Sailing a Telstar 28

Posted on Wednesday 10 August 2005

This morning, I went over to Annapolis to take a look at a sailboat. The Telstar 28 is a trailerable trimaran that is made in Annapolis, by Performance Cruising. Designed by Tony Smith, the Telstar 28 takes elements from both his Gemini catamaran and his older Telstar 26 trimaran designs.

Gee and I had talked about sailing, and it has always been a dream of mine to sail around the world. I got hooked on sailing because of my twin brother, David. He taught me to sail a long time ago. There are several things I considered important while looking at sailboats.

The most important consideration was getting a boat that I could single-hand if I wanted to. There will be many times where I will want to go sailing by myself, and some boats aren’t really designed to be handled by one person. Another major consideration is, at least initially, I’ll be sailing with a fairly inexperienced crew, and I wanted a boat that is easy to sail short-handed. She also had to be simple enough that I could teach my friends and nephews how to sail her easily.

Also flexibility and reducing the ongoing costs were both important to me. Trailerable trimarans have much lower ongoing costs than a monohull, like the Jenneau Sun Odyssey 32, as they don’t require a mooring or marina slip. The ability to trailer the boat to various lakes and coastlines makes the trimarans much more flexible in where I can sail than the monohulls.

Another reason I’ve decided on a multihull is stability. The multihull designs tend to be much more stable than monohulls. I wanted a boat that would be comfortable to the friends and family I would want to have with me, and a monohull wouldn’t really work for many of them. Even when sailing in brisk winds, the trimarans heel only 10-15 degrees from horizontal—unlike the 20-30 degrees often found on monohull sailboats.

The Telstar 28 seems to fit the bill. The fairly compact cockpit, simple control setup, and smaller sailplan all make it fairly easy to sail short-handed, or alone. The multihull design has the stability I was looking for, and the pivoting arm ama design makes the Telstar 28 relatively easy to trailer. Also, the trailerable design means that a slip or berth is optional, not required, and makes winter storage much easier and less costly.

On to the Telstar 28

I’ll give you my impressions of the boat and describe the boat’s features and layout, as well as compare it to Corsair’s F28 and F31, two very popular trimarans I’ve also sailed aboard, and the Dragonfly 920, which I have not. I’ve also talked about the changes that I’d make to the design, based on my observations, and what equipment I’d add, based on my personal plans for the boat.

One nice about Performance Cruising, the people are down to earth and you can tour the factory, and see how they make the Telstar and her older sister, the Gemini catamaran firsthand. After the sail, I also had a chance to sit down with Tony Smith, the designer of the Telstar and talk to him at length about the boat and its design.

Tony is an English gentleman, and very open and straightforward about his boat designs. He was very willing to talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly, as well as some of the growing pains the design has had. For instance, the 9.9 HP engine mentioned in the early reviews, isn’t really powerful enough for the design, and the standard outboard they’re recommending is the 20 hp Honda outboard.

From my limited experience with the Telstar 28, the initial impressions are quite good. It’s a very easy boat to handle—both under sail and under power. Needless to say, I like the Telstar 28 a lot.

On the Water

When I arrived at Performance Cruising, I met with Will, Tony Smith’s son-in-law. We talked for a bit and waited for a couple from Oregon to arrive. The four of us went out on the Chesapeake for a test sail. The wind was about nine knots, but somewhat fluky, so we got to see how the Telstar performs under both power, using a 50 hp Honda outboard, and under sail, using the mainsail and genoa, and later the mainsail and a gennaker. We even were able to try out the autopilot, a Raymarine 1000, for a bit.

Will started the outboard, and pulled the Telstar 28 away from the dock. As I guided the her down Back Creek, to the Chesapeake Bay, Will extended the amas. It is quite easy to extend or retract the amas, even underway. Once both amas were extended and locked, he had us open the throttle, to show us how well she performed under power. We were able to get her up to about 15 knots, or that is what my Garmin 76CS GPS unit was reporting. We hit the chop from another boat at that speed, and yet the cockpit and most of the amas stayed completely dry.

Once out on the Chesapeake, we sailed for a bit with just the main sail and the genoa. As we got further out, Will asked us if we’d like to try the gennaker that he had onboard. Given how light the wind was, we were up for it. We furled the genoa and raised the gennaker.

Once we got the gennaker up, we allowed the Raymarine tiller autopilot to steer her for a bit. It did a fairly good job, but given how light and fluky the winds were today, I don’t think it was a really good test of the autopilot’s capabilities.

The setup of the autopilot was easy and quick. You plug the autopilot cable into the data/power connection on the port side of the cockpit. You put the autopilot into a socket on the port bench, and then connect the steering arm to a pin on the tiller. Turn it on and adjust your course heading using the buttons. The autopilot is linked to a fluxgate compass mounted below the deck. Apparently, there is a remote available for the autopilot, so you can set the course while sitting out on the amas in nice weather.

