Boat Reviews

F-27

This unusual and innovative trimaran is not only fast, she can even fold up while still afloat.

You can count the number of successful builders of production fiberglass cruising multihulls on the fingers of one hand. In the U.S., Tony Smith of Mayo, Maryland, who builds the 30' Gemini catamaran, is certainly a pioneer, having developed the ill-fated 26' Telstar trimaran many years ago (the molds were destroyed in a fire). Condor Ltd. and the Outrigger Boat Co. have made some inroads into the market and have helped in the grudging conversion of American sailors to multihulls.

A number of European builders, most notably the British builder Prout and more recently Prestige and Ohlala from France, import to the U.S. a handful of boats each year.

None, however, has made a splash as big as Ian Farrier’s F-27 trailerable tri, first launched in 1985.

History

Farrier is a New Zealander who moved to Australia after college and began building small racing/cruising trimarans. His 19' Tramp was Australia’s 1981 Boat of the Year. In 1984 he moved to California to begin work on the F-27 and to patent the folding mechanism that makes trailering possible.

When PS readers who own F-27s began writing to us about their boats, we took note. “Look at the F-27,” they said, “it’s something special.” A number of them sent in our Owner’s Questionnaire with raves about speed, construction and company service.

Construction

The F-27 is all fiberglass with a PVC foam core in the hull and deck. An NPG gelcoat is used, backed by AME 4000 (acrylic modified epoxy) resin. In areas of high stress, double bias fabrics, Kevlar, and carbon fiber are used. Vacuum bagging techniques are employed to ensure constant and uniform pressure on both sides of any laminate. Excess air and resin is bled off to achieve the desired, calculated weight. Light weight is essential to good multihull performance.

Unlike a monohull, which is built from basically two molds (hull and deck), the F-27 requires 52. Besides the main hull there are the two amas and four akas (cross beams), not to mention all the smaller moldings for the pop top, outboard well, hatches, and sinks. The F-27 possesses a definite “assembled” look rather than being a homogenous whole. As your eye surveys the numerous attachment points—hull/ deck joints, akas to amas, etc.—there seem to be numerous potential weak spots. The builder, however, claims there have been no failures, and we have not had reports of any. This is no doubt due to the use of quality high-tech materials and extremely careful engineering. After all, the F-27 represents nearly two decades of refinement on the original concept, not unlike the last generation of Volkswagen Beetles.

Of particular interest are the folding akas. A company brochure explains: “The beams are bolted down into molded recesses with two bolts each, the bolts being anchored into specially reinforced internal bulkheads. Once bolted the beams are strong enough on their own for all loadings. However, add the lower struts (part of the folding mechanism) and these become the primary structural members, actually relieving all bending stresses from the inner ends of the beams. Sailing is then quite possible without any bolts in beams at all! The beam bolts thus act as a backup system in the unlikely event of a folding strut failure. But should this occur the beams simply take over all loadings making the inboard structure completely safe. The actual folding struts are precision engineered from solid high strength aluminum, with nylon bush inserts being used at the pivot points with stainless steel pivot bolts.”

The akas can be folded underway while motoring, heading for the slip or launch ramp. Total beam with both amas folded in is 8' 5". Therein lies its appeal to Southern California sailors, who find slip space expensive if not unavailable. Also, it makes cruising Baja and the Sea of Cortez a practical adventure. Baja is the only really good cruising ground in that area, but too far to reach under sail for short term vacations. 

Folding of the F-27 can be handled by one person and involves removing a total of eight bolts, two for each pivot point. Note the outboard sticking out of its well on the port quarter.

The trailering feature will be less appealing to sailors elsewhere, except that the ability to store the boat in the backyard saves yard fees and makes maintenance a far easier chore.

The centerboard and rudders are foam-cored fiberglass with carbon fiber added for strengthening. Unlike most builders, Corsair publishes its lamination for all parts; indeed, the documentation and control evidenced at Corsair is rather extraordinary in the sailing industry.

Much of the hardware is made by Harken, including the mainsheet traveler, blocks and cleats. One reader wrote, “As the boat is well rigged, you will not need to replace any of the rigging such as winches, etc. Everything is both top quality and over-engineered.”

The boat we sailed was equipped with Lewmar #30 jib sheet winches, #24 self-tailing genoa and halyard winches; the linestoppers were made by Antal.

Performance

The F-27 is a fast boat. Obviously, speed was a priority of the design. The rig is tall and no attempt was made to provide standing headroom in the cabin, which would have added windage and weight. Already it has achieved some success racing, though it can’t be compared to monohulls and there are only a few other multihulls in its range (compare to the Newick-designed Somersault 26, Firefly 26, Dragonfly 25 and Stiletto 27). Unfortunately, we are unaware of any head-to-head competition between these boats.

