Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gale-Force Winds Ground High-Flying Little America's Cup Catamarans

[Source: New York Yacht Club] Six boats and wings were ready to fly on day two of the 2010 Little America's Cup, aka the International C-Class Catamaran Championship. Instead of racing as planned yesterday -- and now today! -- internationally accomplished sailors from five countries played show and tell under the tent at New York Yacht Club. A collection of designers, America’s Cup evaluators and multihull pioneers sat out a blustery weather system. One of the most prestigious titles in the world of ultra-high performance sailing, the Championship was last raced in 2007, at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club in Toronto. There, Canadian challenger Fred Eaton and crew Magnus Clarke sailed Alpha to a 5-0 victory over the previously undefeated Steve Clark’s Cogito.

Of the four catamaran divisions, the C-Class is governed by a simple set of rules that reward outside-the-box thinking in aero- and hydrodynamics to create the lightest, fastest course-racing boats on the planet.

“All wings under the C-Class rule are the same area of 300 square feet, but it can be distributed in any fashion,” said Steve Killing, the designer for Fred Eaton’s C-Class program. They are propelled not by traditional fabric sails, but by elegant wings, rigid but with twist capability.

The twist, however, was no match for the weather the last two days in Newport, RI.

“The C-Class cats were never meant to be convenient, practical craft, instead efficiency and high performance are the goals,” Killing says. Exotic materials allow them to sail significantly faster than the wind, with a top speed near 25 knots, approaching efficiencies of ice boats.

John Casey, multihull sailor and writer, observes, “The Canadian Defenders have meticulously constructed Canaan, a completely new black and white boat to challenge for this year’s 'Little America's Cup.' It may be the lightest such boat ever built, but Eaton has a target painted on his back.”

Steve Clark is ready with crew Oliver Moore and a new boat as well, Aethon. He decided to stay with his proven Cogito wing for reliability instead of an untested new design, hoping that his new boat can give enough of an advantage to win back the trophy that he held for so long.

Four other competing teams will try to wrest the "Little America's Cup" trophy away from Eaton, including James Spithill, BMW/Oracle’s winning helmsman of the 33rd America's Cup in Valencia, Spain. Spithill will crew for seven-time A-Class Catamaran World Champ and Olympic Medalist Glenn Ashby. Both Australian nationals, they will sail in Eaton's proven champion Alpha.

“I've looked forward to two regattas this year," said Spithill. "The America's Cup and this one."

British challengers Paul Larsen and Gordon Kaiser have worked for years to get to this event with Invictus, which is also sporting a wider wing than the rest, designed with the help of Airbus engineers. They've spent countless hours perfecting their unique racing cat, and their enthusiasm is evident for many reasons. “The C-Class is what will drive sailing forward for years to come," said Kaiser. "It’s a complete honor to be sailing on Invictus against such a great field and a privilege to work with such a devoted group of teammates and supporters."

Antoine Koch and Jeremie Lagarrigue will sail the 25-year-old Patient Lady VI under French colors.

She's the Grand Dame of the fleet, but one who has also attained the highest top speed of any of the six boats. This upper-end power may work perfectly to Lagarrigue's advantage — he currently holds the world record for the fastest speed ever attained on a sailboat onboard the trimaran Hydroptere – 51.36 kts, set in 2009.

Royal Canadian Yacht Club high-performance sailing coach Dan Cunningham and Canadian shore team guru, Rob Paterson, will sail Orion, the slender-bowed design that makes up the second half of the Canadian team.

Principal Race Officer Kevin Keogh has cancelled racing for the second day due to sustained 25+ knot winds in the course area. Racing is scheduled daily through the 28th and will likely take place north of the Newport Pell Bridge. The format of the regatta has been changed to allow for two days of fleet racing on Wednesday and Thursday, followed by two days of match racing on Friday and Saturday.

Spectators can watch from the water, or watch live streaming videos at www.LittleAC.com. The website will also feature interviews, news, photos, and live satellite tracking of the entire event.


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