A staggering 2,500 of these 26ft Laurent Giles-designed twin-keel cruisers were built over 15 years from 1969, with several variations of interior. What does Dick Durham make of her?
USED BOAT: Westerly Centaur
Westerly Centaur review
See the January 2013 issue of Yachting Monthly for the full test
What’s she like to sail?
She’s not the most close-winded of boats and weather helm will develop when pushed hard in a breeze unless you reef early. Sailing her effectively upwind in a seaway demands a bit of skill and, though safe enough if you get caught out, she’s not really designed for heavy weather. But she’s a good family cruiser, ideal for those upgrading from dayboats or dinghies. As Daniel said, she can be sailed like a dinghy with the helmsman perched up on the cockpit coaming, steering with a tiller extension. The mainsheet traveller is at the back of the cockpit, leaving plenty of space for crew to relax in her large, deep and safe cockpit with raised teak slats for seating, but sheets tend to catch around the exposed ends of the slats.
Most Centaurs don’t have halyards and reefing lines led back to the cockpit, and Daniel found out why when he fitted clutches on the coachroof. ‘It was a complete waste of time and money,’ he admitted. ‘There was so much friction that I’ve re-reeved them and do all the sail-handling work at the foot of the mast.’
What’s she like in port and at anchor?
Centaurs with spade rudders will turn in their own length, but are difficult to reverse in a marina. Those with skegs are easier to handle going astern, but have a wider turning circle. Her relatively light, shallow hull with high windage can be skittish at anchor, but she can creep close inshore to find better shelter. The bathing ladder on the stern can be used whether you’re afloat or dried out.
Down below, Centaurs are remarkably roomy, with generous standing headroom – at least 6ft throughout. There is a double berth with V-shaped infill in the forward cabin. The door of the port-side heads hinges round to make the forecabin en suite if desired. The hanging locker, opposite, will take five sets of oilskins.
The saloon – more comfortable than you’ll find on most boats of this size – has two well-proportioned settee berths with a drop-leaf table between them and a quarter berth on the port side aft. The galley is to starboard: a sink, a gimballed two-burner oven with a grill for toast, and just enough worktop space to prepare a decent meal at sea or in port.
Would she suit you and your crew?
If sleek lines are among the factors you apply for boat-buying, the Centaur probably won’t light your fire. Nor should you expect thoroughbred performance and handling under sail, although she can still be exhilarating in the right (or wrong) conditions. Westerly produced the Pembroke, a fin-keeled version of the Centaur, to address the aversion some folks have for bilge keels, but then you would not be sitting upright on a glorious sandy beach, or enjoying the savings to be made with a drying mooring.
In essence, she is a proper family cruiser, with a fairly comfortable motion at sea, an easily handled but not under-canvassed rig, a good-sized cockpit and plenty of living space. Cabin layout varies, and many Centaurs have no dedicated chart table, but most can sleep up to five adults in reasonable comfort.
Few people would consider the Centaur an ocean cruiser, but she’d run just as happily before the Trade Winds as any other yacht.
Coastal daysailing is her forte, with the odd jaunt across open water in fair or moderate weather to, say, France, Holland or Ireland. And with two thousand of these boats in harbours and creeks around the UK, it isn’t hard to find a good one at a fair price.
Facts and figures
LOA 92m (26ft)
LWL 6.50m (21ft 4in)
Beam 2.59m (8.5ft)
Draught 0.91m (3ft)
Displacement 2,790kg (6,150 lb)
Ballast 1,271kg (2,800 lb)
Engine 7-25hp diesel inboard, or petrol outboard
Sail area Mainsail 161sq ft, genoa 240sq ft, No 1 jib 133sq ft
Designer Laurent Giles
Builder Westerly Marine Construction
Owners’ Association www.westerly-owners.co.uk