Sailing the Foiling Gunboat G4

Timbalero III was the talk of the town as she made her debut at Antigua Sailing Week, with good reason  
Author:
Updated:
Original:
TimbaleroIIIfoils_0

Timbalero III was the talk of the town as she made her debut at Antigua Sailing Week, with good reason

I first spotted her as we headed back into Falmouth Harbour after the first day of racing in Antigua Sailing Week. I was on the deck of Alize, a 1987 Beneteau First 435E owned by my friend Bill Haynie, a sailing buddy from my Newport years, when we saw it screeching over the horizon—the bright orange hulls of Timbalero III, foiling across the water at breakneck speed. The new Gunboat G4 had been the talk of the docks since I got to Antigua a few days earlier; everyone was excited to see her sail, especially after the dramatic video of her capsize in St. Barths a week earlier had gone viral in the sailing world. Hell, the manager at the hotel where I was staying knew about the boat, as did the taxi cab driver that shuttled me down to the docks. So needless to say, I was excited that I was going to get a chance to sail her a few days later during Antigua Sailing Week’s mid-week lay day.
[advertisement]

I met Gunboat’s Peter Johnstone at the dock outside the Antigua Yacht Club around mid-day on Wednesday. He was wearing his G4 crew shirt, leaning back in a relaxed manner at the wheel of the fittingly sleek Pure Yacht inflatable that was serving as tender to Timbalero III during Sailing Week, looking more like a crew member for the G4 team than the company owner. On our way to meet the G4, Johnstone seemed to get flagged down from every side—a wave, a hello, a request for a chance to go sailing. At Sailing Week, Johnstone was the coolest kid in school, the kid with the new bike that everyone wants to ride. “She’s pretty slick,” he said nonchalantly as he waved to a passerby.

 Timbalero III at the dock in Falmouth Harbour

Timbalero III at the dock in Falmouth Harbour

“We’re looking at the younger market,” Lauren Battaile, marketing manager for Gunboat, told me later as I settled in onboard. “Thirty-somethings that have done well for themselves in tech or finance and are looking for something a little different, something with a little more adrenaline.”

And if you’re looking for something with adrenaline, the G4 should be at the top of your list. This boat is an adrenaline machine. After we climbed aboard and stowed our gear, crash helmets and body armor were handed out (a first for me when it comes to boat testing), and we had the now-standard safety briefing, which was essentially “if we capsize, hang on to something.” Sailing the G4 with us was America’s Cup sailor and Antiguan local Shannon Falcone, who, having recently gotten his walking papers along with the rest of the Luna Rossa team, was spending the week being, as he described it, Gunboat’s “pitch-pole consultant.” “I went over nine times in the AC45s,” he said, “so I’m here to have fun, do some sailing, and let Peter know what I find, what can be done better. This is all about proof of concept. Now that we know it works, it will be refining the systems, pulling less ropes and pressing more buttons. The technology is out there, they’re not reinventing the wheel, we had it on the AC45s.”

 The Gunboat crew accepting their award at Antigua Sailing Week, five bullets in six races got them to the top of the podium

The Gunboat crew accepting their award at Antigua Sailing Week, five bullets in six races got them to the top of the podium

While the mainsail system is currently hydraulic, operated by one of the coolest foot pedal systems I’ve seen, many of the other systems are still using ropes and winches—for now. After Sailing Week, the G4’s schedule was to head back to St Maarten and get ready for the sail home to Wanchese, North Carolina, where the boat will get some upgrades that will include installing hydraulic systems for the sails and daggerboards. (Johnstone agreed with Falcone’s assessment of “pull less rope, push more buttons.”) But regardless, hydraulics or no hydraulics, the G4 is an absolute thrill ride. In 12 to 15 knots of breeze we hit just north of 25 knots boatspeed. This thing can get two couples comfortably around the islands at speeds that were previously reserved for motor yachts. The helm is responsive and stable, and even though you’re going 20-plus knots it's never frightening because you feel like that’s how fast you’re supposed to be going. Riding on the G4 felt like the slowest fast ride ever—everything is so smooth and even as the foils slash through the waves.
[advertisement]

I look forward to catching up with Johnstone and the G4 in the Fall once she has gone in for her mid-season check up. As I heard repeated a few times during my time talking with the Gunboat team, their trip to the Caribbean was all about “proof of concept.” They wanted to show that the technology could work, that the speeds of foiling catamarans that captured the attention of the international sailing community during the 34th America’s Cup was not out of the reach of the every day sailor. A little fine-tuning here, a tweak there, and whether it’s screaming around the racecourse or on the dock, this boat will certainly be turning heads.

Related

IMG_8287GR16Mykonos

Cultural Charters: Mykonos

In last month’s column, I covered the amazing mix of cultures that have called the Dalmatian Coast home over the centuries. Croatia cruising is like a smorgasbord of intertwined centuries, and the islands are a movie set. A little farther south, though, you’ve also got Greece, ...read more

cookinglead

Cruising: No Oven? No Worries

Many cruising boats, especially smaller ones, don’t have a conventional oven. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have all the baked foods you want, from bread to brownies to breakfast rolls to casseroles and even a roast chicken. All it takes is the right bit of gear and a ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Take no chances  This is my stern with the engine running slowly in gear against the lines. We all know that when we’re charging batteries this lets the engine warm up thoroughly. However, I have a ...read more

ZK-Seaboot-900

Gear: Zhik’s Seaboot 900

A Better Sea Boot Following up on its successful ZK Seaboot 800, Zhik’s Seaboot 900 was created in partnership with team AkzoNobel and Dongfeng Race Team, the latter the overall winner of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race. Designed for serious, long-distance offshore racers and ...read more

01-LEAD-FP-Astrea-42-Gilles-martin-rajet---Navigation

Switching to Solar Offshore

No sensible bluewater sailor would consider setting off on a long cruise these days without some means of generating power other than by burning fossil fuels. The good news is that solar energy is becoming less expensive by the day, making it an obvious answer for providing the ...read more

190812-Tiwal-Video-600x

Video: Tiwal Cup 2019

Who says you need a superyacht to have fun? It would be hard to imagine having a better time on the water than these sailors recently did racing aboard a fleet of Tiwal inflatable sloops. ...read more

GEMINI-BATTERY-PASSAGE

Experience: No Batteries, Big Problems

After sailing on Puget Sound and in British Columbia for over 30 years, my wife, Jeri, and I retired to Florida, bought a house on Punta Gorda and worked hard to get it straight. The walls had been painted, furniture bought and assembled, belongings packed, transported and ...read more