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Powered by Water

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail World AUS 25 Sep 15:00 PDT
Australia SailGP Team helmed by Tom Slingsby on Race Day 1 of the Spain Sail Grand Prix in Cadiz, Andalusia, Spain. 24th September © Bob Martin for SailGP

Plenty of times before, both here and also on our sister website,, I have talked about the crossover. In other words, how racing has influenced cruising, and hitherto items found solely on cruisers were now de rigueur for the fast-paced racer.

From prodders to twin rudders on big beamed open cockpit cruisers, to furlers, lazy jacks, even powered winches on get-the-hell-out-of-here carbon race birds. This was the stuff of utter heresy not that long ago. Yet there is one subject that can captivate as well as it divides, and inspire as swiftly as the very reason for the technology being deployed on craft large and small, inshore and off.

Foiling has been around for ages, and goes back to the 1860s in essence. All of the early stuff was powered, and just before WWII sail got a look in. Two of our missives on this subject can be found in I feel the need..., and then also, Speed = Smile on the Dial.

In the 50s, Monitor might have been ungainly, but she was quick. The A-Class cats got into it in the 70s, and foiling went offshore in the 80s with Paul Ricard. Then in the 90s we had l'Hydroptère, which would later crack 51 knots back at a time when 35 was brisk.

Moths made it up in the Noughties, with the AC and IMOCAs being the rage in the Teens. Ultim Tri - not much more to say - blast around the planet in under 41 days when crewed, and even average 29 knots across the Pacific on your own!!! Also need to say Sailrocket: even faster than l'Hydroptère for the marvellous achievements there. I mean wow. Boiling water was no longer the sole domain of kettles, huh.

Flying Nikka and the new AC40 are the latest to actually hit the water, along with the IMOCAs being tuned in the lead up to the Vendée.

OK. So what about racing to power then? Or even power to sailing? Well thank you Dorothy Dix. It's a good point too, for the class of Capital Ships, Dreadnought, gave its name to the reverse bow, and see how popular that is now. Might also pause to consider how long the bows were on the battleships, and just how far back the stick is stepped now on everything from a production cruiser to an all-out flyer. Hmmm.

Design wise

From an aesthetic POV, there is everything from small motor yachts to megayachts looking a bit sailing-esque. Then have a look at this concept named Bravo 75 from BYD Group, with the co-founders and partners, Tià Simó and Raúl Gonzalo, explaining it for all: "Its elegant hull is inspired by the profiles of sailing yachts and the curve from the stern to the bow represents the break between the motor yacht style and the sailing yacht style."

Sanlorenzo's SP110 is listed as an Open Coupé. It is real, just been launched, and sort of looks like a Wauquiez with an even bigger pilothouse, but sans stick. SP stands for Smart Performance, and when you look at it, you can definitely see a flat-bottomed carbon flyer in there under the bling.

Paul Bury's Inception unequivocally had its genesis in the mighty VO70. As a Naval Architect, Paul can drop Wally boats and Bill Tripp into the conversation, for his origins, and a lot of his passions are in sail. Yet it was this concept's use of the yacht hull form, and then the ability to take it airborne via retractable foils.

Yet it was the thinking to make her not only a hybrid for now, but modifiable in the future to meet changing demands that was possibly the ace in the deck. She can be hydrogen powered when certain storage issues and classification rulings become a little more aligned. Looks good. Thinks well. Offers options aplenty, and meets today's needs and certain requirements for the future. Tick. Tick. Tick.

And now a moment's reflection. Whether it was Italian monohulls with huge diesels and impossible angle shaft drive blistering along from Manly to Circular Quay, or my favourite, the Boeing Jetfoil running between Hong Kong and Macau on the trike format with gas turbines delivering massive horsepower for less than a third of the space required, they both made being on a passenger ferry very cool. This paragraph, along with its placement right here, is bound to make sense in just a little while...

Talking about disbelief

So if it had been close to a stoning offence back then, what would one say about the very pinnacle of our sport helping stink boats?

Ponder this. If someone had shown me an AC75 when I first started sailing, I would have thought it was some weird hybrid based around a pterodactyl, a Klingon Bird of Prey, and some weird creation from Syndrome (aka Buddy Pine) of The Invicibles (only that movie had not been created then, Doh.)

Yet here we are, steadily rolling into AC37, and three groups have either shown us what they are doing about the chase boat requirement, could do with some manipulation of existing tech, or intend to do with the help of some big players.

The first of that group is ETNZ This may well be the most adroit looking of our trio, but it is real, and developed by a small, dedicated, and clearly talented group. Nice work team. Keep it up!

The second is Artemis Technologies' workboat in Ireland. 'Pioneer' is electric for now, and is originally designed for commercial applications, but does have Artemis' proprietary eFoiler® system already, and as so many sailors use their simulator, this one would not seem to be that much of a stretch. Pioneer is also in the required size range - funny about that, huh.

And the third, and just released, is American Magic with their BGH from Bluegame, which is a subsidiary of the mighty Sanlorenzo group. Definitely the best looking, well they are Italian after all, you just know this is going to have recreational marine stamped all over it. Reminds one of adaptive suspension, ground effects and aero kits, along with variable valve timing and paddle shift. What happens at the pointy end does filter down...

Now if SailGP is 'Powered by Nature', then perhaps the AC chase boats are powered by water. OK. It is an over-simplification, but ultimately that is all that is going to be going out of the tail pipes, and that's a lot nicer than the charming exhaust of either the two-stroke oil burners, or the voracious appetites of the super fast spinners in either of our ferries mentioned earlier.

Stink boats, hey...

OK. There it is. There is so much more on the group's websites for you. Simply use the search field, or 'edition' pull-down menu up the top on the right of the masthead to find it all. Please enjoy your yachting, stay safe, and thanks for tuning into

John Curnow
Editor, Sail World AUS

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