New Zealand has a great history of producing talented yacht designers, writes Matt Vance. While most are known here well before they gain international success, the late Ian Farrier established his reputation for designing ground-breaking folding trimarans overseas.
When he passed away suddenly last year, Farrier left an admirable legacy of well-designed boats that have won some prestigious awards and many hearts. This legacy is built on the power of well-thought-out boats perfected by equally well-thought-out detail.
As a young engineering student, Farrier launched his first trimaran in 1969 after two years of hard work. He had been in the market for a small keeler but his engineering mind had balked at their inherent inefficiency. He endured a few hidings in his new boat offshore and crewed on a 38-foot keeler bound for Tonga, which further refined his design thinking on what an efficient yacht could be.
In 1972 he arrived in Brisbane, Australia, where the growing popularity of the monohull trailer sailer was in full swing. To Farrier’s immaculate design mind a trailerable trimaran appeared to have many advantages over trailerable monohulls and it was in this hybrid of ideas that he saw an opportunity to design something not seen before.
The result was the Farrier Folding System™, which was patented in 1975 and became an integral part of the Trailertri 18 – built and launched in 1976. This ground-breaking design was quickly followed by the 680 and 720 designs and capped off with his first fibreglass production design, the Tramp.
In 1984 Farrier and his family moved to San Diego and with partners set up Corsair Marine. By then his folding trimaran concept was well-proven and ripe for going into large-scale production. He then designed the F-27, built the prototype, and developed and established Corsair’s full production system and quality controls.
The F-27 was a game changer and the early racing success of the prototype Super Fox got Farrier noticed by the more conservative yachting establishment. Versatility and performance were the strengths of this design, which allowed easy towing or fitting into a conventional marina berth in her folded configuration.
One of the first multihulls to be accepted into the mainstream of sailing, the F-27 paved the way for success of the folding trimaran concept. In 2004 the F-27 was inducted into the American Sailboat Hall of Fame and named as one of the four most influential designs of the past 50 years by Robert Perry of Sailing magazine.
Farrier resigned from Corsair in 1991 and moved to Western Australia to concentrate on his new design the F-9A which was an extension of the F-27 idea. This then became the F-31 production boat produced by Australian company OSTAC.
In 1992 the F-31 was judged Australian sailboat of the year. There was a brief foray back to help Corsair Marine under new management in 1994 with Farrier restoring the design specifications and production standards of the F-31 and F-24 before again parting ways with Corsair Marine for good in 2000.
By 2010 the first production F-22 was completed after a six-year gestation period. Farrier spent these years in R&D getting the design details spot on. Seeing the R&D focus of the business transforming into production, he began talks with Michael Reardon, CEO of US company Daedalus Yachts. A deal was reached in principle to purchase the company and the production of the F-22 line before Farrier’s untimely passing.
While his death threw his lifetime of achievements into stark light, it also left uncertainty about Farrier Marine’s future. With the Christchurch F-22 factory in a vulnerable phase between design and production and a large order book to fill, the facility’s general manager (Robin Densem) managed to not only keep the Christchurch factory going but also secure the deal with Daedalus Yachts that Farrier had initiated.
Densem says the opportunity for Farrier Marine to work with Daedalus Yachts is good news for Farrier fans. Daedalus Yachts has elected to keep production going in New Zealand and supplement this with additional production of the F22 and other designs in their factory at Edenton, North Carolina.
“Working with Daedalus will give us a secondary production facility to complement the Christchurch one, and so increase production of the F-22,” says Densem. “There is a high demand for F-22s internationally and the inclusion of our Daedalus Yachts team in North Carolina will enable us to ramp up production using the latest design and technology to enhance our production methods and the environmental sustainability of the F-22 production.”
Says Michael Reardon, CEO of Daedalus Yachts: “We have an incredibly talented and technically advanced team in both Christchurch and our Edenton boat building campus. We are dedicated to producing F-22s to Ian’s extremely high standards, as well as developing new models from his drawing board. This will ensure the Farrier Marine reputation thrives into the future.”
Not long after the new business structure was in place, the F-22 appeared at the recent Annapolis Boat Show and won Sail magazine’s Best Small Cruiser, 2019. I suspect this will be the first of many awards for this brilliant design.
Through his design collaborations with production builders, custom builders and his own companies, Ian Farrier was responsible for more than 3000 sailing multihulls afloat today.
His designs were continually evolving game-changers in the world of sailing and will, thanks to the work of Michael Reardon and Robin Densem, continue to evolve. Their timeless nature inherent in the great design will continue the legacy of safe, innovative and beautifully engineered sailing machines.