There has been a long tradition, both in the United States and abroad, of sturdy trailerable cruisers carrying their crews hither and yon in search of adventure. In fact, so celebrated are the accomplishments of these little tough-as-nails boats—think the West Wight Potter, Canadian-built Norseboat or any number of catboats, just to name a few—sailors could be excused for thinking trailer-sailers that you can sleep aboard have nothing to offer those in search of a bit of an adrenaline rush. However, those sailors couldn’t be more wrong.
Since the advent of trailerable trimarans, in particular, trailer-sailing can now mean blistering speeds as well as comfort afloat. In more recent years, modern materials and design concepts have also resulted in a number of trailerable monohulls that make knots as well as memories underway. Most notable among these are the boats comprising the upper end of the Slovenian-based Seascape line, now part of Group Beneteau (beneteau.com), where the boats are being marketed as the latest iteration of the company’s performance-oriented First series.
“Racing and pushing boats to their limits helps you understand the powerful way they work and the performance challenges,” says Seascape designer Sam Manuard, noting how his own experience competing aboard such grand prix boats as Mini 6.50’s, Figaro-Beneteaus and Class 40s helped inform his development of the Beneteau First 24 and First 27 (as well as the First 18 and First 14 dinghy).
However, where boats like this take naval architecture to an even more rarified level is in their ability to also provide the necessary creature comforts to serve as true cruising boats, as opposed to just boom-tent camping platforms.
“The Seascape/Beneteau First DNA is basically to have a fast, fun and hassle-free boats…that’s the three key points,” Manuard says. To this end, the First 24 and 27 have compact (but hardly Spartan) accommodations complete with small cooking areas and room for a head compartment. Not only that, but in order to accomplish this feat, Manuard and his team came up with a number of ingenious mechanisms and fabrications that allow them to pack in the necessary features for life afloat while still creating a platform with uncompromising sailing ability.
The First 27, for example, which among other honors has taken the top spot in the Chicago-Mackinac Doublehanded Division, has a saloon table that converts into a centerline nav station; a lightweight folding magnetic door to enclose and provide some privacy for the head area; and a set of integrated hanging gear bags that can be used to easily move kit on and off the boat when converting to racing mode and back.
Similarly, aboard the First 24, the modular furniture includes a number of sliding panels allowing access to multiple storage areas, while an ice chest and porta-potty can be easily accessed under the sleeping berths.
On the performance side, the Manuard-designed Firsts feature twin rudders to ensure a firm grip on the water even at higher angles of heel; a wedge-shaped hull form with powerful sections aft to promote planning ability; and a powerful rig with a large A-sail on a retractable sprit. The First 27, in particular, has been optimized for passagemaking and offshore speed, while the 24 is a more lightweight boat, configured for more sprightly upwind performance, as necessitated by coastal sailing.
No big surprise, then, that both of these boats received a nod as SAIL magazine “Best Boats” winners in the years they were launched. Nor should it come as any surprise that the boats quickly developed a passionate following in Europe, where they were first launched. So much so that owners of the boats often describe themselves as being members of a “family,” a family Beneteau would very much like to grow to include a goodly number of American relations as well.
Three’s Not a Crowd
As for those aforementioned multihulls that crack the same code as the Beneteau First line—albeit while employing three hulls as opposed to one—a long-time standout has been the Danish family-run builder Quorning Boats and its award-winning Dragonfly series (dragonfly.dk). Currently, its product line includes boats with LOAs ranging from 25ft to 40ft, with the Dragonfly 25 and Dragonfly 28 both designed for easy trailering.
Central to these two boat’s ability is the proprietary Dragonfly “Swing Wing” system designed by Børge and Jens Quorning in 1989, and also found aboard the company’s larger boats, which allows the boats to grow or reduce their overall beam by a full 50 percent in less than a minute. Which in turn makes trailering (or docking in a regularly sized slip, in the case of the two larger designs) a snap.
Beyond that, Quorning, in true Scandinavian fashion, prides itself on its build quality, with as much of the boat as possible fabricated in-house to ensure everything is up to scratch. “We make everything except the cushions, engines and electronics,” explains Jens.
Similarly, in addition to its Swing Wing capability, the Dragonfly line, like the First series, includes a wealth of clever features and engineering in order to fit a whole lot of boat into a small package. Aboard the Dragonfly 25 (also a winner of a SAIL “Best Boats” award), for example, the centerboard is slightly offset to port, with its trunk buried under a settee to save accommodation space in the main hull’s interior. Furniture components can be removed for racing or a thorough cleaning. And to increase living space when not sailing, a boom tent quickly turns the cockpit into a sheltered dining room, as the saloon table can be quickly replanted outside.
As for the Dragonfly 28, you can still raise the mast without having to resort to the use of a crane, the companionway steps lift up to provide access to a great “hidden” berth aft, and there is an almost shocking amount of headroom and volume overall thanks to the boat’s cleverly flared/chined hull.
Finally, in terms of performance, the boats’ narrow, slippery hull forms combined with a powerful rig—which in both cases can be made even more powerful by opting for a “sport” version of the boat, complete with more sail area and a carbon spar—ensure blistering speed, whether in a drifter or a blow, all at a minimal angle of heel. As an added benefit, the two Dragonfly designs—like the Beneteau First 24—can also be easily run up on the beach for a romp ashore, an especially nice feature when cruising with pets and kids.
