Home' Afloat : AFLOAT January 2017 Contents 50 AFLOAT.com.au January 2017
Sat in the media boat as the foiling catamaran careered wildly
towards me was a scary experience for your correspondent
but then as it spun past and capsized while doing about
30 knots I feared for the crew.
Aboard the upturned GC32 catamaran Visit Madeira the five
crewmen dangled from the elevated hull and one slid down the
foil to hold on grimly as the 32ft boat slowly inverted. Just behind
us the British entry had done a huge nose plant as it crashed off
its foil and then it had capsized, spilling its young rookie crew
from the Land Rover BAR Academy into Sydney Harbour. All good
fun for our local bull sharks, if it wasn’t for the quick action of
the support boats.
Yet more foiling rookies hit the drink from Team Australia as
veteran sailor and local multihull pioneer Sean Langman slid off
the back along with crewman Seve Jarvin. Earlier Sean had told
me his aim of keeping the mast pointing at the sky, but perhaps
should have included his own head.
A multihull record holder on his Orma 60 Australia One,
Langman knows about fast cats and I’ve personally raced with
him while doing 34.5 knots on that beast on the Harbour. But as
even the pros were finding out, the first season of the Extreme
Series with these foiling cats was reaching a spectacular finale
in Sydney, as they capsized for the first time.
The last of eight events that has seen eight teams compete
across Europe and Asia, the Extreme Series attracts elite sailors
who are often Olympic champions, America’s Cup sailors and
class winners. They race courses of windward/leewards and crowd
pleasing stadium style racing.
So as the small crowds gathered around the Royal Yacht
Squadron and surrounding bays of Sydney Harbour, even the
most basic smartphone camera was close enough to capture one
of those speeding catamarans that could reach 39 knots (72kph).
Winners on that extreme first day of 29 knot winds was the
Swiss boat Alinghi, which went on to sail strongly for all four days
in the Sydney event under the command of Moth sailor Arnaud
Psarofaghis. The double America’s Cup winning Alinghi team
(2003&2007) have dominated the Extreme Series under owner
Ernesto Bertarelli and claimed their fourth Extreme title in Sydney.
Designed by foil expert Dr Martin Fischer, the GC 32 is part of a
revolution that is taking over the sport after the AC72 catamarans
flew around San Francisco Bay in 2013. The simple equation of
adding sail power while reducing drag has led to the introduction
of hydrofoils that lift the hulls clear of the water. This in turn creates
the need for aerodynamics – as the parameters of lift, windshear
and sheeting loads change – including unheard-of apparent wind
speeds, that has also improved wing-sail technologies.
The GC 32 has five crew plus a guest sailor (the latter allowed
on only in light wind). It’s characterised by narrow, high aspect
carbon rigs that power-up and down instantly while maximising
crew weight in relation to the boat.
The GC 32 has ultra lightweight carbon hulls (975kg) with
drag reduced by curved dagger boards or J-foils that lift the lee
bow 2m high in 8 knots of more of pressure. When the power-
to-weight ratio is considered and the vastly reduced drag, these
can literally become flying machines.
To get a feel about these boasts I asked one of the few
professional woman sailors who has raced one, Dee Caffari, what
it was like to control a GC 32.
“Really exciting boats to sail and once you’re on the foils
everything goes strangely quiet,” explained the former Vendee
Globe sailor. “It’s essential that the foiling crewman sets the J-foil
before the bear-away otherwise the pressure on it becomes too
much,” added Caffari who was in Sydney to commentate for the
Extreme Series. h
SYDNEY’S EXTREME RACING
Sydney hosted its fastest fleet when the foiling cats went berserk
during the Extreme Sailing Series in December, writes Kevin Green.
The five man crew includes a foil trimmer for the J-Foil which
elevates the catamaran 2m off the water.
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