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Is this the best direction for the sport?

Published on September 13th, 2023

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
When FlyingNikka was allowed to participate in the 2022 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, I was critical of the event for allowing this 61-foot foiling monohull to compete alongside more traditional big boats. I was equally disapproving of the handicap rules that thought they could fairly rate such an anomaly.

With two T-shaped foil arms extending out from the hull, FlyingNikka is the evolution of the AC75 used in the 2021 America’s Cup and was designed by a team led by Irishman Mark Mills. While pretty cool looking, no rating system works well with significantly dissimilar boats, and FlyingNikka is seriously unlike today’s big boats.

A year later, FlyingNikka was back at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup competing against a fleet of 80 to 100 footers from the design offices of Reichel Pugh, Judel-Vrolijk, Botin, Farr, and Juan Kouyoumdjian. One foiler amongst a fashion show of majestic keelboats. Huh?

While FlyingNikka finished last in each race on handicap, the team won the Maxi Class Line Honours Trophy, awarded to the absolute fastest yacht. With races of 35, 46 and 30 miles in length, FlyingNikka won on elapsed time with an advantage of 1 hour and 46 minutes on the second place, the 100-foot Black Jack.

“We are undisputedly the fastest yacht in a race against the world’s largest and biggest Maxis, and it was a win we deserved, for all the effort and passion we put into this project,” said owner Roberto Lacorte.

Of course you are the fastest, but is this the best direction for the sport? As I asked a year ago, when does pushing technology go too far? Protecting the herd should be the priority, not feeding the predator.

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