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5 years ago, as I felt the hand of Old Father Time on my shoulder and thought perhaps the risks involved in sailing on my own in a monohull couldn't be ignored, I decided to build a trimaran. I'd observed the success and satisfaction older members such as John Bull had enjoyed with the design, so drove up to Solway Dory for a consultation. After a morning sitting in front of a computer screen with Dave Stubbs I had a set of offsets for a personalised trimaran.
Main hull: length 14.5 ft. (a bit short, not too heavy to manhandle), beam 28 inches, 2 planks either side, flat rockered bottom (Dave pointed out that when attaching the outriggers it would thus sit upright on the ground); Outriggers: length 12 ft, beam 10.5 inches , 3 planks either side,V-bottom. Total beam when attached, 8 ft. Marine grade 4mm ply used for sides of main hull, 6mm exterior grade for bottom, 4mm for the outriggers. I used epoxy stitch and glue construction, 3 mast thwarts, a seat and a rib made of ply strips at the point of the leeboard to provide extra strength at this area of stress. The 8ft cross beams are lashed to hull and outriggers with pins and blocks to prevent lateral slide.
Having a large lugsail from a Conrad Natzio ‘Oystercatcher' as well as a Solway Dory lug ketch rig for my monohull canoe I saw no practical reason to spend more cash on sails. I find lugsails easy to handle on the water, especially raising and dropping sail, although reefing (which I carry out from my seat) requires a little more fiddling than with a wrap-round bermudan. The main disadvantage is that I cannot sail quite so close to the wind as with a bermudan when close-hauled, especially in stronger winds. Because the luff is not fixed to a straight, rigid mast it curves inwards, presenting the back of the sail to the wind if I'm too close-hauled. This is accompanied by a tendency to belly out. Even a very taut outhaul and luff downhaul to flatten the sail cannot replicate the stiffness of a mast. I keep a close eye on the luff and when I see it just starting to shiver I have to bear off slightly. My default ketch rig now consists of a 48sq ft main (slightly bigger than the one in the photo) and a 14 sq ft mizzen stepped about 18inches from the stern. In anything other than strong winds the latter can largely be left to itself when going about. In reasonably gentle conditions I set a 30sq ft as a mizzen, stepped just behind my seat, 6ft from the stern. This keeps me going in light airs and gives real power in Force 2-3. The bigger mizzen requires more attention, especially when going about, but it's good fun.
The main disadvantage of my tri is the time it takes to assemble it all - 40 minutes has been the shortest time I've taken from beginning untying from the trailer to wheeling it on its trolley. However, the upside is that I'm prepared to sail confidently in conditions which might prevent me from launching my monohull. And if I'm caught out by an unexpected gust or a trapped sheet I have more time to adjust. As Dave Stubbs pointed out, capsize is unlikely but stresses caused by high winds will entail structural failure ( e.g. broken mast or leeboard). When the lee outrigger becomes submerged, it's time to ease off or reef. I knew I'd made the right choice of craft when I whizzed (it seemed) across windy, choppy Lough Erne and felt quite at ease in the waves and spray. And what, with hindsight, would I have done differently? Saved up and bought a bermudan rig; devised a quicker method of attaching cross beams and outriggers.