This one is taking off: 17, 18, 19, and finally 20 knots are on the speedo, swooshing, bubbling, and ripping off sheets of spray. Upright, the Dragonfly 32 trimaran stampedes over the waves, leaving its own wake far behind, trailing three foamy contrails in the dark water of the Baltic Sea. At Force 6 with a reefed main and gennaker there’s no holding back.
In principle the speed is easy to unleash as long as the helmsperson bears off in the gusts, thus turning wind into velocity. If the pressure increases too much, it’s possible to stall a trimaran, for instance when holding course as it accelerates, which moves the apparent wind farther forward. The increased pressure creates strong weather helm and might cause the rudder to lose its grip.
There are two positive points in all this: First, the situation can be brought under control quickly by blowing the spinnaker sheet and turning the rudder straight to re-attach the laminar flow. Second, the amas have a ton of buoyancy. A lot would have to happen to make the boat capsize or pitchpole. Dragonfly company president and co-designer Jens Quorning says, “Yes, it’s a clear trend for us. We’re increasing buoyancy from model to model with more voluminous hulls, which increases safety."
The ride is already coming to an end. The gennaker is snuffed with a cone and a sock, and is eased directly into the ama. Cool -- the bulky sail is out of the way and doesn’t ooze dampness in the living quarters. And on it goes, close to the breeze, beating into the lousy summer of Northern Europe, which is rich in variety on this day because the size and frequency of the raindrops change as much as the strength and the direction of the wind.
Beating like a 60-foot monohull
Sailing to weather, the crew can choose between sailing as close to the breeze as a monohull or cracking off a bit and going really fast at 11 knots. That ’s a delight, because it helps cut down on tacking in oncoming traffic or narrow waterways, or to enjoy a good measure of speed when sailing upwind when there’s plenty of space. As fast as a tack is completed, it still feels slow because three hulls take their time to go through the breeze, and the delta between tacking speed and top speed is quite high. But the maneuver itself is simple to execute, and does not require backwinding the jib. As on most well-designed trimarans, there’s hardly any weather helm at all, but the boat still can be steered with enough feeling.
In the standard version the Dragonfly comes with tiller steering, which is sensible, given the size and the concept of the boat. The cockpit was designed with an optional wheel in mind, however. With thwarts that are only 1.24 meters long there is no abundance of space, even though the workstations are well thought-out. Traveler and mainsheet are within reach of the helmsman, the latter with a pulley-ratio of 1:4 as it is led to the winches on the cockpit coaming. Quorning chose Andersen stainless steel units that bring pleasure and work well. To see the telltales in the jib, the helmsman has to crane the neck quite a bit, though. For direct reach, the jib winches are a bit too far forward of the tiller.
The gennaker sheets are handled with the well-positioned halyard winches on the cabintop. For the reaching sail a retractable bowsprit with bob- and sidestays can be ordered, which is a useful investment for more speed and faster gybes. Alas, that’s an option, as is the smart 1:2 barberhauler system to move the jib leads outward on a reach, and the two pulleys that regulate the height of the vang-less boom.
Too hot, too fast? The boat is offered in two versions. The prototype was the so-called Supreme version, with a rig that’s 1.5 meters taller, with 14 square meters more upwind sail area, and Elvstrom-Empex membrane sails with Technora Black fibers and eight battens in the main. This performance upgrade adds 16,700 euros. The mast is an industrial carbon fiber tube that is finished by Quorning with two pairs of four stainless-steel diamond stays and low-stretch Dyform wires.
What a day. Up with the genny again, building pressure, carrying it to leeward, taking off, outrunning the waves. Then back upwind again. The voluminous amas are getting a good workout. And they don’t go down, quite literally. It doesn’t escape notice how dry the boat sails and how gently and harmoniously it moves through the waves -- a very pleasant sensation.
While the stress on the beams must be enormous, there’s hardly any creaking or cracking to be heard. This is quite remarkable, and builds trust. Like all other Dragonflies, this one is not built as one rigid structure, but with hulls that that can be retracted toward the main hull in less than two minutes with the help of a pulley, a winch, and an elaborate system of hinges, bolts, and safety wires. A benefit of the so-called Swing-Wing system is that the amas, which are slightly canted in when in sailing mode, are pushed down into the water slightly when folded. This adds to the beam of the waterline and results in more stability in port. In the folded state, the boat still requires a berth that is at least 3.70 meters wide, which also means that it is not trailerable behind a regular car or SUV.
The draft can be varied with the 35-kilogram centerboard. It has built-in buoyancy and floats up by itself once the downhaul is uncleated and there are no side loads on it.
|LOA, center hull||9.8 m|
|Beam, sailing/folded||8.0 m / 3.7 m|
|Draft, board up/down||0.5 m / 1.9 m|
|Weight, basic||3,100 kgs.|
The centerboard downhaul releases automatically under excessive load, as when hitting an obstacle, to prevent damage. And that makes the hinged centerboard a much better solution than a daggerboard, which might take up less space in the interior, but also would be prone to more damage in a collision. The stern-hung rudder is retractable and protected against damage from inadvertent grounding.
