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Boat Test: The Dragonfly 920    from www.Boats.com

Light, Wide, Fast and Open

By Peter Bentley ,  

August 4, 2000

A day out on the Dragonfly 920 proves a pretty persuasive argument in favour of the light, wide, fast option so beloved of multi hull enthusiasts. Designed and built by Quorning Boats in Denmark, the Dragonfly 920 is more than just a simple development of her smaller, the 800. Utilising the extra size and space in an intelligent manner, Borge Quorning and his son Jens have managed to produce a well proportioned boat that offers an excellent compromise between performance, accommodation and seaworthiness.

Make no mistake, despite her appearance as an all round cruiser racer, the Dragonfly is a seriously powerful machine. Flat wide sections aft in both the main hull and floats provide plenty of buoyancy when pressed, though at the expense of a high wetted surface area and marginally reduced light airs performance. In just a few knots of wind at the beginning of our test, upwind speed was always higher than the wind speed though as with all multi hulls, the tacking angle was nothing special. As the breeze builds the speed just keeps on winding up. The real choice upwind is whether to push down, sailing some seriously high speeds or feather up, letting the higher pointing angle compensate for the loss of velocity. One suspects that the appropriate route will depend to some extent on the sea state and only experience will really enable one to make a proper assessment.

With more wind and more space to work in once we were clear of Southampton Water, the opportunity to ease the sheets and let things rip was just too hard to resist. With the breeze building, UK distributor, Mike Welch persuaded me to settle for the smaller of two available spinnakers. Bearing away onto a run to provided a lee behind the main for shorthanded kite hoisting duties and slowed things down a lot (most of our test was carried out with just two aboard). It's only once we have the halyard jammed off and the sheet in hard that Mike pushes the bow up. Now we really do move into the sports car class. With the kite full its pretty quickly bear away time again as the apparent wind rushes forward as the boat accelerates.

As with nearly all multi hulls, how fast you go is very much a function of just how hard you push and the real skill is often in knowing when to back off. The Dragonfly gives you plenty of warning when things are getting a little tense with the leeward float engulfing itself in spray and foam long before there is the likelihood of any real problem. Though most of our test was in essentially flat water, even the short Solent chop pushed up at the turn of the tide failed to produce any sign of putting a bow down.

At the helm she remains docile and well mannered even when harshly treated. Loaded hard the tiller barely pulls more firmly than in light airs and retains an uncanny ability to point the boat just where you want it almost irrespective of speed. Rig balance is almost perfect with minute adjustments of the traveller able to offer a whole range of helm from neutral to very much weather balanced with just a few inches of traveller adjustment. Though the racing boys will undoubtedly want a long tiller extension to get all the weight out on the floats, steering from within the cockpit is actually very relaxing. For the crew further forward there is ample space to work.

Getting from one tack to the other proves a delight, with Mike taking great pleasure in a series of closely executed tacks without allowing the speed to build in between. Even a seriously reduced speeds the Dragonfly put her bow through the wind with little drama and though a quick back of the jib helped speed her on her way it was by no means necessary.

Under engine, in our case a 9.9 horse power 4-stroke Yamaha performance was equally as good. Mounted high enough on the transom to keep above the wave, the long-shaft engine non the less had sufficient propeller immersion to keep us moving along nicely even in a the developing chop. Close quarters manoeuvring is much aided by the ability to turn the engine on its mount, provoking the boat to spin rapidly with the bow cutting through the wake thrown up by the gyrating stern. For those inclined to keep the boat afloat, it motors well with reasonable stability even with the floats retracted. Shallow water presents no problems and with the swing up rudder and centreboard pulled all the way up she draws a little less than half a meter.

Walking round the boat, she feels like a typically Scandinavian quality product. Well built with style but no flashiness. Closer inspection reveals a multitude of well executed engineering details. Not least the carbon mast. Utilising a standard round section tube, Quorning boats have been able to produce a spar close to half the weight of an aluminium equivalent without incurring excessive cost.

Like most of the modern generation of production multi hulls, the Dragonfly has a cleverly engineered system for reducing the beam down to something more manageable in the marina or indeed on a trailer. In this case the title "Swing Wing" on the brochure somewhat gives the game away, with hinge pins at both the inner and outer ends of each beam allow the floats to swing aft and under the overhanging topsides.

In sailing trim the beams are held extended by a multi-purpose line, that not only keeps the floats fully forward, but also tensions the trampoline. Somewhat unnervingly this line is held in a single jammer housed under the raised cockpit coaming. Recognising that loss of tension underway would be disastrous to say the least, Quorning also fit a pin-stop strut between the aft beam and the hull. Though cleverly thought out and well engineered, this strut looked seriously on the thin side to keep the hull out at near on 20 knots and I should certainly want to see a safety strop between each float and the main hull if the boat were to be sailed in rough conditions. On the positive side, the geometry has been very carefully arranged to minimise to loads required to extend and retract the floats and the whole operation can be accomplished by one person in under two minutes with the shrouds remaining fully attached at all times.

Single line reefing systems have been around for a long time and as often as not they prove to be more trouble than a conventional system. Not so on the Dragonfly. Using the superb low friction blocks and luff slider system from Fredriksen, this is the best reefing system I have ever seen. Upwind or down, one person can simply pull in or shake a reef with little effort. The mainsail snug down between the lazy jacks and the hardest part comes only when the main sheet has to be pulled on. As might be expected given the reefing system, the sails (from Graham Goffs [Check spelling]) hoist and drop easily, fitting the rig well when working.

Performance is not gained at the expense of comfort. At first sight, the main saloon is surprisingly spacious and there is plenty of room for six to sit and eat. Shelves behind the seat backs offers plenty of storage space, and with minimal angles of heel to contend with, there is not much risk of anything falling out. Though simple in execution, the standard of finish is high throughout with good quality materials and tidy design. Neat detailing includes a huge drawer under the companionway steps and a hanging locker to port.

On deck there is plenty of storage too with lockers aft in the cockpit, under the cockpit seats and up at the bow. For those really intent on piling things up (a bad thing in this kind of boat) there is additional space in the centre section of each float. The floats themselves are divided into three individually watertight compartments, which taken together with another sub divided space in the bow of the main hull should provide pretty good crash resistance.

As befits any multi hull determined to provide decent performance, the construction is high-tech if not exotic. The majority of the structure is produced from a foam and glass sandwich laminated with vinylester resin. High stress points, especially the ends of the beams are reinforced with carbon.

While it is easy promote the virtues of the Dragonfly as a high performance sports boat, it is equally important to emphasize her all round ability. She has already won plenty of silverware and will no doubt continue to do so but make no mistake, this is a boat that could provide some serious cruising fun. She has the ability to carry four in comfort, yet sail effectively with just one person on deck. Not only will the Dragonfly take you in comfort ad style, she'll do it fast.