The Merlin Story

Owner David Forbes is one of Australia’s most successful yachtsmen, a world champion, Olympic gold medallist and an Australian representative in major international yachting events. Notably, he steered the Star class yacht to victory in the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Here is a short summary of the evolution of Merlin.

I first contracted John McConaghy Boats to build a 50ft IOR racing yacht which was named “Great News” this yacht was one of the first autoclaved carbon constructed ocean racer. The yacht won the Kenwood Cup in Hawaii and went on to win the 50ft division of the San Francisco big boat series, as well winning the challenging Fastnet Race for the USA Admirals Cup Team.

In 1998 after retiring from my working life I planned to build a fast cruising yacht which could be sailed shorthanded and robust to cruise the Pacific Ocean and sail the west coast USA from Alaska to Mexico. 

I decided to again have John McConaghy build the yacht and I engaged Phil Kaiko to design the retractable keel and work on the lines drawing. SP Systems designed the hull laminate.

It was decided the new yacht should be shallow draft and would have hydraulic power for winch sail trimming, keel lift, sail furling and air conditioning for comfort in severe weather.

The yacht is designed with a retractable keel, main sail in boom roller furling and eutectic refrigeration, which is also used for air conditioning using titanium heat exchangers for cooling and heating the yacht. The retractable keel has allowed me to store the yacht on a private slipway which I have used since it was built in 2000.

Reefed during Sydney to Hobart Race

This fitout was designed for minimum weight without compromising strength. SP Systems designed the laminate to keep overall hull weight low. The hull is constructed using carbon, Kevlar and foam core. The bottom laminate from the keel forward has a cedar core to handle severe wave pounding.

I did not achieve my aim to sail the Pacific. Due to health issues I decided to race with the crew that sailed with me over many years. I have campaigned Merlin in the CYC Blue Water series and other east coast races such as Hamilton Island series and Lord Howe Island race. The yacht has a competitive IRC rating and it has had success as listed and is simple and fun to race with 8 crew for overnight races and 11 crew for longer races.

New North 3Di sails were fitted for 2015 Sydney Hobart race. The yacht is raced with the 2 reef in-boom furling mainsail, one reef-able jib and 3 asymmetric spinnakers. In true wind to 30 knots these are the sails always used. In 45 knots the yacht’s storm jib is used upwind and for the Hobart an A5 storm spinnaker is carried.

Over the years since the yacht was built a lot of further improvements have been made by David and the Merlin crew to optimize performance. The changes made all consisted of small changes to sail area, stability, and keel fairing. The deck and running rigging changes reduced the sail inventory and made the yacht much easier to race with less crew”