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Olympic Multihull: Starting from scratch

Published on January 10th, 2018

What strikes first is the speed – upwards of 27 knots – but then the noise hits. It’s a constant, almost eerie, whistle as the wind passes through the boat.

Olympic sailing has embraced the world of foiling with the conversion of the Nacra 17 into a foiling catamaran for the 2020 Tokyo Games. It has turned the boats into a fast, edgy and sometimes temperamental beast and the key is finding out who can tame the cat the fastest.

“Everyone is learning massively and the level is going up and up so it’s a bit of an arms race at the moment as to who can develop the fastest,” Jason Saunders says. “We’re trying to push the limits as much as we can, which is exciting.”

New Zealand’s Saunders and Gemma Jones were fourth at the Rio Olympics in the non-foiling Nacra. The new design doesn’t look too dissimilar but it’s effectively a new type of sailing, which means everyone is starting from scratch.

“They are awesome to sail,” Saunders said. “Straight away, when we got the first chance to sail them, Gemma and I really loved them. We think it’s more our style of sailing and it’s the way sailing is going as well.”

But it hasn’t always been easy. Fellow Kiwis Micah Wilkinson, who sails with Liv Mackay, was bucked off his trapeze wire and thrown onto the rudder at 40kmh and Jason Saunders also had a tangle with a rudder.

Both came off relatively unscathed. Others have not been so lucky.

American Bora Gulari has been the most high-profile casualty, losing parts of three fingers on his right hand when his Nacra 17 capsized during training for the world championships, but there have been plenty of other injuries.

“Luckily I was wearing a thick wetsuit so there wasn’t too much damage,” Wilkinson said of his brush with his boat. “There’s the potential to get injured. We are hanging off the side of the boat on a thin trapeze wire and there have been a few incidents now of people getting shredded by foils so we are trying to minimise that risk as much as possible.”

A good measure of the new standard will come from the 20 entrants at the 2018 World Cup Series Miami USA on January 23 to 28. While New Zealand has not entered any teams, all three medalists from the Rio 2016 Games will be competing on Biscayne Bay in what is the second of four events in World Sailing’s 2018 World Cup Series.

Source: Yachting New Zealand

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