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Performance for Sail: The Farr 36 One Design

Farr 36 One Design Named Best Performance Boat in Sailing World’s 2004 Boat of the Year Contest

November 7, 2003
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Walter Cooper

As a lifelong speed fanatic who sails both iceboats and multihulls, the carbon-fiber Farr 36 is one hot keelboat that I could easily get hooked on. My first reaction when I took the tiller was being at the helm of a giant Flying Dutchman. I have always preferred tillers over wheels because of the feel, but this rudder and tiller combination is particularly sweet. It has great balance that holds true with increasing heel. In the 8 to 12 knots of wind during our test sail, it was impossible to put it into a broach. The loads on the tiller were never high, much like one might expect when sailing on a much smaller boat.

The most obvious feature of this boat has to be the largest cockpit ever put in a 36-footer. This uncluttered expanse was carefully designed so that control lines and winches are positioned and spaced for clear access by a maximum number of crew without interference. Tacks and jibes on our test sail were very clean with plenty of room for each crewmember to easily perform his or her functions and then move on to the high side. All control lines are led underneath the deck providing for an uncluttered cockpit. This boat will require a crew of 8 to race competitively, but the cockpit is large enough for several more, which may be necessary when it blows.

The all-up weight of the Farr 36 is just 6,744 lbs. with 3,028 lbs. of ballast, most of which is in a bulb at the bottom of the 8-foot steel fin keel. This lightweight package is powered by a monster rig that towers almost 59 feet above the water, and supports 960 sq. ft. of jib and main when going upwind. The boat gets supercharged off the wind by the huge 1,764 sq. ft. masthead asymmetric kite flying off an 8-foot retractable carbon pole.

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During our test sail, we were easily doing 8 to 9 knots to weather-no less than 6.5 in the lulls-and 11 to 14 knots off the wind in 8 to 12 knots true wind, which will make it a top competitor in its size range. While these were ideal upwind conditions for this boat I predict that its downwind speed in more breeze will be outstanding, competing with much larger boats where competitive speeds in the upper teens are being maintained. This is the result of a main and spinnaker combination of 2,369 sq. ft. which has to be the largest amount of downwind sail area ever put on a 36-foot boat. This rig connected to the high-speed, planing, lightweight Farr hull creates a package that could be a mini breakthrough in downwind performance for medium-sized keelboats. Like all new boats, I suspect that it will take some time to sort out sails, rigs, and technique before the full downwind potential of this boat is unleashed. The people who will be doing the sorting will definitely have a jolly good time, especially when there’s decent wind and some waves to surf.

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| Walter Cooper|

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| The Farr 36’s clean deck layout, and it’s expansive cockpit, are both designed for maximum efficiency while racing.* * *|

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The mast is a Hall Spars two-spreader carbon tube that’s evolved from the first prototype used at Key West Race Week 2003. Rig tuning is facilitated with a built-in hydraulic mast jack with a fore-and-aft adjustable mast step that can be moved under load. Like the Mumm 30, this rig is simplified by eliminating the runners in favor of a permanent back stay fitted with a batten spring to pass the rather full-roached main. A problem with releasing the backstay sufficiently to pass the main through was the only difficulty we had on this otherwise ideal test sail. The magic wheel backstay adjuster, which is located under deck and led to the mainsheet trimmer console, was jumping the sheave upon release and freezing up, releasing the backstay only a few inches rather than the 6 to 10 inches necessary. The Farr office assured us that a simple design change with the drum would prevent this problem from occurring in the future.

While the Farr 36 is best described as an all-out day racer, it is fully capable of participating in offshore ORC Category II racing. The interior is very basic with four pipe berths, a small galley area, and the traditional portable toilet forward of the mast. However, compared to some Mumm 30s that have successfully sailed the Mackinac races in recent years, the accommodations and livability on the Farr 36 is palatial, with a good deal of uncluttered interior room.

A 20-horsepower Yanmar sail drive diesel engine is located just aft of the keel and is neatly tucked under the forward part of the long cockpit. Access for repair and maintenance is excellent. Our motoring test showed 7-plus knots at 3,000 RPM with a strong reverse thrust of about half of the forward speed. The lifting keel can be unlocked with the removal of two bolts to reduce draft by 2’6″for trailering. For those who sail out of shallow-water docks or moorings, (most harbors in the Great Lakes these days) a hydraulic lift to raise and lower the keel for harbor entry is offered as an option. The keel cannot be sailed when in the up position, however, and must be fully bolted in place before sailing.

Like the Mumm 30 and the Farr 40 one-design classes, the Farr organization has set up a one-design class for the Farr 36 that features an amateur owner/driver rule, as well as limits on professional crew, sail inventory, and sail replacement. In addition, a minimum crew weight of 1,600 lbs. has been imposed for class racing. While a PHRF handicap has yet to be finalized, the two prototype boats have sailed with ratings from -6 to +6 this past season with good results. How it will fare with other rating rules is yet to be determined, but the long-term attraction of this boat is that it could offer a lot of fun in several venues at which strong one-design racing would be the anchor.

Four boats have been built to date with DK Yachts in Malaysia building for Europe, and Jim Betz Enterprises of Nevada presently setting up to build for the North American market. I think the Farr 36 is an unusually good performer with a high fun-to-grief ratio. I predict the boat and the class will be successful because it offers the sailing purist a lot of bang for the dollar. I don’t think there’s any other boat in existence that can sail at this level with an all-up price that is reported to be at $230,000.

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