As we came back in, we dropped the gennaker, and went back to the outboard. I navigated the Telstar back up Back Creek, until we got to the Performance Cruising docks. Will easily backed the boat into an open slip.

The Exterior Layout—Simple and Straightforward

The foredeck has the bow pulpit and the anchor locker. There is also a retractable bowsprit, which is controlled by two lines in the anchor locker. There is a large cleat for the anchor rode, just forward of the anchor locker.

The coachroof of the Telstar has two large hatches. One is over the head compartment, and the other over the main saloon. The coachroof also has the mast step between the two hatches. The mast has the halyards, cleats and two halyard winches on it. There are handrails along the outboard edge of the coachroof and a narrow deck on the outside edge of the hull, which is also part of the folding ama system. While you can use the narrow deck to go between the small foredeck and the cockpit, I find that walking along the nets is just as simple.

The cockpit is fairly comfortable for four people, but any more than that, it would be crowded. There is a storage locker on each side of the cockpit, under the bench, which has the control lines for the amas and nets. The port locker also contains a five-pound propane tank for the stove in the galley. Mounted to the port side of the cockpit is the ignition and throttle control for the outboard auxiliary motor. There is also a covered port and pin for the autopilot. Mounted on the cabin bulkhead are the instruments and a compass. The boat we were on had Raymarine Tridata and Wind displays on the port bulkhead, and a compass on the starboard one.

Along the rear of the main cockpit is the curved traveler track for the mainsail sheet. Aft of the traveler track are two more seats as well as steps down to the transom of the boat. The transom comes right down to the water, and there is a swim ladder that folds down off the rear steps. On the transom, is the fuel locker for outboard motor. The control lines for the rudder are also located in this locker. The two seats, one on each side of the steps (so you can actually seat six in the cockpit area), would be a great place to supervise a new sailor from as he learns. Between the two seats, above the steps, is an arch, which is used to support the mast after it is unstepped.

While the cockpit of the boat we sailed was outfitted for a bimini and a dodger, neither was in place during out test sail. Tony talked about designing an enclosure for the cockpit on the Telstar, to increase the usable protected living space. The bimini and dodger are part of his future plans.

People can also sit in the amas, on the inboard decks or nets. If they are seated aft in the amas, they can still talk to the people sitting in the cockpit. The outer edge of the ama also acts as a backrest for someone sitting on the inboard decks. If they’re sitting on the nets, they can lean back against the ama support beams. Sitting on the amas is a fairly dry experience, unless you’re sitting up towards the bow. This isn’t usually the case on a trimaran, as sitting on the amas usually gets you soaked fairly quickly. The amas also give you plenty of room to fish from. The amas have lifelines mounted on the outer edge.

The Interior Layout—Bigger Than Expected

Even though the Telstar 28 is comparable to the Corsair F28 in size—it has almost as much usable cabin room as the larger Corsair F31, and significantly more than the F28. The Telstar’s cabin is comparable in size to the main cabin on the F31 CC—both have almost six feet of headroom, while the cabin in the F28 is so small that even I, at 5′ 4″, hit the cabin roof if I forget to duck.

As you enter the cabin, just off the companionway, there is a galley on the port side and a nav station on the starboard side. The companionway isn’t as steep as those found on some other boats. Behind the companionway, is the entrance to a single berth, which runs under the cockpit. Will was using this berth for storage, and I understand why, as it is a bit tight for use as a berth, but not unusable.

The galley has a propane two-burner stove/broiler, fueled by a propane tank in the port cockpit locker. There is also a galley sink with a hand-pumped faucet, which connects to the 17-gallon fresh water tank. Storage space is a bit lacking in the galley, but the layout is fairly sensible. The cabinets that are shown in the brochure and review photos are no longer installed. Will said they were fairly limited in storage capacity, but I think the loss of the organized storage is a problem.

The nav station has a fairly large chart table. The chart table is hinged, so you can open the front half while things are sitting on the rear half of the table. Unfortunately, there is nowhere to sit when working at the nav station. This might become a problem when working for longer periods of time. The real issue is that any chair or stool used at the nav station really blocks the companionway, and access into or out of the cabin. I wish there were more storage at the nav station.

The nav station in the boat we were on had a Raymarine VHF radio installed. The cabinet shown in the brochure was missing at the nav station as well. Since the cabinet was not available, the VHF unit was installed in the front of the nav station locker, below the chart table. The battery box and main electrical switch are also located in this locker—this may be a possible problem as I see it. Forward of the galley and nav station is the saloon.

