SailNet's roving race correspondent Zack Leonard visited the Florida panhandle to compete in this annual gathering of trailerable trimarans.
Blasting off on a reach, the F-31 offers adrenaline-pumping speed for the racer and modest amenities for the cruiser.
Corsair sailors have a favorite function on their handheld GPS devices. It's called Max Speed. Max Speed logs of your top speed over the course of a GPS session. If you leave a handheld GPS switched on while you're out racing one of these Ian Farrier-designed trimarans, you are sure to see some mindboggling numbers on the Max Speed display at the end of the day.
This was the case for many of the 43 racing and 20 cruising entries at this year's Corsair Nationals, an annual gathering of trailerable multihulls. Corsair Marine builds three Farrier designed trimarans—the F-24, F-28, and F-31—each a variation on the theme that Corsair and Farrier have been refining for some 17 years. The boats are lightweight, super-high-performance multihulls intended for short-distance cruising and high-speed racing. Each of these boats, which fold up for trailering, enables owners to do exploratory camper-cruising while logging serious miles in a given day. While cruising, an F-31 sailor can expect to average 12-14 knots in moderate to strong breezes, adding up to an easy 100 miles a day.
Because the boats are fast and responsive, racing is a natural activity. Hence the owner-run class association has active one-design racing in most regions of the country, and many owners compete in open-class multihull events both inshore and offshore. These boats are regulars in coastal distance races like the Race Rock in New England or the Ft. Lauderdale to Key West Race, often breaking course records in gaudy fashion.
Zephyrus, the god of the west wind, doesn't always deliver and that's when it pays to have a close-reaching, asymmetrical spinnaker.
Ft. Walton Beach's Choctawatchee Bay in the state's panhandle region was a first-time venue for the Corsair Nationals this spring, and the organizers produced an airtight event that left competitors awed by the boats and ready for another exciting season of racing and cruising.
This year the regatta brought together racers and cruisers from around the nation. Broken into five racing divisions, the small boats started Race One first with the bigger boats following at five-minute intervals. The first day called for an 11-mile distance race from Ft. Walton Beach to a park on the beach in neighboring Niceville. As the boats headed for the beach after the finish, the sailors tied their bows to trees and threw out stern anchors while volunteers dished out burgers and hot dogs. The beach-cat roots of many of the racers became evident as they calmly guided the big tris to the beach like Hobie 16s.
The trailerable trimarans at rest between races.
Peeling back the layers, it becomes clear that the trailerable trimaran crowd is composed of two distinct groups: beach-cat sailors who have traded up to a platform that can double as a family cruiser, and liberal-minded monohull sailors who left their lead mines behind, opting for a beachable rig that allows them access to the beautiful nooks that they previously couldn't reach with deep keels.
Race One was a light-air affair and Bob Gleason's F-31 from Wareham, MA, took line honors in the building, southwesterly breeze. By early afternoon, the breeze had come in strong and the fleet started the inverse course back to Ft. Walton Beach in a steady 20 knots with higher gusts. Recovering from a Race-One foul that left the port ama aboard his F-25C six inches shorter, Lyman White showed some impressive heavy air technique and captured class honors for the afternoon. On board Gleason's F-31, the GPS topped out at 21 knots for the first two miles of tight reaching.
Day Two dawned breezy and cool. The committee took advantage of the good winds and orchestrated three races with short, windward-leeward courses. These sprints featured non-stop action as the boats flew around the course, making almost 16 knots upwind and hitting speeds in the low 20s downwind. On board, it seemed as if it was time to jibe as soon as the huge asymmetricals were up, and time to douse just as the jibes were completed. Aerobic racing like this left the four-person crews spent yet satisfied.
Getting underway in the distance race, the fleet of F-31s show their square-top mainsails.
The fleet awoke on Sunday feeling battered and bruised from the previous day. More than one competitor felt the creek of seldom used muscles. The weather offered a respite from the previous day's intensity as a light, shifty easterly allowed the committee to run a short race, which jumbled the results in many classes. After a brief wait, the sea breeze arrived and the final race was conducted in a perfectly acceptable 10 knots. Among the F-31 group, a final match race erupted during the pre-start with Doug Harkride tailing Gleason. The big tris chased each other in circles and then accelerated away to start at 12 knots, mimicking America's Cup performance at a microscopic fraction of the cost.
After the racing, the boats hit the beach and began packing up to head back to their respective homeports. A singular advantage of the Corsairs came clearly into focus as most of the boats were road-ready less than an hour after dropping their sails. With the ease of a pullout couch, the boats were folded up and loaded onto their trailers.
At the ensuing party, cold beers flowed as the racers exchanged tales of acceleration and spray. Off in a corner, two competitors huddled over their handheld GPS units discussing the moment they hit the magical Max Speed numbers that were still glowing on the displays. Next year, say organizers, the 2001 Corsair Nationals will be an even bigger affair. And if fun is any indicator for future growth, these guys have truth on their side.
Corsair Nationals Overall Results
|1. ||Mike Parsons, Kim Porter, & Ed Saleem, Mk II |
|2. ||Peter Clay, Lee Gove,& Jerry Mastny, Mk I |
|3. ||Bruce Osborne & Gilles Fumat, Mk II |
|1. ||Randy & Paula Smyth, Josh Adams, & Torbjorn Linderson |
|2. ||Lyman White, Bob Hodges, Aaron Keriloff, & Tommy Harris |
|3. ||Jay Spalding, Irene Gonin, baby Lisa, Mike Guthrie, & Pam Guthrie |
|1. ||Mark Milam, Tammy Milam, Sara Milam, Doug Stein, & Peggy Langenbeck |
|2. ||Frank Hankins, Larry Shaw, Rick Scarborough, & Bruce Kuerten |
|3. ||Phil Wadsworth, Bruce Carter, Kathy Clark, & Norm Hansen |
|1. ||Bryan Haynes, Keith Bliss, Ian Loffhagen, & Rob Gutteridge |
|2. ||Lou Young, Doug Young, Mike Fahle, & Steve Spitler |
|3. ||Ron Roth, Jan Roth, Bruce Warthen, & Steve McLaughlin |
|1. ||Bob Gleason, Ira Heller, & crew |
|2. ||Doug & Deborah Harkrider, Don Wigston, Rick Zern, Jeff Zern, & Anita Page |
|3. ||Bob Harkrider, Bob Curry, Dave Peckham, Sharon Harkrider, & crew. |
|1. ||Jim Frederick, Debbie Shaefer, Jack Stringfellow, Trevor Capps,& Kim Smith (F-28) |
|2. ||John Green, ML Hawling, & Niels Wade (F-28) |
|3. ||John Pavel & Crew (F28) |