened mainsail, full battened jib, and roller furled spinnaker. The standing rigging consists of two shrouds and a forestay. The mast has no spreaders. The controls consist of a mainsheet, jibsheet, spinnaker sheet, and mainsail downhaul. The boat was designed by the New Zealand father/son team of Roger and Chris Kitchen and was introduced in 2008. Hull# 1,000 was built over the summer and the boats are now produced in Indonesia at the same factory that produces the 49er and 49erFX Olympic classes. The class is a manufacturer one design class with sails being produced currently by North Sails. Many Weta owners race the boat singlehanded but it can be raced with crew weights ranging from 100 lbs to 270 lbs (light crew weights are fast in light air, heavy crew weights are fast in big breeze). The boat can handle up to around 400 lbs of crew weight and still retain good sailing performance.

My wife taught herself how the basics of sailing after she bought a South Coast 23. She did some crewing on larger PHRF boats and sailed on a Vanguard 15 once and Sunfish once (in very light air). When we met, she really had little to no small boat sailing experience. I took her sailing on my A-Class catamaran and of course my Corsair Sprint 750 and she very much likes fast boats that are easy to sail. A few years ago, I suggested she get a small singlehanded boat she could sail by herself and the Sunfish was the first choice. We bought two, one for her and one for me. The problem with the Sunfish for her was that at 100 lbs and 5’ tall, she was not competitive in any breeze over 10 knots and she does not enjoy hiking or being overpowered. The Sunfish was not a boat for her that she really looked forward to sailing. It was the analogy of “going to the gym” for her to become a good small boat sailor. So one morning sitting at the kitchen table, I asked her if she really liked or wanted to continue sailing the Sunfish and she told me no. That’s when I presented the idea to her of getting the Weta. She was “game” to try it.

We picked up our new Weta about 5 weeks ago and have now sailed it about 10 times in winds ranging from 4 knots to18 knots. We store the boat on a dolly designed for it that holds the main hull, the floats, and the 2-piece mast in a tidy package that takes up no more space than a Laser on its trailer when the boat is disassembled. From fully disassembled and stored on the trailer to ready to launch takes 30-35 minutes solo, 20-25 minutes if my wife and I split the tasks. Without getting into details, there is a great video on the Weta Marine website that shows the whole process. In addition to the launch dolly, we also bought a road trailer that is designed specifically around the launch dolly. You simply pull the boat and dolly on to the trailer and secure the front of the dolly into a bracket and use one tie-down in the rear. It takes another 5 minutes after you break down the boat (again about 20-30 minutes from fully rigged to disassembled on the dolly).

For launching, we have the luxury of a shallow water ramp in front of our club so we simply roll the boat into the water and slide it off the dolly. There is a Weta fleet on San Francisco Bay that sails out of Richmond Yacht Club and they use a bridle and hoist to launch their boats as they have no ramp access. The boat is extremely easy to move around on its dolly as it is balanced to where you can easily lift the front with one hand (in fact, it’s easier to move around than our Sunfish was). Our dolly has large wheels to make it easy to roll the boat through sand. This means the boat will be easy to take with us for a day trip to the Mississippi coast and launching just about anywhere we can roll the dolly.

Let’s get to the best part, the performance and sailing characteristics. We recently sailed the Bart’s Bash event at our own club and sailed the boat doublehanded (270 lbs combined) against a fleet that consisted of a couple of Flying Scots, a couple of 420’s, a Lido 14, and a Finn. The race was held in 4-7 knots and flat water. The race was an out and back with a broad reach out and fetch beat back. We were about even with the Flying Scot on the broad reach in the light air but with any puff we extended away from the Scot and of course all the other boats. On the beat back, we were about even boatspeed and angle with the Scot as far as we could tell. I’ve done several sessions sailing solo in 6-12 knots. Upwind, the boatspeed ranged from 4-6 knots up to 8-9 knots. Tacking angles by the compass look to be 95-100 degrees. Downwind, in 12 knots you are sailing at 11-13 knots boatspeed and jibing angles look to be 90-95 degrees. You sail the same angles downwind as any sportboat. In 12 knots upwind, I am sitting out on the windward float. I don’t have to hike, and the helm is balanced with a very light weather helm (the boat almost sails itself). Downwind, there is a slight amount of lee helm so the boat wants to turn down with pressure (which is a good thing).

This past Sunday, my wife and I went out in a light southeast breeze (6-8 knots) that before the day was over built to 14-18 knots. In 18 knots sailing upwind, the center hull is planing (in fact, in 12 knots upwind, the center hull is planing). The sensation is similar to sailing a fast trapeze dinghy (like a 505 or 470) but without having to use a trapeze or feeling on the edge of control. The leeward float showed no tendency to dig as long as you positioned your weight properly (which like any dinghy means you move aft as the breeze comes on). We were consistently sailing at 8-9 knots. The fun really starts downwind. My wife steered the boat from windward float sitting on the aft corner and I sat in the rear of center hull cockpit seat trimming the sails. We saw 13-14 knots of boatspeed with no issues, it was too easy. We both kept looking at each other and just laughing like two kids because we were having so much fun. Jibing was easy, just ease the leeward spin sheet and pull on the new one as the mainsail flips, switch the jib, head up and zoom, away you go. There is no tipping or tripping over to get through the maneuver.

The Weta is a boat that is part of the trend towards easy, simple, safe, fast, and FUN combined with affordability. You get what you pay for. A new Weta priced complete with launch dolly, is around $13K. Used boats are now on the market and range from $8.5K to $10K. Some will comment this is much more than a V-15, Laser, or Sunfish but what you get is an extremely well made, durable package that will give you a ton of high performance sailing pleasure and hold its resale value (which is typical for all trimarans). This is a boat you can sail solo, with a spouse, or with a couple of kids and everyone will have a great time (check out the videos at wetamarine.com). There is a US class association that just had a National championship in San Francisco. The Wetafest spring regatta takes place in April at FWYC and has grown from 15 boats in 2011 to 30 boats in 2014 . Next year’s national championship will take place in Duck, NC in the beautiful Cape Hatteras area and 40-50 boats are expected to sail.

Who will want to consider a Weta?

Any sailor who wants to sail fast but also share that fun with family and friends.

Any dinghy sailor who is ready to quit working hard hiking to go an extra ¼ knot upwind and wants to experience true planing performance upwind without having to use a trapeze or worrying about capsizing.

Any big boat/PHRF or cruising boat sailor who thinks they are not the right size, are too old, or do not have the agility to experience the joy and excitement of a fast high performance small boat.

A sportboat sailor who wants to sharpen his apparent wind sailing skills and does not want to miss a fun sailing day because he cannot find a crew for his VX, Viper, Melges, Esse, or J-70.

Any sailor who wants to get excited about sailing anytime he looks outside and sees the trees moving.

Any sailor who wants fast, fun, and EASY.

We’d love to show the boat to anyone interested. I believe the Weta can be a game changer in getting people back on the water with a lot of enthusiasm. Contact me if you want to take a sail. I am not a dealer, I’m just excited about this boat and the class.

By Bob Hodges

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