As a replacement for the pioneering F-27, of which 438 are sailing worldwide, the 28 represents more than a significant upgrade.
The test of Ian Farrier's newest multihull creation, the F-28R, came with an unexpected bonus - a rare meeting with the designer himself.
Farrier, an expat-Kiwi and adopted Aussie, now resides in America's Silicon Valley where he develops Internet sites. Naval architecture has taken a back seat, though he still works on demand. His current commission, surprisingly, is for a large sailing catamaran and one of the reasons he came to Australia was to investigate the burgeoning twin-hulled scene. Having him on site also helped to educe the design nuances in the F-28, which embodies his latest thinking in trimarans.
As a replacement for the pioneering F-27, of which 438 are sailing worldwide, the 28 represents more than a significant upgrade - 'There's 13 years difference between them,' explains Farrier, 'so really it's a total design refinement'. The 28 is lighter, faster and more powerful. Gone is the pokey aft cabin, replaced by a larger cockpit which will appeal more to monohull converts. For'ard is a retractable carbon bowsprit that flies either an asymmetric kite or 'screecher' headsail.
Many of the 28s have been sold with a carbon fibre spar, being favoured as much for their ease of raising as any performance benefits. The other major change since the F-27's days is square-topped mainsails, which exhaust and depower automatically. Although it would seem an intimidating task to erect 11.7m of wingmast, the rigging process for the F-28R has been greatly simplified through engineering excellence. A mast raising pole helps control the spar, while simultaneously the foot is lifted over and onto the mast base. The latter resembles a tow ball, upon which the spar rotates.
Shrouds attach to the folded sponsons, with customised highfield levers providing the necessary slack to allow the floats to be hinged out, then being employed to gain rig tension. This is a neater solution than the former block'n'tackle system and has the advantage of allowing the boat to be fully rigged on trailer and berthed or dry-stored with a beam of only 2.5m. Pushing the floats out to their full width of 6.84m is ridiculously easy, the precisely engineered A-frames working with silky precision. They're then bolted in place using a car wheel brace.
The integrity of the folding system has been proven by countless ocean crossings (for example, an F-28 was sailed singlehandedly across the Pacific from California to Hawaii) however Farrier stresses that these are still small boats to be tackling such intrepid passages. Singlehanding is quite common among Farrier's owners, though, so sail handling is configured to suit. All major controls lead aft to the cockpit. The jib is hanked on, while both the mainsail and screecher are roller furled. Harken #40 self-tailing primaries handle the downwind sails, while a 6:1 (with fine tuner) mainsheet tames the fully-battened main.
We had a bare 5-10 knots for our test sail on Moreton Bay, yet the F-28 skipped along at up to eight knots on a shy spinnaker reach. Pointing ability was excellent, although somewhat offset by the inherent leeway, and it tacked like a dinghy. It was completely nonchalant in its performance, finely cleaving the water and leaving little wake; hence the photographs look less than spectacular. It simply begged for more breeze and greater distance.
Small, lightweight tris such as these tend to have a jerky motion upwind in a sharp seaway; downwind, though, no monohull can hold a candle to them. Speeds in the realm of 25 knots are feasible. As a racing boat the F-28R offers nominal accommodations. The galley, to port, comprises a single sink and portable stove; the remainder is settee seating/single berths leading to a cosy double vee berth. A portable loo wedges in beneath the starboard settee, adjacent to the centrecase. Full headroom is provided by a pop-top, which can be left raised while sailing in calm conditions. If desired, a more comfortable and comprehensive fitout can be specified. But then the price is already hovering around $175,000 (subject to exchange rate), as tested with 8hp outboard and locally-made sails and trailer. Only someone with a penchant for racing and an appreciation of high-performance thoroughbred design will find that amount of 'folding'.
Story by Mark Rothfield.