Meerkat victorious! (Building Meerkat, a very small catboat)

by John MacBeath Watkins

Having sailed only once prior to her launching at the Center for Wooden Boats, Meerkat came into her first regatta something of a dark horse. After two days of racing in the Norm Blanchard Wooden One Design regatta, she has shown herself to be fast and able.

In the light winds of the first day, she was untouchable. Mind, she was only racing directly against a Beetle Cat and a Pelican, but there were about a dozen in the El Toro class starting behind us, all with better sails than my 45-year-old El Toro sail. In only one race did any of them record a better elapsed time for the course, and in that one, my class (small open one-design racing under Portsmouth Yardstick) was becalmed at the start and the wind filled about the time the El Toro fleet started.

The second day, the wind picked up, the Pelican didn't show, but two Beetle Cats did, and they were more competitive in the stronger winds. I still managed to win line honors in the first race, in the second race I was fouled at the start, then fouled the first mark and had to re-round, so the Beetle Cat that sailed a flawless race finished ahead.

In the final race, the Beetle Cats both quit, but I was very much in contention for fleet honors for the small boats, so the committee had me start with the El Toro fleet. I got a terrible start, but the course was twice around, so I climbed my way through the fleet and was about to take first at the end of the first time around, when the mast split vertically on  the glue line. I got a tow in, and had to be satisfied with winning my class.

One result is that there's now a provisional class rating for Meerkats that shows the design to be officially faster than an El Toro under Portsmouth Yardstick, as well as being, I believe, a more practical boat.

I can easily repair the mast, but it was bending rather alarmingly, so I've decided to get a new, stiffer one, which I believe will be better for withstanding the stresses of sailing with two or three people aboard. I'll repair this one as a spare.

I still don't have any pix of the boat under sail, but I do have some of her at the dock:

Of course, a lighter color would show off her lines better. Maybe I'll change it someday. The sail is terribly blown out.

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