One of our re-born features is our Design 101 series, brought to you this year by the boys at Farr Yacht Sales. Today Farr President Pat Shaughnessy breaks down the thoughts and processes behind the new Farr 280. Yes this is promotional, but the amount of effort that they are putting into the boat is fascinating. 

An idea
farr 280 gotEverything starts as an idea, and the Farr 280 One Design was bred over quite a few years of discussions with owners and sailors of Farr 30s in particular. While everyone agrees the Farr 30 is a great boat, they also long for more modern features. They see things in magazines that they want to have, and while we’ve talked about how to add this or that to the existing boats, there is no real substitute for a well-designed, well-built, cohesive product.

So we set out to produce the modern equivalent of a Farr 30, and with several keys that we felt were very important. Finding the right combination of performance/cost/features to ensure that this would be a well-balanced and enjoyable boat like the Farr 30, but also one that was priced to achieve success and contained the features that would set it apart and make sure it would remain relevant for a long time to come.

The goal for this particular document is to show how far design extends into product development, and also how much more is required from designers in a modern project. For sure we are working in a time that demands more from design. Each component demands careful thought and execution. This particular project, though, is a good example of what needs to happen beyond the typical areas of design in order to really control a project, and to create something exceptional. In the following discussion we will step through the design stages that we use internally; stage 1: design brief, stage 2: conceptual development, stage 3: preliminary design, and stage 4: final design.

A sketch

farr 280 sketchIn the beginning of any project we start to sketch around a bit to see what the initial idea looks like. Although it seems a little retro we still start things here at Farr Yacht Design with a sketch because it appropriately captures the amount of effort at the beginning of a project. As our design loops progress, detail gets added appropriately and the tools used for development add complication as they are required for the deliverables of that design stage. Most of all, sketching is fun.

The initial sketches are usually more than adequate to illustrate the complication of spatial relationships and the interplay of different conceptual choices. You can see in this initial sketch that we are considering a lifting keel, and matching rudder. We’re trying to settle on an initial deck geometry that will work in both versions so that we can progress with a development platform that feeds both paths.

Market research. Is it positioned right?

As designers we often start our product research in a very technical way, by canvasing the competitors and tabling the relevant data into a viewable platform like this:

farr 280 graphWe use this information to position our boat relative to other market offerings. In a numbers sense we can see separation with other boats, and see where our concept should find advantages. If we switch to our marketing hat, we need to stop thinking as just designers and think about what the market gaps look like. We use another tool like this one that just helps us visualize the space where we need the product to fit:

Inside a given market gap we try to look for an advantaged space that will give our concept the best chance for success. In this case, we realize that there a number of relatively high performance existing/used boats in the market that offer very good performance for their cost (e.g. the Farr 30).

To combat that we’ve pushed our overall boat size as small as possible in order to reduce cost. That can be done within reason as long as the new boat maintains a performance advantage that makes it worth buying. Of course it is completely possible to make bigger faster boats, but within reason. One has to find the right amount of performance to encourage potential buyers out of their existing boats, and at a cost that they can afford to spend. The side benefit of a smaller boat becomes scalable costs like reduced crew numbers which ultimately works in everyone’s favor if your sizing allows a step.

An investment group

In this case, we’ve pursued an investment group structure to fund the project as a whole, up until a point where the project can stand on its own. We estimate costs to fund several of the key areas, like; the design and engineering, the tooling, the spar design, the legal fees associated with the LLC, a marketing plan to support the project until it can be sustainably funded by boat sales, the construction of boat one, and an operations budget for boat number one through its debut regatta.

In this particular case a number of us internally could see the goodness in the project, and a fair portion of the investment group has been contributed to by employees of Farr Yacht Design, and Farr Yacht Sales. The remaining investors are ones we would classify as “friends of the program.”

Overall the investment is relatively minor and with a good potential for return across an initial portion of the production which should occur in the first year. The production lifespan itself has been modeled on that of the Farr 30’s, with a scaling down to a level of approximately 55 percent to account for the relatively slow economic environment.

