PN 950

The 2013 Portsmouth Yardstick list was released  on 2nd March 2013. The Weta is listed under Multihulls. It has been given a PN of 950 which is not far out - if a Weta and an RS400 finish level, the Weta will win on handicap.

There are no one-design Weta fleets in the UK. At those clubs where there is more than one boat they perversely choose to race with different numbers of crew.

There are about six clubs in the UK where at least one Weta is raced in a handicap fleet.

Fleet racing is known to take place in France, Austria the USA (video) Sweden (video) and China. A European championship was held in 2012 and there has been a Wetafest in California which is being badged as the North American Championship.

PERFORMANCE AND HANDICAPPING.  After three years of club racing in the UK and with input from sailors in Dubai and the USA a consensus has emerged that a Portsmouth Number (PN) of between 930 and 980 is fair when racing in confined water in moderate conditions against monohull dinghies of similar performance.  Relative to monohull dinghies of moderate performance the Weta does better as the wind strength increases. In very light conditions it goes at about the same speed as an RS100 (PN 996) around a triangular course whereas in F4 and above it goes about the same speed as an RS400* (PN 947).  It is relatively faster upwind than downwind and does relatively poorly on windward/leeward courses.  On the other hand, on passage races or river courses with close reaches it often does well. It is thus hard to handicap accurately,

There has been little experience of racing against small multihulls but it ought to be comparable with the Hobie 14 and perhaps the Sprint 15.  The only remotely comparable boat with a published PN is the Vortex which has a trapeze and a much larger asymmetric spinnaker. It has a PN of 945.

RACABILITY.  The Weta is more manoeuvrable than some catamarans and probably tacks as quickly as other high performance singlehanders such as the Musto Skiff, Contender and the RS600 and 700. It has a wide footprint at the start and at mark roundings but is actually no wider than a 49er or a Musto Skiff using a trapeze. The performance effect of a second crewmember has not been quantified. Certainly the boat will go quite a lot slower in moderate conditions but the better boat handling from a two-crew boat might count for quite a lot. In survival conditions a two crew Weta will survive longer than a one person boat! There is an Australian system from which it is possible to derive a PN of 1032 for a 2 handed boat in moderate conditions. Alternatively, you can derive a figure of about 1050 mathematically using the French handicapping system which rates the singlehanded configuration at 1.169 and the doublehanded at 1.305. Applying the same ratio to a basic PN of 950 you get PN (double handed) =  1.305/1.169 X 950  = 1055. Voila!  However......... at the recent (March 2013) Wetafest in America a two-handed boat won, beating the previously invincible Chris Kitchen. It was sailed by the famous multihull sailor Randy Smyth, it was windy (20kts) and neither crew member weighed very much. Horses for courses.

SCHRS AND TEXEL. In the early days of the Weta there was an attempt to allocate it a rating using the ISAF Small Catamaran Handicap Rating System (SCHRS). Unlike the Portsmouth Yardstick which is an ‘observed performance’ system, SCHRS is a ‘measured boat’ system. The starting assumption is that the boat being measured is a modern racing catamaran of conventional hull form and rig. The Weta does not conform to this stereotype and the ratings produced over-stated the boat’s performance by a large margin.. The principle problem is that the Weta does not lift the centre hull out of the water. The effective position of the centre of buoyancy laterally is about a third of the way towards the leeward float. SCHRS therefore overstates the boat’s effective beam and thus its sail-carrying power. Furthermore the rated waterline length is that of the main hull whereas a significant amount of buoyancy is provided by the much shorter leeward float. The hull form of the centre hull is that of a narrow planing dinghy rather than the wave-piercing shape of many catamaran hulls. For these reasons the measured rating systems should not be used. Some clubs have still got references to SCHRS - generated handicaps in the region of 811. They should be disregarded.

TIPs.  The Weta hates disturbed air and will not power through the lee of another boat unless it (the Weta) is going fast with the bow down.  The start is therefore a nightmare - you have to get clear air. Upwind you will gain places pointing rather lower than the other boats, but don’t over-do it - height is important. The very light forces on the helm mean that you must constantly steer the boat up to the wind; there is little tendency to luff up in the puffs because it doesn’t heel - keep squeezing her up. Once the wind gets up to 15kts you will be pointing higher. You should, of course, play the sheets in the puffs but due to the high sheet loads few of us do this. Hiking is more effective than you might think. Downwind you will have to tack and point up to keep the gennaker drawing but you should soak whenever a suitable wave or puff allows. The boat is slow on a run and the focus must be on ‘hanging in there’ until more congenial conditions can be found. The boat is, technically, a ‘slow asymmetric’ which means that you are unlikely to achieve a downwind Vmg faster than a boat sailing dead downwind except in surfing conditions. The gennaker is a ‘code zero’ rather than an asymmetric spinnaker and is at its best at relatively high angles when the asymmetric boats can’t carry. .Approaching the leeward mark the boat must be pointed deep downwind in order to get a clean, tight furl.  A clean furl and a good rounding are far more important than carrying the gennaker to the last moment.

Close reaching and fetching. Generally, use the reacher if it will set, although if you are too close to the wind it will slow you down. It is hard to get a clean furl at the end of a tight reach unless you discipline yourself to turn DDW for the furl.

Sailing in close company. The usual skiff technique of steering ‘to keep the boat under the rig’ is only possible if there is no one under your lee.  Be prepared to dump the mainsheet in an overpowering gust.

