Please select your home edition
Edition
Allen Dynamic 40 Leaderboard

Sail-World Boat Test- Flying the fabulous Weta

by Richard Gladwell on 15 May 2010
Venetian blinding in a Weta - she is remarkably close winded in this mode - Weta Boat test - May 2010 SW

Sail-World's Richard Gladwell test drives the Weta trimaran off Auckland's Takapuna Beach, and gives his impression of the boat which won the prestigious sailing World 'Dinghy of the Year' Award for 2010:

Over the past 30 or so years there have been several seminal boats and designs.

Bruce Kirby did it with the Laser, Hoyle Schwietzer with the Winsurfer, Hobie Alter with the Hobie 16, and Frank Bethwaite did it with the 29er.

And now, Roger and Chris Kitchen and the team at Wetamarine have done it with the Weta.

One way to judge a boat is by its uses. The Weta just oozes uses.

It was Frank Bethwaite who explained the 'uses' concept to us where a design appeals to a much wider group than just its target group, often because of a simple design feature that is very effective and appealing.

Take the Laser, the simple one design is everything from a beach sailer to an Olympic class, sailed by everyone from juniors to masters – all of whom think of the design as 'their' boat.

A simple question and answer sums up the situation. 'How many Wetas have you built, Roger?' 'About 400', he replies. 'How many on order?' 'About 200, in the next 12 months' he replies equally nonchalantly.

Clearly Wetamarine have a supply problem rather than a marketing problem. And, with those sort of numbers the Weta has certainly made an impact on a lot of sailors.

The conversation turns to who is sailing it and where it is sailed.

In San Francisco the Weta seems to be used as a single hander. In the Caribbean it is a resort boat, there are fleets in all the continents – Asia, Europe, Africa, Oceania, North and South America. 'There is quite a lot of destination sailing in France', says Roger, 'where fleets of Weta do three day camping hops down the coast. And of course there are more intrepid Weta sailors doing the 300km Everglades Challenge.'

Originally conceived by Roger and Chris Kitchen, the Weta was three years in protoype development.

Roger was previously a mathematics teacher who has been involved in small yachts as a pastime for many years, including a management role with Yachting NZ. He's always had a passion for small sailboats and has built a number of dinghies including a 3.7, Firebird, and a P-class. Like many Kiwis, fiddling around with boats comes very naturally to him.

Son, Chris was introduced to sailing at the age of 5 as a crew in Roger’s Firebird. As soon as he was big enough to sail an Optimist he started racing and has never looked back.

He progressed through the classes – Optimist, P-class, Starling, Laser competing in many international yachting regattas including winning a Silver Medal at the 2001 ISAF Youth Worlds as well as representing NZ in a number of world regattas. Currently Chris is sailing in the 18ft skiff class.

He picked up an engineering degree BE (with First Class honours) along the way, which shows in the Weta.

There is a diverse and interesting mix of thinking and experiences behind the Weta - perhaps explaining her appeal to a wide range of sailors.

'We came up with a multihull concept and commissioned several companies to design key components', explains Roger. 'They included TC Design, Graeme Robbins Sails, Fyfe Sails, C-Tech and our Chinese manufacturers Land & Ocean and Gaastra.'

'There are also a bunch of top Kiwi Olympic, America's Cup and world champion sailors who have given freely of their time and expertise to assist in the development of the Weta', adds Chris.

Originally designed as a safe yacht for school children to learn to sail in, the Weta is only just slipping into that use in New Zealand. Yachting New Zealand have purchased three for their 'Sailing - Have A Go' program, which each year gives hundreds of school children, their first sailing experience.

Back in the days when your humble scribe used to teach Learn to Sail, and Waterwise (a six lesson sailing experience program), we’d have killed to get our hands on the Weta.

It’s everything you need to get kids enthused about sailing – easy to rig, hot looks, goes fast, stable, no boom, plenty of sails – so there is something for everyone to do. Stable, and oh so forgiving.

Takes a load too. Chris tells us that 14 kids is the record. But three or four would be just fine – and a much better sailing experience for them than being in Optimists and chased around by a coach boat trying to instruct.

The Weta all quickly folds away into a space smaller than a car – so storage is no problem.

We picked a good day for our boat test (thanks to PredictWind). A nice warm autumn day with a light sea breeze pushing onto Takapuna Beach.

Roger and Chris Kitchen rigged the boat, detaching the floats from their position on the trailer, slotting the cross beams into sockets in the centre hull, a bit of quick lashing and the whole 'platform' was together.

The two piece carbon mast was quickly together, and in place with three stays.

Every part on the boat is manufactured in a single factory China, except the sails – which are from Gaastra – also in China.

Rigging is even simpler than the platform assembly, the only trick being to make sure the screecher is furled tight.

Weighing in at 125kgs all up, the Weta is easily launched off the trailer

We’ve got the screecher setting within the first 20 metres, and start looking for a bit of kick in the breeze, which is still only around six knots.

Even so the Weta seems to get along all right.

Soon the breeze picks up to eight knots or so and we are away. Out on the edge of the platform, hanging over the windward float and feeling like we have a bit of pace.

Sailing the Weta with three sheets and just two hands is no problem. With the jib and main cleated off, it is a simple matter to run the screecher sheet in one hand and the tiller in the other.

As we mentioned earlier the Weta is a very forgiving boat, if you need a second hand – it’s no problem to drop the tiller for a few seconds and fix the sheets or whatever.


