The Winged World of C Cats

You would be forgiven for mistaking a room full of C Class catamaran sailors for aeronautical engineers. In some cases they are. The native C Cat speaker talks about Reynolds numbers, induced drag, camber, and angle of attack. They spew numbers and theories and formulas for speed.The fraternity of international C Cat sailors spent much of September at Bristol Marine in Rhode Island. They
Author:
Publish date:
Updated on
catlead

You would be forgiven for mistaking a room full of C Class catamaran sailors for aeronautical engineers. In some cases they are. The native C Cat speaker talks about Reynolds numbers, induced drag, camber, and angle of attack. They spew numbers and theories and formulas for speed.

The fraternity of international C Cat sailors spent much of September at Bristol Marine in Rhode Island. They were on a quest to remove the International C Class Catamaran Championship trophy from the grip of its defender, Cogito, which is sailed by Duncan McLane and Steve Clark. Present were a British challenge (Team Invictus), Team Australia, and Patient Lady 6, a relic of the C Class past. Each team had a posse of engineers, designers, friends, and fellow speed aficionados. They went sailing, broke things, and spent a lot of time in the parking lot repairing hulls, foils, and their radical 40-foot-high wing masts. Oh, and there was racing.

cat1

Without much of a challenge (or fanfare), Clark and McLane held on to the trophy, losing only one race in a weeklong series. The result is a subplot, really. Always has been. The story is about a small community of cat sailors and designers in pursuit of speed. And considering recent setbacks in the class, just having a challenge was a step in the right direction.

The last challenge was in 1996, when Cogito went down to Australia and won. Back then the contest was still known as the Little America's Cup, a sobriquet created by journalists in the 1960s. Last year Long Island's Sea Cliff Yacht Club, a longtime sponsor of the event, decided to go in a new direction. They took with them the name Little America's Cup, and the new product lacks the development angle (it's held in F-18 HT production catamarans) that purists argue was the whole point of the event. Meanwhile, as Sea Cliff was deciding to steer a new course, C Cats were being designed and built in Australia and England, and the show had to go on.

cat2

Steve Clark, whose father, Van Allan, sailed the C Beverly in 1963, changed the championship format to encourage competition. The new event starts with fleet racing. In the past one challenger would show up and match race the defender; as a measure of how things have changed in the C Cat game, in 1977 there were 13 challengers vying to race against the cup holders in Australia. After the fleet series in Bristol, when performance levels were clearly known, the racing went to matches; the 1 seed versus 2, 3 versus 4. In a little over two years, the racing will be held in Perth.

cat3

The 385-pound (including rig, hulls, and foils) Cogito remains the benchmark. In 8 knots of wind off Bristol, she was powered up more than the other cats, even with the heaviest crew on the wire; crew weight is nearly the same as a boat's all-up weight. Her carbon-fiber wing is clean and simple; the boat can double the windspeed in moderate winds and has a top-end speed of 24 knots. A better measure of the wing's performance is lift coefficient. The C Cat has an LC of 2.1, compared to a soft-sail boat's LC of 1. Working within three basic dimensions (25 feet long, 14 feet wide, and 300 feet of sail area), McLane and Clark have created a cat that is not only the fastest of its kind, but one that doesn't self-destruct. Keeping a C together, the Brits and Aussies have learned, is the hard part.

The Aussies need more time to develop a lightweight wing mast and foils. Team Invictus needs to go back to the drawing board; a soft-sail rig would have been faster than their "split-flap" wing, designed after the Spitfire wing. Patient Lady 6 still has it. Despite sailing with a wing mast that was built in 1982, PL 6 finished second with Lars Guck and Stan Schreyer on board.

cat4

But if 20-year-old Patient Lady can still compete, is C Class cat racing getting any better? They're no longer the top performance multihulls. That has to be the domain of the maxicats now circling the globe at 20-plus knots, occasionally hitting 30 knots, or the speedsters like Sailrocket going for the all-out straight-line speed record. But this doesn't seem to faze the players who were in Bristol, all of whom plan to develop faster wing masts for the next event in Australia. Norman Wijker of Team Invictus, for one, is hooked despite getting creamed on the water. He compares his campaign in financial terms to a 30-foot racing keelboat. "Certainly I'm biased, but these boats are a lot more interesting than 30-footers," he said. No argument here. Josh Adams

Related

Meridian-X-Spin_2

MOB: A Whistle in the Wind

Mark Wheeler went overboard a few minutes before midnight. He was in the middle of Lake Michigan, 30 miles offshore in 40 knots of wind. As he fumbled for the lanyard to inflate his lifejacket he watched his racing sailboat, Meridian X, disappear into the night at more than 18 ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Slapper stopper  When I came on deck at 0800 to hoist my colors on a visitors’ mooring recently, there was an awkward slop running in. This doesn’t trouble my Mason 44, which has a traditional counter ...read more

Tilly-1

Gear: Tilley Polaris Hat

A True Blue Tilley Sailing is all about fun in the sun, but it sometimes doesn’t take long to get too much of a good thing, especially when on a prolonged cruise or offshore passage. Enter the Tilley Polaris, the latest lid developed by iconic Canadian hat-maker Tilley. ...read more

Sand-TOWEL_MODEL-3

CGear Sand-Free Beach Towel

Sand Be Gone! The summer is hot and full of terrors—not the least of which is the sand that sticks in your beach towel in the hopes of a free ride back to your car or boat. Fortunately, there's now the CGear Sand-Free Beach Towel, engineered in polyester to not only dry quickly ...read more

01-Blowup-Tiwal2_sailing-(3)

Gear: Tiwal Inflatable Sailing Dinghy

Blow-up Boating A few years ago, the French company Tiwal arrived on U.S. shores with that most improbable of products, an inflatable sailing dinghy that actually sails the way a boat is supposed to. Now, nearly 1,000 Tiwal 3’s later, the company is back with its Tiwal 2, an ...read more

Koozy

Gear: 22 Below Koozie

Killer Koozie For all that sailors love the warmth of this time of year, that same warmth can also wreak havoc on their otherwise icy-cold beers. (Unless, of course, you drink them very, very fast. But we won’t go there.) To help deal with this terrible hardship, North ...read more

Cool-Specs

Gear: Gill's Race Fusion Sunglasses

Wicked Cool Specs Is there anything in the world of sailing more fun than a cool pair of shades? Heck, no! And it would hard to find a cooler pair than these new Race Fusion specs from longtime weather-gear manufacture Gill. In addition to looking great, they include a number of ...read more