In the saloon, the port settee can be used as a single berth, and the starboard settee can convert into a double berth. There is a dining table, that can seat six when unfolded, mounted on the centerboard case. Above the table is one of the two hatches. Just forward of the centerboard case, is the compression strut that supports the mast foot and distributes the load to the main hull. There is a bulkhead at the fore of the salon, which separates the head from the salon, and also acts as the anchoring member for the forward ama support beam.

The head is forward of the bulkhead. It runs the full width of the hull and has a curtain to give it some privacy. There is a small amount of additional storage forward of the head. The marine head is located along the centerline of the boat and empties into a 12-gallon holding tank, which can be pumped out or emptied into the ocean. The second of the two hatches is located here. The housing for the retractable bowsprit can be seen in the head. The brochure mentions that a shower can be installed in the head, but the boat we were on didn’t have the option. I don’t remember if there was a sink in the head, but I don’t believe that was the case.

Note: The F31 CC also has an aft cabin, but I personally find the aft cabin design somewhat unusable as the only two ways in to the aft cabin are: via a hatch, which opens onto the cockpit and will generally allow a lot of water into the berth and soak the cushions; or via a small tunnel that you have to remove the companionway treads to enter, which passes under the cockpit. This is much like the berth under the cockpit in the Telstar 28.

Telstar Design Differences

While I’ve described the physical layout of the Telstar above, there are some significant design differences in the Telstar 28, that separate her from the other trailerable trimarans, like the Dragonfly 920, and the Corsair F28. I will go into them here.

The Amas—Drier by Design

The Telstar’s ama design is quite different from the other trimarans I’ve sailed. The rigid inboard deck and high outboard side on the amas block much of the spray that you experience on most trimarans. The nets on the Telstar are quite small because of the inboard decks on the amas, much smaller than the nets on the Dragonfly 920 or Corsair F28. The Corsair F28 and Dragonfly 920 are much wetter boats to sail than the Telstar.

Another difference is the way the arms fold along the horizontal plane and bring the amas up against the main hull. Since the amas don’t pivot—the Telstar doesn’t submerge the ama’s hull-to-deck join and run the risks of leaking there. This is sometimes a problem on the Corsairs, which use a pivoting ama design. The sides of the amas on the Corsairs must also be painted with bottom paint, if you want to keep the amas retracted on the water for any period of time. This is not a problem on the Dragonfly, which uses a lateral folding system more like the Telstar’s, and the amas do not pivot. The ama struts on the Telstar appear to be considerably larger than the ones on the Dragonfly 920.

A benefit I see of the Telstar ama design is the amas seem to contribute to the stability of the main hull when they are retracted. They effectively make the boat a wide monohull when retracted. This may also be the case in the Dragonfly design. The amas are locked via a line in each cockpit locker, and a second line tightens up the nets.

From what I’ve been told, if the amas aren’t locked in the inboard position, they will try to return to the extended position, as they are designed to “want” to be extended. Will said that retracting the amas brings them lower in the water than when they are extended, so the buoyancy will tend to force them out. From what Will said, the forward motion of the boat will tend to hold the amas in the outboard position. The design of the Dragonfly amas appear to have them default to the inboard position, rather than the extended position, if not locked.

The amas on the Dragonfly and the Corsairs are more difficult to deploy from what I have seen. The bolts used in the Corsair system are not as elegant as the control lines used by the Telstar, and if the amas are retracted at sea, can easily be lost overboard—a significant design flaw which could put the Corsair at risk as I see it.

Centerboard and Rudder Design—The Right Direction

One reason the Telstar 28 handles so easily is the design of the centerboard and rudder.

Both the centerboard and rudder are designed to kick up if they hit an obstruction, as I understand it. This is a design advantage over the daggerboard design on the Corsairs, which will often snap when hitting an obstruction, and in rare cases may damage the daggerboard case, which can lead to the boat flooding. The Dragonfly 920 uses a kickup centerboard and rudder system from what I understand. The rudder is supposed to work quite well when it is up, but we didn’t get a chance to try that, so I can’t say with certainty.

The unique rudder design allows you to turn both the rudder and the outboard motor with the tiller when the Telstar is under power. This makes control of the boat, while under power, very precise and responsive. This also makes docking maneuvers quite simple, and gives the Telstar a very tight turning radius when under power. Will was able to demonstrate this when he docked the Telstar at the end of our sail.

Once the outboard is raised out of the water, and you remove a pin on the tiller, then only the rudder is controlled by the tiller. You reverse this procedure to motor under power again. Under sail, the centerboard, rudder and boat are well balanced, and the boat is almost as responsive as it is under power. The one question I have about the system is how durable the tiller design will be over time.

