Foiling Toward Tokyo 2020

Published on December 8th, 2016

When the Nacra 17 was designed, it was seeking to be selected for the new mixed multihull event at the Rio 2016 Olympics. This proved to be a good news, bad news moment. While the class was selected, it was designed just prior to the emergence of foiling.

The best solution at the time was a semi-foiling, semi-lifting C foil that teams could occasionally make balance to give it full lifting from the water, but in an unstable manner. Spectacular crashes were not uncommon.

At the close of Rio 2016, the class took steps to design the solution, which last month was approved when the World Sailing Council met in Barcelona, Spain. The Nacra 17 will now convert to foiling for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which most agree to be a natural evolution for the sport and a fantastic addition for spectators, though a costly step to take.

“I’m excited and a little scared,” shared Nacra 17 Rio 2016 silver medallist Lisa Darmanin (AUS). “While Jase (Jason Waterhouse) is getting technical in Bermuda with the America’s Cup, my plan is to be in the gym becoming bullet proof. When we first start foiling the race course will be pretty scary at times, but come the Games it will be incredible.”

Darmanin’s helm Jason Waterhouse has the advantage of being part of the America’s Cup outfit SoftBank Team Japan who use foiling AC45s. “The foils on the Nacra will be different to the AC but actually learning about campaign management and development has been the biggest eye opener for me, and I’ll bring that experience to our next Olympic campaign.”

Helm John Gimson and crew Anna Burnet (GBR) anticipated the switch and have been sailing a foiling Nacra 20 in Bermuda, plus Gimson spent time on an AC45 during the last Cup cycle.

“We’re really excited about it,” Gimson said. “I think it’s going to be quite a full on year getting used to foiling, but I think it’s good for the long term. It’s cool for the sailors to be the only foiling Olympic class and I think it’ll open up a new world for the spectators, and bring the Olympics into the 21st Century.”

To retrofit the current generation of Nacra 17s would compromise performance according to Waterhouse, and the plan is for brand new boats to be manufactured. The talk is the new fleet will be ready in time for next year’s European Championship at Kiel, Germany, in July, but Waterhouse has some reservations that the new technology may price youth and developing nations out of the mixed gender class.

“For a kid it’s going to be harder to convince mum and dad or a federation to fund them in the Nacra, without a result to help them out. The positives are it’s a new challenge and development is part of the sport; it will be good for sailing’s image,” Waterhouse added.

Not only will the Nacra 17 will be flying in Tokyo but at the same conference in Barcelona the foiling Nacra 15 was confirmed as official equipment for the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires 2018.

Source: Lisa Ratcliff

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