Again, it’s important to never be fooled by the speedy good looks of these boats or the many races they compete in. They are also cruisers to the core—one of the reasons they’re such great boats overall.
Asia and the Antipodes
Of course, given the nature of the modern boatbuilding industry, it would be a surprise if a designer or builder from the Antipodes hadn’t also thrown its hat into the ring in this area. And sure enough from New Zealand comes another trailerable tri builder, Farrier Marine—creator of the F-22 (another “Best Boats” winner; anybody else beginning to notice a bit of bias on the part of the SAIL staff?), the brainchild of the late Kiwi multihull maven Ian Farrier, and now owned and operated by U.S.-based Daedalus Yachts (f-boat.com; daedalusyachts.com).
Farrier, who passed away in 2017, created the F-22 as a kind of culmination of all he’d continued to learn about small, trailerable multihulls in the years since he penned the F-27 trimaran, a true trail-blazer and now part of the “Sailboat Hall of Fame.”
Available in either a full-cabin cruising version with a standard rig or a performance version with more horsepower, the F-22 offers a truly astonishing amount of space belowdecks, thanks again to the care and cleverness of her designer and builder. The boat’s proprietary folding system, for example, is carefully configured so that while it allows the amas to be extended and retracted with ease, it in no way impinges on the boat’s interior space. The result is three legitimate berths (four, if you count two up in the V-berth), while a pop-top over the companionway provides equally legitimate standing headroom.
Deep, molded-in bins also line the sides of the saloon outboard of the two settees, complementing the storage space aft under the cockpit benches. There’s even a clever removable privacy screen for when you sit on the “throne,” a la Manuard’s magnetic screen on the First 27.
As for the boat’s performance underway, the F-22’s wave-piercing amas and high-aspect rig speak volumes. The sport version also includes an aggressive sprit for flying a powerful A-sail, and in one of those happy conjunctions of design and comfort, the boat’s fine entry and flared forward sections make for a clean entry at the same time they help tamp down the spray. In terms of build quality, throughout his life Farrier insisted that not only his boats, but he and his builders put in plenty of sea time before any of the products they produced could bear his name—a commitment to excellence that is very much in evidence in the boats themselves.
Finally, there’s Corsair (corsairmarine.com), originally created by Farrier for the purpose of marketing his trailerable tri concept in the United States, and now not only completely independent of the Farrier name for the better part of 20 years, but based in Vietnam (where the company also builds the Seawind line of bluewater cruising cats).
According to Corsair, its 760, in particular, “Offers sailors more comfort, performance and safety than any other trimaran range in this size,” and it would be hard to take issue with that statement. Indeed, for a monohull sailor one of the trickiest things about sailing a boat like the 760 is the raw boatspeed. Aboard a monohull, throwing up a wake like the one you routinely create even in only moderate winds can be almost disconcerting—although it also doesn’t take long to get used to, quickly becoming one of the main selling points of this kind so sailing! For those in search of even more speed, a “sport” and “R” (for racing) are also available, with the latter featuring a cut-down cabintrunk and option carbon rig.
In terms of accommodations, the standard version of the boat has plenty of room for a couple to weekend aboard, while an optional collapsible saloon table can be used to create berths for two more sailors.
Taking a step up in length, Corsair also offers the Cruze 970, a development of the popular C31 of which over 300 were built: a boat near the top end of the trailer-sailing spectrum in terms of size that is especially roomy and tough, being capable of open-water sailing. (In fact, the C31 has a number of high-latitude adventures to its credit, including a Northwest Passage transit.) To this end, there’s full standing headroom in the saloon and room for six to sleep in comfort, with 15 percent more interior volume aboard the Cruze than the C31, and a larger galley and heads.
“I love sailing trimarans (not swimming apartments), so I don’t need a grand toilet/bath,” says Cruze 970 sailor Andreas Hofmaier. “On the other hand, a little privacy is appreciated even on a regatta when the ladies are not aboard. There is proper space for a big cooler-box between the pantry and the aft cabin. The aft cabin is quite huge. We dubbed it ‘the suite.’”
Beyond that, these two Corsair designs score well in a category that is hard to quantify, but immediately recognizable to anybody who enjoys boats—they’re fun as heck to sail. This, in turn, has allowed the boats to attract their own separate following of sailors who can’t imagine life without them, in much the same way as the Seascape/Beneteau First monohull line.
Indeed, whether it’s a Seascape/Beneteau First regatta or rally, a Dragonfly get-together in the Baltic, a covey of F-Boats on parade, or a flotilla of Corsairs ripping across the harbor on a sunny day, these are all boats that seem to be able to attract a true community of mariners that likes nothing better than to have a fun time together on the water.
“There is no doubt that the Dragonfly has a very high ‘fun factor,’” says a sailor named Kurt, who recently upgraded to a Dragonfly 25 after years of sailing a Dragonfly 800 that he purchased way back in 1989. “We had so many joyful moments on our Dragonfly 800 both regarding leisure and competing in regattas. I’m looking forward to many delightful hours on our new Dragonfly.”
“Through Seascape/Beneteau I have met a lot of wonderful people and have expanded my sailing horizon way beyond what I ever dreamed of,” says Philipp Lenzlinger, a past winner of the Seascape/Beneteau First “Spirit” award.
Amen to that! In fact, it would be hard to think of a sentiment that wraps up these kinds of high-performance boats as well as that—not to mention sailing in general.