The centerboard is raised and lowered using a standard winch handle, and locked using another handle on the centerboard case. The controls are mounted on the centerboard case in the cabin. The rudder uses two control lines, located in the transom fuel locker, to raise and lower it.

With the centerboard and rudder up, the Telstar has a draft of a little over a foot. This is a bit less than the Corsair trimarans, which come in at 14 to 18 inches. The Dragonfly 920 requires about 18 inches as well. I like the idea of anchoring off the beach near my sister’s condo, and then wading in to her condo to get groceries for a weekend trip.

Note: The control and locking mechanisms for the amas, bowsprit, and rudder on the Telstar 28 use two control lines and are very simple and elegant to use.

A Modest Sailplan and Simple Control Setup

Another reason the Telstar handles easily is the modest sailplan and simple control setup. A typical Bermudan or Marconi rig, the Telstar can accommodate a mainsail, as well as a foresail and a kite. The halyard cleats and halyard winches are all located on the simple, non-rotating, double-spreader-equipped aluminum mast.

The main sail, 250 sq. ft., uses lazyjacks and traditional slab reefing, and has two reef points. The main sheet doesn’t require a winch, as it uses a simple block arrangement that attaches to the end of the boom and runs along a curved traveler track along the rear of the cockpit.

The foresails use a roller reefing system for ease of handling. The foresail sheet is run to one of the two main self-tailing winches, located atop the coachroof at the front of the cockpit. We were using a 274 sq. ft. genoa. The standard jib is a modest 184 sq. ft.

The retractable 4′ bowsprit is an option on the Telstar, and when used with a spinnaker or gennaker provides good performance in light winds. On our short sail, we used asymmetrical gennaker with a sock furling system. The sheet for the kite is run back to one of the sheet winches on the coachroof.

The Mast—There Can Be Only One

The Telstar’s non-rotating mast is mounted on the coachroof, between the two hatches. There are also two A-frames attached to the mast—the heart of the mechanism for lowering and raising it. From what I have seen, the mast raising and lowering on the Telstar seems to be far safer and easier than it is on the Corsairs. Using the special mast raising system—the whole mast stepping and unstepping process can be safely and easily handled by a single person, using a sheet winch. The Corsair system requires the trailer winch be used, and really requires two or more people. As I haven’t seen the Dragonfly system in action, so I won’t comment on it. The Telstar 28’s A-frame-based mast-raising system is an option, but you’d be an idiot not to get it.

The mast on the Corsair F28 is 38′ 4″ tall, and a much heavier design, being a rotating mast. The shorter and smaller mast on the Telstar, only 35′ 6″, also means that the mast is a much more manageable size. Will showed a video of the process, which had a man lowering and raising the mast, with the boom, furled mainsail and furled genoa still attached to it. Generally, the boom and mainsail will be detached before lowering the mast, but having the option to leave it rigged is nice, as you will see.

Another benefit to the design of the Telstar’s mast raising system is that it isn’t dependent on using the trailer winch to raise and lower the mast. In my opinion, this is a very critical difference. If you’re sailing a Corsair up a river, and come to a low bridge, you can not lower the mast to pass under bridges with limited clearance. The Telstar can continue upriver. Given the shallow drafts of the trimarans, the ability to step and unstep the mast, while afloat, can open up a lot more territory to explore. Also, there may be times where you need to work on the masthead, and being able to lower it can make that much easier when at a marina. This isn’t easily accomplished on the Corsairs.

One major difference between the Telstar and the other trimaran designs are the rigging attachment points. On the Corsairs, the rigging is attached to the amas, and when the amas are retracted, I believe the lateral stability of the mast is compromised. I believe this is the case with the Dragonfly 920 as well. On the Telstar, all the rigging is attached to the main hull. This arrangement may also reduce the adjustments needed to the rigging.

I also believe that having the rigging anchored to the amas can affect the stabilty of the mast while the amas are extended as well. The load on the rigging may change as the pressure on the amas changes, based on the sailing conditions, especially if there is any deflection or flex in the ama strut design.

Edit—I got a chance to see the actual mast lowering/raising process in person on my second visit to Performance Cruising. The system is very impressive. One thing I really like about the system is that you can actually halt the process in the middle and reverse it with no issues and little effort. The A-frame system is an incredible refinement compared to what the Corsair uses. Most of the risk and danger I’ve seen in the Corsair process is not an issue with the Telstar’s method, which has a patent pending.

Performance of the Telstar

Although the Telstar has a modest sailplan, only 434 square feet of sail with the standard main sail and jib, her performance is quite acceptable from what I’ve seen. With the gennaker up, we were able to make over four knots in six knots of wind. Not bad at all. The wind speed was based on the readings from the Wind display on the boat. The boat speed was based on readings from a GPS unit, as the Tridata unit hadn’t been fully calibrated at the time of our sail.

