The F-27 was honored on January 29th, 2004, at the Chicago Strictly Sailboats Show, where it was inducted into the American Sailboat Hall of Fame. It will join a select group of only 24 boats such as the Laser and J-24, that helped usher in the fiberglass era. Selections for the Hall of Fame are made by a committee of magazine editors comprised of Bill Schanen, SAILING magazine, chairman, John Burnham SAILING WORLD, and Charles Mason, SAIL. Half models of the Hall of Fame boats are displayed each year at the Sail Expos, and are on permanent display at the Museum of Yachting in Newport, Rhode Island.
The Farrier designed F-27 is only the second multihull in the Hall of Fame (the other being the Hobie 16) and the first trimaran. It was chosen by the selection committee because it was a breakthrough design that made a tremendous impact on sailing by giving owners the rewards of multihull sailing without the hassle of a beam too wide for marinas and trailers.
It all started way back in 1973 when I first conceived my folding system in Australia and patented it. Then after some ten years of developing and proving the trailerable trimaran concept, I was approached by Wal-Mart heir John Walton, who was interested in building folding trimarans for the US market. Having already experienced some problems with a licensed builder arrangement for my first production trimaran, the 19′ Tramp, I was interested, but only if I had full control of all aspects from production to marketing, as well as design. This was agreed to, I moved to America with my family in March, 1984, and became Vice President of Corsair Marine. Suitable premises in Chula Vista (San Diego), California, were soon found and I began setting up Corsair Marine’s new factory to build the F-27.
There were just two employees in the Chula Vista factory for the first month or so, myself, and tooling guru/fiberglass expert Trevor Waterman. Arriving in Chula Vista a few months later were John Walton, Mark Robson (an accountant and John’s cousin), and Mike Michie, one of Corsair’s first employees from the original startup in Arizona in 1983.
All were ‘hands on’ employees the first year or so, with myself supervising the prototype construction in the factory throughout the day, and doing all the necessary design work at nights and weekends, while Mark Robson also did the books when required. Trevor was an exceptional fiberglass worker, a great cartoonist (examples later) and had once worked for Lotus in England making Formula 1 racing car bodies. Trevor was the one we always called upon when there was a particularly difficult piece of fiberglassing to be done, and he was primarily responsible for the excellent standard of finish that we achieved on the F-27 molds. He had a wickedly fast (and dangerous) method of fairing using a large square board mounted on a heavy duty polisher, and we all ducked and ran for cover when Trevor got out his ‘contraption’.
Everyone pitched in no matter how dirty the job, and no one was exempt. Even John, one of the wealthiest men in America, was in the thick of some of the worst grinding jobs, was a great laminator, and the main instigator of the extensive vacuum bagging systems that were developed at Corsair over the next few years. It was a good combination all round, I had the design and ideas for a radically new boat with my patented folding system, John had the capital to see it through the very difficult and unprofitable development stage, and we had a great crew. The F-27 could not have had a better start.
After 12 months work the prototype F-27 ‘Superfox’ was launched in May, 1985, the name coming from my previous boat in Australia, the 19’ Tramp FLYING FOX, the F-27 being the super size version.
It was an immediate success, sailed beautifully from day one, and the final decision was made to go into full production. A scanned copy of my original Newsletter reporting this launching can be seen at Newsletter 27/28
Everyone then got busy to build the full set of production molds, more employees were hired, and a new larger 10,000 sq. ft factory was leased just around the corner, close enough in fact to where we just rolled the existing molds around on their own wheels.
Everything was concentrated into getting full production up and running, and in establishing a production control system that would be flexible enough for rapid change and improvement as required, while also making sure the boats were built exactly as they should be. The F-27 was more like an aeroplane than a boat, and it was obvious that traditional boatbuilding ways were not going to be sufficient.
Meanwhile, the prototype SUPER FOX was proving her mettle, with myself and factory worker Corky Perry sailing her to a new race record in her first official event – The 1985 Two Man Around Catalina Race. The F-27 took line honors by 4 hours, and won on handicap from a fleet of mostly bigger boats, including a maxi (65′) ULDB monohull. Starting last, the F-27 had overhauled the entire monohull fleet on the first 30 mile windward leg in very choppy 20 to 25 knot conditions, and led home a Val 31 racing trimaran sailed by Gino Morelli and Bob De Long.
