- Question: Why do Wyliecats have such
an unusual rig?
- Question: How does the Wyliecat rig work?
- Question: Why do Wyliecats have wishbone booms?
- Question: Can you really achieve optimum sail
shape with such a simple rig?
- Question: How well do Wyliecat's sail upwind?
- Question: Do Wyliecats need a large crew on
the rail to be fast and stable upwind?
- Question: Can you reef the sail on a Wyliecat rig
- Question: Is a Wyliecat a good boat for day sailing
- Question: How do Wyliecat's do on the race course?
- Question: Since there is no spinnaker, how is
the downwind performance on a Wyliecat?
- Question: How fast is a Wyliecat on a reach?
1. Question: Why
do Wyliecats have such an unusual rig?
Tom Wylie says the idea for the first Wyliecat, a 30-footer
(9.1m), originated in 1988 when he and Dave Wahle wondered what
sort of boat might address a common problem. “If we could
be in five yacht clubs at the same time anywhere in the world,
we'd hear sailors talking about about their difficulty in getting
crew, what a drag it is to get their boat sailing over lunchtime,
and how heavy their jibs are,” says Wylie. By then, composites
promised lighter weight and better bending characteristics than
older masts, particularly those made of aluminum. Based on reports
from reviewers and owners alike, Wyliecats are winners, but says
Wylie, “I can't attribute their success to one thing alone.”
It's the synchronization of multiple elements that makes it work.
(This is an excerpt from Steven Callahan's article Native
Son, which appeared in Professional
2. Question: How does the Wyliecat
A view of the Wyliecat choker system.
The upper lines anchor the booms at the correct vertical
height on the mast. The lines running up the mast adjust
the wishbone fore and aft, allowing the draft of the sail
to be made fuller or flatter.
The only rigging needed to adjust the draft in the sail on a Wyliecat
is the "choker" system. This is the rigging system that
pulls the wishbone back. When the wishbone is pulled back, the sail
is stretched aft and flattened. The carbon mast is also bent back
by the choker, which further de-powers and flattens the sail. At
the same time the wishbone maintains proper leach control. The amount
of sail adjustability with the Wyliecat rig is truly astonishing,
and impossible with any other type of rig. It is possible to go
from a very deep and powerful low-speed airfoil in light air, to
a very flat de-powered blade in heavy air. The carbon fiber mast
and wishbone combination make it happen quickly and easily by pulling
on only one string, the choker line. The Wyliecat rig is so advanced,
3. Question: Why do
Wyliecats have wishbone booms?
The wishbone boom works much better than a conventional boom with
the Wyliecat's ultra-flexible carbon fiber mast to keep the sail
in perfect trim, all the time, allowing better sail control and
ease of handling in the process.
The wishbone tensions the sail at an angle, pulling the sail
both back and down. This trims the sail more efficiently than
the forces applied to a sail with a conventional boom, with the
outhaul and vang. The wishbone is also more effective at bending
the carbon mast. The only way in which a conventional mast could
be similarly bent is with the use of running backstays, which
are usually only seen on pure racing boats such as the America's
Cup class yachts. The disadvantages of conventional running backstays
are numerous. They must be constantly trimmed by an experienced
sailor, and if adjusted incorrectly, could cause catastrophic
The wishbone boom has one other advantage - it provides an attachment
point for the Wyliecat's built-in sail furling solution. Lazyjack
lines on the booms neatly catch the sail when it is dropped, greatly
reducing the work necessary to put the boat away. Dropping the
sail is a one-person job with a Wyliecat!
4. Question: Can you
really achieve optimum sail shape with such a simple rig?
The Wyliecat's built-in sail furling solution. When
the main is dropped it is neatly caught in the lazyjack
lines attached to the wishbones. Dropping the main
becomes an easy one-person job!
Conventional sailboats must have mainsheet travelers, outhauls, boom
vangs, and furlers. All this gear has been eliminated on the Wyliecat
rig. Mainsheet travelers are unnecessary because you sheet the sail on
a Wyliecat more like a genoa than a mainsail (at 8 to 12 degrees off the
centerline for upwind sailing). Outhauls and boom vangs are also both
unnecessary because the wishbone performs these functions. Furlers are
not needed because there is no jib to furl. Wyliecats have built-in mainsail
furling as part of the wishbone. When the sail is dropped it automatically
flakes itself into the integrated lazyjack system attached to the wishbone
5. Question: How well do
Wyliecat's sail upwind?