The main performance differences between the Corsair F28 AC and the Telstar 28 are in the rigging and sailplan. The Corsair has a higher performance rotating mast, which is also taller and carries more sail. The controls on the Corsair are laid out more for racing, and are more complex than those found on the Telstar. The Telstar’s SA/D ratio of 33.3 is fairly modest when compared to that of the Corsair F28 AC, which has an SA/D ratio of 40.9.

What are the drawbacks to the Telstar 28?

Some of these are points that have come up in my discussions with both Will and Tony, during my visit to Performance Cruising. Some are points I’ve thought about myself, but haven’t discussed with Tony Smith. I’ve also pointed out what I think will happen with regards to these points as well in most cases.

First, the boat is a fairly new design, being only two years old. The Corsair F28 is over ten years old. However, the Telstar’s design has its roots in the both the Gemini catamaran and the older Telstar trimaran. Tony Smith says he is still tweaking the design a bit, and I’m sure he will continue to refine it as more feedback from Telstar owners comes in.

Second, is the sailplan of the Telstar. It is a very modest sailplan. The mainsail and jib total a modest 418 square feet, compared to the 496 square feet of the Corsair F28. It could probably go with a taller mast and longer boom without much trouble. Tony said that the sailplan was intentionally conservative as the boat is designed to be enjoyed, and easy to sail.

Third, is the weight of the Telstar. It weighs about 3200 pounds. The Corsair F28 AC is 2690 pounds, 500 pounds lighter. Some of the weight is due to the larger cabin size, and some due to differences in the construction methods and ama design. As the design of the Telstar is refined, I’d imagine some of the weight will be shed.

Fourth, is speed. The Corsair will outsail the Telstar in the same wind. This is mostly due to the smaller sailplan, and partly due to the heavier weight of the boat. The waterline of the Telstar and the Corsair F28 are both spec’d at 26′ 3″. But, Tony has clearly stated that the Telstar isn’t designed to be a racer, but a comfortable cruising boat. As the Telstar 28 is currently designed, it has more than acceptable performance from what I’ve seen.

Fifth, is storage space and cargo capacity. The Telstar is fairly limited in storage space. The Corsair F28 has more storage space and weight carrying capacity, but is much more limited in cabin space. The Corsair F31 and Dragonfly 920 both have a larger cabins and more storage space, but they are considerably larger, harder to sail and considerably more costly. Also, the Telstar is the most affordable of the four boats I’ve mentioned here.

Sixth, is the main sail reefing system. The Corsairs all have a boom roller reefing system, which is much more convenient to use when compared to the slab reefing on the Telstar. While, the Telstar could probably be retrofitted with a boom roller furling system, I like the slab reefing system since it is simpler and has less that can breakdown on it. It also reduces the weight aloft a bit, when compared to the Corsair roller reefing system.

Last, the Corsair F28 has a wider beam, 19′ 6″, compared to the Telstar’s 18′. This makes the F28 a bit more stable, but with the greater sailplan, this is a necessity. The Corsair F28 also folds to a slightly narrow size, 8′ 2.5″, versus the Telstar’s 8′ 6″. This is probably due to the differences in the ama folding design and the widths of the center hulls. Personally, I don’t see this as a problem, as the Telstar is still very stable, and looks like it will trailer well.

Changes I’d Like To See In The Telstar 28

The changes I am suggesting are based on my observations of the Telstar, and are based on a single fairly short day sail. I haven’t had a chance to discuss them with Tony Smith yet, but intend to do so at some point. Most of the changes are safety-related, and many are specifically are designed to make the Telstar more suitable for open ocean voyages or extended coastal passages. Edit—I had a chance to talk with Tony Smith about many of these concerns and have updated this section to reflect our discussion.

Cabin Safety—Some good handholds are really needed in the interior, as the salon table isn’t really strong enough to act as one, and they’re a bit scarce inside the cabin. Good lee cloths or leeboards should also be added to the three berths in the salon. Granted, you’re not likely to be thrown from side-to-side as often as you would be on a monohull, but I’d imagine if you caught some heavy weather, the handholds and lee cloths would be appreciated, and could help prevent injury.

Electrical System—I’d like to see options for a second battery, or some solar panels—either mounted on the stern rail. Right now, if you have the 50 hp outboard, and manage to kill the single battery, getting it started could be a very ugly proposition. A second battery, or a way to charge the battery would give you some backup options. I spoke with Tony about this, and I’ve revised this section based on our discussion. I don’t feel that the risk of an electrical fire and its possible consequences is really much of a problem at this point. There are good solutions to minimize those risks.

