Copyright 2022 - Woods Designs, 16 King St, Torpoint, Cornwall, PL11 2AT UK
  • production Strider 24

  • plywood Romany 34

  • lightweight 14ft Zeta mainhull

  • Strike 15 trimaran at speed

  • 28ft Skoota in British Columbia

  • 10ft 2 sheet ply Duo dinghy

  • 24ft Strider sailing fast

  • 36ft Mirage open deck catamaran


Richard and Lilian Woods and "Tardis"

From-Boats, March 1986

Richard and Lilian Woods set up Richard Woods Designs in November 1981. Both have been involved with sailing boats, and multihulls in particular, from a very early age. Richard’s interest in yacht design stems from twenty years dinghy sailing and an engineering training. In 1975 he began studying yacht design at Southampton College of Technology, where he gained valuable theoretical knowledge. He worked with James Wharram Associates during his college vacations as a design assistant, and after sailing to the Caribbean on Wharram’s Tehini (where he spent a season crewing on charter yachts) he sailed back to work for a year as Derek Kelsall’s chief designer.

Hence he has a wide experience in the design and sailing of multihulls, whether they be one-off racers or production cruisers. Lilian has been building, cruising and racing multihulls since her family (the Dutch Boons) sold their last monohull in 1969. Her longer cruises include a single-handed trip round Denmark and sailing round Britain. Besides being a secretary she was, for two years, a partner in a Dutch boatyard that specialised in building multihulls. Although they design as a team, Lilian is responsible for the artwork and aesthetics while Richard concentrates on the structures and hydrodynamics.

When the editor asked us to write about our dreamship we were faced with a problem, as we had just started building the boat we had been planning and dreaming about for several years. However, this boat (the prototype of anew 35ft production cruiser/racer catamaran), although close to our own personal ideal is naturally bound by the constraints of reality, and thus is not really a boat from which dreams are made. We suspect that most readers dream about the same sort of boat as we do; one that must be fast, seaworthy, comfortable, easy to handle, cheap to build and that should only be sailed where the sea is warm and the sun always shines.

Speed and Comfort

Having lived on boatsfor most of the last ten years we know that comfort means a floating cottage, i.e. standing headroom, level sailing, the privacy of separate ‘rooms’ rather than ‘cabins’ etc. Being racing micro-multihull sailors we cannot call any boat fast unless it can sail at 15 knots to windward and 25 knots off-wind, while a dream that is close to a nightmare at times is of doing well in offshore racing.

We always tell our customers that they should have the smallest boat that they think they need, not the largest not just because of the initial cost but also because of the problems of maintenance, moorings, insurance, handling, crew availability etc. We feel that even a dreamboat would be too big for the sort of sailing that just the two of us to handle if it was more than 40ft long.

Small boats, however, have their own problems. Seaworthiness and comfort increase with length, on any type of boat while small multihulls do not have the load carrying ability for sensible cruising so a minimum length for the sort sailing we dream about is 35 feet. We are fortunate in that we generally design stock boats and so can draw what we like, rather than what customers require; most of our range is therefore of boats that we would actually like ourselves. Thus we feel that many of the details of our dreamship would be similar to our existing designs, for example our 40ft cat Nimbus would form a good starting point for the interior layout.

The saloon, which is large enough to use normal armchairs and is intended to be a lounge or sitting room. No one likes sitting around the dirty plates after a meal, nor lounging in an upright-dining chair. Hence to be properly comfortable the eating and lounging areas on a boat should, as in a house, be separated, so the 'dining room' is in the starboard hull. The rest of the interior would be fairly normail for a cat of this size, i.e. three separate double cabins, a couple of singles, inside steering position etc.

For fantasy only

These two photos are of two very different real boats, but on Tardis the two are one and the same

The outside and deck layout of our dreamboat is, however, very different, and shows why the design can only exist in fantasy. It also explains the origins of the name for everyone knows that Dr. Who’s Tardis is larger inside than out and travels faster than time itself. For on the outside Tardis is a Formula 40 racing cat and has been based on a boat we drew five years ago, but how with a modified rig to suit the Formula 40 rules. The ¾ rig is used for efficiency (a ¾ rig is best when the boatspeed equals the windspeed, something that will often happen on this boat, and because the forestay is relatively short luff sag is less of a problem). Instead of a wingmast (becoming popular on racing multihulls) our pre-race-impress-the-crowds gimmicks are large trim-tabs fitted to the daggerboards which have the effect of making the boat sail sideways into the wind.

Tests we have carried out on dinghies have shown them to be very effective devices and we hope that Tardis will be able to close reach at top speed yet claw up to windward faster than a higher pointing boat. As with all our designs, we have aimed for the most cost-effective design. It may not be the fastest boat, or the most luxuriously fitted out, but it would have the most knots per pound rather than pounds per knot.

Finally, we must not forget that boats are not only to dream about, they must also sail and although Tardis will only ever exist in our minds, we know of friends sailing one of our 27ft Surfsongs in the South Pacific. One day we will turn-our dreams into reality and join them.