We sailed Tony Cabot’s new F-27 from his mooring in Squantum, Massachusetts, under mainsail and working jib. The fully battened main can be reefed on the roller boom, though there wasn’t enough wind for us to see how the sail would set.

As we tacked out of Quincy Bay and into Boston Harbor, the wind was light (usually the case in test sails!). The boat moved effortlessly and heeled little (even in heavy weather, trimarans shouldn’t heel more than 12° to 15°). The helm was very well balanced, requiring just fingertip control (one reader said he had tuned the rig to add a little weather helm).

Approaching a fleet of racing monohulls at the harbor entrance, the 30- and 40-footers were making just a knot or so and appeared virtually dead in the water. We, on the other hand, slipped past at five knots in about as much wind, and we confess to feeling quite smug. With the board down, we also were able to point fairly high with the apparent wind between 35° and 40°, though of course multihulls are more comfortable and efficient cracked off, especially in a sea. With the F-27, this is due in part to its relatively flat, planing bottom.

In normal conditions, the F-27 can be expected to make seven to eight knots to windward. On a spinnaker reach in winds over 20 knots, speeds faster than 20 knots are possible. Cabot told me that he’d tried his darnedest to tip the boat over, but couldn’t do it (we assume he meant that the boat was not easily overpowered).

Though the F-27 is not as large a boat, with as much righting moment, as many sailors would prefer, it has made safe transoceanic passages, including California to Hawaii and New England to Europe. Through-bolting the pop top is one safety measure you’d want to take for such a passage.

Interior

F-27 owners are somewhat apologetic about the livability of the interior, mostly because there isn’t standing headroom except under the pop top, which covers the immediate galley area forward of the companionway. An optional screen/curtain encloses the sides for protection against mosquitos, gnats and other pests.

“The lack of interior space,” one reader wrote, “is a drawback compared to a monohull.”

The overall layout is clever but a bit cramped. The forward V-berth is suitable for but one medium-height person because the bow is too narrow for four feet. A head and sink are also located in this cabin, separated from the saloon by a partial bulkhead.

Belowdecks there’s not a great deal of room. The Vberth forward is too narrow for two people, and there’s no standing headroom. Still, the accommodations are decent.

The main cabin has opposing settees with a convertible table hung on the daggerboard trunk. An optional insert unites the settees into one large berth. There is stowage outboard. The galley is aft with sink and flush mount stove top. The furniture foundations are fiberglass and are glassed to the hull. The access boards in the cabin sole are unvarnished teakfaced plywood. The single 12-volt battery is located in a starboard compartment between the settee and bulkhead, and there is a six-circuit electrical panel on the outside. Wiring is run through a molding behind the settees. The aft cabin sleeps two and has two windows in the transom, one vent and one lighting fixture. Kids will love it.

One difficulty monohull sailors have making the mental switch to multihulls is the comparative lightness or flimsiness of furnishings—no heavy teak cabinetry, no ash ceilings, in fact, not much wood at all unless it’s veneer. Rather, it is customary to find extensive use of fabrics on the overhead and hull liners, and that is the case in the F-27. The attractiveness of such an interior depends largely on choice of fabrics (color, pattern, texture), and Corsair has done a decent job of it. Fiberglass molding edges are covered with a vinyl molding, which looks rather cheap but does the job. Again, saving weight is paramount.

The F-27 is definitely not a liveaboard boat, but is highly functional for short cruises. One reader said,

“This has proven to be a very safe boat which both my wife and four-year-old son enjoy racing as well as cruising. The interior is small but is very livable for two weeks. We haven’t tried staying on the boat longer than that.”

Deck

The cockpit is small, as it should be for a boat touted as having offshore capabilities. It seats four with reasonable comfort. In good weather, crew can sit forward on the cabin trunk or on the netting between the main hull and amas. Moving about requires some care as the footing changes between the rigid structures and netting, and because all sail controls are led aft to the cockpit, there are winches, lines and linestoppers to trip on.

The nonskid is molded in and effective, though it looks hard to clean; we were not surprised to hear from readers confirming our suspicion.

Handling the tiller is easy, whether sitting athwartships or resting your back against the aft cabin bulkhead. Spray is deflected quite well by the tremendous flare in the topsides of the main hull. The lifeline stanchions give some security when seated, but are too low to do any good standing.

The rudder kicks up and lowers easily with dual control lines, as does the centerboard. Again, both can be managed from the cockpit.

The outboard motor sits in a well on the port quarter, and lifts by means of a block and tackle arrangement to clear the prop for sailing. Eliminating this source of drag under sail is a great bonus of small boats.

Conclusion

The F-27 is, in our opinion, an exceptional boat that offers decent accommodations and unparalleled performance for the standard price of $43,800 new. Options to consider are the toilet, solar panel, cabin table, sails, outboard (8-hp recommended), trailer, electronics and spinnaker.

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