Christophe Matson

François Vivier designed the 14’6” Ilur for daysailing and camp cruising. He drew the boat originally with a lug rig, and added the mizzen seen here on WAXWING for owner-builder John Hartmann.

WAXWING, John Hartmann’s newly launched Ilur design from the drawing board of Fran-çois Vivier, caught my attention in Maine last summer when I spotted her at anchor off a Muscongus Bay island one August evening. We were both camp-cruising, on our way to the Small Reach Regatta, and the next day found us happily sailing in company as we headed to the Audubon Camp at Hog Island. As is often the case with great boats on a gorgeous day, we took the long way every chance we got. Upon arrival at the camp, I quickly found my way to the float and introduced myself to John and his wife, Gabrielle. An invitation to go for a sail in WAXWING ensued, and the wonders of a really fine design were revealed.

Ilur is one of Vivier’s most successful sail-and-oar designs (see WB No. 212). She is a small boat, just 14′ 6″, but will fool even experienced builders into thinking she is much larger. Perhaps channeling Arthur Ran-some, Vivier drew her beamy, full-bodied, and deep, with a nearly plumb stem, a flat, near-vertical transom, high freeboard, and a flattish sheer. These traits are typically a recipe for a dumpy, inelegant tub, so the fact that Vivier has blended them in a lovely combination is a triumph of his mantra that a sailing boat must be a coherent whole. This was one of his first designs for amateur builders, and she was originally designed for strip construction—the then-current technology. The present day ubiquity of quality plywood and epoxy con-struction techniques have allowed her to be redesigned for glued lapstrake construction. That’s how WAXWING was built.

The beam and freeboard combine to create a capacious hull with ample room for adults. This is achieved by tak-ing advantage of the hull shape, and using deep floors and supports for the relatively high floorboards. When the height of the floorboards is raised in a design it usu-ally contributes to a wider, longer, and more useful liv-ing area. Many designs I’ve considered are constrained by narrow beam, or low freeboard, or have simply dis-counted the possibility that sailors might like more sitting, standing, or sleeping space. The nearly plumb stem and transom maximize Ilur’s waterline length, making her punch well above her class in hull speed.

The interior layout is remarkable for having con-siderable built-in structure and flotation while retain-ing an open feeling and function. Seating is provided by slip thwarts (stowable when desired, if one wishes to lounge about on the floorboards or sleep), and an aft-deck and side-bench arrangement that combine a storage locker with flotation chambers to create a traditional stern sheets configuration. The forward end of the interior is open, with the main mast part-ner built into the short foredeck. The impression of open space is compounded by the relatively low appear-ance of the centerboard trunk, another advantage of the great depth of the floors, so a large portion of the trunk’s height is below the floorboards. This depth is also manifested in the absolutely brilliant storage lock-ers to be found below the floorboards. I know I turned a bit green as John casually lifted a floorboard and the 8′ oars disappeared. A little sleuthing revealed that the bilge pump, boathook, and anchor and rode were also standing by, out of sight and out from underfoot.

WAXWING has a striking rig. While Ilur routinely fea-tures a standing lug or a lug sloop rig, Hartmann asked Vivier for a balance lug yawl version. The designer has provided a really large main, which in combination with convenient and prudent reefing offers versatility not found in many small-boat designs. The small mizzen delights the eye, helps balance the steering, and offers cruisers big-boat capabilities such as easily heaving-to, and a riding sail for quiet anchoring. A further big-boat advantage is the large duck-free zone this rig creates, allowing adult skippers to tack and jibe with dignity.

François Vivier

The yawl rig on the previous page is only the most recent of several that Viver has drawn for Ilur. The others include the original standing lug, a balance (boomed; shown here) lug, and two balance lug sloops (one with a bowsprit and jib, and one without).

WAXWING was built using a kit provided by Hewes & Company of Blue Hill, Maine, Vivi-er’s U.S. licensee. The accurately CNC-cut okoume plywood parts included planks, bulkheads, frames, stem, transom, centerboard, and rudder com-ponents, as well as the molds and building frame cut from non-marine ply. Potential builders should note the need to choose and supply natural lumber for the seats, floorboards, spars, and trim. Those builders will also need to obtain their own epoxy, hardware, paints, and sails, and a set of plans from the designer. Note that plans are also available for the scratch builder, and include full-sized Mylar patterns.

