The hype surrounding the recent America’s Cup would have you believe that to go foiling in a catamaran requires a Herculean effort, but this is not the case. On the AC72s the monumental crew workout we all witnessed was required to maintain pressure in the hydraulics controlling the foils and the wing.
But what if you had a catamaran with no hydraulics and a conventional soft sail rig?
The new Mk2 version of the Martin Fischer-designed, Premier Composite Technologies-built GC32 catamaran has gone down just this route. The foil configuration is conceptually similar to that of the AC72s, with inverted T-foil rudders and a retracting J-shaped main lifting foil, but because the boat is not designed to a rule, there are no limitations on foil sizes. Compared to the AC72, relative to her length, the GC32’s foils are huge, with the tip—the lifting component of the main foils—5ft 4in long, and the blade longer too. The result is a cat that not only has a low take-off speed, but also the ability to foil upwind, while limiting the ungainly porpoising common on the AC72s.
Having sailed the boat during early sea trials, I can say the performance is staggering. The GC32 gets airborne in as little as 8 knots of true wind (or 15-16 knots boat speed) and in a moderate breeze boat speed is typically 2.5 times wind speed with sheets cracked. During preliminary sea trials the boat hit 32 knots off the breeze and was sailing upwind at 18-20 knots at around 50 degrees—all this from a boat that can be disassembled and trailed home after sailing.
Equally impressive was how easy it all seemed. The boat lifts out of the water without fuss (although it does require some coordination between helm and main trimmer in marginal foiling conditions) and once airborne is remarkably stable. In terms of knots per dollar, there are few better choices than the GC32. Unquestionably, this is the future of performance sailing.
For more on the GC32, including the latest on its ongoing European regatta tour, visit thegreatcup.com.
Photo courtesy of Premier Composite Technologies