SUPER FOX did it again the next year, demonstrating the F-27’s great versatility by winning the 1986 Two Man Around Catalina Race, but this time in very light conditions. John crewed for me this time, and we gave such boats as a McGregor 65, S & S 51, Frers 46, and C & C 42, 15 minutes start, yet still caught and passed them all. The F-27 was the only boat fast enough to finish within the time limit.
Boats were now starting to be delivered, slowly, but in ever increasing numbers, and the F-27 was making its debut at a number of Boat Shows.
The first ocean crossing was made by Mark Robson’s F-27 KILLER FROG, with John Walton as crew, sailing in the 1987 Trans Pac Race from Long Beach to Hawaii. KILLER FROG averaged just on 8 knots for a quick 12 day passage, including one 250 mile day. The full story of Mark’s trip can be read in Newsletter No. 35
Adrian Went’s F-27 OLIJFE then made an Atlantic crossing in 1988, with an impressive passage of 23 days from Cape Cod to Bishop Rock, England and then on up through the English Channel to Holland. The only problems in the whole trip were with a loose nut in the toilet pump and a failed autohelm. The full story of Adrian’s trip can be read in Newsletter No. 38.
Meanwhile, great strides are being made at the factory, with production doubling or tripling every year, with better techniques and procedures being developed. A policy of constant improvement was followed, and building a top quality reliable boat was the single ongoing aim. Multihulls had a somewhat checkered reputation in the past, and it was essential to provide a ‘top of the line’ boat along with excellent backup that would help overcome any reservations. Building a boat right the first time does not cost more, having to do things twice, or repair them under warranty does.
The factory was expanded yet again in 1987 to 27,000 sq.ft, taking over the other side of the existing building, and knocking a doorway through the dividing fire wall.
Production went from 6 boats a year in 1986, to 12 a year in 1987, 33 boats a year in 1988, with the one hundredth boat being delivered in 1989, and marked by a ceremony at the factory.
F-27s also continued to demonstrate their seaworthiness, with two more crossing the Pacific to Hawaii in 1990 one single-handed, one double-handed. It should also be noted that while it is nice to know that the F-27 is seaworthy enough to cross oceans, it is a little small for this, and ocean crossing is not a recommended purpose.
In 1990, the F-27 AQUATEC easily won the Australian Multihull Offshore Championships, a series of 7 races, with Paul Koch, current owner of Corsair Marine in the crew. This is a tough event and AQUATEC was the first trailerable multihull to win this series.
In August 1990, F-27s were the first multihulls invited to compete in the Audi National Offshore One Design Regatta, (N.O.O.D) organized by SAILING WORLD and held at Newport, Rhode Island. The F-27 was starting to become respectable.
I then decided to resign from Corsair in 1991, as it had now been well established, with all production procedures finely tuned and producing 100 virtually perfect F-27s every year, with extensive checklist control systems in place, and working well. John now desired to have a greater say in future designs, while I preferred to be free to design what and how I wanted, so the partnership that had worked so well was over. New management, plus other design staff were then hired by John to work on developing new designs for Corsair, while I began work on my new F-31 design which was built in Australia.
The F-27 continued on regardless, and in 1993 two F-27s set an incredible performance mark in the 1993 Miami – Key Largo race, averaging an amazing 18.2 and 17.9 knots for the 43 mile course.
In January 1995 SAIL magazine gave the F-27 an honorable mention, along with such boats as the Laser and the 12m Australia II, as “having had a significant and positive impact on sailing over the past 25 years”. The F-27 was being noticed and becoming part of the establishment.
In February, 1997, after a 12 year model cycle, and 450 boats built, the F-27 was replaced by the F-28, also designed by myself, having resumed a relationship with Corsair after John Walton had sold out to Paul Koch in 1994. The F-27 still lived on however, the F-28 basically being a Mk II F-27, and using the same float, beam, and main hull molds, but with a number of key improvements in rig and structure. One F-28 even sailed around the world in 2000.
The relationship between Farrier Marine and Corsair Marine had been up and down since parting in 1991, which has been a disappointing factor, and I finally ended all ties in 2000. However, this takes nothing away from the F-27 and our joint achievements.
F-27 production peaked at 101 boats a year in 1991, a figure that has not been equaled since by any other model at Corsair, nor in fact by all other models combined. It put multihulls firmly on the map, and proved it was possible to build a good quality multihull, that had both room and performance, and an affordable price. It has provided excellent value for owners, many selling their boats for more than the original purchase price, even after years of use. The F-27 truly is a classic multihull.