One of the most exciting projects of recent years is the Eagle Class, a 53ft/16.5m foiling catamaran under development on the quiet during the last three years and now part way through build in Bristol, Rhode Island. This incredible craft is essentially a “picnic boat, a weekender” according to Tommy Gonzales, who heads up the build company, Fast Forward Composites.
The Eagle Class 53 came through the desire of US financier Donald Sussman to taste the excitement and speed he’d watched during the last America’s Cup in Bermuda. Then owner of a Gunboat
90, he told his skipper, Gonzales, that he wanted the boat to have a wingsail and foil. Designer Pete Melvin carried out a feasibility study and concluded that it was better to start afresh, and so a scheme named Project Trident was created, with three objectives: to develop a hybrid wing, a rotating wingmast with a soft sail part so that the mast could be left standing when not being sailed, and the sail could be shortened; a suitable platform for it; and an automated foiling system.
The result is a collaboration between Seattle-based designer Paul Bieker, who was an engineer for Oracle Team USA, Olympic medallist Randy Smyth, and naval architect Andrés Suar.
Smyth proved the concept of the hybrid wing by first building the 20ft