Review: Fareast 28R sailboat

By: Kevin Green, Photography by: Kevin Green


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China is the sleeping giant of yachtbuilding but the Fareast 28R raceboat shows that it is waking up swiftly.

Racing in the China Cup over the years has given me an insight into what’s happening in this vast land, and the event even allows us to sail along its south coast, something yachts rarely do. Here we catch glimpses of huge power stations, industrial complexes and the miles of dock cranes that handle Shenzhen’s trade.

Marine development is part of this industrialisation but recreational boating is the emerging force that could explode when a fraction of a percentage of Chinese realise they are middle class and can enjoy their vast seaboard.

 

FAR EAST BOATS

Fareast 28R

Far East Boats is situated to the northeast of Shanghai. Founded in 2002 the company was licensed by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) to build Optimists for the Beijing Olympics. It is the world’s largest producer of these dinghies with an annual output of 1200 boats, some of which go to Australia (where the company is currently searching for a dealer). The range of Fareast boats has grown in number and size during the ensuing years so, apart from its dinghies and small catamarans, there are now the Fareast 26, 28R, 31R and the flagship Fareast 35.

The company’s first attempt at a one-design fleet was its 26 Cruiser which I skippered during a previous China Cup and found reasonable but lacking in several areas.

Moving forward, with the aid of global marketers the company has produced the European-designed Fareast 28R raceboat. It’s a yacht that can be used for competitive one-design racing yet is simple enough for sailing schools to train aspiring performance sailors or indeed for anyone to enjoy a blast on inshore waters with, so is a fairly good market proposition in my mind. It joins seasoned and proven competitors such as the J/109 and the elegant Sote 27 that are now showing signs of ageing.

 

DESIGN

Fareast 28R sailboats

"My brief was for the Fareast 28R sailboat was to create a modern high-speed racer that would be infusion-built and light enough to be trailerable," designer Maarten Voogd told me. Looking over the 29-foot hull the reverse angle bow, à la Volvo 65, is a signature feature and means it very much looks the part of a modern racer, something that should encourage teenagers to take it for a spin.

The trailerable aspect is achieved by a lifting keel that allows the lead T-bulb to slide up to the hull – and during the three races that I used the boat for, there were no shudders or lack of rigidity felt from it. The other foil is the transom-mounted rudder, an exact replica of the one used on the 26, which was oversized for that boat but felt totally fine on the 28R.

Also on the transom is a 3.5hp outboard motor which didn’t disturb us when racing but will be removed to a fixing on the mast compression post in the cabin – to centre the weight and clear the transom.

 

LAYOUT

Fareast 28R layout

Being a raceboat, the cockpit dominates the entire hull and does its job of housing a four or five-man racecrew well.

Rounded coamings along the gunwales and angled bulkheads at their base gives good ergonomics to the Fareast 28R’s cockpit. Other plusses include the wide mainsheet track which allows good control of the mainsail and the two-speed Harken primary winches that lie just ahead for the jib, with another winch on the cabin top for halyards

Other important control lines are for the retractable bowsprit and the backstay pulley system that tensions the tapered alloy Selden mast. Outboard wire shrouds on chainplates hold the rig up, plus twin backstays.

The first batch of these boats has been fitted with the company’s own Far East Dacron sails which may be changed for the final OD rules. Unusually the jib runs on a roller furler and creates quite a lot of windage and some performance limitations.

Elsewhere on the foredeck there’s a moulded toerail to keep the bowman aboard but the guardrails look a wee bit low and again this may change, I’m told. Kite hoists of the asymmetric go through the main hatch so no bow hatch is needed, which leaves the foredeck as unadorned GRP but with enough non-slip mouldings to give a grip, as I found when doing bow work during the race.

Cabins on this category of raceboat are not places to linger, unless you’re retrieving the spinnaker or unbolting the keel for retraction, so the 28R is no exception. But the space showed the extensive structure of the hull with bulkheads fore and aft plus a wide longitudinal stringer between. There were no rough edges found during my brief foray there, apart from a few exposed bolts that could snag the kite when hoisting. The deck/hull join is bolted and glued together and was built to conform to ISO standards.

 

RACING PERFORMANCE

Kevin Green on Fareast 28R

The best way to sea trial a raceboat like the Fareast 28R is of course to race it, so a full-on day ensued among the highly competitive fleet contesting the China Cup that comprised many international teams – Europeans, Americans and Asians.

For the narrow windward/leeward races a good start was crucial as overtaking opportunities were limited by the similar boatspeed throughout the fleet, which proved to be closely matched. In the light to medium pressure, creating enough shape in the rather inflexible Dacron sails was a challenge everyone faced so I played the outhaul, cunningham and vang plenty to tweak the mainsail.

On the rail the rounded toerail proved comfortable for serious hiking – which was essential to balance the 1200kg hull. Moving across the deck when tacking went without dramas but for roll tacks, the aforementioned guardrails were a wee bit low. At the top mark I prepared the kite which lay ready in the cabin then did the hoist, again without dramas, not really needing the Harken winch to lock its masthead halyard.

With speeds touching 9kts on the run the 28R matched and surpassed some of the other two similar designs – J/109 and Soto 27 – on the courses throughout the day.  But of course we had our own race fleet to contend with which is the whole point of one-design racing.

Fareast 28R boats racing

On the helm the Fareast 28R felt like a large sportsboat with good acceleration – despite the T-keel bulb which can be an impediment – and the mainsheet arrangement was comfortable for me to manage while steering. Seating was also comfy on the rounded coamings, while the moulded chocks supported my feet well. The large rudder gave lots of power through the tack but had to be used sparingly if oversteering was to be avoided. Moving across the cockpit between tacks also was done without worry.

For gybing the modest sailplan and high boom (perhaps a little bit too high) kept the spar well clear of the crew. The only real blemish, which cost us several places throughout the three races, was the inadequate tack line jammer cleat which lost traction continually. Changing its horizontal sheeting angle would probably give it sufficient purchase but I’d also suggest improving the running rigging to better quality non-stretch Dyneema or similar.

 

HIGHS

• Simple but functional design

• Nimble performance and handling

• Ergonomic cockpit for racecrew or training sailors

 

LOWS

• Tack line cleat angle wrong for  spinnaker

• Boom slightly too high

• Guardrails slightly low

 

FAREAST 28R SPECIFICATIONS

PRICED FROM

Fareast 28R price: $US38,000 ex-factory China

 

GENERAL

MATERIAL GRP

TYPE Keelboat

LENGTH 8.5m

BEAM 2.75m

DRAFT 1.73m

 

CAPACITIES

PEOPLE (DAY) 5+1

WEIGHT 1200kg

FUEL 5lt

 

ENGINE

MAKE/MODEL Tohatsu MFS3.5 outboard motor

TYPE Single-cylinder four-stroke outboard

RATED HP 3.5

 

SAILS

Upwind 44m²

Downwind 115m²

 

MORE INFORMATION

Sail One

29 Leighton Street

Grey Lynn, Auckland

Phone 0800 724 5663

Web sailone.co.nz

 

See the full version of this review in Trade-A-Boat #248, December 2014 / January 2015. Why not subscribe today?

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