While this is a pretty standard glued lapstrake hull, the construction sequence differs a bit in the kit ver-sion. The box-girder strongback and construction molds combine with the permanent bulkheads to allow for much of the interior structure (longitudinal bulk-heads, centerboard trunk, and so forth) to be built-in before planking. This allows a much stiffer and more nearly completed boat once it’s turned off the molds. While the kit builder has a great advantage in precut planks, one should note that you will still have to bevel the laps and cut gains in the ends, and that due to the shape of the hull and the traditional aesthetic there are a lot of planks here. It may take a while!

The remainder of the construction and fitting out is straightforward and of a very reasonable scale. The builder has many opportunities for personal expression through the choice of woods, paint scheme, hardware styles, and so forth. Hartmann enriched his experience immensely by designing and patterning his own mast gate for casting by a local foundry. Also of particular note is the builder’s hollow boomkin design, a delightful bit of functional whimsy. His rigging choices (manila-colored Dyneema line) not only enable her intended usage as a versatile daysailer and camp-cruiser, but also reflect the overall finish and aesthetic. He’s designated WAXWING a “varnish-free zone,” choosing an oil finish to highlight the locust and larch details. He has also detailed her with a subtle but striking paint scheme, including a flash of yellow at the transom that mimics the eponymous bird. Study the accompanying photo-graphs, and note how the contrasting sheer plank and the thin edge of the caprail successfully minimize the appearance of the high freeboard.

John Hartmann

John Hartmann made the patterns for this bronze mast gate, and had the fitting cast at a local foundry. The gate allows the main mast to be stepped quickly and easily.

My overall impression of WAXWING underway is of gracious comfort and competence. The big rig and long waterline give her surprising speed for a 14′ boat, letting her keep company with Sea Pearls and Caledonias. The mainsail is simple to hoist, and once it’s up, its easily adjusted tack downhaul keeps the sail under control while the sprit boom is set. Such maneuvers are ever so much more dignified aboard a yawl with the mizzen set first and sheeted in flat.

She is well balanced and well behaved, certainly sen-sitive to crew trim, but not demanding of much jump-ing about. The floorboard height previously mentioned sits very well, finding me happy to lean against the rail with my PFD cushioning me in a sweet spot for a long tack. When we did tack, the low centerboard trunk pre-sented no obstacle at all. I actually wasn’t tempted to sit up on a thwart or even to take the helm because the experience was just so comfortable and gracious. I did finally concede my comfort to the need to row into a windless cove to pick up our mooring. Nice long oars for the generous beam coupled with a modest wetted surface mean she is a lovely pulling boat, on the rare occasions that there is insufficient breeze for her large sail area. Vivier notes that he began to drift toward better performance under sail than under oar in this design, but I’d say he has nothing to be ashamed of.

John Hartmann

Ilur’s bilge has enough space beneath the floorboards to store oars and a boathook—a great victory in the fight against clutter.

After my outing aboard WAXWING, I had several occasions over the next few weeks to observe her underway in a variety of conditions, including both big water and sheltered, calms and reefed. She is an able, comfortable, and attractive beauty. More impor-tant, though, let us consider when and where I got to enjoy her, for she was spending a late summer month in Maine waters. Her owners sampled the joys of group outings at the Small Reach Regatta (40 boats full of like-minded friends!), camp-cruised a bit going to and from the event, then trailered her farther downeast to Brooklin, where Gabrielle was taking a sailing class at WoodenBoat School. WAXWING’s curb appeal was so great that fellow students and, truth be told, their instructors, insisted on launching her for inclusion in one of the class outings. Then John and Gabrielle spent the following week in a rented cottage, daysail-ing on Penobscot Bay. I’d say this is the best evidence of a good design: using it to the fullest in its intended purpose, and loving it.

To order plans or request more information, contact François Vivier,

François Vivier

LOA 14′ 5″
LWL 13′ 5″
Beam 5′ 7″
Draft (board up) 10″
(board down) 2′ 10″
Sail area
standing lug 131 sq ft
sloop 151 sq ft
yawl 133 sq ft

François Vivier

François Vivier offers plans for Ilur—as well as kits. The kits are cut and sold by Hewes & Co of Blue Hill, Maine (