It nearly goes without saying that the auxiliary power has to be new, innovative, and at least somewhat different. In the standard version there is a 4-stroke 25-hp Tohatsu outboard with long shaft that’s mounted on a lift system. Another option is a 14-hp inboard engine by Yanmar, with Saildrive and folding prop. This option costs an extra 8,000 euros. On the test boat, however, there was an electric propulsion system by the Swedish manufacturer OZ marine, which was powered by 160-amp-hour lithium-ion batteries. The motor is tiny and light and should be quite silent, at least in theory. In realty the maximum noise level of 62 dB(A) in the cockpit was low, but the long drive shaft vibrated audibly and unpleasantly.
According to the yard there is enough power for six hours of operation at cruising speed. Cruising speed is defined as 4.5 knots, which isn’t a whole lot for trimaran sailors who are spoiled by speed. At full throttle the top speed jumps to 6.5 knots, but the fun is limited to only one hour. From this follows that the electric propulsion is mainly meant to be used for docking. Dragonfly trimarans all sail exceptionally well and fast in light air, as all our tests have shown thus far. Our findings were confirmed for the 32 by our colleagues from the Danish watersports publication Baadnyt.
Apropos of docking: With a lot of windage above the water and hardly any surface area below, the Dragonfly 32 needs a bow thruster. Quorning offers a retractable one by Max Power, including a separate battery, for 7,700 euros.
More folding action down below
Mr. Quorning seems to love hinges. He demonstrates the features of the interior of his latest creation: Unfold the table, latch the surface, remove a longitudinal strut, then fold it forward and backward (just as a camel lies down), add cushions, and voilå, there's a double berth in the saloon, narrow as it might be. Fold up a footstep and fold out some supporting boards, and your legs won’t have to dangle in space when you sit on the starboard settee.
At 1.90 meters, the berths in the saloon are fairly short. More space and better rest can be found forward and aft, where the width is better. The forward cabin, which is separated from the saloon by a sliding door, offers a queen size berth at 2.12 meters length and 1.67 meters wide at shoulder height. To port is the lavatory and shower compartment, which offers 1.88 meters of headroom. The saloon is even higher at 1.90 to 2.00 meters, and also offers plenty of storage space, even under the floorboards. A closer look at the hidden areas reveals a high standard of craftsmanship, both for wood and composite work. As an example of the attention to detail there are the wooden inserts that convert the sofas in the saloon to a double berth: The edges forward are protected and strengthened by aluminum profiles, and fold up on hinges. Very cool!
At the aft end of the saloon on both sides of the companionway are the galley and the nav station. The galley has a two-burner fixed gas stove, a large stainless-steel sink, a fridge, and an optional microwave. The nav station is a stand-up desk with an area of 59 x 120 centimeters.
Unlocking and pushing aside the companionway steps opens the passage to the aft cabin under the cockpit. One has to crawl in, and the space is quite low, but the berth measures 2.00 meters by 1.66 at shoulder height. So there are six berths on a Dragonfly 32, but that’s rather theoretical, first because the saloon berths are rather small, second because the available storage space would not suffice for all the passengers, and third because the cockpit might get too cramped for a longer trip with six, especially in poor weather. On the credit side are the large trampoline areas, which add to the living space in warmer climes. An inflatable dinghy would be easy to store there as well.
By and large the interior is pleasant, airy, and clean, matching the borderline futuristic exterior of this boat. The standard veneer is light maple, but yacht teak is available as an option. Locker doors and shutters with wooden strips have a metallic finish, and Plexiglas is used here and there. Each separate space can be aired out with an opening port. LEDs are used for direct and indirect lighting.
The Dragonfly 32 is super fast, easy to handle even by a small crew, and also flexible, with a variable draft suitable for beaching or for dry-sailing in tidal waters. That’s all cool... if it weren't for the cost: 261,700 euros is the base price of the Supreme model, while the touring version still commands 245,000 euros. That’s the equivalent of four Bavarias of the same size!
On the other side, if the ratio is euro per knot of boat speed, the Dragonfly emerges as the clear winner. A monohull of similar speed potential costs a million at least, and would saddle the owner with higher costs for maintenance and operation. Seen in this light, the Dragonfly 32 might just be the fastest inhabitable boat for the money.
Then there’s the question about competition from other trimarans. In the same size ranger there’s only the Corsair 31, which is smaller, offers less space, and does not have the high-end finish -- but costs considerably less. New is the TNT 34 from Poland, which has aspirations that would put it between the Corsair and the Dragonfly.
Is sailing a trimaran that different and difficult? What about the possibility of capsizing a trimaran? Well, sailing on three hulls mainly is saddled with prejudice. To counter that, the builder offers a simple solution: Since last summer the Quorning yard offers a Dragonfly 28 for weekly charters in Skaerbaek near Federicia, Denmark. Included is a tutorial under sail that lasts for several hours. It certainly seems the best method to approach this exciting genre.
See the YouTube video below for a view of the Dragonfly 32 under sail. For more information, visit Dragonfly.
This story originally appeared in YACHT magazine, and is republished here by permission. Translated by Dieter Loibner.