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Sailing a Small Westerly

The small Westerlies are not delicate boats. The are sturdily constructed, even a bit heavy for their size, and carry a moderate amount of sail. The central keel, as well as the twin keels, makes them track very well. They must be forcefully handled with a vigorous application of the tiller. Unlike racing sailboats, they cannot be wished around the buoys. They heel fairly easily to about 15 degrees but then seem to firm up and take quite a bit of wind and excessive amounts of sail to be put on their beam. This makes them capable of handling heavy winds and seas. Unlike many small sailboats, they heave to very well. certainly long enough to prepare a quick bite or go to the head. The rigging, stays, mast and boom sizes are typical of somewhat larger boats, say 27 feet or so. Denys Rayner was accustomed to North Sea weather conditions and designed his boats to suit. On the other hand, the inner forestay impedes tacking and you have to work the jib around it. My family and I feel that the boat really comes alive in stormy and windy conditions.

With a normal working jib and stock mainsail the W22 and Nomad have considerable weather helm. I've found that flying a #2 genoa instead of the working jib cures the weather helm problem but doesn't overpower the boat. Letting out the main a bit or taking a slight reef in the main in high winds is also helpful.

The shallow draft of the W22 and Nomad open up areas into which it would be imprudent to venture in a conventional single keeled sailboat. Falling tides are not to be feared provided you have enough time to wait for the following rising tide. We often deliberately grounded our boat on sandy beaches to scrub the bottom. The W22 and Nomad will float in two and a half feet of water, just up to mid thigh. The Westerlies handle well under power. Six hp is enough to reach hull speed on the smaller boats, probably 8 hp would be sufficient for the W25.

Anchoring in shallow water in areas with a reversing current occasionally results in the anchor rode getting wrapped around the twin keels. Unless you dive to free the rode you will work for the better part of a hour to recover it. It's best under these conditions to use both a bow and stern anchor to prevent the boat from twisting around when the current reverses. No problems at all in anchoring in deeper water, say greater than 8 feet.

In general, the Westerlies are easy to handle, even solo. They have enough room for a small friendly quartet of passengers and even offer full standing headroom if you are fairly short. You won't win any races in one but you can cruise on a Westerly for a week at a time without feeling claustrophobic.

Thanks to Larry Zeitlin for the above.