A conceptual design

farr 280 keel 1During the second stage of the design work, several key conceptual features are explored in an effort to accurately describe their cost, performance and desirability. Inevitably there are very few of these decisions which are easy and straight forward individual choices. A particular choice like that of a lifting versus fixed keel arrangement needs a fair amount of development to correctly understand the weight, performance, and cost of each arrangement.

Even with the technical tradeoffs in clear description, several other components need to be considered. For example, crane hoist arrangements in specific launching venues, warranty claim rates for each arrangement, trailering preferences, etc. In the end each of the choices requires a very detailed understanding and, even then, can be very subjective choices. In this example you can see the detail that some of these choices are modeled to before a decision is made:

 A rule, and a class that establishes control from the beginning

Almost all of our work has been predicated on establishing the best One Design that has ever been created. We have an incredible history of One Design class development on the design side, and the recent experience of the Volvo Ocean 65 to draw upon in determining how to accomplish this. One unavoidable point is that the rule and class development need to be a cohesive part of the design process from the very beginning.

Every component needs tight geometric controls that can only come from milled tooling. Hand built, inexpensive tooling just cannot do the job these days for a true One Design product. The construction of each part then needs to be done from kit cut components and infused lamination. Each part needs specific controls with a pre-determined target weight and allowances down to the gram.

farr 280 detailThis seemingly mundane part is a cockpit bin infill. It’s removable to provide access to the inboard engine in case of future service needs. It contains the fuel fill, and separate storage areas for both flat items, and taller things that want to stay cold (like, say, beer bottles). This part comes from precision milled tooling. It has a target weight of 4.53kg and has predetermined tolerances that will require some parts to be rejected.

No component is too small to achieve top level detail, but also top level One Design control. All of that has to be an integral part of the design process from day one. It cannot be a control afterthought, and it can’t come from poorly controlled tooling or build processes.

The Farr 280 One Design Class has been established with initial control within Farr Yacht Sales, and with a predetermined hand over point when we achieve an ownership group which can then self-sustain the class’s needs. While it seems relatively trivial, the owners need to know that they can step directly into a pre-formed organization that has considered and planned for the things they will need going forward. Until that hand over point is reached, several of us here need to wear One Design Class hats. Between design, sales, marketing, and class development work, we are accustomed to wearing several different hats, and having some really challenging discussions.

A preliminary design

The preliminary design loop bridges the gap between the conceptual decisions and the final design work. With the key conceptual design decisions made, we move towards a complete package along with all the complexity that comes with the big tools. Our hull shapes and appendages are the product of extensive research utilizing a range of proprietary tools to produce the most hydrodynamically efficient solutions. The hull shapes utilize a sophisticated and highly resolved surface description that allows a high level of control in developing both the heeled and upright shape. These are analyzed using our in-house computational tools that include a proprietary high order panel method and state-of-the-art high fidelity simulations capable of capturing the details of the flow around the hull and appendages at high speeds and in waves.

Our appendage designs utilize extremely complex geometric modeling that allow the hydrodynamic and structural designs to be developed simultaneously ensuring designs are produced that are both hydrodynamically efficient and structurally optimized. Foil sections are developed in house utilizing computational analysis and tailored specifically to the yachts characteristics and performance envelope. We utilize a proprietary performance prediction program that is continually refined and advanced so as to accurately capture the performance differences between candidate designs. It also allows for efficient optimization of design characteristics to produce optimized designs that are fast and that handle well in even extreme conditions.

The powerful combination of Southern Spars, and North Sails Design Services has given us unparalleled access into the design of our complete aero package and the ideal partners for developing a new product. The preliminary design work in the aero package has focused on finding excellent cost/performance choices for the rig, and on a sail wardrobe that suits the needs of the boat and manages cost aggressively.

