Issue: April 2004
The big trend in yachting for the past six years or so has been to build boats, which draw the skipper’s family into sailing. Hence the flood of cruiser/ racers that are comfortable to live on yet are able to race under the various rating systems (Dad races Saturday, family cruises Sunday). The development of boat handling systems (furlers, electric winches and autopilots) has been a vital part of this trend and has made the rough and tumble of yachting (compared to powerboating) a bit easier to sell to the wife and kids. Pure cruisers, too, have developed.
If you add to a modern hull with its modern handling systems the attraction of a pilothouse – where you can sip your coffee and watch the world go by, you’re halfway there. That is the sort of feature that makes powerboats so attractive to the less committed. This Farr 41 Pilothouse is based on an existing Farr hull for which the designer drew a new rudder and keel. South Australian builder Tom Wagner built this version to styling ideas by Gil Finlay of Pacific Yachting in Newcastle, NSW, importers of the French Dufour, Feeling and Archambault production boats. The Farr 51 Pilothouse, a very good boat, is now also being revised.
Farr’s new keel is a lead casting which flares at its tip to create a bulb with a roughly triangular cross-section and which projects aft of the trailing edge. The rudder is a hollow fibreglass moulding carried on an S-glass stock, which the makers claim is stronger than stainless steel and lighter. The hull is a sandwich of glass and Coremat, reinforced by a fibreglass internal liner and grid which accommodates the engine well and bed, water, fuel and holding tanks and battery compartments. The deck is a sandwich moulding cored with Divinycell and Coremat.
The three-cabin layout is well thoughtout and packs a lot of accommodation into its 12.45m. There are several different floor levels ‘ unavoidable if you want to see through the windows while seated ‘ but that presents no problem as the steps are in logical places. I have been in a pilothouse yacht, which did not have the steps in logical places and I fell down. Twice. The rig is straightforward, a masthead arrangement with the headsail on a furler and the main located on the boom by lazyjacks and a zippered bag. There are two sets of spreaders and single lowers with a babystay.
The backstay is non-adjustable; it splits and tacks down either side of the transom. On this luxury version (there is a standard boat and the high-spec Pacific Pack shown here) there is one twospeed electric winch to hoist the main and control the mainsheet. The #44 Harken two-speed primaries are self-tailers and easily handled the full headsail in up to 20 knots of breeze, beyond the point at which a cruiser or social sailor would have rolled away a bit of headsail. This boat had the bigger steering wheel offered with the Pacific Pack, so if you board through the stern door moving past the binnacle is a bit of an obstacle, okay if you take your time.
The steering system is an excellent Whitlock set-up, which features tie rods rather than cables. The rudderstock head is accessible beneath the sole to install the emergency tiller. The stanchions and lifelines are set slightly inboard amidships, a good idea on a cruising yacht as they are easily damaged on wharves and jetties. The CQR anchor is carried on a moulded bowsprit; the substantial bow fitting, a really nice moulding, has two rollers and a Muir electric winch. The anchor chain locker is a very neat moulding. Another nice feature on this boat was the mooring cleats; the horns fold individually into the tapered body when not in use.
At first sight the saloon area looked crowded but as it became more familiar I reckoned it worked well. The galley is longitudinal on the port side, but the proximity of the furniture on the centreline means there is plenty of support for the cook. Indeed the boat is terrific to move around when it is heeled because the furniture provides handholds both sides at all times, better than reaching for overhead handholds. This boat was fitted with the Pacific Pack, which includes hull colour, teak decks and a host of other stuff including the electric winch, & at-screen TV, DVD and CD player.
An inverter handles 240-volt requirements. The interior trim is in Queensland beech, which I have never seen before and which is a light colour, lighter than honey. The combination of the wood, the white headliner and the big windows fills the interior with light. The galley has an excellent double sink (one smaller than the other, both steepsided). The stove has two burners and an oven, plus the optional microwave. The navigation area is on the portside, facing the side of the hull with a pedestal seat for the skipper. This boat had a full Raytheon GPS Plotter fit-out with all instrument readouts both in the cockpit and at the nav station.
There is a Raytheon 6000 autopilot and a position for an internal helm on the centreline, aft of the dining area. There are two bathrooms, one en suite with the owner’s cabin in the bow, the other serves the boat and is also en suite with the starboard side cabin aft. On the standard boat only the forward one is fitted out; the aft one becomes a wet locker. The shower in the forward bathroom is in a moulded recess in which you can sit while showering. You could probably shower comfortably while under way, braced by the side of the moulding. All cabins have full standing headroom and good storage space. In the stern cabins you can sit up on the bed, lean against the hull sides and read your book.
Both stern cabins have ventilation hatches, which open under lifting lids in the cockpit seats, the latter providing protection from rain and spray. The top companionway step opens to reveal the 40hp Volvo; the steps remove to expose the engine for maintenance. One of the notable features of the Farr 41 Pilothouse is that the halyards and control lines are led down the mast, under the floorboards; then, back up through the internal trim to the cockpit controls. Every turning point in the run is accessible through removable panels in the trim and through lifting floorboards.
The mainsheet traveller is on the coachroof and the control lines lead to the cockpit under the dodger and between the roof mouldings. The test boat was at Pacific Yachting’s flash new office at the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club commercial premises on Newcastle Harbour. The clubhouse has yet to be built but the whole area is a smart new development, which typifies the resurgence of the former Steel City. This marina has a feature rare on Australia’s east coast, the open sea is a short distance away through a deep-water harbour and an all-weather entrance. We have a weird day to go sailing. Earlier it was headed for 40 degrees, but then an unforecast southerly front came through bringing breeze and a moody, misty atmosphere.
The front delivered a southerly flow of around 10-22 knots, with the average being around 16. The boat is easy to get underway, that two-speed electric winch shoots the main to the masthead faster than my arms could do it. We unroll the headsail and we are sailing. The hull yields initially to the sharp gusts, but then she stiffens up as the keel bulb does its work and when all the forces stabilise she accelerates fast. The top speed we saw was broad reaching at 7.8 knots in 18 knots True; the gust of the day was around 22 knots, but at all times the hull was easily driven. At no time did she stagger in the gusts; the energy was converted quickly to speed.
If you were sailing any distance in this breeze you would have rolled away some of the headsail. The cockpit controls are properly placed and work well, there is room to handle the sheet winches, the mainsheet traveller is easy to work (on some boats the dodgers are too low for your head or too constricting to work the traveller) and the steering is light but absolutely positive. In the gusts ‘ they were not huge but their impact was ‘Bang’, instantaneous ‘ the boat absorbed them and at no time even thought about fighting the rudder for control, showing excellent directional stability. This is an interesting local variation on the Pilothouse theme.
The interior shows original thinking in the detail and it works. In the forward cabin lockers are mounted in the area where your shoulders would be when you’re in bed, unusual but in fact a logical place because the full width of the triangular berth at its inboard edge is unused. The Farr 41 Pilothouse packs a lot of comfortable and attractive accommodation into its 41ft. It is an original variation on a proven hull, confirmation that fresh thought is always possible in the endlessly fascinating (to me, anyway) world of yacht design. And is it one of a rare breed ? it is.
Words by Barry Tranter