Ground Tackle—Add a set of heavy cleats and line chocks on the forward ends of the amas—these would be good for setting up an anchor bridle. The forward cleats and chocks can act as a backup for the main anchor rode cleat, and can also be used for a second anchor or a tow bridle. They can also be used for spring lines or as for the bow and stern lines when coming along side a dock or rafting the Telstar to other sailboats. Tony suggested adding chocks or fairleads to the bow for the main anchor setup instead of a roller, partly because of the space limitations and partly due to the weight. He also advised against a manual windlass. Also, the stock 13 lb. Danforth anchor seems a bit undersized to me to ride out a serious storm.

Jacklines—There are two rails that can be used for mounting padeyes and jacklines on the coachroof, so I no longer feel that additonal padeyes on the coachroof are necessary. I think that a padeye in front of the companion way is still necessary, but easy enough to add, and would allow a set of jacklines for the cockpit. I still think that a pair needs to be added to the foredeck. Four jacklines, using these padeyes—one down the center of the cockpit, as well as one down each side of the coachroof, and the last down the center of the foredeck, would allow you to access almost the entire boat while securely attached using a six-foot tether. The Telstar brochure talks about “racing down large swells with a force 7 wind” and yet there are no solid provisions for jacklines. I can’t think of many sailors who would want to be out in 32-38 mph winds without being tethered to the boat.

Lifelines—Add a second line to the lifelines on the amas, as the gap between the top of the ama and the single lifeline is a bit taller than I am comfortable with. An option to use plain stainless cable for the lifelines, not the vinyl coated which is standard, would be good, as I believe the plain stainless cable will last longer and looks better. This is just my personal preference, but I do know that vinyl coated stainless may corrode significantly faster than uncoated stainless. The vinyl cover also makes them much harder to inspect for corrosion. I’m also willing to bet that the uncoated stainless lines are less expensive than their vinyl-coated counterparts. In my opinion, this is a relatively unimportant change, compared to most of the other safety measures. Tony mentioned that the lifelines are generally coated stainless, as they are only 1/8″ lines. The vinyl coating makes the lines thick enough to prevent them from cutting.

Navigation Lights—Add a tricolor masthead light as well as the white masthead anchor light. The tricolor masthead light would use less electricity than the two light setup currently used, and is far more visible when out on the open ocean—where you’re unlikely to be motoring. For motoring, the current bow pulpit-mounted sidelights and the white masthead anchor light would work quite well, and still have the advantage of greater visibility due to the masthead white light. The increased current draw for the two lamps is less than the three currently used, and doesn’t matter much as the engine is running and recharging the batteries. I’d prefer the new LED-based navigation lights, as they are very durable and weather resistant. OGM makes an excellent combination Tricolor/Anchor light, which only draws about six watts.

Padeyes—After taking another closer look at the Telstar, there are already several padeyes in the amas that can be used for cargo lashdown points. It might be wise to add some to the cockpit and the interior cabin and head. If one were to take the Telstar on an extended voyage, it is very likely that large jerry cans of water or other bulky items may be stacked or stored in the cabin or head. Without some padeyes on the interior, to properly secure the cargo, in heavy weather, they could easily become dangerous projectiles. Alternatively, the interior padeyes could be designed for the lee cloths and serve dual purposes.

Plumbing—The early reviews mentioned some equipment that would be nice to have—like a 25-gallon fresh water tank, and an 18-gallon holding tank. The option for a shower was also mentioned in the early reviews. Another option might be for adding a watermaker. Also, adding a macerator pump to the holding tank would be a good idea, as currently, there is no way to empty the holding tank without pumpout facilities. These are just nice options, which can seriously extend the time the boat can stay at sea. The watermaker is especially nice, as there is limited stowage on the Telstar, and multihulls tend to be fairly weight sensitive.

Sail Handling—Add the option for a second winch on one or both sides of the coachroof. This would give you much more flexibility if you choose to race, and also provides a good backup in case one of the others fails. Having another winch or two isn’t a bad idea if you’re planning on an extended cruise.

Why Change the Telstar 28’s Design

Tony Smith has designed the Telstar 28 as a very capable and versatile coastal cruiser. Tony’s open ocean sailing experience shows in the solid build of the Gemini and the new Telstar, but I feel there are some possible improvements in the Telstar’s current design. Without the safety modifications I’ve listed above, I don’t believe the Telstar is really equipped for the wide variety of weather and sea conditions that she will face if used as Tony intended. I think these modifications will make the Telstar 28 a much safer and more enjoyable boat—especially given what she will inevitably face if sailed to her capabilities. Of course, many of these suggestions would probably be have been made over the course of time, as the Telstar 28 owners give more feedback to Tony and Performance Cruising.