A trailering plan was developed in this stage to consider how a fixed keel boat can be transported easily. In this case we’ve focused on a fixed keel for performance and cost reasons, but with the recognition that trailering the boat in a low configuration may be an important consideration for some buyers. The keel is quickly removed from the boat and can be carried on the trailer, flat beneath the boat, in order to facilitate the low trailering mode. The same trailer can then be reconfigured in a high mode for storage, or for the owner who prefers to trailer high.

farr 280 tillerThe modeling and engineering work is resolved to final detail level in order to feed two important directions of future work. The first is a detailed quoting package that is both fairly indicative of the final level of detail, and second, is a detailed weight calculation that can be used for the final geometry development. All vital components run through several FEA (Finite Element Analysis) loops to ensure that we have the correct geometry and engineering planned for the final work. The following is an example of FEA work done on the tiller:

We also use the stage 3 preliminary geometry to develop promotional rendering work. This work was outsourced to our friend and fellow Naval Architect, Paul Fuchs, whose renderings were then used in our initial brochure for the boat’s Annapolis boat show premiere in 2013. The renderings themselves have presumably been seen by the audience here, so I’ll skip that.

That initial promotional work also necessitated a logo to be developed for the boat, which by itself needed to consider several applications like dark backgrounds, light backgrounds, and stationary. It also gets used in all sorts of fun places like this:

Quoting and selecting suppliers

Our comprehensive package of 3D models, drawings, hardware load sheets, material quantities, etc. was sent to a group of nearly 40 select suppliers in order to determine the best combination of boat builder, rig supplier and hardware suppliers. Those choices balance availability, cost, delivery options and quality. Together our team of partners and suppliers represent the top tier of our industry, and formed the correct group for this project, but the choices aren’t always cut and dry and require a lot of analysis to make sure that apples are compared with apples. Our investment group strategy relied on having a fixed boat cost across the initial production so an enormous effort went into the quoting and refinement process.

Final design

Everything that was completed in the stage 3 preliminary was ultimately redone in the final design work but within a final package of geometry in reaction to the development work, and weight calculations. The total package of final design information represents over 200 deliverables as we describe each component with 3D models, drawings, weight calculations, material cut files, etc. The total deliverables are then completed here in a traditional design sense and represent a little over 4000 hours of design time which is roughly 2 man years of work.

Promotional work

The promotional work for a project like this is never ending, and almost all of it requires some sort of designer level input. We have evolving versions of the; brochure, pricelist, designer comments, advertising, flags and banners. We have photo shoots, and magazine articles, and interviews, and silly things like stickers and bottle openers. We have a Facebook page, and a Twitter feed, and a website, and the list goes on. It never ends.

We’ve had to take a very conservative initial marketing approach in order to keep some of the really great things about the Farr 280 from being copied in competitive products. Now that it’s too late to replicate those design features, we can show some of them off while building excitement for the boat’s debut.


Farr Yacht Sales is set up to sell FYD produced work as well as broker existing boats of any design. While buyers can purchase directly from FYS we’ve also worked to create commission structures such that other brokers can find a level that suits them to sell the 280 as well. This way we can handle sales and support internally, with external agencies, or in several levels of shared sale and support.


farr 280 designOur immediate focus is on preparations for Charleston Race Week. It’s a key point of our total project plan to have a successful debut regatta. When boat one arrives in the US we know that we will have a good amount of work to do before we are ready to race. That initial work will be done here in Annapolis where we can devote full time effort for several weeks before the boat will have to head South. When the boat is in Charleston we will have a good crew onboard to make the most of our time on the water, and we’ll also have a support boat there so that we can hopefully continue to collect good photographs of the boat sailing.

After Charleston, boat one will return to Annapolis and complete a summer of sailing here. Our focus will shift to support the debut regatta of boat two in Italy, and the same for the following boats as we work to impress at their local debuts.

As the debut work becomes a bit more defined and scripted we will turn our focus to complete the definition of the class racing rules. We have a few special things in mind to make this a strong class with the right kind of focus. Those ideas need plenty of work to realize, but they will be one of our biggest focuses going forward. We will have designed and built a boat that was more than just another average boat, and we will move towards making a class experience that continues that logic.