in 1986-87, Chesapeake Catamaran was searching throughout Europe
for production multihulls that might be marketable in the USA (something
other than the Prouts and Catalacs of the time). We settled on two,
the Fountain/Pajot cats from France, and the Dragonfly tri from
Denmark. We imported a sample of each and embarked on a concentrated
smaller trailerable Dragonfly tri was very well received. The product,
along with our aggressive marketing, produced 2 deposits before
the first boat ever arrived in the US! Subsequent exposure in the
fall and spring shows resulted in another 10 deposits for this design.
We had picked a winner! Regrettable the manufacture was totally
unable to supply those boats. His European orders had increased
dramatically, and he could not/did not physically expand his production
capacity to meet our needs, nor those of his other new importer
in Canada. I had predicted such a possibility during my original
talks with the manufacturer, but was assured that this was not a
problem should we receive orders. Nine months of negotiations still
resulted in no boats for our market, nor even a hope for any. Our
frustration and that of the Canadian gentleman grew exponentially.
half the deposits still on board, we set about the project to redesign
the boat for the North American market. We incorporated numerous
changes based on both our considerable past experiences with multihull
craft, Brian Eiland's previous sailing design studies, and very
importantly, the public's feedback responses. We had often encouraged
our manufactures to listen to their potential client, even
while they tried to sell them their product. A number of our modifications
in redesign were a direct result of listening to the public feedback
gained at the numerous boat show exhibits and demonstration sails:
We lengthened the main hull by a foot to provide more buoyancy
in the stern and cut some small drag experienced there; (the original
boat subsequently did the same).
We eliminated the transom-hung rudder and designed an entirely
new kick-up system to fit into a newly created slot in the stern
extension. This allowed the hull to act as an end plate for the
top of the rudder blade.
The amas were lengthened by 2.5 feet both to provide additional
buoyancy in their tails when hard on the wind, and to allow for
the aft crossbeam (aka) to be moved from bi-secting the cockpit,
to a new location at the aft bulkhead of the cockpit; (this cockpit
obstacle was one of the greatest concerns of potential buyers).
The aluminum crossbeams were changed from elliptical section tubes
that passed thru fiberglass openings in the main hull, to round
circular tubes where the AKA tubes would slide thru concentric
tubes bonded into the main hull. This produced a stronger structure,
and one that was less demanding of the owner in setting-up the
boat properly. An added bonus was realized when we were able to
hinge & hang the amas from the protracted extensions of the
main hull's receptacle tubes during trailering, and during set-up
and disassembly; (the original design required two people to detach
the amas entirely and place them on a rack for trailering
The mainsheet traveler was moved from bisecting the cockpit, to
a position atop the aft cockpit railing, and formed into a circular
track which follows the new loose-footed mainsail.
The rig was totally redesigned in form and function. The sailplan
area itself was increased in size and redistributed to balance
the new retractable centerboard arrangement. The mainsail was
a new shape, and its traditional boom at the bottom was eliminated.
Correspondingly the sheeting angle of the mainsheet had to be
correlated with the circular traveler track arrangement in combination
with the absence of the normal outhaul force provided by a boom.
Often overlooked was the correct rotation function of the rotating
mast. It is to be preferred that the mast rotate on its own into
full rotation, rather than having to be manually induced into
position. Then all that's necessary is a simple rotation limiter
that automatically stops and sets the mast at a preset rotation
limit upon tacking. This was all accomplished by careful attention
to 3 factors, separate, and in combination; a) the location of
the center of rotation chosen for the mast's cross-section (determined
by the design of the casting at the base of the mast), b) the
design of the hound fixture with respect to the separate attachments
of the shrouds and the forestay, and c) considerations given to
the fact that a boomless mainsheet arrangement acts to pull the
mast back out of rotation.
entirely new mast extrusion shape was selected along with a 2-ft
taller spar. This new shape was superior aerodynamically, as well
as lighter in weight for handling during trailerable rigging.
lower shroud attachment points were changed from a single location
at the ama deck lip to an upside-down ‘Y' arrangement with two
points of attachment at the outer ends of the AKA beams (spread
the load, and provided an athwartship mast stabilizer system during
the raising and lowering operation).
A kick-up, pivoting centerboard was designed to replace the original
daggerboard and trunk. It was unconventionally placed off the
true centerline of the boat, and incorporated in a rectangular
box that became a structural backbone of the boat. The off-center
location was chosen to limit damage to the leading edge of the
centerboard upon beaching & to keep gravel and sand out of
the trunk. Eliminating the huge daggerboard trunk really opened
up the relatively small interior of this boat.
were numerous other detail changes that were made, and a number
of others in the planing stages. Wherever possible we retained the
same looks of the original boat as it had always received admiring
compliments, and we had invested a lot of marketing time and money
already. We really felt that our new Firefly 26 had the potential
to become the J-24 of multihulls, particularly with an initial strong
marketing program through our 50+ beach catamaran dealers at the
time (ref our archive letter to those dealers). The F-27 trailerable
trimaran program was developing concurrently, and we felt their
massive print advertising campaign could only help us as well; plus!
we had a distribution/dealer program in place that they were not
considering at that time.
this was all not to be. Several financial hiccups and finally a
partnership disillusionment killed the project. We had built six
boats including the prototype. And they were all fun to sail!! A
couple of photos are included below. For additional drawings, photos,
etc., please visit the