Most of the design changes I’ve suggested are safety-related, and their adoption will make the boat much safer in heavy weather—the padeyes for jacklines, the additional cleats and chocks, the interior cabin handholds and leeboards, the masthead navigation lights, and the improved ground tackle options. Most of the changes are relatively inexpensive modifications, if done at the time of manufacture, but would be much more expensive to retrofit. The additional lifeline, is partially a safety concern, but partially a cosmetic one as well, and not as important as the other changes.

Many of the remaining changes are geared to extending the duration the Telstar can be out—by increasing its ability to recharge the batteries, and increasing the supply of water. A few of the modifications are purely for comfort—shore power and the internal shower. The shore power option would allow her to become a comfortable live-aboard.

By my count, most of the safety-related design changes would only require the installation of an additional 20–24 padeyes for jackline anchors (8) and lash downs (12–16), an additional four heavy cleats and four heavy line chocks, the internal handholds—possibly a stainless steel rail running along cabin roof on each side, the leeboards/lee cloths, and a masthead tricolor light for the basic safety changes. The least important of the safety-related modifications are the additional lifelines—which could terminate at the two endposts.

I’ve studied the plans of the Telstar 28 and the photos, and all of the changes I’ve suggested won’t interfere with the current ama folding mechanisms as far as I can tell. The amas have sufficient clearance that the cleats and line chocks are definitely not an issue. The padeyes may or may not be, depending on the size and shape of the padeyes, and the specific locations chosen. Pop-up or socketed padeyes are also a possibility, but would increase the cost a bit.

I’d create an Extended Cruising Option Package, which included the additional main winch, the bow roller, the manual windlass and a heavier ground tackle setup. I’d also include the solar panels, the second battery, the interior padeyes (if not required for the lee cloths), and the watermaker in this package. The shore power, I would leave as a separate option as I believe that requires a fair amount of additional work and equipment.

The most difficult part of my suggested changes is relocating the battery boxes and main electrical panel. I don’t know the interior layout of the Telstar 28 well enough to suggest a new location. I am guessing that the current location was chosen to reduce the length of heavy wiring running to the outboard, as well as simplify the installation of the navigation and communication equipment. This is something I’d really like to talk with Tony about.

Things I’d Add For Extended Cruises

I’d add a GPS to the cockpit electronics, as a backup to the more traditional navigation methods. I’d also like more propane storage— two 10 lb. tanks, one per side. I’d add a watermaker. I’d add a Lifesling to the cockpit railing, and mount an EPIRB to the bulkhead.

I’d carry at least two anchors. The primary would be a 28-pound Delta anchor; with an all-chain 150’ rode. It would be set in the bow roller. I’d setup a bridle with two 15’ lines, spliced to a chain hook as an anchor snubber, and use the heavy chocks and cleats I’ve suggested be added to the amas to secure it. The bridle would be setup before attempting to set anchor, and the chain hook would be tied to the bow pulpit until needed. My secondary anchor would be a 25-pound Danforth; with a rode made of 50′ of chain and 200′ of nylon—this allows anchoring in 20-feet of water with a 7:1 scope with either the primary or secondary anchor. Most anchorages aren’t going to have tidal variations of 19’; so going aground is very unlikely. If I carried a third, it would be a traditional fisherman anchor.

I would seriously look at switching the gasoline outboard for a Yanmar D27 outboard diesel engine. Diesel is probably a bit more reliable in a marine environment, and the fuel is certainly less dangerous. It would probably also extend the motoring range of the Telstar. Tony told me the Yanmar is a rock solid motor.

I’d lash my Porta-bote to one ama deck for use as dinghy, and the life raft canister to the other. This keeps them both easily accessible but low in the boat, and fairly secure. Way down the list would be a couple of fishing rod holders mounted on the amas.

My Conclusions

Tony Smith designed the Telstar for cruising and the way the boat is setup reflects it. The Corsairs are much more geared towards racing, rather than cruising, and because of that focus on racing, are much more work to sail than the Telstar. The Telstar, with its much smaller sailplan and simplified control setup, is much easier to handle than the Corsairs. I haven’t sailed the Dragonfly 920, so I won’t comment on it.

Tony had sailed the previous Telstar 26 trimaran in the brutal and grueling 1978 Round Britain Race, and placed in the top third, even though it was the smallest boat entered. Another Telstar 26 has crossed the Atlantic both ways. I personally believe that the new Telstar 28 is quite capable of bluewater ocean passages, especially, if the modifications I’ve listed here are incorporated into the design.

Even with the modest sailplain, the Telstar 28 is not a slow boat. We were sailing at four-and-a-half knots in just six knots of wind. Not too bad for relatively light air with four people (about 700 lbs. as the couple were both fairly big, and I’m no lightweight either) and a 250 lb. outboard motor on-board. I can’t wait to see what she is really capable of, in the more consistent winds of Buzzards Bay.

