Gray Wolf
40' / 12.19m

40 foot Open Class wooden (cold-molded), water-ballasted racing / cruising boat for an experienced recent circumnavigator, an architect. Features unstayed carbon rig. Winner of Opera House Cup (Class A). Her beauty has captured many sailors’ hearts. A replica is currently being built in New Zealand. PLANS AVAILABLE!

Yacht Specifications

Length Overall40' / 12.19m
Length Waterline36.5' / 11.12m
Beam12.8' / 3.9m
Draft7.5' / 2.29m
Displacement13500# / 6122kg
Sail Area1100 sq.ft / 102 sq,m


The Design

The objective of “Gray Wolf’s” design was to combine a classical appearance with thoroughly modern performance. As a custom design, she was developed for an experienced owner who has circumnavigated and raced trapeze dinghies.

She benefits from this valuable input as well as our own experience designing BOC-type Open Class racers, fast, seaworthy cruisers, racing dinghies and America’s Cup work. “Gray Wolf’s” success is the result of a hard-won pedigree!

Her combination of looks and performance has touched a nerve in sailors who felt they had to settle for old-fashioned performance in a classic-looking yacht. Fortunately, this is simply not the case! While “Gray Wolf” has some performance “additives,” her speed and seakindliness are simply the result of clean, modern design, unhindered by restrictive rating rules. Computers and Velocity Prediction Programs allowed us to run a systematic series of hull, rig and appendage variations to find the best combination for the boat’s displacement and purpose, much as we would do for a racing boat program. Twelve variations were run through the V.P.P. before the final hull was chosen.

The resulting hull form is powerful with easy sections, a fine entry for penetrating waves and a broad, fair run aft.

This computer work also allowed us to study her hull shape and flotation characteristics at various heeled sailing angles so that we could ensure she would feel balanced on the helm and track well. It is simply not possible to do this with hand drawn shapes, or with computers if you don’t know what to look for!

Cockpit and interior space requirements were balanced against the aesthetics of her profile, sheer and freeboard to reach the best combination of form and function. Getting this balance ‘right’ separates an inspired design from one that might sail as well, but not give the owner the elements of pride and satisfaction that this design has provided. All these elements must evolve together for the design to be successful as a whole.


“Gray Wolf’s” original brief was that she be built of wood, partly for ‘historic’ reasons, and because her owner wanted to race in the modern class of the classic-boat race series on the East Coast of the U.S.

Steve Koopman, Naval Architect and Marine Engineer at Rodger Martin Yacht Designs, engineered eight 2′ X 2′ panels, designed to be the same weight, for testing by Gougeon Brothers. Seven of these panels were wood in various combinations, and one glass-composite panel was designed as a benchmark, as most of our experience is in this material.

The panels were tested on Gougeon’s panel-testing machine and the 1″ strip-planked Western Red Cedar panel with light biased cloth running across the seams proved most efficient (i.e. strongest and stiffest for its weight) of the wood panels, second to the glass-composite panel.

All frames, (on 3’6″ centers,) floors and longitudinals are laminated mahogany, resulting in a stiff, strong and attractive wooden structure. Carbon caps reinforce the keel-floors against grounding loads. Decking is plywood over closer-spaced wooden deckbeams. A fibreglass sump, integrated into the hull, supports the stainless steel keelfin, which is tipped by a low-drag lead bulb. The rudder is well aft and deep, with a carbon stock.

“Gray Wolf” is thoroughly engineered and immensely strong.


The arrangement plan shows a simple, spacious interior. In line with her use as a day racer and for short-handed racing, her interior is not filled with lockers that long term cruising would require. She is open from the companionway aft, with a quarter berth to starboard, and a big nav. table forward of that with a full setup of navigation and communications electronics. Opposite, to port, there is a good galley, open underneath where cruisers might put lockers and more drawers, but excellent for her current use, and with a big ice box aft. You can see the clear windows of the waterballast tanks outboard.

A ring-frame separates the galley and nav. areas from the saloon which has wide comfortable settee/berths with fuel and water tankage beneath them. The 3-cylinder Yanmar saildrive is under the base of the drop-leaf table. A seat extends abaft the table, ideal for donning boots or talking to the cook or navigator. Batteries are forward of the engine in the same box, and access is excellent.

The main mast-supporting bulkhead is forward of the settees, with an opening to the head to port. A short passage to starboard, with a big hanging locker outboard, leads to the comfortable forward berth. A ring-bulkhead separates this from the forepeak/anchor locker.

The hull, where visible, is varnished. The rest of the interior is painted white with varnished trim on the ring-frames and bulkheads. The underside of the house is white-painted tongue-and-groove pine, and the house sides and sole are varnished. Cushions are dark green. A very pleasant, cool, airy interior.

The layout on deck favours a long, spacious cockpit; as desirable for racing as it is for cruising, and wide unrestricted side decks, an advantage of the beam at deck and lack of side stays. The cockpit is 12 feet long and has seats wide and long enough to sleep on. A foot brace on the sole makes the wide cockpit comfortable at the low heel angles at which “Gray Wolf” sails. Coamings outboard make adequate backrests, but are low enough for sitting outboard, steering with a tiller-extension.

Sail Plan

An unstayed carbon rig was chosen for “Gray Wolf’s” original design as it was in keeping with the clean simplicity of the whole concept. The mast is stepped further aft in the boat than the typical ‘catboat’ use of the rig. While it is ‘unstayed,’ running backstays are used for tensioning the headstay, which, atypically, can fly 120% or 150% genoas. In very light airs, a big light drifter/reacher is flown (on its own furler) from the end of the bowsprit. An asymmetrical spinnaker is flown from the same point.

The mainsail is large in proportion to the foretriangle, with roach unrestricted because there is no backstay. A long traveler is necessary to control the mainsail, and the natural bend of the mast automatically depowers the main in gusts. Reef lines and main halyard are run to the cockpit. This is a generous, handy rig.


 “Gray Wolf” is fast for her size. She should be; she has a clean, proven hull-form with powerful, easy sections, a big sailplan, low wetted surface and high ballast and form stability. These factors would make her fast even without waterballast, but that adds a further level of sail-carrying power. Without waterballast, she would simply be reefed earlier. This type of boat does not sail at high heel angles, and so is inherently more comfortable to sail than older, narrower and heavier boats. Power from the sails is easily transformed into forward motion because of low drag and efficient appendages. This is a modern boat and repays being sailed well. She articulates her needs clearly. If the helm loads up, you let the traveler down. If she feels over-pressed, you reef. The foretriangle is moderate, and for most conditions the 120% genoa is all you need; reefing and unreefing the main keeps her on her feet and sailing fast.

Windward racing ability of the unstayed rig was an initial concern, so great effort was put into making the boat as weatherly as possible. As we had expected, we have to foot rather than point, but our speed made good to windward is as good as some larger, weatherly high-performance boats, though we achieve this sailing at about 30 degrees apparent wind angle to their 27 degrees in a given condition.

Once we crack off the wind, the comparison is less kind! “Gray Wolf” has sailed at 12.6 knots in about 16 knots of wind on a spinnaker reach. At this point we start to race with boats 20 or 30 feet longer than us. It truly is fun! ( At least for “Gray Wolf.”)

A design of this refinement takes an owner with vision, an understanding of boats and the ability to pay for the dream to be realised, both in design and construction.










Gray Wolf Sailplan ( click for .pdf )

Gray Wolf Composite Plan ( click for .pdf )