One of the "old wives tales" you often hear about
cat-rigged boats is that they have poor upwind performance. There
may in fact be some truth to this reputation with traditional
cat-rigged designs from earlier eras. The famous Chesapeake Bay
catboat design, for example, had a beamy hull, a massive unfoiled
"barn door" rudder, a shallow-draft centerboard, and
an inefficient sail and rigging. It's no wonder that its upwind
performance was lacking!
The Wyliecat yachts, in contrast, have been designed with state-of-the-art
sailing technology. The hull features a fine entry, optimized
NACA underwater foils, light displacement, and low-wetted surface.
Combine this with the innovative and super-effecient Wyliecat
rig, and you have a design that is as fast or faster than any
conventionally-rigged performance sailboat in upwind sailing (not
to mention other points of sail). A recent Sailing World
magazine article noted that "the
Wyliecat 48 can beat a Santa Cruz 50 upwind in 25 knots."
6. Question: Do you need a large
crew on the rail to be fast and stable upwind on a Wyliecat (like
you do with conventional sailing yachts)?
No. All the Wyliecat models are designed with light displacement
balsa core hulls and decks and low center of gravity bulb keels,
so upwind they carry sail well and are stiff and fast. For example,
the Wyliecat 30 weighs 5,500 lbs. and carries a 3,050 lbs. lead
bulb keel (a 55% ballast to displacement ratio). This ballast
to displacement ratio is usually found only in pure racing boats.
With sail plans that can be de-powered quickly and easily, and
high ballast to displacement ratios, Wyliecats don't need a lot
of human ballast to hold the boat down, and are exceptionally
fast and stable sailboats going to weather and on all points of
7. Question: Can you reef the
sail on a Wyliecat rig?
Because Wyliecats are so stable and the rigs are so easy to
de-power, you very seldom need to reef, even in windy areas such
as the San Francisco bay. When reefing does become necessary,
the tack and clew reefing lines are led aft into the cockpit for
quick, easy handling.
8. Question: Is a Wyliecat
a good boat for day sailing and cruising?
The young crew of Wyliecat 30 Uno enjoying the
open transom/swim platform.
Yes. For day sailing with any number of people, or cruising,
a Wyliecat is elegantly simple, easy and fast. With no jib to
tack you can point the boat wherever you want to go, just trim
the mainsheet accordingly. And forward visibility is excellent
with no jib to block the view.
9. Question: How do Wyliecat's
do on the race course?
Wyliecats are very competitive on the race course! All the models
of Wyliecats are fast and lively light displacement designs that
feel good on the helm. They are also very rewarding boats to the
skipper and crew who know how to adjust the rig for maximum efficiency
and performance. Wyliecats are particularly strong in short-handed
sailing races (1-2 people). In fact, in the San Francisco Bay
Area they have dominated single and double-handed races for over
a decade. One example of this dominance is the Wyliecat 30s performance
in the Singlehanded Farallones Race (a
particularly grueling 58 mile open-ocean race). Wyliecat 30s
have won overall for the past three years, and have been first
in their division every year since 1998, when no Wyliecat 30s
entered the race.
So, unless you're really into crew management (and buying a lot
of beer and sandwiches), a Wyliecat just might be the boat for
you! Check out the racing record
to see a small sample of the winning performance of the Wyliecat.
10. Question: How is
the downwind performance on a Wyliecat without a spinnaker?
The Wyliecat rig allows the sail to be trimmed to
an extremely full shape for off the wind sailing.
With nearly the same sail area as a conventional
sailboat's spinnaker and main sail, the Wyliecat
is also fast downwind. And whereas flying a spinnaker
will require a minimum of three experienced sailors,
the Wyliecat can be easily sailed by one person.
With the super-adjustability built into the Wyliecat rig, you
can practically turn the sail into a spinnaker. And, with their
ample sail area (approximately equal to the sail area of a conventional
sloop-rigged sailboat with a full main and a 135% jib), Wyliecats
don't need spinnakers to be fast off the wind.
You can also order a Wyliecat with either the standard sail (for
areas with high winds) or a larger, light air sail for less windy
11. Question: How fast is
a Wyliecat on a reach?
Wyliecats are definitely fast and fun off the wind. With their
light displacement they surf easily and can exceed "hull
speed". Even when surfing, Wyliecats are easy to control
- a well-balanced helm with You'll look forward to windy reaching
and running in a Wyliecat. Wyliecats are designed and built to
be fast, fun, and easy to sail!