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Farr 280: Meet the Pioneer Owners Spreading the Word Around the World

The Farr 280 One Design has obvious appeal – impressive good looks, spectacular speeds, the cachet and confidence of being the latest one-design from Farr Yacht Design, and a high quality build and finish by Premier Composite Technologies.

Farr Yacht Design has an unequalled reputation when it comes to creating successful one-design classes including the Farr 40, Farr 30 (formerly Mumm 30), and most recently the Volvo Ocean 65, which has produced boats so equal that podium positions on trans-ocean legs have been separated by mere seconds.

The Farr 280 is already establishing itself as the one-design of the future: enjoying level-rating racing at this year’s Quantum Key West Race Week, and its own one-design start at Charleston Race Week – the largest keelboat regatta in the USA. In Europe the prestigious Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week expects four Farr 280 entries at this world-famous regatta, which takes place in August from 8-15, 2015.

However, for the earliest adopters of the new Farr 280 One Design, the boat’s appeal goes far beyond first-past-the-post racing. We caught up with 10 teams on the burgeoning circuit – from the USA, UK, Italy, Switzerland, Turkey and Dubai – to find out more.
Fast and Fun Appeal
The first owners to join the class were each drawn to the Farr 280 One Design for different reasons. For some it was the boat’s sheer performance.
Piero Paniccia, who owns ‘AdriaticA’ (ITA), says it was a love of speed that drew him to the class:

“In the past I’ve raced with a lot of dinghies, more recently with rating classes. For me is exciting to sail and race on fast boats.”
Nick Haigh has previously owned larger yachts – including one-designs such as the Farr 40, which he and wife Annie raced both level rating and under handicap. His Farr 280 ‘So Steamy’ (UK) was launched this spring:

“We wanted a modern, attractive, fast yacht without the massive budgets associated with that modern technology. We looked at a number of top IRC boats, but discounted them because we wanted to just go and experience a different style of sailing. We wanted a fun boat that’s going to get around the windward mark and just go really quickly!”

For others adaptability was key. Adam Esselman, who owns ‘Still Messin’ (USA), was drawn to the Farr 280 after seeing it in Charleston Race Week last year. “I saw them put it together in six hours from when it arrived, went out and practised, and the next day they raced.

“Here in Michigan we have very cold winters, so we’re thinking about heading south to sail. I’ve got a 40ft boat, that’s not really cost-effective to ship all over the southern part of the United States, so I decided I needed something a little different. This 28ft – ‘mini TP52’ as I like to call it – was just the perfect match.”

Richard Rankin is the newest owner to join the fleet, who will begin campaigning his 280 ‘Pandemonium’ this summer in the UK. For him ease of ownership was an important factor. “I used to have a 12-Metre, and gave it up last year. The Farr 280 intrigued me as something completely different, the other end of the scale.

“I’ve got two children and they’re 24 and 22, and I feel really comfortably with them taking it out with their friends, as opposed to something bigger and more complex that I’d worry about."

William Merkel owned and raced a Farr 30 for many years – and says that the design of the new Farr class was a big draw when he purchased his new 280.

“It’s incredible, the thought and design that went into this boat. Design features like putting the boom vang adjustment back where your tactician sits – because that’s where you are when you’re in planing conditions, instead of having the line come all the way from the mast, that’s a smart move! It’s nice not to have to send somebody up to make turnbuckle adjustments and put turns on the forestay. If it’s really rough, the hatch opens from the cockpit so you can launch and retrieve the asymmetric from the cockpit. To me there’s a lot of intelligent design on this boat.”

First Impressions
Having taken delivery of their new Farr 280s, what were the owners’ first impressions of their boat? Shane Hughes manages the ‘Red’ campaign owned by Joe Woods, and has competed at the highest level in one-design yachts and keelboats for over 15 years.

He says, “First impression – a very well designed and built boat. The guys at Farr Yacht design put a lot of thought into deck layout and ergonomics and the boat runs very well as a result. Another selling point for us was that the boat was built at PCT in Dubai. Those guys have the right tools and resources to build boats at a high standard and – importantly for a one-design – to a very tight tolerance, producing even boats.”
Nick Haigh agrees: “The build quality is stunning. I was impressed by the way the 280 got up to speed downwind. Certainly the way the technology functions in terms of hydraulic adjustments is very impressive. It’s that the sort of adjustment that you would be expecting to see on a boat of half a million pounds plus.” The Farr 280’s mast jack and forestay adjustment are actively controlled through hydraulic adjusters, which is unique in a boat of this size. These active adjustments provide direct tuning feedback.
Osmancan Erşahin, who has been racing the 280 in Turkey as the region’s dealer, comments that the boat is reassuringly stable – as well as fast – for new owners: “The 280 is a very sensitive boat. She accelerates very well and has very good stability. It is a lot fun to sail, and although she has a huge asymmetric spinnaker she is very stable because of the 650kg bulb on the keel. You’re never afraid when you sail on the boat.”
Learning Curve
Every owner also emphasised that this is a boat that gives something back – rewarding you every time you sail it, challenging the helmsman and crew, inciting more and more performance, and giving immediate and satisfying feedback as you get into the groove.

Adam Esselman explains: “It is not only a fun boat sail, but it teaches you so much about high performance sailing – from the tactician all the way up to my bowman. We can pick up half a knot of boat speed out of a tack doing a perfect roll tack rather than just tacking the boat.

“One of the biggest things with this boat is you can see the learning curve, with every race we do or every event we do, or even every time we go out and sail the boat, you are three or four boat lengths closer to being at the top of the fleet. And when you do something right on this boat you can really tell, it says ‘Yes! That’s how it should be done!’ and I think that’s really cool. There’s not many boats that respond just like that.”

