Bruce Farr

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Bruce Kenneth Farr, OBE (born 1949 in Auckland, New Zealand), is a highly successful designer of racing and cruising yachts. Farr‑designed boats have won, challenged for, or placed highly in the Whitbread Round the World Race, America's Cup, and Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, among others.

Farr began building boats at 13 near Warkworth north of Auckland. His first boats were plywood hard chine Moth class designs. He later designed and built variants of Cherubs and especially Flying 18s. His early designs were built in plywood with focus on light weight with good planing shapes. By his late teens he was designing small lightweight keel boats that were successful on the race course.

Ocean racing[edit]

Boats designed by Farr Yacht Design competed in every Whitbread Round the World Race after 1981[citation needed], and won the 1986, 1990, 1994 and 1998 races. The first Bruce Farr yacht in the Whitbread Race was the Farr-designed Ceramco New Zealand, which competed in the 1980 Whitbread Race and won the Sydney to Hobart the same year. Farr's design proved exceedingly fast, and Ceramco New Zealand would have won the Round the World Race, save for an unfortunate dismasting on the first leg, a trans-Atlantic crossing. The deltas for the rest of the legs would have put Ceramco New Zealand 30 hours ahead of her next competitor. This yacht was helmed and captained by New Zealand's most famous yachtsman Sir Peter Blake.[1]

Farr designed the 58-foot yacht which came to be known as Maiden, with the first all-female crew in the 1989–90 Whitbread Round the World Race, skippered by Tracy Edwards MBE. The yacht had previously been skippered by South African Bertie Reed in the 1986-87 BOC single-handed challenge. Maiden is still active in 2018.[2]

In 2001 the event was renamed the Volvo Ocean Race. The Farr Yacht Design-designed Illbruck Challenge was victorious in 2002. Farr's Volvo Ocean Race boats fared less well in 2006 as all four of his designs experienced problems after various failures in their Farr-designed keel canting mechanisms, including an abandonment of the yacht Movistar which was unable to prevent the flow of water through the keel box and, to this day, lies on the ocean floor, unrecovered. [3][4]

Farr's Volvo Ocean 65 was the first ever One-Design selected for the Volvo Ocean Race, for the 2014-15 race, and again in the 2017-18 edition.

Farr is the most successful designer of winners of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, having designed 15 overall winners between 1945 and 2003.[5]

Cookson Boatworks developed a new 50' design, using the Farr office to collaborate, called the Cookson 50.[6] Irish-owned yacht Chieftain, conceived, developed and constructed in 2005 at Cookson's in New Zealand, was the overall winner of the 2007 Rolex Fastnet race. Shortly after it was launched, Chieftain finished 5th at Australia's Hamilton Island Race Week, then won class in the 2005 Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

Chieftain competed in all of the 2006 season Royal Ocean Racing Club races and won class in the Round Ireland, won overall in Round Britain and Ireland Races, was awarded Boat of the Year in Ireland in 2006, and finished as the overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race.[7]

America's Cup[edit]

Farr is also a designer of America's Cup competitors, including New Zealand's entries in 1986 (co-designed with Ron Holland and Laurie Davidson) and 2000, and Larry Ellison's United States's BMW Oracle Racing Challenger in 2003 (accepted as Challenger of Record for the 2007 Cup). Farr's design Young America (USA-36) proved faster than the other American sailed yachts, but was unsuccessful in defending the Cup in the 1995 Finals, losing 0–5 to a Davidson designed Black Magic of New Zealand, led by the late Sir Peter Blake.

Among the most impressive of Farr's design boats was the 90-foot long KZ-1, the Michael Fay sponsored boat brought forth to challenge the San Diego Yacht Club immediately following their gaining the cup in 1987. The challenge was unusual in that it did not allow the host yacht club the conventional three to four years to prepare for the event, nor did the challenging boat adhere to the 12-metre class design that the America's Cup had been contested in for thirty-five years, nor did it allow time for other international challengers and defenders to participate. The unconventional challenge was answered with an unconventional defence, and the entire episode serves as an excellent case study on how the process of yacht racing can be mired in the legal system when America's Cup participants radically depart from the spirit of the rules.[8] Farr sailed on the boat during the 1988 America's Cup.[9]

Cruising yachts[edit]

Farr's cruising yachts have been sold and sailed the world around. His production designs (mass-produced as opposed to custom) have been produced by a variety of yacht manufacturers including Cookson Boats, Carroll Marine, Beneteau, Concordia, Baltic and Nauta.

Some of the larger cruising luxury yachts Farr has designed include Mirabella, Philanderer, Sojana and the two Southern Wind built 100 footers: Farewell and Farandwide.

Farr is a native of New Zealand and currently lives near Annapolis, Maryland. His services to yachting were recognised in 1990 when he was awarded the Order of the British Empire.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sir Peter Blake's Whitbread '81/82, Sir Peter Blake trust, archived from the original on 14 December 2007, retrieved 22 September 2008
  2. ^ "The Maiden Factor: The story so far". Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  3. ^ Canting Keel design failures, official Volvo Round the World Race website, retrieved 12 March 2008
  4. ^ Needle in a Haystack, official Volvo Round the World Race website, retrieved 12 March 2008
  5. ^ Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Statistics – 1945 – 2003 (pdf), Official Site, rolex Sydney-Hobart Yacht race, retrieved 21 November 2007
  6. ^ Cookson 50 Overview, Cookson Boats, retrieved 12 March 2008
  7. ^ Chieftan [sic] wins Fastnet, Cookson Boats, retrieved 21 November 2007
  8. ^ Mercury Bay Boating Club v San Diego Yacht Club, Opinion of the Court, State of New York Court System, retrieved 21 November 2007
  9. ^ KRASOVIC, TOM (7 September 1988). "THE AMERICA'S CUP : Barnes Pins Hopes on His Top 40". Retrieved 21 July 2017 – via LA Times.


  • Elliot, Harold; Kidd Robin; Pardon, David (1999). Southern Breeze – A History of Yachting in New Zealand (Hardback). Auckland: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-670-88650-5.

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