Bob Aylott sails a Westerly Griffon from Folkestone and finds a boat big enough to be comfortable and small enough to squeeze into any marina
What’s she like to sail?
The Griffon (especially the bilge keel model) doesn’t like to be sailed too close to the wind, but if you ease her off to around 45° apparent, a Force 4-5 breeze will have her tramping along nicely at 6 knots or more, although making some 8-10° of leeway. Under sail, her tiller is sensitive but not too prone to weather helm – despite having an unbalanced, transom-hung rudder.
She has wide sidedecks with good moulded non-slip and a full-height guardrail. Her cockpit has a spacious working area and the footwell is the right width for bracing oneself as she heels over. The wide, flat-topped coamings are high for safety and angled for comfort. There are two large drains at the aft end of the cockpit sole, along with a manual bilge pump set into the sole that can be used whilst still helming the boat. Her foredeck is uncluttered, with a simple chain-pipe to feed the anchor chain below decks and a bow roller designed to accommodate a self-stowing anchor.
The masthead sloop rig is sturdy, with a single pair of straight spreaders, cap shrouds, aft lowers, a babystay and a split backstay. Rotostay furling headsail was standard, as were cockpit-led reefing lines. The mainsheet track is on the afterdeck, but a shortish boom rather compromises the sheeting angle.
The Griffon is well known for giving a steady and reasonably brisk performance for a 26-footer. Previous experience of the model in stronger winds confirms she has a sea-kindly manner, even when pushed hard, and is easily capable of making long passages securely and in comfort.
What’s she like in port and at anchor?
If you lash the tiller to one side, six people can sit comfortably on the 2m-long (6ft 8in) cockpit seats. A good-sized sprayhood will cover the first two feet of each seat, giving the crew a sheltered place to perch. A deep cockpit locker contains the water and fuel tanks, but still has room for all the usual cruising gear. The pushpit rail has a gate for boarding via a folding transom ladder, with space each side to stow man overboard kit and an outboard motor.
She’s a nimble yacht in port and manoeuvres easily under power. Many Griffons retain their original 13hp Volvo or Bukh engines, but some have been re-engined, often with a 20hp Beta.
Down below, she’s very comfortable for two sailors and adequate for four, with a double berth in the forepeak and a double quarter berth under the cockpit. The saloon berths can serve as single berths, too, but it would be stretching it to sleep six aboard. Saloon headroom is 1.83m (6ft), but her galley is minimalist. There’s no shower, but there is an enclosed heads compartment.
Would she suit you and your crew?
The Griffon is ideal for singlehanded sailing, but she’s also a good, economical choice for a couple or a small family. Her forte is coastal cruising and short- to medium-range offshore passages. She is easy to sail and has a practical deck layout with a secure cockpit.
The hull is well-constructed, although some early bilge-keeled models did have a problem with their keel attachment and had to be reinforced by Westerly in a recall. The MkI model was a little basic and lacked the smart teak joinery of the MkII, but all Griffons are comfortable and practical, above and below decks. She isn’t a speed machine; she’s best suited to pottering along – but that’s exactly what most of us want from a cruising yacht.