One of the trialists for the new Olympic Women's Skiff event has been put through its paces by several crews off Takapuna over the past few weeks.
The FX entered by Mackay Boats is a response to the need for a high performance skiff, offering low entry cost, and taking women's sailing to a new level.
Rather than design a new class, optimised for women sailors, Mackay Boats, whose progeny dominated the medal lists in the 470 and 49er classes at the 2008 Olympics and intervening world championships, decided to adapt the mens two handed skiff for the women's event.
'It was surprising simple', says John Clinton a renowned rig designer, now with Mackay Boats.
'The 49er rig had been well engineered, and was very well balanced. All we had to do was come up with a smaller rig, to suit the crew weight band specified by ISAF for the new Women’s Skiff, and put it in the same place in the 49er hull - which has been in the Olympics since 2000.'
Effectively Mackay Boats have taken a leaf out of the Laser book - the most numerous dinghy class – with the Mens and Womens Singlehanded Olympic event both using the same hull but with a rig suitable to the weight of the sailors.
In finding a new use for the 49er hull, which is now highly refined, the FX allows sailors coming into the class a low entry cost, as a second hand 49er hull can be purchased and easily fitted with the FX rig.
This concept works well with another of the goals of the International Sailing Federation, which is to expand the sport in developing countries, and to bring more women into sailing.
To check the degree of difficulty of sailing the FX, women's crews have been shuffled in and out of the test boat. Some are experienced twin wire sailors from the 29erXX. Top womens 470 crew Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie, and more recently Susannah Pyatt – selected for the Womens Match Racing event at the 2012 Olympics, having her first sail in a twin trapeze boat.
It took her about an hour to make the adjustment. 'The FX is amazingly balanced,' she said after her first sail. 'Its speed doesn't even compare to any of the current Olympic Women's classes. It just so fast!'
'I felt so in control of the boat, we didn't have to fight it,' she added
With the ISAF trials just four weeks away, the team from Mackay Boats will continue testing right to the last, underlining another advantage of the FX – only one hull has been shipped to Santander. The other boats will be regular 49ers from around Europe with the rigs sent by plane to the regatta venue.
To further underscore the simplicity of the FX concept, Mackay Boats will be freighting up to seven rigs around the world, ahead of the trials to allow other women's crews to trial the boat, and provide feedback for further development.
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