Originally published in Sailing
World, October 1997
Tom Wylie is one of the real individuals in the world of yacht design.
As far back as I can remember, back to the Animal Farm days, Tom has always
done it his own way and Tom's own way has always been a good way.
A view of the Wyliecat 48 Ahava.
No, Tom is not a fastidious draftsman. But Tom is a very good designer.
It's easy to get the notion, looking at Tom's hurried drafting, that the
end product for Tom is not the design but the boat. This biggest of the
Wyliecat series is built by Wyliecat on a hull built by Westerly Marine.
I've seen this boat, and I like it.
Tom knows how to draw a fast boat. This sparse 48-footer is slender and
light with a D/L of 110. The hull is beautifully fair and without surprises.
The sheer is not quite flat. Bow overhang, while not faddishly plumb,
is very sensible and not at all slow. The keel is a welded steel fin with
a bolted-on lead bulb. The hollow steel fin does double duty as a 65-gallon
fuel tank. Draft is 9 feet, 6 inches.
The interior is simple. There are two quarter berths that are on the
narrow side for legitimate doubles but wonderfully roomy for singles.
The galley is skimpy but adequate. The head is É a head. The wraparound
settees have narrow pilot berths outboard. There is a wide double berth
forward of the settees. This big double is divided by the mast near the
foot. There are far more berths in this layout than there are places for
people to sit while eating. I think if a boat is going to sleep eight
then it should be able to dine eight. This layout needs some fine tuning.
I watched this boat sail up and down the Oakland estuary for three days
during the last Sail Expo show. I was very impressed. It's the ultimate
singlehander. I kept thinking, "That's the boat for me."
This is a very good-looking boat that handles like a big dinghy. I know
this cockpit can easily hold a crowd. It's a long cockpit with plenty
of room for passengers to sit comfortably out of the way of sail handling.
Sail handling? What sail handling? This big cat boat has a halyard and
a mainsheet. That's it. Okay, there's an outhaul, choker and boom lift,
but once up you can leave these lines alone. There is no vang. There is
no traveler. This is the epitome in self-tacking rigs.
Years ago I asked Lowell North what he thought the fastest rig was, and
he said "a giant Laser rig." Even on San Francisco Bay there
has been no need to reef the big cat, as the carbon-fiber mast falls off
as the wind builds, easing pressure up top. The 48 can beat a Santa Cruz
50 upwind in 25 knots. The PHRF rating is 15. This boat moves and is very
I'm sure there are drawbacks to this rig, but I don't know what they are.
Maybe downwind in light air you'd feel the lack of a chute. Perhaps you'd
like to keep your crew busier with more strings to pull. If going the
fastest for the leastest amount of effort is the key then we have to carefully
consider this approach.
The SA/D is 26.28 without roach or luff round. Adding roach and luff round
raises this number to 35! There is 1,300 actual square feet of sail in
this big mainsail. I've seen this sail come down, and it comes down fast
and falls neatly, self flaking into the web between the carbon fiber wishbone
legs. You do not need sail ties.
If Tom is right with this boat, the rest of us should consider jumping
on the Wylie wagon.
Thomas Wylie Design Group, 86 Ridgecrest Rd., Canyon, CA 94516. (925)
376-7338, fax (925) 376-7982