With the screecher drawing the Weta sails at a surprisingly high angle – not close hauled but well above a beam reach. Tacking and gybing, with three sails set, is not a problem – and the Weta is very forgiving of slow crew work.

With the breeze building to about 8-10 knots we get our best sail of the day on a tight reach, with the Weta reasonably pressed. There is no tendency to trip over the leeward hull. They’re wave piercing and everything just loads up nicely. The centre hull lifts nicely. With the screecher pulling hard there is a little leeward helm, but no more than you’d expect, and certainly no tendency to bear off and cause serious grief.

Upwind the Weta feels reasonably close winded. The sails are very well cut and the rig really works well. It is easier to sail off the jib tell tales than the feel of the helm, which is very neutral – but maybe that is a multihull thing.


Ashore Roger and Chris unrig, while the questions flow.

Priced at a little more than a Laser, Roger Kitchen explains that the need to keep costs under control was behind the move to manufacture in China. And as demand has increased it has become more cost-effective to manufacture in their own factory – down to spinning their own carbon tube and making even the smallest of fittings.

He points to a small guide at the entrance to the sail track on the mast. 'When we imported those – the price was $15 each. When we made them ourselves the cost dropped to 15c'

That philosophy has allowed Chris and Roger Kitchen to use a lot of carbon in the Weta. But they readily admit the Weta could be 20kgs lighter. 'We did the prototypes at that weight, 'Roger explains. 'And then we put in more material to beef up the boat.'

They’ve certainly done that, with a centre girder running the length of the main hull to maintain stiffness. The floats have deck to keel tubes set into them, into which the platform tubes are inserted, so there is no chance of leaks, or the platform working.

When sailing the structure all feels very stiff and tight. Exceptional when you consider that is this is the demonstration boat which has been hammered for 12 months or more – yet still feels like new.

But all good things have to come to an end, and as the judges in the prestigious US sailing magazine, Sailing World, noted when awarding the Weta their 'Dinghy of the Year' award for 2010: 'In fact, nothing about the Weta disappointed, except, of course, having to hand it back.'

We couldn’t agree more.

For more information on the Weta see the website www.wetamarine.com

To read what others are saying about the Weta http://www.wetamarine.com/endorsements/!click_here




37th AC Store 2024-two-728X90 BOTTOM2024 fill-in (bottom)Carey Olsen Jersey Regatta 2024

Related Articles

Rolex TP52 Worlds in Newport, RI Day 2
Perfect pair from Gladiator sees them go top Winning both races today at the 2024 Rolex TP52 World Championship in Newport RI, Tony Langley's Gladiator team have now scored three back-to-back victories and top the worlds leaderboard with a four points lead after four races.
Posted today at 4:52 am
America's Cup: French look forward to Preliminary
Quentin Delapierrelooks forward to the third Preliminary Regatta One of many pieces of great news of the Louis Vuitton 37th America's Cup was the announcement that France would once again be challenging for the most famous trophy in international sports.
Posted on 17 Jul
49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 Junior Worlds Day 1
Locals lead the way in Vilagarcía de Arousa, Spain The 2024 49er, 49er FX and Nacra 17 Junior World Championships could not have had a better start for the Spaniards.
Posted on 17 Jul
Clipper Race 13 : Penultimate prizegiving in Oban
A special appearance from Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Clipper Ventures President and Co-Founder Taking over Corran Halls, Oban, it was a bonny Scottish Prizegiving for Leg 8 Race Crew, as bagpipers guided the way for Race 13: Oban Atlantic Homecoming celebrations.
Posted on 17 Jul
Youth Sailing World Championships day 3
Young Turk breaks Argentinian winning streak Reigning kite champion Derin Atakan rocketed to her first bullet of the Youth Sailing World Championships to break Maria Catalina Turienzo's perfect winning streak as races across Lake Garda were postponed due to low winds.
Posted on 17 Jul
Barcolana "Ticket to race"
Set to amaze its audience once again Barcolana is set to amaze its audience once again with a major innovation dedicated to all those who have always wanted to participate in the world's largest regatta: introducing "Ticket To Race".
Posted on 17 Jul
Volvo Cork Week day 3
J/109 Chimaera is putting in a phenomenal performance in IRC One The Harbour Race has always been an iconic, special occasion for Volvo Cork Week. On the third day of the regatta, well over one hundred boats, stretching half a mile along a single start line, raced in the world's second largest natural harbour.
Posted on 17 Jul
Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta NoR announced
We look forward to welcoming new entries and returning friends to Antigua We are thrilled to announce that registration is now open for the 36th edition of the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, taking place in beautiful Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua.
Posted on 17 Jul
First big offshore regatta for Joshua Schopfer
Swiss-British sailor ready for The SAS (Les Sables - Les Açores - Les Sables) After three months of preparations and racing in the Mediterranean, Swiss-British sailor Joshua Schopfer has been back in Brittany since the end of June and is actively preparing for his first major single-handed ocean race.
Posted on 17 Jul
Never again! (Except for next time…)
What's it like to take a Cruiser/Racer racing? And not just any old race What's it like to take a Cruiser/Racer racing? Not just any racing, mind you, but two of the world's most famous courses. The Transpac and the Hobart. This was the premise presented to Charles Ettienne-Devanneaux ahead of our most recent chat.
Posted on 17 Jul