The 40-foot Farr 1220 is a seedling of a Bruce Farr series that goes back to the early 1970s. He and an Auckland, New Zealand yard McDell Marine, were building trailerable boats. Farr was becoming more well-known by his successful Whitbread designs. In 1989, the majority of the maxis were Farr designs. In the 1980s, they introduced a 34-foot Farr 1020 and this Farr 1220. Bruce Farr’s studio continues to design performance cruisers while the McDell yard builds Oyster Yachts. The subject of this review should not be confused with Farr’s earlier 40 IOR or more recent 40-foot racers. McDell produced these Farr 1220’s until the early 1990’s. They are immensely popular in New Zealand where they know the boat. The design is relatively unknown in the United States except for pockets in California and Seattle. This 1220 is one fast, well built, and roomy yacht flexible enough to function as a world cruiser, lake racer, or liveaboard. On the rare chance that one finds her way out of New Zealand, she does not last long on the brokerage market. Farr yacht design has a treasure trove of information including multiple magazine reviews about her online under their Design #165 Farr 1220/Farr 40 tab.
From the first glance, she looks super fast which is important. A fast boat should look fast, or it does not feel right. Up forward, she has a moderately raked, bald bow that traces back for a subtle sheer. Her sheer combines with her above average freeboard and the dark slicing windows on her low slung, slanting cabintrunk. She is chubby at 3.2 length to beam ratio with the beam carried slightly aft of amidships. Aftmost, the cockpit opens up straight into a sugar scoop stern. The design looks like fun racing sharply around the BVI’s relaxing in a bathing suit in the wet cockpit. The sloop rig has a simple single spreader spar with a longish boom that makes for a large headsail. These racers have vangs and hydraulic backstays standard with a single jib furler. Underneath, she has a deep 6’6″ fin keel and spade rudder combination.
Construction and What To Look For
The hull is hand laid fiberglass with layers of Coremat. She has an impressive grid liner of longitudinal stringers, floors, an engine bed, mast step, and gunwale to gunwale frames. The deck is cored with Divinycell. The lead ballast fin keel is externally bolted to a concrete stub. The external shoe technique has become the most popular combining the benefits of a fin keel while protecting the hull in case of grounding. As one client notes, “I looked at all difference boats in my search, you know. I learned on Bavarias. I saw Beneteaus. But when I saw her I could immediately tell she is a quality boat.” The most notable problem is crazing of the gelcoat on deck especially around hardware fixtures, in the cockpit, and at the bow. If caught early the stress fractures are easily repaired. There are Mark I and II rudder configurations with apparently a safer arrangement on the later.
I like how Farr was advertising the 1220 saying, “It is details like these that make this truly functional yacht,” because the design is functional. Especially on deck, you can see the fine touches. All lines run into the cockpit under a functional cover on the cabintrunk. The aft cockpit where you mostly will be when cruising or racing has great ergonomics and teak lining. The meandering combings let you assume so many positions for reading, sleeps, steering. Farr really did well and topped the cockpit off with a opening aft straight into the swim platform. Here is a nice deck shower, good lockers. The cockpit locker opens up to the aft staterooms for sail storage. My favorite part of this design is the cockpit.
This is a pretty roomy 40-footer with three staterooms and a saloon settee than opens into a king sized berth. The accommodations start with a V-berth forward with head, the saloon amidships. Port and starboard of the companionway are the nav station and galley respectively. Aftmost are port and starboard berths with the port one as a double. One owner said, “The starboard one is supposed to be a double but we just use it as storage. The port is where we bunk.” The portside aft stateroom has a pretty skinny berth and is better as storage. There is an alternate layout with two heads. The second aft head is starboard along the walkthrough to the pilot berth. One of the first comments about Farr 1220s is about the light interior woodwork. On many, the interior is lined with a blonded light oak. Others were produced with classic teak interiors. One client asked, “Oh does she have that god awful whitewashed interior?” But other clients admire the light color that makes for a stunning saloon.
The standard engine is a Volvo Penta. One I came across was repowered with a Volvo saildrive which was an excellent upgrade. Under motor she was incredibly responsive. I felt as if I was driving an Indy race car with the oversized steering wheel. The steering is an excellent gear system that provides surprising feel and nimbleness. On seatrial, the captain noted that the 1220 backs like a champ as we maneuvered up and down a narrow canal without veering an inch.
This is what the 1220 is about – performance. These are fast yachts which are raced in fleets in New Zealand and California. They often have impressive racing histories – Transpac victories and stories of incredible passagemaking. They are especially useful for single-handed offshore racing because of the sail layout. The masthead rig combines a smaller headsail with a larger main. This simplifies sail handling for one person and with four reefpoints, you can adjust to all points of wind. A client noted, “I have the 1220 to be about what I consider my optimal design. With the larger main and smaller headsail, I found these types of rigs easier to handle.”
The Farr 1220’s strong points are her cockpit, interior, and sailplan. Owners cherish these racer-cruisers. While most sail in New Zealand, you will find a rare few around the globe. They value at $100,000 to $150,000. I see a three in New Zealand and one in the USA on the brokerage market in early 2010. If you purchase one in the USA, take her directly to New Zealand, enjoy her, and sell her for double.