Harken Derm

Extreme Sailing Series: Foiling may force changes to circuit

Published on June 27th, 2014

The Extreme Sailing Series is in its eighth season, with this year’s eight event tour travelling through Asia and Europe. This commercially successful circuit includes both ocean and ‘stadium’ short-course racing in front of the public, with teams competing on the one design Extreme 40 catamaran. However, as Kate Laven reports for The Telegraph, a new generation of foiling catamarans has people wondering if  changes are needed…

The spaceship has landed and this one, in the shape of spectacularly fast foiling boats first seen in the America’s Cup last year, is forcing the brains behind sailing events such as the Extreme Sailing Series to rethink the future.

Before the AC72 was introduced to the world in San Francisco last year and set hearts and pulses racing with a rocket like thrust that whacked up the speeds from 25 knots to 40 in less than ten seconds, sailing high performance catamarans like the Extreme 40 was as good as it got.

America’s Cup teams used the Extreme circuit as a platform for learning how to take corners at high speed.

But that was before foils and the world is now a different place.

The best sailors only want to race on foils because, according to Freddie Carr, the British America’s Cup sailor who raced on Luna Rossa in the last America’s Cup, foiling is an ‘insane’ experience.

“It’s a crazy sensation,” said Carr who recently joined Sir Ben Ainslie’s British campaign for the next Cup.

“The thing you notice first is the G-force. You are hanging onto the pedestal grinding and you feel yourself getting thrown over the side of the boat as you go from 25 to 40 knots in 8 seconds and basically start flying. You have no idea about the speeds until you look behind you and see the chase boats going flat out trying to keep up.”

Carr is not alone in seeing foiling as the way forward. Extreme 40 skipper Paul Campbell-James was also on Luna Rossa in San Francisco and won the Round the Island Race last week in a new boat, the GC32, which appears to do 30 knots in a mere puff of wind.

The GC32 was launched two years ago and already, there are said to be 45 boats on order with a new European circuit set to kick off in July.

“It might turn things upside down because the boats are awesome and you have all the top professional sailors involved because the boats are so awesome. In a perfect world, the Extreme circuit would be raced in GC32s but the advantage of the Extreme 40 is they are simple and we had a lot of break downs in the GC32s.

“Nothing beats getting 12 Extreme 40s on a race course that’s built for tiny Optimist dinghies but the boats are now ten years old and no longer as exciting as they were.”

Extreme organisers, who had the idea of bringing sailing into city centre ‘stadiums’ in rivers and harbours long before the America’s Cup highlighted it, are well aware of the need to update their boats to keep the top sailors engaged.

But foiling at 35 knots in a venue such as Singapore where the race course is surrounded by tower blocks and shopping malls, would be impossible, says Extreme Sailing Series event director Andy Tourell. – Read on

Click here to watch video from the fourth event of the season in Saint Petersburg, Russia on June 26-29.

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