Youth sailing, Red Bull style
Published on March 13th, 2015
by Ben Yeager, Outside
The energy drink and extreme sports empire announced March 4 that two Olympic champions and Red Bull Extreme Sailing Team members, Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher, have begun searching for sailors ages 16-to-20 to fill the roster of a new race circuit they will direct, called Red Bull Foiling Generation.
The new global competition will feature races involving four Flying Phantom class catamarans, which the men designed to fly on hydrofoils at speeds of 40 mph.
Flying Phantoms are a fraction of an AC72’s weight and risk. But racers will receive only two days of coaching and practice on the $40,000 vessels, Red Bull announced. Candidates must have experience racing skiffs or other catamarans, and be “extremely well-prepared, technically and physically,” Steinacher said.
Each of the 18-foot-long, 155-kg boats, piloted by two people and capable of hitting “speeds unheard of a few months ago,” will compete in a knockout-style race, with two boats qualifying for a next round. The races will be quick—20-to-25 minutes—like the America’s Cup. Seven events all over the world will be televised on a Red Bull channel.
“There’s a lot of danger involved, especially when you’re foiling on trapeze,” which is that tenuous position in which sailors are suspended by a wire, standing off the side of a hull, says professional sailor Anthony Kotoun. He added that the stadium-style racing is like “a bunch of NASCAR cars going around a turn.”
Racing these cats requires lightning-quick reflexes. Kotoun, though he considers himself a “safety nerd,” fears the combination of a lack of experience, the potential for a trapeze to snap, and the presence of fast-moving hydrofoils in the water. The hydrofoils are like “samurai swords slicing through the water,” he says. “It’s going to be really good racing,” he says. “It’s gone from a golf mentality to a moto-cross mentality.”
Red Bull says the circuit will be a clear-cut path to professional sailing for young racers. “I am always looking for the most exciting and challenging parts of the sport,” Steinacher told Outside. “The most important expectation is to find the best talented sailors on planet Earth.” But the race, which will begin April 17 in Japan, is also clearly following Larry Ellison’s America’s Cup plan to up the stakes in sailing.
“I think the America’s Cup showed us that this can be a dangerous endeavor,” says catamaran designer Gino Morrelli, who designed the Nacra 20 FCS, a major Flying Phantom competitor. “I think [multihull racing] is going to turn into a sport that requires this protective gear. It’s going to get that extreme sport mentality. We’re like the Wright Brothers—we’re going to crash a few planes before we get this right.”
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Red Bull Foiling Generation race calendar 2015
April 17-19, Wakayama / Japan
June 26-28, Weymouth / United Kingdom
July 10-12, Malcesine/ Italy
August 7-9, Malmö / Sweden
September 4-6, Aarhus / Denmark
September 25-27, St. Petersburg / Russia
October 19-21, TBA / France
Contact: Mario Schoby, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: We have been told that entrants are restricted to only those sailors who hold passports for the countries in which the circuit will be held.