As it has been over five years since I’ve sailed seriously, I was a bit rusty… to put it mildly. It is amazing how fast you remember stuff you’ve thought you’d forgotten, once you’re back in the right environment. I can’t wait to start sailing regularly again. I think the Telstar might be a good choice to start with.

Granted, some may say the Sun Odyssey 32 would be a more capable boat in terms of bluewater, but with a few modifications, I think the Telstar 28 would be very capable of handling long passages as well. I like the flexibility, simplicity, performance and capabilities I’ve seen in this trailerable trimaran.

6 Comments for 'Sailing a Telstar 28'

    Brad Raby
    September 19, 2005 | 3:18 pm

    Very good review. I did sail a telstar in much more winds in fl. on a test run. We were loaded with 5 adults and had a reefed main. Later we realized we really did not need to reef as the boat was extremely stable and handled very well.. We achieved 8-10 knots which was slower than expected, but as said we had 5 plus the honda 50. I would not order the 50 as that is like having a fat man sitting on the transom all the time. If and when I can gather the money, I will be ordering a new telestar. I sailed an F-9A (f-31) for three years and know this will not be as fast. But putting up the mast and haddling the boat taxed this old and abused body. It is time to look at something easier and just enjoy and I feel this boat will do just fine on Charlotte harbor in Fl. I will be adding cruising items as I am used to bridle anchoring, solar etc. safe sailing, brad

    December 2, 2005 | 4:34 pm

    I liked your review. Is this boat unsinkable?

    December 25, 2005 | 5:10 pm

    Mike Please see my comment on the other Telstar story.

    December 25, 2005 | 5:20 pm


    I’ve ordered a Telstar 28, as you can see in my post here. I’ve ordered it with the 20 HP Honda, as the weight of the 50 HP was a bit too much. I had looked at the F-28/F-31 from Corsair, but decided on the Telstar for a lot of reasons, the mast-raising system being one of the more important ones.

    I’m also going to outfitting my Telstar for extended cruising, and have decided on a few pieces of gear that I consider exceptional. The first, and one of the most important as far as I am concerned, is the 15kg Rocna anchor, which will be my primary ground tackle. I’ll have more on the gear and how I’m configuring my boat in a story soon.

    May 28, 2006 | 10:23 am

    Thanks for the thoughtful analysis of the two boats. I’ll be interested to hear more. I have a Corsair F28 with the center cockpit, and will be curious to hear your thoughts as you get to know the Telstar. So far what you say seems to be on the mark. I am definitely a day sailer and weekend cruiser rather than a racer, and also find the F28 cabin to be small and the folding to be unique. But the F28 sails superbly…just glides over the sea. She does take on spray, but even in a storm one never doubts the feeling of seaworthiness. Effortless speed, great pointing, fast tacking, and easy sail handling. It is difficult to imagine how a boat could be much better at all those things….though like you point out, these are qualities more common to racing than to cruising machines. Plus they are more expensive to buy and I do pay for them in a different way each time I go into the cabin!! It’s all a trade off and I wouldn’t mind having the Telstar’s advantages as well…..Enjoy, Scotty

    May 28, 2006 | 6:47 pm

    The Telstar sails quite well, from what I’ve seen from the dozen different Telstars I’ve sailed on, including the Pretty Gee. Even in strong winds and waves, the cockpit is remarkaby dry—far drier than the Corsair F28s I have been on. I’ve been sailing at 10+ knots in less than 15 knots of wind, with four people on board. Granted, the Corsair F28 is a bit faster, but the comfort and versatility of the Telstar really gives it the edge in my opinion.

    As for seaworthiness—I have complete confidence in the boat—on my most recent sail, the reason I turned back was because I wasn’t comfortable in the conditions I was sailing in, not because I thought the boat wasn’t able to handle it. After my last sail, through some serious waves and in fairly strong winds, the Pretty Gee handled everything the bay and I threw at her, and handled it without any issues. She tacks well, points quite high, and is fast and easy to sail. There are a few changes to the Pretty Gee that I want to make to ease sail handling, like the shroud covers I have talked about on my blog, as the jib sheets occasionally get caught under the shroud turnbuckles—which is a royal pain if you’re trying to tack.

    The lack of head room on the Corsair F28, even for some one as short as me, was a real problem. I plan on taking many long voyages on my boat, and I want to be able to go down below and be comfortable…that was not possible on the Corsair F28. Even though it was possible on the Corsair F31—the F31 would have cost almost twice as much as the Telstar; would have cost more to dock; and the mast-raising system on the Telstar is far superior in both safety and ease of use.  The ama design on the Telstar is also better in my opinion—the Farrier ama design would leave the ama hull-deck join in the water when I have my boat in its marina slip, the Telstar’s design does not.

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