Jordan Spencer tests the fun Weta trimaran - on his third attempt.
If I had to use one word to describe the Weta trimaran, it would be easy! Everything about the Weta is easy, unlike the process we went through when trying to test one. The first time we tested it for Australian Sailing was a drifter which made it difficult to discuss sailing characteristics. Our next opportunity came on a day that was blowing 40-50 knots, so no luck there. Finally though, third time lucky, we got the perfect day – 8 to10 knots, warm water and blue sky.
We put in the effort because there has been a bit of excitement generated about the Weta recently. In the US this year, it won Sailing World’s Boat of the Year award. There has been plenty of internet chatter about it and it seems to be selling across the world. There are fleets throughout the US, Europe, the Caribbean, Asia, New Zealand, Australia and Africa. A total of 460 boats have been sold in the few short years of the Weta existence.
Designed by Roger and Chris Kitchen, the father and son team at Weta Marine in New Zealand, the Weta was three years in development and the end result,
as I have said, is an easy-to-use boat, but
also a clever one. You can use the Weta in a lot of different ways – performance racer, resort boat, family boat, it works at all levels. But most important of all, it is fun.
A lot of thought has gone into the Weta. Each element has a nice balance of quality and simplicity. The hulls are a foam sandwich, laminated with vinylester resin and vacuum bagged. The beams, mast and bow pole are all carbon. All the fittings are Ronstan, bar the furler for the Gennaker, which is Harken. The foils are moulded, look to be solid glass and are a relatively high-aspect, low-drag design. The update to a higher aspect design is recent, as is the update for the rudder stock, which is now an all carbon piece. This, it seems, is part of the Weta way. If a refinement can be made that will improve the boat it will happen, with the owners all kept informed by email.
Rigging the Weta is not difficult. The team have planned for all levels of sailors, so each boat comes with 66 page manual, which includes rigging instructions. Also, each item is colour co-ordinated, so if you want something related to the main you will find it is in blue. Blue sail bag, blue halyard, blue fleck in the sheet. For the jib it is all red and for the gennaker, green. Everything has a bag or a cover and everything has a place.
The boat packs neatly down on to a beach trolley, with a bearer for each hull, both parts of the mast and the pole. Sails and foils fit in the cockpit and the whole thing is covered by a heavy duty cover. To rig, just grab each side hull, slot it into the main hull. Piece the mast together, attach the halyards, which are dynema, attach the sidestays and the forestay, stand it up and tension. The sidestays attach to the outer hulls, which locks them in to place. Hoist the sails, hook on the Cunningham eye and the mainsheet and go sailing. There is no boom, so no vang or outhaul to worry about.
The sails are made by Gaastra and in the race version are a smoke grey lightweight technora. You can get a cruising version in Dacron. Sail area is moderate. Jib 3.2m2, main 8.3m2 and the gennaker 8.0m2. They are all very flat, obviously designed for speed.
Not being a multihull sailor, manoeuvring the Weta through the boat park and the boat ramp was a little ungainly. You forget how wide you are. Fully rigged, the Weta is a big boat. 3.5m wide when set up to sail and it is listed as 4.4m long, but that excludes the pole, which doesn’t retract, so in reality you are 6.0m long, so bit of pre-planning goes a long way.
Under way though it is all too easy! It is obvious this boat has been through a serious development program. Each element is designed to work, yet remain simple. If you are a high performance sailor, there would be some things you would like to change to gain a few extra percent of performance and I am sure the manufacturers have thought about it, but decided it would complicate the boat so they didn’t do it.
My expectations were for not much feel in the helm, a lot of drag each time one of the hulls dipped in the water, slow turning and honestly for the Weta to be not that quick. I was wrong. The helm is light and direct. The boat responds quickly to any movements in the helm and the Weta can get up and boogie.
At the start, I was heading upwind in 8-10kn sitting in the cockpit, waiting for a gust so the boat would heel and the helm load up so I could dive out on the tramp and get her going. It took me a couple of minutes to click that the boat was powered up. It was just that the leeward hull was doing all my work for me. The boat hadn’t slowed, there was no huge drag, no loading of the helm. She was just quietly buzzing along, waiting for me to move out and make her go faster. So I did and off we zoomed.
It was all so easy! Just relax and steer. As I have said before, the boat is simple, not just simple in layout, but simple to sail. It will forgive you your mistakes, so if you position your weight poorly through a gybe and don’t respond on the sheet quickly in a gust, you won’t go swimming. In fact you will hardly notice it at all. The simplicity extends to the layout. Because everything is in the right place, there is little drag and the loads are light.
This simplicity does create the odd frustration for the racer in me though. No traveller and vang, means less sail control over the main. Plus the way they mount the mainsheet block I found annoying. I would reverse it and raise it off the cockpit floor to provide better control. Apparently you are allowed to do this, so it is no big deal. Plus, because the main is so flat, particularly in the head, it can generate an inversion crease fairly easily and you can’t get rid of it. However if they built a deeper more powerful sail, especially in the head, you would have more risk of pitch-poling. So again, it is another design element based around usability and simplicity.
Anyway, by this stage I have blasted uphill. The boat has felt quick, it has felt easy and it has been fun. I even matched up with an RS100 and legged away from it. But it was time to head downhill. Bearing away, there was no nosediving, there was no need to heel the boat hard to windward, there was no halyard to hoist, no pole to launch. Just uncleat the furler, and sheet on the gennaker, sit back and go. The Weta loves the gennaker. Keep the boat flat, don’t over sheet it and pretty soon you are motoring along with the occasional blast of spray coming off one of the hulls. It is a fun ride and again, dare I say it, easy!
The gennaker is very flat. This means you can reach quite close with it, but it will also collapse very quickly. So there is a very fine groove between oversheeted and undersheeted. If you get into racing, getting this right is where you will make big gains. As you trim on, the boat accelerates, the apparent comes forward and down you come. Mess up your trim and you have to tighten up and build apparent all over again. It does respond well to a little pump or two though and will jump up to speed very quickly.
Running square, after all the speed uphill and reaching, was a bit of an anti-climax. With such flat sails it is hard to make them work downhill. But you do have a nice tramp and no boom to worry about, so it is pretty easy to gullwing the gear if you want to cruise downwind. I suspect though, most people will choose to spend their
time blasting along on a reach.
So overall the Weta is a great boat! It is a boat definitely built to a design brief. It is not a high performance racer, yet it could be raced in one design fleets very hard, (much like a laser really). It is a fun boat, an all-rounder. Something you can load the kids on and have a great family day, then race the next day. Something you can actually put your novice friends on and give them the sensation of speed you get in our sport and something you could put on your tropical island resort and know you wouldn’t spend the whole day rescuing people.
It is a well thought out package and for what it is designed to do, it does it very well.
Beam packed on trolley 1.7m
Height packed on trolley 1.1m
Hull(s) material Fibreglass/foam
Weight Main Hull 60kg
Weight Float with Beam Frame 18kg
Total weight on trolley 110kg
Sail area Main 8.3m2
Sail area Jib 3.2m2
Sail area Gennaker 8.0m2
Beam Frame Carbon
Mast Carbon 2 piece
Rudder Stock Carbon
Rudder Foil Carbon
Hardware Ronstan & Harken