Water Craft Magazine Review: BayRaider 20

This review for the BayRaider appeared in the July/Aug 2007 edition of Water Craft (no. 64) and is reproduced here as it appeared on Swallow Boats’s original web site.

“Light and Easy”

With the stabilizing effect of water ballast available if it’s needed, Matt Newland’s new Bay Raider can be light and easy to handle the rest of the time, as Dick Phillips discovers.

With photographs by Peter Chesworth

The first I heard of the use of water to provide ballast for a sailing hull was when Eric Tabarly incorporated it into one of his single handed trans-oceanic racers, Pen Duick V, back in 1969. She had a complicated system of tanks and valves which not only ballasted the boat but also trimmed its angle of heel for upwind performance. In Matt Newland’s new design, Bay Raider, water is used simply to negate the need to carry around other ballast materials and allows you to dump it when and if conditions demand it. This is not Matt’s first sortie into the use of water ballast as he told us when we visited him in the idyllically situated headquarters of Swallow Boats on the banks of the Teifi near Cardigan. In the last year or so he has designed and built his successful 22’ (6.7m) Sea Raider – see W59 – which gained second place in the Sail Caledonia event when he had barely removed the wrappers. She is an out-and-out raid/race boat with a powerful rig and a fine entry with relatively narrow beam. As he demonstrated with his crew last year, Sea Raider can compete with the best under both under sail or oar. Matt says the 20’ (6m) Bay Raider is a ‘de-tuned version’ of Sea Raider: her beam/length ratio is greater, her rig is proportionately a little smaller and she has more freeboard to enhance the feeling of security for the less confident crew.

Thus, Bay Raider is his answer to the requirement for a more family-friendly coastal cruising boat; there are even side seats, something of a luxury for raid boats where the crew is expected to perch on the gunwale most of the time. The larger Sea Raider’s lower freeboard is a design feature to optimize the angle of the oars when rowing.

Our discussion about oar lengths and angles for optimum rowing performance was gently interrupted by Matt’s father, Nick, who reminded us that time and especially tide waits for no man. In fact, he said that if we wanted to go sailing today we had better get moving. This is a point worth mentioning to any prospective customers: when a boatbuilder tells you 10.30am is a good time for a test sail, it is usually for a better reason than he’s promised to take his wife to the supermarket in the afternoon.

Light launch

So we hitched up Bay Raider behind Matt’s car and drove the short distance to the slipway. As well as being beautiful, the Teifi estuary is very tidal and as with similar west coast estuaries, the local people have learned to use the tide and the geography to their advantage. For this reason, the slipway faces away from the river mouth to give it the necessary shelter from swell for launching. Today, the sea was in its most benign of moods and there was very little wind to ripple its surface.

Launching the boat took very little time with Matt expertly reversing the trailer until the tyres were just immersed and no more. With the lashings let go, it required very little effort to roll her back off the trailer with Matt unwinding the winch. Her full transom stern began to float when she was barely two thirds off the trailer and she took to the water floating level and well clear of her waterline marks. As the retractable rudder and centreboard were already fitted, we could go right ahead with stepping the masts and setting up the rig.

As she is gunter rigged, all the spars fit within her overall length for trailing and the rig assembly has been painstakingly thought out to make it as simple as possible without compromising its efficiency. The mainmast is of Douglas fir and is a hollow square section which reduces weight whilst maintaining stiffness; a round section is offered as an option. It is supported by two shrouds and a forestay with roller furling for the jib. We were sailing the prototype which has a club boom on the jib giving it self-tacking ability, though again a simpler stemhead rig is also available. Matt makes extensive use of carbon fibre windsurfer spars which makes eminent sense as they are ready engineered to give the maximum strength weight ratio and being mass produced are not hugely expensive. In the case of Bay Raider he has used one for the mizzen mast and one for the gunter yard, both of which slide into sleeves stitched into the luffs of the mizzen and mainsail respectively. Another optional extra is a retractable bowsprit, through there is already a hole provided in the bow to take an asymmetric spinnaker for improved reaching and downwind performance. The bowsprit will be – you’ve guessed it – a windsurfer spar. The mizzen mast slots easily into its step on the afterdeck and once the sail is unfurled and the boom attached, it only remains for the sheet to be reeved through the jamming cleats for it to be ready. The use of the mizzen boom negates the need for an outrigger; again simplicity rules.

The inevitable problem of the ketch and yawl designer is how to reconcile the mizzen step and the steering arrangements. Some offset the step; others make up a bridle affair with a remote tiller or design a bent tiller to avoid the mast. Matt has solved the problem a different way by fitting the mast step on a strongbeam across the afterdeck and designing a vertically cranked rudder stock to fit beneath it. This rudder stock can only be described as a triumph of the stainless steel fabricator’s art as it incorporates the hinged tiller and rudder blade, the uphaul and downhaul, all on a near 90˚ cranked angle. The clearance afforded by raising the tiller to a comfortable height has also allowed room beneath it for an outboard engine well.