Lookout. It is surprising how much you CAN’T see through those ‘transparent’ sails. Keep a lookout. A Weta float will go straight through an Albacore and make a hefty dent in an RS400. - I know, I’ve done it!

Good luck, and if you race regularly make sure your club is sending PY returns to the RYA. Only that way will we get a realistic handicap.

 * For the benefit of our US readers, in the US Portsmouth system (which is wind - sensitive) an RS400 (PN 947) gets 82.4 and a Fireball (PN 975) gets about 86.  A Vortex PN (945) and the 29er (PN 920) get US numbers of between 85 and 87. A Weta might therefore get about 85 in moderate winds, a bit less in a blow.


From Jeremy Goslin (Plymouth Corinthian)………..(written in 2010):

Just to introduce myself, I have Weta 336 which is parked up at the Mountbatten Sailing Centre in Plymouth. I've had it since the spring and have a fantastic time thrashing about in Plymouth Sound, brought a smile to my face even through the rather filthy summer we had (here at least). I only had my chance to race the Weta last weekend, as I had already made commitments to race the summer series in my Laser.

My introduction to Weta racing could be described as 'exciting', as we had a constant wind of 20mph with very, very, frequent gusts of around 34mph. The races are part of the autumn series at the Royal Plymouth Corinthian Yacht Club, a mixed fleet of about 28 boats including a Hobie Tiger and two Wetas. The race could best be described as carnage - boats dropping out regularly with equipment failure (including one dismasting, two with sails ripped through), and many difficulties in finding your way around the lee mark past reefs of upturned flailing monohulls. So now prepare to be bored with a race account - fair warning to press delete now and save the next few minutes of your life.

in both races I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and chose not to fight for the best place on the line. I soon realised that the usual jockeying for position whilst fighting with jib and main could be injurious to health and wealth in these conditions, so played it cool and started somewhere near the back of the fleet. However, this did not last longand once I got my bum firmly sat on the ama and hiking out the boat flew forward and pointed high. I had no problem in screaming past all the monohulls, with the luxury of being able to overtake with ease either to windward or toleeward of them (just you try and luff me up now!). For one of the first races in my life I could see clear blue water in front of me, and could concentrate on controlling the boat and, after I had unclenched my buttocks, actually begin to enjoy these survival conditions. Even in the big gusts the boat gives you plenty of time to react (it takes a few seconds to sink the float and start burying the nose), and either steering down or sheeting out will have you rocketing forward rather than heeling over. Fantastic. Actually, I soon realised that in big gusts the best tactic is to head upwind, where it will point amazingly high and keep going like the clappers. The only problems were on the tacks, where things get very fraught and capsizes beckon. Tack the boat too fast and it starts heading downwind before you have had a chance to pull the jib in, and you definitely do not want to be fannying around in the middle of the boat in strong winds, ama or no ama, you are going to go over. My first lesson from the day is to get that jib over fast in strong winds, as it is near impossible to get it in whilst powered up (2 to 1 on the jib sheets could be on the cards). Gybes on the other hand were easy (so unlike the Laser!), and you can relax in relatively calm stability downwind and get the reacher unfurled. Next lesson, don't go too deep downwind (even if it is a run), even in lots of wind, the monohulls will start to catch up!
Anyway, the first race went well, well ahead of most of the fleet (apart from an International Canoe sailed by someone who could sail, and the cat), even the other Weta, which was being sailed two-handed. From that first race I would speculate that the weight advantage you would normally ascribe to a two-handed monohull does not seem to apply to the Weta (so seems like a true trimaran). I was able to point higher and go considerably faster than the two-handed Weta when upwind, but the disadvantage came from more mistakes and faffing with the three sails on the turns and the reach.
For the second race the wind had dropped a tad, and was much more exciting with the two Wetas neck and neck for nearly the entire race (also I headed for the wrong mark at the start - damn that blue water, I am used to following people!). There was a constant trading of positions and advantage around the first two laps of the course, real F1 stuff. Then screaming down to the penultimate lee mark (roughly 30 seconds after the photo above) disaster struck - the reacher refused to furl. Even though I had been careful to pay the furler line out gradually I had an override, and that was the end of the race for me. Next fun was to try and get the thing down and in the boat whilst wrestling with 30mph gusts, then get the whole mess back to the boat club. By the power of cussing and swearing I managed to get back home, drawing up in rather disheartened fashion next to the Tiger, whose helm had taken a swan dive through his main sail a few minutes earlier - at least I had’t broken anything!.

So, all in all, even with a rather disappointing end, it was the best racing experience I have had. The boat performed like a champion, and after the initial terror you realise it can take these big winds (even with main, jib, and reacher) in its stride, with no capsizes! I would probably never have gone out unless it had been a race, but now I see that you can push the envelope much further than you can with other boats and still have a lot of fun. I have certainly not felt safer on the water than on this boat; if I had been on my Laser I would have needed to hose down my wet suit after the race. Looking forward to the racing next week, hoping for similar conditions.

Now all we need is that new continuous line furler for the reacher that Weta have been hinting at. Oh, and a better PY - still got mullered on the 812 handicap (3rd over the line, 18th out of 28 by handicap)!

Jeremy - Weta 336 (grey hulls, blue reacher)”

                  British  Weta  Class Association

                    Wetas racing on Plymouth Sound