Listed below are a sample of common questions concerning the Cat
Rig, and advantages to switching. If you have any additional questions,
please feel free to contact
Why do Wyliecats have such an unusual
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
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How does the Wyliecat rig work?
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,
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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 mast failure.
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!
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How does the performance of a Wyliecat
compare with a conventionally-rigged
First off, each Wyliecat model is designed to carry a comparable
amount of sail area as a similar conventionally rigged boat. We
are able to do this by increasing the dimensions of the luff and
leech, and adding roach (since there is no backstay, a considerable
amount of roach can be engineered into the rig).
And because the Wyliecat rig is so efficient, the performance is
very similar, perhaps even better than a "normal" performance
boat of the same size. Sailing magazine says, "...except for
really light conditions, they (Wyliecats) can readily match boats
with spinnakers and in some cases outrun them."
Another reviewer writes, "The (Wyliecat) 48 can beat a Santa
Cruz 50 upwind in 25 knots. The PHRF rating is 15. This boat moves
and is very close winded."
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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 booms.
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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."
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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 sail.
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Can you reef the sail on a Wyliecat
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
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Is a Wyliecat a good boat for day
sailing and cruising?
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.
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How do Wyliecat's do on the race
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.
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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
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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!
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