THINK THAT AMERICA’S CUP-STYLE MONOHULL FOILERS WON’T IMPACT YACHT DESIGN? THINK AGAIN, BECAUSE THEY ALREADY HAVE...
After watching the 36th America’s Cup, most of us are still wondering whether there could ever be a point in the future where yachts will replace a keel with a set of foiling arms in order to scorch around like an AC75. But a handful of people are already well down the track towards making that happen; among them, Italian sailor and owner Roberto Lacorte.
Having enjoyed several successful seasons aboard his Mark Mills-designed 62-footer Supernikka, Lacorte went on to have a crack at the Persico 69F foiling monohull, a large foiling dinghy. According to Mills he discovered quickly that he really liked the 69F, so much so that he bought two in order to keep his crew together and ensure they could race against each other.
But the experience went beyond this, as Lacorte started to think about whether a larger foiling monohull would be possible for coastal racing and record-breaking.
By the summer of 2020, having signed up the services of Mills Design along with some other leading experts including KND, specialists from North Sails, Giovanni Belgrano’s Pure Engineering, and Emirates Team New Zealand designer Dan Bernasconi (widely attributed as the brains behind the AC75), the Flying Nikka project was under way (if you’ve not seen it, check out the radical concept on yachtingworld.com).
All of which shows an impressive vision and confidence in the future, given that at that stage no one, not even the Cup teams, had seen physical evidence that the AC75 concept would work on a racecourse. Yet, Lacorte had already made a huge commitment.
What has emerged is a sleek, modern looking monohull with reverse sheer and chamfered topsides that make it look very similar to the current breed of AC75S. But, as Mills is keen to stress, this is where the similarity ends. For starters, Flying Nikka has a keel. Plus, Cup budgets and human resources were not available, or even desirable.
“As we looked into the project of foiling across a range of conditions and boat headings we realised that fixed foil systems that simply slide in or out like the
IMOCA 60s wouldn’t suit our purposes,” said Mills. “These type of systems are very much a ‘set and forget’ concept and great for long reaching legs. What we needed was the ability to alter the angle of attack and therefore alter the amount of lift we would be generating more easily. But the AC75 systems are hugely complex and not an option for us.”
At this stage that’s as far as Mills would go on explaining what their technical solution is, but in broad terms it’s easy to see that the concept of developing righting moment from a canting T-foil slung out to leeward is where stability and power are generated.
What I wasn’t expecting to hear were his comments on the keel. “We don’t really need it,” he said. “In many ways it’s there to make sure we can enter events where we’d need to meet Category 3 requirements for stability. For events that don’t require this we’ll take the keel out.” So what gave Mills and Lacorte the confidence to proceed? “Getting Team New Zealand’s design co-ordinator Dan Bernasconi involved and using his software allowed us as novices to get into the foiling world,” said Mills. “We could not only see if it worked technically, but also fly it as you might a computer game with a wheel and some panels of information in front of you and figure out what wind conditions we could fly in, what sort of trajectory we needed to get the foils to work and so on.”
“This is a boat that will be sailed mainly in the Mediterranean so light weather performance is important,” he said. “We’ve compromised on the top end of the speed range as we don’t want to be getting close to the cavitation area. Nevertheless, broadly speaking we’re looking at speeds of around 20 knots upwind in 10 knots of wind. When it comes to reaching we’re looking at mid to high 20s in the same strength, and then around 40 knots in 20 knots true.”
It’s impressive stuff, but so too is the fact this is a boat for just five crew. Why?
“It’s a weight thing. While a crew of five will have their work cut out, carrying, say, 10 would mean we couldn’t fly like we want to.”
So, for those of us still contemplating how the America’s Cup might affect the future, it would appear we’ve got some catching up to do.
‘What has emerged is a sleek, modernlooking monohull’