A week or so ago Dick Lemke asked for an opinion of my F3 Foiler Trimaran kit that I purchased from Doug Lord’s microSAIL. Having been away from a computer lately, this is first chance to reply. I could probably write a small book about my impressions and experiences with this boat, but maybe Dick and any others interested might make do with this collection of comments listed below.
The F3 is expensive, yes. But, you are getting a lot of boat. The shipping crate is about big as a typical coffin and takes two guys to carry it in off the truck. The kit parts and pieces spread out on the floor could fill a small room. Much later, once you have put it all together, you have a boat with a seven-foot beam and that stands as tall as you do.
All hulls, spars and like parts are Carbon Fiber or something like it. No wood, FG or anything easy-to-work-with is involved. A large and impressive package of hardware is included with the kit.
The instruction “book” Doug provides is a production it itself. I reminded myself that Doug insisted that only if I think of myself as an expert builder, should I tackle assembly of an F3. Considering myself a “junior” expert builder and having in the past myself put together a booklet of instructions on how to assemble a S/B O-D, I was able to follow along with what Doug had provided as instructions. There are over thirty pages typewritten and having a bunch of illustrations. A couple large folded-up drawings are included. Sure, the instructions are not all final and polished-up; but they are what you might expect with the first of a limited quantity production item. It’s obvious that Doug, like myself, did not spend any too much time taking classes in art or drawing. Throughout the F3’s construction Doug or I would talk on the phone. He was always available with good advice and always friendly about everything.
Absolutely critical to the proper assembly of an F3 are three jigs you need to put together that will insure things that need to lineup do lineup. One jig is there to hold the main hull perfectly upright and on its waterline. This is done by the jig securely “clamping” the very bow and very stern. Another jig consists of a board six foot long having four holes in it that is used in the assembly of the trimaran’s crossarm. The third jig is one that is used to attach the foils to the fins perfectly inline, perfectly perpendicular, and at a perfect two-and-one-half degrees of up angle. Anybody who can make these jigs without having access to a table-saw, drill-press, bench disc-sander and table scroll-saw deserves the rank of “Senior-Expert” Kit Builder!
The table scroll-saw, the bench disc-sander, a Dremel tool with carbide cutting wheels, breathing mask and eye protection are needed when shaping the many CF parts and pieces. Care and patience are also necessary. Only West System epoxies are strong and compatible enough to be used for filling hull seams and attaching parts.
The most memorable and exacting moments in F3 kit-building occur when it’s time to position the three hulls to the crossbar. Something really flat and level, like a pool table, will do! In addition you need a carpenter’s right-angle (a big one), a bubble-level and a tape-measure. Simultaneously you need to lineup three hulls on their waterlines (The two amas have a design waterline that differs from the main hull.); lineup perfectly parallel the three hulls fore-and-aft (One degree off and forgetaboatit!); and then you need lineup the fins, foils and rudder the way they’re supposed to be lined-up. Nothing to it. I advise using little dabs of five-minute epoxy to tack things together. I advise ignoring the boat for a day while temporarily tacked together, because the next day, and the next day you will wind up picking away the dabs and trying again and trying again. This whole business is a real exercise in three dimensions! Keep in mind that if any component is off a degree or two, this thing does not work. Making corrections after parts are secured with serious, reinforced epoxy ain’t easy.
When it comes to sailing the F3, the way I see it, special conditions are required. First item is to have available is a crash boat. The F3 is a multihull. Multihulls do not have a keel. Multihulls have been known to turn turtle. An upside-down multihull with its rudder in the air waving to the crowd comes to a grinding halt way offshore when its mast tip gets into water less than six or seven feet deep. Another consideration I have is that the F3 needs to be sailed from a beach. Sure, the F3 can be launched from a dock or hard wall if you are real careful with the fragile, protruding foils. But, stopping and retrieving the F3 is another story! Visualize yourself belly down on a dock that’s covered with goosecrap while you have one hand grabbing on to a boat having the beam the same as a Cadillac. How do you get back up? Another consideration, and Doug alluded to it recently, is that the F3 is a non-performer in light wind. Yes, agreed. Three hulls, three foils, three fins and two flap-actuating wands are a bunch of drag. By towing my F3 behind a motorized peopleboat and having a speed indicating GPS on board I discovered that the F3 needs to be going at five MPH in order to get up on the foils. And, Wow! When up on foils, no more drag – It scoots right along. In other words: A nice, steady ten to fifteen knots of wind make for F3 sailing conditions. On only a few occasions have I been successful getting together with the right conditions of rescue boat, launching site and wind. It is fun gybing from reach to reach and trying to hold it up on foils by trimming sail or bearing off. Noway can I get it to stay up on foils when close on the wind. My tacking is up to about a maybe forty-percent of the time success rate – Going head to wind plus all that drag, what would you expect?
One more thing… A couple/few times in past years, when out sailing a R/C boat, I’ve been approached by a well-intended former peopleboat sailor that would tell me that he would like to get one of our boats and use it to teach the grandkid how to sail. He would then tell me that his handyman son-in-law, who can get in eighteen holes of golf on the same day he painted the dining room, should have no problem putting a kit together. When this happens I usually refer him to a RC Laser or a local used boat up for sail. Or, maybe I might be tempted next time this happens to refer him to microSAIL. <grin>
For those who might want a CD-R chock full of photos showing my F3’s construction, here’s what we will do… Send me via real mailmail one of those plastic CD jewel-box cases and a self-addressed return envelope having the right amount of postage stamps in place. When at home, or if out of town and when I get back home, I will make a copy of the photo CD and send it to you. The address: 207 Briarwood Pass, Oak Brook, IL 60523