Everything Takes Longer Than You Think
Published on August 17th, 2017
by Rob Kothe
When the Tornado multihull first appeared in the 1976 Olympics it was a proven nine-year-old design.
By contrast, when the foiling version of the Nacra 17 was chosen for the mixed multihull event at the 2020 Olympics, it seems some elements of the new design foils were pretty much thought bubbles.
Many observers believed at the time that component designers, Nacra management, the Class, and World Sailing were underestimating the challenges of bringing foil development from screen to water, not as a working prototype that could be modified by a spare little or no expense 24×7 crew, but ready for Olympic level One Design production.
So it was that a year into this Olympic quadrennium, the first 2020 campaigners (one per nation) received their boats in late July 2017. Immediately quality problems in manufacturing emerged, and then came the design issues.
Sailing was suspended at the Aarhus Olympic test event last weekend, ahead of the Medal Race because of a design fault which affected all 47 of the boats so far delivered. Said the ominous recall notice, “A failure of the daggerboards during operation could potentially cause sailors to lose control and crash.”
Unable to use their boats until they receive new daggerboard lower bearing cassettes, those crews planning to compete at the Nacra 17 World Championships on September 5-10 in France will have had their boats for three weeks and that is certainly a big hill to climb for everyone involved.
With stumbles at manufacturing, the Class is obviously the meat in the sandwich. Class manager Ben Remocker is doing his best to communicate and you can feel the pain as you read the latest update below, but the real message is ‘everything takes longer than you think.’
Here is an update on the replacement of the lower bearing cassette replacement from August 16:
Preparing the prototype and setting up the machining has taken a day longer than first expected.
Three prototypes of the new lower bearing are scheduled to be picked up by Nacra Sailing from the supplier on this afternoon. They will be brought immediately to the Nacra Sailing factory for testing.
From the board swap already in progress since the Europeans, there are 15 boards in sound physical condition that have been used by sailors onto the original bearing. 5 of those boards have been examined to determine if there has been any degradation of the boards from being exposed to the original bearing. So far, no degradation has been found, and examination will continue on the remaining 10 boards.
Continued investigation of the failure mechanism with the existing bearing has also been carried out. Under extreme loading, it can be observed that the 1mm lip of the bearing is being distorted in the middle of the bearing. The result is a further exacerbated point loading on the front section of the boards as the full load is being place onto a smaller section of bearing. This also moves the point loading away from the internal webbing which provides the greatest strength. It is believed that this fact is contributing to the breakages, and should be solved by the larger prototype roller bearing solution currently being tested.
Production of new bearings will continue tomorrow and Saturday (Aug 19) in parallel with continued testing of the bearings in both load testing and sailing. It takes approximately 1 week to produce the 50 sets (100 total) bearings required by the fleet.
Supply of the bearings will be made in reverse order of original delivery to teams attending worlds. The aim will be to have daily shipments as bearings are produced to minimize disruption to the sailors held on shore.
The builder continues to investigate suitable non-destructive testing techniques that could be implemented for all boards prior to the worlds.
“We are working around the clock trying to resolve this issue. We have received input from respected names to aid solving the problem and we apologize for the trouble cause to the sailors,” Gunnar Larsen, CEO, Nacra Sailing.
Nacra sailing, the Nacra 17 Class Association, and the Yacht Club La Grande Motte continue to work toward holding the 2017 World Championship as planned for early September.
MORE: In response to a class executive committee request regarding the bearing recall, here is an update from Nacra Sailing that is immediately valid as of August 18:
• Sailing the Full Foiling Nacra 17 is allowed up until 15 knots of wind using the original bearing
• When a team has fit the new ‘active bearing,’ all limitations are removed
With the root cause of the failures found and the solution on its way, this is just a temporarily measure until further notice. We hope that teams can train to make their hours within the wind frame mentioned above and prepare themselves. For us too, it would be great if we can leave this behind soon and move on to build a strong fleet with enthusiastic sailors and coaches.