February 15, 1947-December 8, 2017
Ian Farrier stands proudly with his most successful production boat, the F27.
By now the electronic and print media have published a number of eulogies of the life of Ian Farrier and his accomplishments, I would like to share here a version of the notes from my address at his funeral in Christchurch, New Zealand.
My first association with Ian was as a pimply teenager in Hawthorne, Brisbane 1973. A couple of kiwis had moved into a house over 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 labouring 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 sceptical 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.
I was hooked.
I could not wait to tell my dad when he came home. He listened patiently to my jabbering and then ordered me not to cross the road again and to stay away from the crazy guy.
I was obedient of course, but carefully followed the progress of the boats that I now know as the Trailertri 18 and then TT 680 were completed.
The factory staff knew how to honour the boss with F22 #16 rigged in the grounds of the funeral home.
In subsequent years I can remember sailing in events like the Sandgate Winter Series that allowed these new trailer sailers on the course for a bit of a laugh until the ugly butterflies were sorted out and unfolded their wings in a decent breeze to annihilate all of the latest monohull designs that had no accommodation, and even less safety built in.
Fast forward to the late 80’s, and a mate who had bought one of the first Tramps asked me to do an overnight Bribie Cup race with him. I though this would be a bit silly with no down below for a dry sleep, but packed a wetsuit and a couple of beers in my bag for the most amazing and comfortable weekend, sleeping under the extended bimini like a baby. The race home in a typical 20+kt westerly is etched in my mind. We busted the analogue speedo with the surges of speed as we passed so many big boats crewed by rockstars with their jaws open in disgust (the key motivation for all of our fraternity now). I came home to my wife that night and said we are getting one, even if I have to take a second job. Thankfully she agreed a few years later and like most of our partners was taken in by the level and safe sailing that the genius of Ian Farrier had designed for all of us.
It was fitting then that the first boat I could afford in a partnership was a ply TT720 (Fly renamed Try Flying) just like the Hawthorne caravan of the 70’s, but with an unhealthy dose of wood rot. Of course, like the rest of the Farrier fraternity I emailed and phoned Ian many times to validate the purchase, and then he generously remotely guided the rebuild of the boat that helped my wife and our two daughters form a great cruising crew on the winches for the five Farrier boats we owned in total.
Like all members of the fraternity I was always looking at the other designs, and soon after bought one of the Ostac built F24 Mk II boats (by Ian at Northgate, Brisbane) that had been modified in a negative way by the previous owner. As always, Ian guided me to get that boat (Side FX2) to her original state. I named her InTRIgue, the name of my dinghy from around the time that I first met Ian, with the spooky TRI already in the middle of the name. She was sold a few years later to a kiwi based in Dampier, WA, then coincidentally has made her way across the ditch to New Plymouth NZ.
Next up for a bit of cruising comfort was the hugely successful F27 #33 which I imported from Long Beach California. Ian found all the original documentation for me of Try to Fly and verified that it was one of the good boats from his time in the factory. We renamed her IntrIIgue, and had plenty of great cruising and racing success before passing her on to a young guy in Gladstone. I then became an employee as well as a friend in the F22 programme.
Few would argue that the F22 design was Ian again taking every aspect of a trailable boat and simply making it the best it could be. We now know that the design is wickedly fast, but before Ian would allow full production he designed a composite trailer from scratch that could be stored unassembled in a shipping container and built at the destination with a couple of spanners. He would never stand for what used to be if there was a way to improve it. He always wanted the improvements to be cheap so he also designed a carbon mast that could be assembled in the factory and shipped in kit form if necessary. The amenities inside the boat that have only recently hit full production can only be described as wizardry for the space in a little boat. Few of us probably realise that Ian’s brilliance in boat design has resulted from not just his academic and maritime studies, but also from his passion for fast and clever cars and aeroplanes.
I was fortunate to get the first F22R Boom! for testing in Australia. We called it Boom! because of the effect we knew it would have on the world and also mischievously because it featured another of his nuances, a rig with no conventional boom. This became a boat that I would always take a long time to rig or launch because I was always getting disturbed by curious crowds of wannabe owners.
Ian asked me to thrash this boat as hard as I could to find any bugs so that full production would be as perfect as possible. It was not long after that I broke the first two carbon masts in strong winds and I still remember the phone calls I sheepishly made. He was quite unemotional and just said “That’s a shame, we’ll have to get you one sorted out fast for the rest of that series.” When I apologised for that and subsequent destruction he said “I wanted you to break stuff and you are very good at it.” When I busted stuff that actually was my fault he was still fine, saying that it was all part of the process, that the boat “Has to be idiot proof, especially in the hands of ham-fisted Aussies”.
It is no secret that the order book of 100 boats is still full, and you do not have to go far to find very pleased owners with the latest and greatest Farrier boat. I was hoping that on one of Ian’s regular visits to Australia I could get him sailing for a day and spend more quality time with him. He came out on Boom for 20 minutes, enough time to analyse some improvements that needed to be made back at the factory. Once that data was collected he said “Okay, back in to the dock please.”
When I sold that boat to the next needy owner in Brisbane, it was probably the first time my race crew were seriously grumpy with me.
As an aside I now have Trinity, an F28R #14 that Ian was again able to confirm to be one of the best made in the Chula Vista factory while he was in charge. It is a typical Farrier boat that after 20 years shows no sign of age. I think Ian would have enjoyed hearing my newby cousin’s comment when we did a casual race last week, “Why are the big leaning boats so much slower? I really like lying out on these nets when we go past them!”
It is certainly a testament to Ian that three of the boats he helped me restore to his original specifications each won national championships.
Ian was a great mate, a brilliant guy, and he was simply driven by the need to make things perfect.
The good news is that because of what Ian did, he gets to keep on giving.