The Westerly 28, Cirrus and Tiger

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(First published in WOA magazine No. 57, Winter 1996)

In 1966, Westerly decided to broaden the appeal of their range with some faster yachts. They chose John Butler (their first out of house designer) for a range of three boats, starting with the Westerly 28 which was launched in 1967, then the Cirrus (22ft) in 1968, and on to the Tiger (25ft) in 1969. They were marketed as cruiser/racers, although I’m not sure that the phrase was in common use at the time.

There was a Half Ton Cup version of the Westerly 28 advertised, but no records remain so that I cannot tell whether any were built. The standard boat was fitted with the 7hp Volvo MD1 diesel, and two layouts were offered, one with 4 berths and a chart table, and one with a dinette and two quarter berths.

The first brochure showed a moulded in lead keel, but this must have proved expensive as later ones talk of the keel as being iron, and bolted on. The keel was placed very far aft, with most of her buoyancy forward of it, which is unusual to say the least. All the range was similar, but the 28 was exaggerated. I wonder why?

It may be that few 28s were made, as I have only seen one example in all my years of selling Westerlys. The brochure talks of her being “in the top ten” of the 1967 Yachting World Rally. My guess is that there were less than a dozen types of boat in the Rally, so that she may not have gone down too well. If there are any past 28 owners out there, get in touch, I would love to know more, or if you have one as you read this, can I have a sail?

The Cirrus was the next off John Butler’s drawing board, and here he had a notable success. She was outright winner of the 1968 YW Rally, and 398 were built in five years of production. They must indeed have been a revolutionary concept as they provided a dinette, galley and quarter berth, a separate heads and asymmetric forward berths, one of which was 7ft long. All this with six foot headroom and a good big cockpit.

The great thing about the Cirrus, to my mind, is that they look so much more the pocket yacht, than the big dinghy of their modern day counterparts. Somehow, a 7 hp MD1 diesel was crammed in to the tiny engine space, although they were also offered with the 6 hp Vire petrol or an outboard.

Yachting Monthly described her as “a good all rounder” and I think this is the important thing about her. She was a fast, close-winded, solidly built yacht, with good wide sidedecks and a good cockpit. To be able to add an excellent and cunningly wrought interior to this must have been what was to make her Westerly’s top selling boat till then.

As an aside, Laurent Giles had been playing with a 26ft design in 1964 which was shelved due to lack of interest. With the Cirrus’ interior in mind, could she have been the boat that inspired David Sanders to wring improvements out of 1964 design that became the Centaur in 1969?

The last of this range was the Tiger, which has secured her place on the all-time favourites list, along with the Centaur, Konsort, Fulmar and Conway. She was first produced in 1969, alongside the Centaur, and continued in production until 1976, when they replaced her with the fin keel version of the Centaur, called Pembroke.

The layout is just like the Cirrus, with the asymmetric berth forward, but is big enough to accommodate an L-shaped saloon settee, and just about allows use of both quarter berths. In short, everything the Cirrus had but more of it and on a much longer waterline which would allow the consistently higher speeds necessary for comfortable Channel crossings.

The YW rally of 1969 is only recorded as saying that she had “very good performance”, which is rather an understatement for a boat that was to win the cruiser division of the Round the Island race a couple of decades later.

The standard engine was the 10hp MD1B, which gave her 6 knots if the brochure is to be believed. The rig was a standard Bermudan sloop, with the dreaded roller boom reefing, which was so much a feature of the early Seventies.

284 Tigers were built over 8 years, as against 97 Pembrokes over the following 4 years. A lot of the Tigers appeal lies in her looks which is something the Pembroke can’t match. How would the Westerly marque have turned out in John Butler’s hands if Laurent Giles hadn’t produced the Centaur, I wonder?

Fast… Full Headroom… Fin Keel…