In May 1999 Practical Sailor reviewed the then-new Corsair F-24 Mark II trimaran. Nearly 20 years later, were here to follow up with a focus on the Corsair F-24 Mark I, a boat that can represent a good value today since many newer designs have entered the market.
The late Ian Farrier (1947-2017) designed fast, trailerable trimarans for more than 40 years. A New Zealander, his first production success was the 18-foot Trailertri. His 19-foot Tramp was Boat-of-the-Year in Australia in 1981. In 1983 John Walton (of the Wal Mart family) founded Corsair to build high-performance multihulls, lured Farrier to Chula Vista, California, and the result was the very popular F-27 (PS September 1990). Almost 500 have been sold since it went into production in 1985. It has since been superceded by the F-28.
In 1991, Corsair added the F-24 Sport Cruiser. This abbreviated version of the F-27, with a starting price more than 30 percent lower than the F-27, was designed to be affordable.
While she remained sharp in the performance department, her accommodations were even more spartan. We spoke with Ian Farrier several times about anchoring and cruising; it was pretty clear that his heart was in racing and he even suggested we were probably better in tune with the needs and practicalities of small multi-hull cruising than he was. Still, he designed a cabin that can handily do both, if you can accept the compromises.
The deck layout is similar to the typical 24-foot monohull, except that it is wide-18 feet-with wing trampolines on both sides. In addition to providing stability, this gives lounging space in fair weather and greatly increases safety in rough weather. Though lacking railings and lifelines-other than a pulpit and wrap-around stern rail-its hard to fall off the F-24 if jacklines and tethers are used. A single large Lewmar foredeck hatch provides ample ventilation. The cockpit will easily seat six, but three is more comfortable for vigorous sailing.
The cockpit is equipped with four Lewmar 16 winches (the jib winches are one-speed self-tailers, the reacher winches are standard two-speed), two multi-line jammers, and ten cam cleats. All essential sail controls, including halyards, are accessible from the cockpit, making for easy single-handed sailing.
The mainsail furls by winding around the boom; fast, convenient, and very gentle on the typical Mylar/carbon laminate sails. Reefing requires a quick trip to the mast to crank the boom around and attach the down haul, but that is it. The set up makes a vang impractical but few multihulls use them anyway, preferring to control the boom with the traveler.
The bow anchor locker holds two anchors and two rodes, so long as they are folding designs. Trimarans are best anchored using a bridle; the test boat uses a 20-foot Dyneema bridle that is retracted onto the wing nets when not in use.
The typical 6 horsepower outboard delivers about 5.3 knots at 1/3 throttle and about 6.5 knots wide open. The side mount provides decent performance in chop, pitching less than transom-mounted engines.
The portable fuel tank is protected from the sun and solar heating in an under-seat locker. It is wide is open for venting (but sealed from the cabin) and drains out through the open transom, safe and out of the way.
Since the emphasis was fast cruising and racing, storage and amenities are sparse. In the cabin there is storage behind the seat backs. The large rectangular top-opening lockers in the galley counter and under the seats can be fitted with hanging bags for easier access.
The head compartment has sufficient space for toilet paper and cleaning supplies. There is a large bottomless locker in the cockpit that also provides access to under cockpit areas. Lockers in the amas (outriggers) can hold light, bulky items.
There is sitting head room and ample seating for four on the starboard settee. An Origo alcohol stove and sink with rocker pump provide a minimal galley. A large cooler slides easily under the companionway. The forward V-berth is quite long, though a little pinched at the foot. The settee converts into a twin-sized bed using filler boards that slide neatly into storage slots under the companionway.
A portable head sits in a well behind a curtain, and is typically moved into the cockpit at bedtime for better privacy. Some owners rate the interior as poor, but most call it camping-out comfortable, suitable for an overnight or weekend.
Everyone wants to know how fast the little trimaran will go. To windward it points as well as most monohulls, thanks to a deep centerboard. Shell tack through less than 90 degrees if you pinch, though it’s faster if you bear off just a little. Keeping up with 40-foot cruisers is easy on any point of the sail, and you quickly chase them down on a reach.
With the wind free, expect to match true wind speed up to about 12 knots, after which you may reef or bleed power, depending on your mood. In lighter winds, pop out the reacher and you’ll get a whole new gear, easily exceeding wind speed.
In stronger winds, bear off until the true wind is on the quarter, and you’ll see 14 knots or more, although handling requires sharp attention if you haven’t reefed.
Compared to the Stiletto 27 (see PS July 2016), it is more weatherly, tacks faster, can safely handle more wind, but is slightly slower off the wind (though not as scary).
Upwind reefing begins at about 15 knots true for those who like fast sailing, but there is no reason not to reef a little earlier and enjoy more relaxed, but still spirited sailing. Maximum angle of heel is about 15 degrees.
