FRIENDSHIP SURFARI 53: Marrying sail and power

With a mix of sailing yacht and motor boat characteristics and an emphasis on outdoor living, this new design from Ted Fontaine aims to create a 'new genre of yachting'

Performance motorsailer


I first saw a Friendship 40 at the Annapolis Sailboat Show back in 2008 and was utterly smitten. Ted Fontaine has developed a charmed method of producing elegant sailing luxury, having worked under Ted Hood for 20 years before forming the Fontaine Design Group in 2002. Despite a US$1m asking price, 20 of these daysailer extraordinaires have now been sold.

So when I first set eyes on this atypical new Surfari design – a goodly stride away from the timeless Friendship 40 – it was in the knowledge that her creator has a master plan for her. Indeed, after carrying out detailed market research, Fontaine concluded that the midsize quality yacht market had become somewhat staid, with nothing ‘transformational’ and most yards were catering to the same demographic.

With this Surfari 53, therefore, he aims to create ‘a new genre of yachting.’ Fontaine sees his striking new design appealing to experienced performance yacht owners who no longer want to race with full crews, and he is trying to capture an audience that has tended to migrate to power, or ‘picnic boats’, for speed and comfort.

The appeal of the Surfari is in her mix of performance in sail and power, allowing her to reach remote places comfortably and quickly, and provide owners and their families with a platform for social activities.

It places a large emphasis on outdoor living, providing a base for activities such as diving, surfing, paddleboarding – with designed stowage for the latter – while promising to be as practical as possible.

The single-level format is bound to be a hit, with one level from swim platform through the huge protected cockpit (or ‘sports deck’ as Fontaine calls it) into the deck saloon – something like the Beneteau Sense, albeit on a lighter, faster more luxurious scale.

All that glass will ensure a very light interior, with an indoor-outdoor feel as the side windows and companionway bulkhead slide open, motor boat-style.  This should create a vibrant saloon and open plan galley.

There’s also an internal helm station with full views. Three steps lead down to the accommodation further forward in two twin cabins, with the lower berth a double, and full-width master forward, with a separate shower and heads.

Twin 78hp engines provide power and speeds more associated with semi-displacement motorboats (11 knots plus), the difference being that the Surfari is designed to perform just as well under sail.

A resin-infused epoxy composite hull and deck combines with a carbon rig to create a displacement of under 18 tonnes, balanced by a shallow T-keel (or lifting keel) and controlled by twin rudders.

Push button sail-handling promises to make her easy to sail short-handed and the 53 will be rigged with a fully battened fat-head main that furls into the boom, as well as a fixed bowsprit to take furling asymmetrical sails. Fontaine’s polars show the Surfari is expected to hit double figures reaching in 15 knots – not bad when you can also motor home at nearly twice the speed of other slower cruising boats when the wind dies.

The asking price of US$2,185,000 (£1,360,840) may seem as remarkable as the design, but Fontaine is pitching the Surfari against other auxiliary-powered yachts – think Nordhaven 56 and Moody 62DS – as well as quality motor boats of the same size, all around the $2m mark.

Toby Hodges