Three Hulls on the Road

To Tony Smith, the word “retirement” doesn’t have quite the same connotation it might have for less energetic people. There’ll be no pottering around in the garden for this longtime boatbuilder and designer. Instead, Tony and his wife Sue are heading for the Pacific Northwest, towing a 28ft Telstar trimaran that’s been modified for an unusual cruise.

For nearly 30 years Tony owned Performance Cruising, the Maryland-based company that builds the ever-popular Gemini 105MC catamaran. When daughter Laura Hershfeld took over the concern last year, Tony and Sue saw an opportunity for adventure. But first, the backstory. In 1970s England, the multihull-obsessed Tony designed and built a 26ft folding-wing trimaran called the Telstar. He sold nearly 200 of these simple, quick boats before upping stakes and shipping the molds Stateside, where a vast new market awaited. To cut a long story short, the molds were destroyed in a boatyard fire and Tony started building the Gemini catamaran instead.

Although the Gemini became a great success—over 1,000 have been built—Tony never stopped thinking about the Telstar. In 2003, he finally had the time to flesh out his dream boat, and the result was the Telstar 28, a trailerable tri with folding amas. It was a clever design, but never really caught on the way it deserved to; some 60 examples were built before Tony stopped producing the Telstar last year.

Meanwhile, Tony had conceived a grand adventure: trailer a Telstar up to Alaska, then sail/tow the boat down the West Coast to the Sea of Cortez over the course of a summer. The boat’s double-digit speed potential under power or sail makes it possible to cover long distances in a short time; and sitting on its trailer, it can whizz between cruising grounds at 60mph.

Tony is an inveterate thinker and tinkerer whose love of boats in general and enthusiasm for this one in particular can’t be concealed. He spent a winter working on his Telstar and ended up with a boat that is no ordinary trailer-sailer. You don’t see many trailer-sailers equipped with a watermaker, for instance; nor with a water heater and enclosed shower.

There is more volume in the Telstar than you’d think, but stowage is always an issue on a boat this size. The watermaker precludes the need for big water tanks, which in turn frees up space for other equipment: an extra battery, charged by a pair of solar panels and feeding low-draw LED lighting, a chart plotter and sailing instruments, and a drawer-style fridge that’s tucked away under the companionway steps.

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