With two reefs and the jib rolled up a little, shell take quite a lot of wind, perhaps 30 knots, without much excitement. Upwind in 20 knots is fun with the right reefs in, and that’s pretty good for a 24-foot boat. Farrier designed these conservatively, with windy conditions in mind. They are quite popular on San Francisco Bay, an area known for strong breezes.
The Mark II was touted as the new and improved version of the Mark I. By replacing the centerboard with a daggerboard, weight was reduced, and a rotating mast increased power, making the Mark II noticeably faster. The Mark I has more usable cabin space, since the centerboard case is hidden inside the settee, and the Mark I cockpit is also several feet longer, a boon to fun daysailing.
The centerboard is also a blessing in shoal water, automatically pivoting up if it smells the bottom, instead of breaking things when you find a sandbar at 15 knots. The Mark I has a kick-up rudder fitted into a cassette, keeping it under the boat, while the Mark II has a transom hung rudder. The Mark I works as a day sailor and weekender, while racers prefer the Mark II.
As with any multihull, there is always the capsize canard. Sailed poorly, any sailboat can capsize, says Farrier. My designs are not immune to this. With over 1,000 Farriers now sailing, even a low 1 percent capsize ratio would mean 10 capsizes a year. However, the capsize rate actually appears to be averaging .03 percent.
Large ocean-going monohull yachts are foundering annually, sometimes with loss of life. The basic safety difference is that the monohulls ultimate stability is resting on the bottom, while the multihulls is floating on top.
Reef appropriately and the risk is truly small. F-27s have completed successful transpacific and transatlantic crossings, and even the first circumnavigation of the North Pole under sail. Finally, the F-24 can’t sink. Built-in foam flotation, light construction, and multiple crash tanks in the amas and foam-filled akas (cross beams) make this impossible.
The F-24s main hull is fine, with a V-entry forward, U-sections mid-ships, and a relatively flat transom to damp pitching and provide lift for planing. Going to weather, most of the weight is on the amas, with fine V-sections that cut nicely through waves. Powering through short chop is not a strong suit among multihulls, but she has demonstrated considerable ability in choppy waters such as San Francisco Bay and the Chesapeake.
The heart of Farriers designs is the patented Farrier Folding System. Refined over the years, the mechanism allows the akas to fold-up, which reduces the F-24s beam from 17 feet 11 inches to 8 feet 2 inches.
We kept our F-24 in a small boat marina for a time, folding after every sail; we did this while motoring in the channel, requiring only a few minutes of light effort by one person.
While the claim of trailering to sailing in 20 minutes may be true for seasoned crews that race every weekend, allow two hours for the transition if you do this only occasionally.
Although no single step is physically difficult for a single person, there are many steps and a second pair of hands makes for safer work. The engineering has proved very reliable, and now that the patents have expired, copies abound.
Performance multihulls built to their designed displacements are hardly ever built on production lines. Corsair has been the exception to that rule. Light weight is an essential if you want a cat or trimaran to sail up to its speed potential, but you’re not likely to achieve it with normal materials and common construction techniques.
Turning out an F-24 that weighs 1,800 pounds (1,650 pounds for the Mark II) is no simple matter. It involves almost 50 separate molded parts, considerably more than same-length monohulls.
Carbon fiber and Kevlar reinforcement, vacuum-bagging, double-biased fabrics, acrylic-modified epoxy resin, and NPG gelcoat are all elements you’d expect to see in a custom shop. They all go into the F-24.
Glass/resin control, published laminate schedules, a computer-generated production protocol, universally bonded top hat joints between hull and deck, barrier coats of vinyl ester resin, isopthalic resin throughout the rest of the laminate, and bulkheads tabbed in seven places to the hull makes for a light but sturdy boat.
The akas appear to be held in place by the anchor bolts inserted when unfolding, but the sailing forces are actually carried by strong pivot arms connecting the akas to anchor points near the waterline, anchored deep within the hull, and by compression blocks where the arms meet the hull at deck level.
After 20 years we’ve had a few minor issues related to failed bedding and damage to the balsa core, but nothing affecting the main structural elements.
Whether you’re downsizing from a cruising cat, or upsizing from the family Hobie, the F-24 offers the sports car of youthful dreams, on a budget.
Is it worth paying three times as much as you would for a 24-foot mono-hull with more room? Not if you’re looking for cabin space and need an enclosed head. On the other hand, if fun sailing is the goal, the dollar-to-grin ratio is very high. Market demand is dependable and you will get your money back. It’s not the best beginners boat.
You can’t just sheet-and-forget, and getting the best from her requires experience and attention. But if you have a beach cat or fast dinghy background, it’s a great way to gain weekender capability without losing any of the fun. If you need a little more comfort or more speed, look at the Corsair F-27. And if money is no object there’s a world of Farrier designs to choose from.