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RS Sailing 2018 - Leaderboard

Lift Machine

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS on 30 Oct 2017
The new Lift Machine - Beneteau Figaro 3 Beneteau
Not the one in a hotel or an office building, either. Now I’ve been fortunate enough to sail on and drive quite a few apparent wind machines. They are fantastic fun, as we all know. Some of them had grooves about as wide as the one on an LP, if you’re old enough to remember what the heck they were. It meant that if you were off your game, then your performance slipped, as if you had climbed out of that very groove, and then subsequently fallen off the plateau at the top, and down into the valley the other side!

Now in the nautical sense, lift is provided by sails and appendages, and haven’t there been some advancements in those over the years. From North Sails’ incredible 3Di products marking the difference from mere canvas, and winged keels replacing full ones whose origins were in the very stem of the craft in question, to then bulbs in unobtanium. Now in the 70s the trim tab, and not the one on the transom, but the one on the trailing edge of the keel, screwed the boat up to windward beautifully, and the inner wheel was often used to fool opposition boats into a useless tack.

Yes. Height is a marvellous thing to sailing boat, and all that you can do to achieve it will be beneficial to your ultimate result. So an interesting case in point is the new Beneteau Figaro 3, with her praying mantis style foils in bright orange making a start contrast to her black hull, sails, and just about everything else. Anticipation on how good this, the first ‘production foiler’, would be was not just palpable. No, it was more like the kid on the beach about to get a crack at a 49er or Moth.

For four days I had waited patiently, praying for the breeze to build to 15 knots, when I had been told that Beneteau’s Figaro 3 transcended the mere lightweight 30-footer, and ushered in a new era. It was well worth it, for the Figaro 3 does create a new paradigm. In spades, which Millennials would probably refer to as Big Time!

No it is not an IMOCA 60 or Mini Transat, but neither is it trying to be. Trust me, you will have plenty on when sailing two-handed, as I just did. Not that it is difficult, rather it is quite the opposite, but it is quick and agile, and your crew work will have to be better than the boat, in order to maximise your potential, remembering that these are an OD class.

Never have I been so happy to turn on FRED (the Friendly and Remarkable Electronic Device), aka, the autopilot. The breather it afforded me, and the chance to ensure the control lines were where they are meant to be and free to run, gave the body a break and returned some peace of mind to the head.

Yes, I just want one, but alas even the Figaro crews will have to wait until January 2019, because Beneteau have been told to lock up the first 40 as they build them, and then release them all at once, so that no-one has an advantage. Not only will it be a sizable shed, but also I would think some Alsatians and the odd semi-automatic in the hands of the guards could well be required. A cargo chopper to lift one away when you set it free could also be a good look.

As mentioned, this is an easy boat to sail from the get go. Mastering your crew work will take time, but your energy will not be wasted on helming at least, for it is so light and manoeuvrable, as to make you think you were playing with an icy pole stick in the bathtub. Its groove is ultra-small, with tiller movements usually contained inside about 60mm, and it is mostly easy to stay there, too. Yet by far, the greatest memory is just how much the foils provide righting moment and by being articulated as well, the most amazing lift this side of a space shuttle. Yes. Do strap yourself in for the ride. Giddy Up!

In 13-15 knots we were able to achieve low 7’s to 7.5 (indicated) at 35 degrees, and it was not a struggle. In some ways, the Figaro 3 kept asking for more. However, the biggest sensation you have to get used to is the resistance of the foil, when you think you’re going to heal some more. It’s a bit like you’re going to fall off a horse only to have some magical hands come and push you back on. You’ll be your very own rodeo star.

Of course, once you ease the sheets the other kind of lift comes in to play, as the distinctive bow comes out of the water. She lights up two-sailing, and once you have prepped for the hoist (and re-checked several times), you’re off. We accelerated smartly and began chasing 12 knots, using every ripple as an opportunity to crank the log, and perform those delicate little wiggles with the tiller. Yes it was fun, but I am not sure that goes anywhere near enough to explaining the sensation of knowing you had the control of this racehorse, and that it was not full of Cobalt and just itching to send you over the side.

As I write this, 24 hours have elapsed since my turn ended, and I am still smiling. I don’t expect that to go for a few days either. So that really is saying something, for not many things get one waxing on like that! Ultimately, thanks go to the entire Beneteau team for their super informative and friendly interaction, and for making the whole thing with their incredible Lift Machine possible. So to all of them I just say, ‘Cheers, mate!’

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