The Westerly Owners' Association - Definitive Guides
(First published in WOA magazine No. 51, Winter
Dennis Rayner's designs had launched Westerly
as a successful company, but by 1967 it was felt that fresh ideas
were needed for a new range for the 1970's. Jack Giles of Laurent
Giles had recently launched "Bluebird of Thorne", a 50
foot twin keeler, for which he had done extensive tank testings.
The tank testings decided it; he was the man to approach for state
of the art twin keel designs.
The first effort was a bit of a disaster, since
Laurent Giles had come up with what amounted to a development of
the existing Westerly 25, which David Sanders thought was "all
curves and no substance." David Sanders was very disappointed
and said so to Jack Giles who immediately perked up and said "so
you want a proper yacht?"
At this stage I can do no better than to produce
the words of Jack Giles from his press release of March 1969:
|Working sail area:
||Laurent Giles & Partners Ltd.
||Westerly Marine Constructions Ltd.
To be commissioned to design for Westerly Marine
was indeed a challenge. With the resources of their own Research
Department allied to a highly developed production line and a keen
Buying Office there seemed to be a danger of too many outside pressures
working on the Designers.
In practice we found that this was not so, providing
trouble was taken to appreciate and allot priorities to the requirements
of the various departments concerned and provided we were prepared
to work within a reasonable, but tight, time table.
The first result of this co-operation, the "Centaur",
has a very low waterline over beam coefficient, a clean canoe body
and twin bilge keels of aero-foil section.
The power installation has its propeller working
in clear water and the balanced skegiess spade rudder provides ample
control under sail or power.
Under sail the boat performs remarkably well
to windward at a very modest angle of heel and under power did all
that was expected of her and, in addition, showed unusually good
handling characteristics when going astern.
The layout below decks is spacious for a boat
of only 26 ft, overall having four comfortable 6ft. 6in. berths,
a separate toilet compartment and a dinette arrangement which can
be converted into an additional double bunk. Despite the space below
decks, there is still a 6ft. 6in. self-draining cockpit, a feature
of the boat which has appealed to the American market to which an
appreciable number of "Centaurs" have already been exported.
The Centaur was officially launched at the London
Boat Show 1969, and was an immediate hit worldwide, as can be seen
from the press release. She was, and is, the perfect family yacht
for all the reasons that Jack Giles outlined, but also because she
was reasonably priced, and thoroughly well made. The chart below
shows the years in which the Centaurs were built, the list price
in those years, the last sail number issued in each year and the
current value(1993, Ed.). The current values must be taken with
a pinch of salt, since they are for well maintained boats, in good
cosmetic condition. On the subject of maintenance and value, it
is particularly important to have a steady replacement programme
for any yacht so that her equipment, such as sprayhood, sails and
instrumentation, is not dreadfully out of date or simply "clapped
out." On the other hand, it is important to guard against the
thought that spending £2,500 on vertical roller reefing will
add significantly to the boat's value.
||Last Sail No.
||Current prices (1993 Ed.)
|VAT started in April 1973
As far as value is concerned, the important things
are her age, over all cosmetic condition and how well maintained
and up to date is her basic gear. So, one can use the quoted second
hand values as a guide, but bear in mind that exceptional cosmetic
condition will attract an exceptional price, and poor cosmetic condition
will make your boat unsaleable except at drastically reduced prices.
Look after her well and she will still be giving good service in
the latter half of the next century.
For the future, so long as low inflation is with
us the second hand values are liable to be static, perhaps bobbing
up a few hundred every 3 or 4 years. Back in the high inflation
mid-eighties boom, the values were increasing at between £250
and £750 each year, but these increases are not likely to
be seen again in the near future.
Throughout the life of the Centaur, and indeed
every type of yacht, improvements and modifications were identified
and carried out. Most of these were minor and consisted of altering
the position of fittings slightly to facilitate use or production,
and the occasional strengthening or re-design of fittings, such
as the stemhead to take care of perceived weaknesses which appeared
over the years.
Here is a list of a few of the most important
- Late 1972 B and C layout options first offered.
- Late 1974 Saloon windows altered to ensure
that the aft lower shrouds were not sited immediately above them.
Up to this time the saloon windows were rather prone to leaks
due to the unfair stresses caused by the after lowers.
- January 1976 Rudder re-designed and full skeg
fitted to reduce prop wash effect and improve handling.
- Mid 1978 GRP main hatch cover replaced with
transparent Perspex and a teak and holly cabin sole fitted
- August 1980 The last Centaur was built although
at least one more was home completed after that date from Westerly
A variety of engines was offered over the years,
with the first brochure talking of "petrol or diesel.
Most of the early boats had the Volvo MD 11, which rated about 16
hp. However, during 1972 Volvo offered Westerly an amazing quantity
discount on the MDIIB, 25 hp diesel, which was the "recommended",
(and almost the only) engine fitted from then on. Also on offer
were the single cylinder MD1B, at 10 hp, the Watermota 4 cylinder
25 hp (later uprated to a massive 30 hp). and the 13 hp, 2 cylinder
MD7A. I believe that the smaller engines were offered as standard
with the bigger Volvo as a very cheap extra, since there are very
few Centaurs with small engines, even though the MD7A would have
given a top speed of nearly 6 knots
Most boat builders consider a production run
of 500 boats over a ten year span to be an enormous success. The
Centaur with her lifespan of 12 years and production of just short
of 2,500 boats has been, since her inception, of enormous importance
to the sailing public, so let's leave the last word to J.D. Sleightholme,
whose conclusion to the sail test of July 1969 was "Westerly
have not produced a dud boat yet and they certainly won't spoil
their record with the Centaur.