By fitting the engine mounting bulkhead well forward, ample space is provided for fully retracting the 2-4 hp engine while under sail or oar. In order not to compromise the all important sailing performance, a filler hatch is provided to fair out the hull in way of the engine well. By taking the trouble to solve these problems Swallow Boats have managed to keep the mizzen, rudder and engine on the centreline of the boat making it easier to maintain hull balance.

Light airs

Within 15 minutes of the trailer wheels touching the water, we were ready to go sailing. When you study a launching exercise like that, you realise what a great amount of thought has gone into all of the minute details of something as simple as putting a boat into water.. From the selection of the trailer to the design of the stern and the retractable rudder, all works in harmony. I’m convinced that the launching setup of a BayRaider would take little time for the uninitiated to master.

With three fully grown men aboard, as well as Ches’s large box of camera bits, I thought that there would be little point in trying to sail out to the river mouth in the light breeze wafting over the sandbanks. Matt wisely ignored our requests to see how she handled under power and before we knew it, we were underway, sailing steadily and under complete control in the lee of the large bank from which we had launched. While the three of us redistributed our weight around to get ourselves comfortable, there was no noticeable wobbling of the hull and that without any of a potential 660lbs (300kg) of water in the ballast tank.

After dropping Ches on the far side of the river to do his artistic bit, we tacked out into the deeper water and Matt demonstrated how well the self-tacking jib and mizzen works. I’m always tempted to tweak them, more out of habit than fine tuning, but sure enough once the sheets are trimmed and cleated, everything works like clockwork. This is my type of sailing, beating upwind with little more to do than steer and look out for wind shifts. In these light airs, however, there was no point in filling the ballast tanks; doubling the weight of the boat would have stopped her dead in the water. Matt showed me the routine of taking on ballast by opening the forward facing self drainer which scoops up the water and draining it out by opening up the two conventionally fitted drainers: all very simple… and fiendishly clever.

At one point we tested the Bay Raider’s windward capabilities by comparing her with a conventional Bermudan rigged racing dinghy, trimming the sheets as we went. She certainly pointed as well as the racer and the gunter yard showed no sign of sagging off to leeward as they often do. Even in the light winds, she handled positively from port to starboard tack and back again without once being caught in irons. We did run aground on the sands once or twice, trying to stay within range of Ches’s lens but there was no drama: the centreboard was raised and we were still able to go about to get back out into deeper water.

As the tide started to ebb in earnest, we ran back towards the slip but as luck would have it the wind rose to give us the opportunity to reach back and forth across the gradually narrowing estuary. Running back into the river allowed us to try out her downwind characteristics and even goose-wing the main on one side and the jib and mizzen on the other. Matt produced his trusty GPS which he uses to check speed over the ground: reaching back and forth, we made a reading of 4 knots several times in quite light winds.

Finally we opened the engine flap at the stern and lowered the 2.5 hp outboard to see how easily driven the hull is under power. It slid along easily with the minimum throttle and with the engine and rudder in line, manoeuvrability is also good, allowing you to fix the motor and steer with the tiller.

In recent years, Matt and Nick Newland of Swallow Boats have been one of the most prolific design teams in the world of small boats, creating and building new craft at an impressive rate and with each new design comes more innovation. That is not to say that the older designs are obsolete; there is still a healthy demand for the various previous Storm designs both as kits and finished boats.

Light fantastic

Matt has certainly mastered boat design if he can keep the weight of a 19’8” (6m) boat down to 660 lbs (300kg) and still produce a boat as stable as Bay Raider. And the innovation does not stop when the design is drawn, the boatbuilding techniques applied to these boats deserves mention. Sound engineering design principles build in the strength where it is really needed and save weight where it’s not. The hull construction is a monocoque, epoxy ply with a hard chine and a lapstrake on the upper panels. All of the skin is 1/4” (6mm) marine ply except for the foils which are 7/8” (22mm). The bottom is 1/4” (6mm) plywood overlaminated with glass and epoxy and to bring the thickness up to about 3/8” (9mm).

For the future, there is talk of a Loch Raider, slightly smaller than a BayRaider and Trouper, their beautiful 12’ (3.65m) cartopper– see Beautiful Peagreen Boats in W61 – is about to come on the market. But I’m sure that Matt’s innovations will not stop there; I look forward to what comes next.


Swallow Boats Ltd, Gwbert Road, Cardigan, Wales SA43 1PN

Tel: +44 (0)1239 615140