Mark Pescott is a living legend in these parts; the designer of the Firefly 850 One design catamarans and well-regarded delivery captain, this Phuket Yacht Club stalwart and skilled sailor is a much sought after crewmate in regional regattas.

Mark hails from Brisbane, but never sailed dinghies as a kid, he first learned to sail with a friend, caught the bug, and soon thereafter bought a 16ft Quick Cat catamaran.

Mark built his first boat, a 28’ Crowther Buccaneer trimaran, in his parents’ backyard. He named it Yarrageh, meaning “spirit of spring” in an Australian aboriginal language. He recalls it was a steep learning curve, learning how to build, sail, skipper it and even anchor safely.

His inspiration at the time was his uncle, a cabinet maker who lived in Victoria and had built a 30ft monohull in his backyard. Mark figured if his uncle could do it, so could he (family photo below taken at the launch of Yarrageh, Jan 1978). Mark’s affinity for multihulls can be traced back to a rough experience at sea on that uncle’s monohull.

1. Family photo taken at the launch of Yarrageh Jan 1978 ed

Mark started his first job in boatbuilding working for Bosun Boats in Caboolture, helping to build a 45’ charter cat and other large cats, working there during the summer and autumn months between sailing excursions on the Queensland coast. During this time Mark completed a yacht design and lofting course at TAFE College.

After a cruise on Yarrageh north to Thursday Island on the Far North Queensland (FNQ) coast, Mark settled in Cairns, starting work for Bob Shanks helping to build a new Lock Crowther-designed 40’ cat, Gotcha Covered.

The following year he embarked on a final cruise on Yarrageh to the remote Louisiade Islands of Papua New Guinea with his English girlfriend whose sailing experience before departing on the 500-mile passage was a couple of sails in Mission Bay off Cairns.

Returning to Cairns in late 1985, Yarrageh was sold and Mark started planning the design and build of Summersalt, a 9.85m catamaran with the hulls from the modified and lengthened 29’ Crowther Harrier hull mold.

8. The first Whitehaven 11.1 Majeak under construction in the old Tewantin fish board building Noosa 1994

Summersalt became the basis for Mark’s future designs, his home for over 10 years, and was well tested on the race courses winning Hamilton Island Race week twice and twice taking line honours in the Townsville to Cairns Race (The first Whitehaven 11.1, Majeak above under construction in the old Tewantin fish board building, Noosa, 1994. Explaining to my nieces and nephew the finer points of boat building).

Soon after Summersalt was launched Mark crewed on the 60’ Crowther trimaran Power Brewing (nee Yumi Maru) in the Two-Handed Around Australia Yacht Race, competing against Peter Blake on the much more modern 60’ tri Steinlager as the only other entry in the 60’ multihull class.

The first cruise to Thailand on Summersalt in 1991 started in Mooloolaba and included a win in the Darwin to Ambon Race and line honours in the Ambon to Bitung Race before continuing thru Indonesia to Phuket.

Due to a dire lack of funds, Mark decided to return to Cairns with the passage including an 18-day nonstop two-handed leg from Singapore to Thursday Island.
The following two years in Cairns saw Mark complete the design for a modified version of Summersalt and the Whitehaven series of performance cruising catamarans, before relocating to Noosa to build the first Whitehaven 11.1 Majeak for a Gove based couple with long time friend Ross Blair.

9. Ceberus and Chimera the first two cats built at Latitude 8 Yachts low res ed

In 1993, Summersalt was entered in the Coral Sea Classic which allowed multihulls to enter for the first time. In the Cairns to Port Moresby Race Summersalt completed the 460-mile course in just under 36 hours, finishing three hours behind the 40’ racing trimaran Australia’s Child, with Summersalt having the best 24 hour run of 316 miles (Ceberus and Chimera, the first two cats built at Latitude 8 Yachts).

