It seems to me it was at least ten years ago that Mike Storer’s Beth lug-rigged yawl sailing canoe design first caught my interest, but maybe it’s just that I’ve thought often about the design and my shaky memory is just playing its tricks again.
Influenced by racing sailing canoes of the 1890s, the Beth is a design that should interest anyone with a yen for a boat that is simple in form and easy and cheap to build, while offering real sailing performance.
Before going any further, however, I should warn you that she’s no beginner’s boat. Beth is a very reasonable 15ft 6in in length but has a beam of only 32in, and although her flat-bottom and hard chines are said to allow her to stand up to 87sqft of sailcloth, I’m pretty sure her helm will need a fair amount of skill and a little agility to get the best out of her.
87sqft is an astonishing amount of sail for a boat so small and narrow, and it provides performance said to be similar to a modern Laser dinghy in a lug-rigged boat that’s light (70lbs) and easy to manage on the beach.
Perhaps a surprise to many here is that Beth seems to go against the usual design rules, for while most authorities seem to argue that the key to speed is to minimise the wetted area, Beth’s flat bottom gives her a relatively large wetted area – though naturally that has to be weighed against her ability to stand up against her sail area.
Another surprise for many brought up on round-bottomed boats is that her flat bottom is not a handicap in rough water. I’m sure this is due to her narrow beam; in fact, Mike reports that Beth draws away from Lasers as the blunter shape of the modern performance dinghy loses momentum in waves. She also tends to surf quickly, which makes her particularly quick to surf downwind.
I think Beth is a hoot and I’d love to sail one for a nice, sunny summer afternoon – for even though I’ve been sailing for years, I’d think I’d be just a little wary of her huge big sail area the first time out. On the other hand, all that performance in a lug-rigged boat would be too good to resist…
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