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Weta Brings Trimaran Fun Down to Size

This boat has all the makings of a fast and fun toy for the bigger kids. From Tech News in our March 2009 issue

March 9, 2009
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Weta trimaran 368

Erik Simonson

We couldn’t let this multihull-themed issue pass without bringing you up to speed on the Weta trimaran movement happening on both coasts. Weta? What the? That was our first reaction when San Francisco-based photographer Erik Simonson sent us images of these 14-foot trimarans class racing on the Bay last fall. This is not a rotomolded beach toy you’ll find at a Sandals Resort, says West Coast Weta distributor Dave Bernsten. This is a true high-performance fiberglass multihull that even a hard-core International 14 sailor, such as Bernsten, can get a kick out of in any sort of breeze. It’s fast and easy to set up, he says, and it’s the first boat he’s ever owned that his family loves, too (granted, an I-14 isn’t exactly a kid-friendly boat).

The Weta, so the story goes, is the creation of Roger and Chris Kitchen, a New Zealand couple. They commissioned and prototyped a design in 2003, and then tweaked it until they put it into production in China in 2006. The parent company, Weta Marine has since been selling them worldwide, and, according to Bernsten, they’re selling a lot of them.

Stateside, John Britt, of Nor’Banks Sailing Center, in Duck, N.C., was the first to bring them in, populating the United States with about 40 of them. Bernsten set up his distributorship after catching on to the activities of a group of San Franciso Bay sailors that had a container of them shipped directly, sight unseen.

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So what is it that makes this boat so great? It has the most important ingredients, says Bernsten: it’s fast, fun, easy to set up and sail, and best of all, relatively inexpensive for a quality-built glass boat ($10,995 for everything, including an aluminum dolly).

The main hull and floats are solid glass (vacuum-bagged), and the main hull’s deck is cored. The two-piece mast, beams, and bowsprit are carbon composite, and the Mylar upwind sails are by Gaastra. The hardware is a mix of Harken and Ronstan.

Bernsten says it’s 20 minutes, tops, to get the boat rigged and sailing, and all-up, the boat weighs about 220 pounds. The recommended weight capacity is 440 pounds, which accommodates two adults comfortably.
When we last spoke in January, Bernsten was awaiting the first of two containers and was hustling to establish “anchor fleets,” in Hawaii, Southern California, and anywhere else there was interest. Britt was doing the same up and down the East Coast.

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“My vision is to make this a family-based thing,” he says. “I want to model what Hobie did in the ’70s: laid-back racing, family fun, camping, and barbeques on the beach. This is the boat to do it with.”

It’s hard to argue with the Hobie formula (see p. 30), so if you’re interested in more on the Weta, or perhaps tempted to dip your toe into trimaran sailing, check out www.wetamarine.com, where you can find everything about the boat and contacts for both Bernsten and Britt’s operations.

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