Before leaving Cairns Mark was asked by Johh Stricklan to design a 8.5 metre racing catamaran that could also be used as a weekend camper resulting in the first Firefly 850, Hot Vindaloo built by John and launched in 1995. Hot Vindaloo soon proved itself on the race course winning its first regatta. It is now owned by Mark Leitner and renamed Leitning Storm.

Again Thailand beckoned. So Ross Blair, Mark’s business partner, took over the sale of the designs, with the passage to Thailand starting with the 1995 Brisbane to Gladstone Race. Summersalt finished fifth over the line behind the 55’ A Room with a View, 40’ racing trimaran Pacific Cranes, 38’ racing catamaran XL2, and 60’ monohull Bobsled, arriving at dusk to the fireworks display and the start of a new adventure.

The Darwin to Ambon Race was again entered followed by the Bali to Jakarta Arung Samudra Race with 110 yachts and 20 tall ships on the start line at Bali.
Summersalt continued the cruise to Thailand where Mark was part of the winning crew on A Room with a View in the Phuket King’s Cup, a boat he had helped to build.
Mark had planned on sailing around the world but got stuck here, like so many others. He hung around for a couple of years enjoying the island and getting a reputation for doing difficult marine repairs and modifications that no one else wanted to do.

Marks Fireflies in action ed
In early 2000, he was hired by Mark Horwood and Damien Kimball of Latitude 8 Yachts to build five Whitehaven catamarans. He worked with them until 2004.
Damien had said if they could find someone who would build one Firefly, he would build another. Olaf Reese then ordered the first Firefly (Voodoo Child), and Roger Kingdon grabbed the second, Moto Inzi, so Damien ended up with the third Mamba (then XTaSea), which was later sold to Henry Kaye. Latitude 8 built nine Fireflys in total over the next two years. With the Fireflys in full production, Mark left the company to work on new designs including new projects for IndoCats in Lombok.

The Fireflies (seen above) are ideal for Phuket; Marks says he gets a great pleasure seeing owners and crew have so much fun racing them. In the early years of the Firefly 850 One design class, Henry Kaye (Mamba) and Roger Kingdon (Moto Inzi) were both instrumental in developing the class. In their late 60s and early 70s and both a little well-enhanced weight wise they both made efforts to lose weight, so they could be more agile and better race their boats. Nowadays, there’s a fierce battle between John Newhamn’s Twin Sharks and Hans Rahmann’s Voodoo.

Fiona Stalker, in an excellent piece on Mark in the Nov-Dec 2007 issue of SEA Yachting entitled Phuket’s Big Friendly Guy, asked Mark what is special about the Fifelys: “When you’re getting wet at 28 knots, you’ll be glad you are not anywhere cold. That’s why the Fireflys are great for Thailand. Most of the owners have done a lot of racing on monohulls and were looking for something different that’s exciting and easy to sail.”

Mark says he doesn’t require a lot of money to survive, but he has managed to earn himself a good reputation as a delivery captain, often skippering deliveries with the owner on board (something many delivery skippers will not do). Those owners want to learn multi-hull seamanship and sailing skills; it can be a difficult experience at times, but also a very rewarding one for all involved.

Mark Pescott today ed

The longest and most challenging delivery was skippering a 47 ft Catana cat from Phuket to Vanuatu with the new owner who had sailed a bit many years past, his 24-year-old very adventurous son who had never sailed but soon learned, and the son’s girlfriend who had sailed when she was 8 years old. The passage from Koto Kinabalu to Port Villa took 36 days with only one 24 hour stop at a remote island.

Unfortunately, sailing back from Sumatra last year, Mark, seen above, arrived in Ao Chalong on March 28th, just before the port shut due to Covid-19on March 29th. Due to a series of unfortunate events, he was unable to register as having returned to the country and spent six months stuck in No Man’s Land in Ao Chalong, before he was legally able to enter Thailand. Mark says if not for the assistance and moral support of his friends, he probably would have lost his marbles but reckons most are still in place.
You can reach Mark at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; https://www.facebook.com/firefly850

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