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Yachtsnet's archive of boat details and pictures

The following information and photographs are displayed as a service to anyone researching yacht types. HOWEVER THE PHOTOGRAPHS AND TEXT ARE COVERED BY COPYRIGHT, AND MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OF YACHTSNET LTD. Details and photographs are normally based on one specific yacht, but could be a compilation. No reliance should be placed on other yachts of the same class being identical.  Where common variations exist, we have endeavoured to indicate this in these archive details.

Westerly Centaur

Brief Notes


Westerly Marine, Hampshire

The Centaur is one of the most popular British yachts ever, about 2,500 having been built from 1969 to 1984. Centaurs are strongly built, offer excellent headroom and accommodation for their size, and sail well. Whilst most Centaurs sold were sloop rig, a few ketches were also sold

Length OA

26' 0" sloop or 27' 11" ketch

Sail Area

384 sq ft with main and genoa

Length WL

21' 4"


Sloop or ketch


8' 5"




3' 0"


5/6 - varies accoding to layout


6,700 lbs

Engine type

usually Volvo Penta MD11C


2,800 lbs

Engine bhp


Keel type

Twin bilge keels

The Westerly Centaur was designed in 1968 by Jack Laurent Giles as a more modern and roomier replacement for the existing Westerly 25. She was probably the first mass-production yacht to have had the design tank-tested before a prototype was built, and this, plus Laurent Giles's earlier experience with bilge keel designs, was probably the reason for the Centaur's good performance under sail. Looking at a roomy boat with good headroom and a powerful diesel makes many people regard Centaurs as motor-sailers. They are not - they actually sail very well, although as bilge-keelers they are always going to be slower to windward than similar sized fin-keelers.

Sailplans, from Laurent Giles' plans

Unusually for Westerly, the ketch rig versions were not sold under a different name. The same hull was also used for a centre-cockpit version, but this was sold as a Westerly Chieftain

The sailing performance is helped by carefully designed bilge keels which are handed port and starboard with a two degree toe-in, so that once the boat heels under sail the more vertical leeward keel is developing lift to windward. Most Centaurs had 25 bhp Volvo diesels, though a few were built with different engines, usually the smaller 13 hp Volvo, though some had 25 or even 30 hp Watermota diesels.

Above deck, the Centaur remains popular because her deep cockpit and wide side decks serve to create a sense of safety when aboard. Another reason for the continuing popularity of Centaurs is the fact that they are a stiff, powerful boat. Whether sailing or motoring, the Centaur's handling is always predictable.

As with all other Westerly Marine yachts the Centaur was massively built. This was partly a result of previous building experience within the company and also a reflection of the state of GRP technology at that time. All Centaurs were built to Lloyds specifications which meant that the building processes were rigorously monitored and all materials had to be approved by Lloyds in order that a certificate could be issued. Although long out of production they still represent excellent value for money, and offer a very tough, seaworthy and spacious (for 26 ft) yacht at low cost.

The photos above and below show a Centaur with the interior re-upholstered
and very neatly re-headlined - possibly better than when new

Yachts seen here are no longer for sale - the data is online as a free information service for buyers researching boat types. THE PHOTOGRAPHS ARE COVERED BY COPYRIGHT, AND MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OF YACHTSNET LTD.

Go to our brokerage section for boats currently for sale

Centaurs were built with a choice of three different interior layouts. The yacht shown in the interior photos immediately above and below have the most commonly found 'B' layout, which provides up to six berths. The saloon table is removable, on two metal support posts.

Left: The 'A' layout has a dinette which converts to a double berth to port, and is identical to the 'B' to starboard. We have no photo of the 'C' layout, but this was similar to the 'A', except that the galley was aft, with a seat forward to starboard. This resulted in the loss of the starboard quarterberth, making this a four-berth layout.

Some of the photos here also illustrate one of the recurrent (though minor) problems with all early Westerlys - that the foam-backed vinyl headlining becomes detached from the ceiling and droops. It is difficult to stick it back sucessfully, and the best "quick cheap fix" solution (apart from complete removal and replacement) tends to be to use thin battens to retain it, as in the photo above.

One of the two commonly known structural problems with Westerly Centaurs is that prolonged and repeated drying out, particularly on sand or mud, placed excess sideways "splaying" pressure on the keels. The problem is totally curable by adding reinforcing layers of GRP to the interior of the keel roots and rebedding the keels. The other problem, which generally only affected some early boats, was that the shroud attachment points on the coachroof were fitted above a portlight and inadequately tied in to the hull/deck structure.

There were a number of minor variations between Centaurs built in different years - for example Centaurs built up to the mid-70s had unsupported spade rudders, whilst later boats had half skegs (photos left and above).

Very early boats are distinguishable by round and not rectangular forward ports, and sometimes also had shrouds attached directly above the forward of the main saloon windows - a cause of leaks, and sometimes some stress cracking of the gelcoat around the windows.

The heads compartment normally had a pull-out washbasin above the WC, with hanging locker space opposite, though some boats were clearly supplied with no basin in the heads.

Tiller-steered, the Centaur's self-draining cockpit is deep and comfortable. Under the forward section of these footwell gratings is a rubber-sealed removable access hatch to allow the engine to be serviced, or even removed if necessary. Aft is a large stern locker, within which is a gas bottle compartment. In some early boats this gas locker may not be vented, though many will have been modified by now. Some boats have had vented gas lockers fitted under the side seats - a kit for this conversion is available, though it sometimes entails losing part of a quarter berth.

Below: The Centaur ketch has a mizzen mast mounted in the cockpit, aft of which is the wheel steering pedestal. A stub bowsprit extends the overall length to almost 28 ft.

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