Riding a BIG Whirlwind

Like a Tornado on steroids, the all-carbon-fiber Extreme 40 catamaran weighs virtually nothing and goes in a matter of seconds from merely scarily fast to oh-my-god-we’re-going-over.

Americans got a taste of them a couple of years ago when the Extreme fleet put on a barnstorming sailing exhibition during the Baltimore stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Imagine the same kind of no-holds-barred racing, only on boats twice the size. Then check out the eXtreme 90, and be glad you don’t have to deal with a monster like this in 30 knots of wind.

At the moment it’s only a fantasy, an example of what happens when people like designers Morrelli & Melvin, Extreme 40 marketers TornadoSport and builders Marstrom Composites get together and play the “what if” game: What if a boat like this became the future of the America’s Cup? It’s certainly got all the latest multihull go-fast goodies—a wing sail, curved daggerboards and a power-to-weight ratio a Nascar driver would kill for.

Well, maybe one day. I would bet on the next Cup being raced in monohulls, but after that, who knows? TornadoSport CEO Herbert Dercksen reckons the 90 is just a bit too, well, much for an AC class; something more restrained in terms of size is in order, especially if, as is likely, stored power is banned for AC34.

“I think you could look at a catamaran of 60 or 65 feet. That would provide all the speed you need, and it would be much more suited to match racing and fleet racing,” he said.

Certainly, what little pre-start maneuvering we saw in Valencia did nothing to convince most observers that mega-multihulls could be exciting in the close-quarters sparring that can make match racing so gripping.

In the meantime, let’s hope some eager speed freak comes up with the money to get an eXtreme 90 off the drawing board and onto the water. Never mind the pre-start—I just want to see it flying a hull with that big wing powered up.

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