Pierre Gudel, who races ‘Buzz’ in Switzerland, agrees: “We learn each time. It’s very responsive, and it’s good when you change something on the trimming, you can quickly see on the speedo what you’ve done.”

Nick Haigh adds: “We’ve been surprised by the ease at which it gets up to speed and up on the plane, and I think the responsiveness on the helm is impressive. The rudder and the balance of the boat are excellent.

“It’s a boat you’ve got to work really hard to keep it in the groove. Being so light it can be slowed down by waves, so you’ve got to perhaps be prepared to sail it a couple of degrees lower just to keep the pace on, especially when going to windward. And it is a very light boat – it’s 1.6 tonnes so you know it’s going to be responsive.”

Nick particularly enjoys the adjustability of the Farr 280. “It’s a complete team effort, briefing everybody as to what the technology does in terms of adjusting the mast height, the relationship that has on the shrouds, the D1s and D2s. Also the forestay, how the adjustment works on that, and being up to speed on the amazing jib alterations as well.

“All of that means that it’s a boat that really engages the crew, has really top quality involvement from all them – we’re sailing with a crew of six, and everybody has got something to do.”
Heel angle is also critical, and requires the whole crew to work together, as William Merkel comments:

“Weight placement is key, if the wind dies your crew has to get off that rail. That is the most critical thing, because of the hard chines. If it’s sitting flat with no heel, then you’re not going to move well upwind.”

But the 280 isn’t just for super-competitive teams. As Richard Rankin comments:
“The Farr will be fun to sail, full stop. Then there’s a lot to learn if you want to be competitive. I think that’s interesting, to have something you can get better at, but actually enjoy it anyway.”

First Off The Blocks
So will these ‘early adopters’ gain any advantage? Max Waimer, who is Technical Director of class builders Premier Composite Technologies and has been racing a 280 out of Dubai, says:

“There is no substitute for time on the boat. Every hour you are earlier on the boat and sailing, you have a definite benefit. The crew needs hours on this boat in order to really get up to speed, and then she is super, super fast. It makes a real difference.”
But experienced keelboat campaigner Shane Hughes says that the class is far from a closed book: “It is exciting because it represents a fresh start and the opportunity to begin another learning curve in a new class. Joe has always been on the forefront of new innovations like this, so it is nothing new for the ‘Red’ team to get involved with a project like the Farr 280 in its infancy.

“Probably in the short-term you are further along the learning curve than the newcomers, and figuring out the idiosyncrasies of the boat that bit earlier. But this depends on the time and resources put in, and new teams can catch up pretty quickly! Ultimately we want an exciting boat with good fleets to sail in, so we are certainly not looking for an advantage by being an early adopter.”

As each new team joins the fleet it will only raise the overall bar higher. Charleston Race Week an excellent example of this, as Drew Sullivan, the main trimmer on ‘Still Messin’’ explained: “Racing really tightened up as the week went on. Boat speed was definitely more even throughout the class by Sunday and that is a testament to the quality of sailors in the class, as well as the willingness of some people who have a lot more knowledge of sailing the 280 to share that with the rest of the class. Sunday really showcased the potential in the Farr 280 class for it to be not only extremely competitive but also fun for everyone.”

Brad Kauffman chartered ‘Mumbles’ (USA) for Charleston Race Week. He agrees that the fleet was very open to newcomers: “It was a very collaborative class and I was happy to see the first place boat helping the rest of the boats get up to speed with what they had learned."
Pushing the Speedo
One thing that all the new Farr 280 One Design owners have enjoyed is pushing their boat to discover ever increasing top speeds. “If you want excitement downwind that’s controllable and you just want to get out and hit the high speeds, then this is certainly one amazing, exciting, well-designed boat,” comments Nick Haigh.
“It puts a big grin on your face when in 21-22 knots of wind you’re hitting 18 knots downwind, and surfing off a wave and getting up there to those sort of speeds so easily. We raced at the Royal Southampton YC, and we had a six-mile downwind leg. It was like driving a Porsche 911 while everyone else was in a Ford Transit! We’re going down that reaching motorway at just unbelievable speeds in a 28-footer.”
Pierre Gudel also enjoyed sailing his 280 flat out. “We are in Grand Som, and had our ‘Cent Mille’, 100 nautical mile race. It got very windy, between 20 and 25 knots. We ran at a maximum speed of 19.98 knots! It was a lot of fun.”

Piero Paniccia intends to sail even further afield, and has chosen the offshore package on ‘AdriaticA’ (including longer stanchions, pulpit and stern rail). He explains, “That gives us the possibilities of racing on a long coastal race or short offshore race.”

Looking Forward
The Farr 280 One Design also has the effect of making owners a bit evangelical. Adam Esselman is enjoying his role as an ambassador for the fleet. “I think that it’s nice to be one of the originals. That’s how I feel about it. We’ve got Hull #1 and I want to be very vocal in the class, helping set up regattas and I think we really can make this class turn out to be successful, and I think it’s really moving that way.

“I invite anybody who’s interested in the boat to come sailing with us. Just get on the boat and try it, because I think the boat speaks for itself. We’ve had it out in all conditions, we’ve had to deal with 6 knots of current at Charleston, we’ve had it up in Annapolis in light airs. And in 8-plus knots of breeze that boat is scootin’ along. So I invite them to try it, and let the boat speak for itself. It’s amazing.”


For further information, please contact:
Joe Hall, Director, Activate Switch | +44 (0) 7774 138777
Activate Switch Limited are sales and marketing consultants to Premier Composite Technologies, Dubai and Farr Yacht Sales, USA.

Copyright © 2015 Activate Switch Limited, All rights reserved.

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