Remembering Ian Farrier

Ian FarrierCourtesy Sackville Curie

Ian Farrier, who died in December 2017, was a passionate advocate for multihull hullforms. His clever folding mechanisms enabled his smaller designs to be towed behind the family automobile. He hoped that the F-22 (6.7m), which he was working on day and night at the time of his death, would be affordable for middle-class sailors.

New Zealand multihull designer and builder Ian Lindsay Farrier, 70, died suddenly in San Francisco, California, on December 8, 2017, culminating a career that began in 1973 in Australia.

While his early designs, many home built, were well known in New Zealand and Australia, it was the F-27 (8.2m) that made an impact in the U.S. The trimaran has a unique patented hinge mechanism enabling the amas (floats) to be folded inward toward the main hull even when afloat, making the boat easily trailerable. After its introduction in 1986, production grew from 12 the next year to 101 in 1991. Farrier’s website includes an engaging account of how Walmart heir John Walton took interest in the design and founded Corsair Marine in Chula Vista, California, to produce the boat. A modern production facility was set up, with all crew, including Walton, getting gritty on the shop floor. As sales increased, it was enlarged to 27,000 sq ft (2,511m2).

From the Corsair website: “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. Vacuum bagging complete hulls, with outer laminate, core, and inner laminate being bagged simultaneously, was one of the big advances developed at Corsair. Total lamination time for this hull was 1 hour and 30 minutes (45 minutes each side). No one could do it quicker or better.” Farrier said the boat comprised 57 individual molds.

Billed as a family cruiser that is also fast, the F-27 won races and in 2004 became only the second multihull (after the Hobie 16) to be inducted into the American Sailboat Hall of Fame.

Farrier resigned from Corsair Marine in 1991 to pursue other designs, including the F-31 (9.4m), and later, the F-22 (6.7m), which at the time of his death he’d been working on to increase production. During the years Farrier was busy making tooling for the F-22 and setting up the shop for the new model, he and I corresponded regularly. I hoped he’d write a Design Brief for this magazine, and he continually protested he needed to make more progress before he could slow down long enough to write.

Old friend Peter Hackett sent this memory via Sackville Curie, an early dealer of Farrier boats: “My first association with Ian was as a pimply teenager in Hawthorne, Brisbane, 1973. A couple of Kiwis had moved into a house [across] the road, and not long after, a plywood thing started growing under the house and then emerging into the yard. To us Aussie/monohull/dinghy people, our first guess was that it was a caravan. When I tried to convince my carpenter/boatbuilder father that it was starting to look like a boat, he just laughed. Not long after that, my curiosity got the better of me, and on the way home from school I diverted and had a sneaky look over the fence. There was a guy under the house laboring in one of our typical warm summer afternoons, covered in sweat and glue. I asked if I could come in and he downed tools in the most welcoming way to explain to me what this strange craft was. In a scenario to then be repeated thousands of times around the world by various methods and media, Ian Farrier shared his dream with me of safe, cheap, and fast multihull sailing for the masses. I was skeptical at first, but when he showed me his detailed plans I was starting to get quite excited. Then he produced a model cut out of the walls of a can with nails for pivot points. It demonstrated that with pairs of struts balancing the forces involved, this multihull trimaran with no lead keel could be trailed behind a family car to all sorts of dream locations, then sailed safely and quickly in all sorts of waters.”

And from Rob Densem, general manager of Farrier Marine in Christchurch, New Zealand, to “Ian was a visionary, a multihull genius, an all-round nice guy who leaves behind a huge legacy to the sailing world. Farrier Marine Limited is a strong business with a three-year order book for the revolutionary F-22 sailboat. Despite dealing with our grief, it is very much ‘business as usual’ at the factory today. It is our job now to carry on the Farrier legacy and ensure his vision is carried out.”