Boats & Gear

Wylie 66

Wylie 66 color art

Tom Wylie, as we all know, has long been designing and building high-performance sailboats. In the latter part of his career, he's focussed on perfecting the unstayed wishbone rig, and his line of una-rigged Wyliecats, ranging in size from 17 to 48 feet, are certainly among the most exciting alternatives to conventional Marconi-rigged boats.

The Wylie 66, one of Tom’s few dedicated cruising designs, evolved out of a purely speculative project in which he designed and started building a motor-sailing ocean-research/school vessel with a wishbone rig. Randy Repass, founder of West Marine, became a partner in the project, and financed completion of the vessel, Derek M. Baylis, which launched in 2003 and is now active in various environmental projects on the West Coast. Repass also commissioned the construction of a slightly reconfigured sistership, Convergence, launched in 2004, for he and his family to cruise on. The end result was a comfortable, spacious bluewater cruiser that is very fast under both power and sail.

As with Wylie’s smaller una-rigged boats, the key to the Wylie 66’s performance potential is its lean, narrow hull and very modern lightweight composite construction. The hull consists of a blend of E-glass and Kevlar vacuum-bagged over Corecell foam, while the deck is carbon fiber cored with balsa. Epoxy resin is used throughout. Interior structural components, including three separate watertight bulkheads, are fully tabbed to both the hull and deck. The deck joint is also completely glassed over, so the entire structure is unitary. Interior components, including the furniture, are a mix of cored composite structures and plywood skinned with fiberglass. The high-aspect spade rudder is carbon fiber (both the stock and skins) cored with foam. The efficiently shaped fin keel is steel with a lead ballast bulb.

Unlike the smaller Wyliecats, which have low-profile coachroofs and rather minimalist interiors, the major feature on the Wylie 66 is a very roomy high-profile pilothouse with large windows all around. This contains all the boat’s common space and takes the concept of a “deck saloon” to whole new level. A spacious galley runs along the starboard side of the house. Opposite there is a settee and dinette, plus a large nav desk with an inside helm station with a 4-foot bench seat. There is nothing inside the house to obstruct views of the outside world in any direction.

Stepping belowdecks from the house there is a master stateroom all the way forward with an en suite head, plus two midship guest staterooms (one with a double berth, the other with a single) sharing a head between them. Off the aft end of the house down to port is another small stateroom for guests or crew with twin single bunk berths. Directly beneath the pilothouse is a large pantry with lots of room for storage, water and fuel tanks (there is also fuel stored in a tank inside the keel), plus a washer-drier. Behind this, under the cockpit, there is an enormous engine room, which features a working sink, a 7-foot workbench, room for extra systems, plus opening ports for ventilation.

On deck the Wylie 66 is also extremely functional. Instead of stanchions and wire lifelines, a solid stainless-steel railing runs all the way from stem to stern. The open transom allows easy access from the water on to a 10-foot “dinghy deck,” which has plenty of space to house auxiliary craft and gear like inflatable RIBs, kayaks, and scuba tanks. Just forward of this open stern platform is a raised cockpit (replete with a large cockpit table for entertaining outdoors), from which a helmsman at the outside steering station can easily see over the top of the pilothouse.

Of course the Wylie 66’s most distinctive feature is its rig. Unlike the una-rigged Wyliecats the 66 is a cat-ketch, with two masts instead of one. Like its smaller brethren, however, all of the 66’s sail area consists of full-batten sails flown from tapered freestanding carbon-fiber masts, with lateral support provided by carbon-fiber wishbone booms. As with other unstayed wishbone rigs, the amount of rigging and hardware involved is very minimal. There is of course no standing rigging, and each sail is controlled by only a halyard, one sheet, an outhaul, plus a choker and reefing lines.

In all, only four winches are needed to manage the sail plan on the Wylie 66. This compares very favorably to the eight to ten winches minimum normally needed to control a conventional Marconi rig on any similar sized boat. As with other unstayed rigs, the flexibility of the masts forestalls the need to reef quickly, as the entire rig deforms under pressure and spills wind automatically in gusts. Tom Wylie, in his efforts to perfect this sort of rig, has also gone to great lengths to fine-tune construction of the carbon masts, which are engineered to maintain the most effective sail shape even as they fall off and are deflected by the wind.

The Achilles heel for many wishbone-rigged boats is windward work, but Wyliecats reputedly are just as fast and closewinded to weather, if not more so, than many conventionally rigged boats. Tom reports that the Wylie 66 is not as efficient sailing to windward as the Wyliecats, both because of its ketch rig and because its keel is proportionally shallower. He does claim the Wylie 66 can tack through 85 degrees and will hit speeds in excess of 8.5 knots when sailing closehauled. Ideal conditions for the boat are with a moderate to strong wind abaft the beam. Speeds of 14 knots running off before 20 knots of wind have been documented, and Tom believes the boat will top 20 knots in more boisterous conditions.

The boat is weakest in very light conditions, as no additional sail can be set to augment its working rig. The Wylie 66 does, however, perform exceptionally well under power, thanks to its light, narrow hull and long waterline. With a 100-hp diesel engine installed the boat can cruise at over 10 knots under power burning about two gallons of fuel an hour. Given its generous fuel capacity, this gives it a range of about 2,000 miles, which compares favorably with that of sea-going trawler yachts.

Wylie 66 accommodations

Specifications

LOA:  65’6”
LWL:  57’6”
Beam:  14’9”
Draft:  7’6”
Ballast:  11,500 lbs.
Displacement (lightship):  35,000 lbs.
Sail area:  2,012 sq.ft.
Fuel:  400 gal.
Water:  300 gal.
D/L ratio:  82
SA/D ratio:  30.02
Comfort ratio:  24.87
Capsize screening:  1.80
Nominal hull speed:  15.9 knots

Estimated price in 2004:  $1.8M
Estimated current base price:  $2.6M

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