Team Invictus stakes shape

Paul Larsen reports on the progress of the Airbus-backed C-Class catamaran taking shape in Bristol

Tuesday August 10th 2004, Author: Paul Larsen, Location: United Kingdom
After a huge push from all the team at AIRBUS in Filton, Bristol over the last week, the 'back' of the build process was broken. Everyone's efforts felt rewarded when at last she sat there before our tired eyes on the workshop floor.

Time is running out as the main event, the re-launch of the real 'Little America's Cup' in Bristol, Rhode Island from 15-26 September is fast approaching. Building a C-Class catamaran for the first time is no easy task. In fact you are only really qualified to build one....after you have built one! I describe the sail to the uninitiated as a cross between the solid wing of an aircraft and a lightweight racing grand piano. Such is the nature, function and complexity of its design. A finished C-Class wing is engineering bordering on art.

Certain things had conspired against the progress of the build that were out of the teams hands and windows of opportunity were fast closing. A call was put out ten days ago that the project was in critical need of help in the man hours department. As the weather was no good for SailRocket we leapt in the car, loaded up with boat building equipment and headed for Bristol for a planned couple of days to build some dagger boards. We stayed for eight days and helped assemble the whole boat. Our latest night was around a 3.30am finish.

The team at Airbus had done so much work just to get to this stage that failure was just not an option. We brought with us the know-how recently acquired from the build of SailRocket and added it to the enthusiasm of the Airbus team to see their dreams become real before their eyes. The commercial aircraft industry can be a very slow and ponderous beast to get moving. This is understandable when you consider the responsibility it carries for safely transporting the peoples of the world very fast, high and far day in and day out. We could no longer wait for this and it was time for the hand over to the yachting industry and the know-how that it generates.

Forget the C-Cat for a moment and look at the basics…the regatta is fast approaching, a no-show is not an option and the boat is spread all over Bristol with not one of its major components joined. A total team effort was required. Nothing could be put off. If something was not being done it had to be discussed, designed and built then and there with the combined skills of key members. It's not always as slapdash as it sounds as there are some pretty clever people to draw from. In hindsight the week felt like a month but in the end, before us sat an amazing craft that we all know will be there for that first starting gun.

I haven't seen a modern 'C' for nearly 20 years since I first got to sail against Victoria 150 way back in my early days on the front of Hobie Cats in Australia. I think it was the boat that made the biggest impression on me in all my sailing career. 'One day, when I grow up...' Super fast, super efficient and amazingly graceful. I love these boats and so does everyone who has ever witnessed them in flight. Staring at one once again it looked every bit as impressive as I remembered.

Norman Wijker and Mark Bishop who front the project stood in front of it like proud fathers. The team had answered the call and the day will soon be upon us when Team Invictus will take her place beside three other C-Class catamarans from America and Australia on the lawn in front of Bristol yacht club, Rhode Island.

The next running of the Little Americas Cup will perhaps be the best attended ever. We all expect the Americans to be very hard to beat first time around but then it's a game where you simply have to start somewhere. It's all about the wing. Some people complain about the complexity of the C-Cat wings but then that is also the beauty of them. The perfect wing is yet to be built and by the time it is… I think that it will be a lot simpler than some of its predecessors. We already know how to do it much better next-time. The team have come along way to get this far. It's a happening thing.

We will be going to Bristol, Rhode Island pretty much as an untested entity although all efforts will be made to test the rig on the airfield at Filton. We will not have the opportunity to sail Invictus in the UK beforehand. It is not how we wanted it to be but simply how it turned out. The time we have has to be used wisely. In hindsight I am not that worried as the fact remains that we will learn so much from sailing this Mk 1 that it may have been a waste of money and time at this stage to build two boats of the same design straight off.

The focus is now on making this wing as robust and reliable as is possible. In order to have built a proper second generation boat we would have needed to have this Mk1 on the water months ago and that simply wasn't possible. Inside the team we are all aware how fragile these boats can be and that there exists a strong possibility of the whole lot going over the side. We are also aware that this is the nature of the game and of competition. We may also have the foundations of a rocketship where split-flaps will be the way forward. Anything can (and usually does) happen. I for one can't wait to find out.
Whatever the outcome... It's absolutely fantastic to see the return of the C-Class. I truly hope that you all get to witness it one day so you too can see why they get us so excited.

Many thanks to the following for helping make this happen-
FIBRE FUSION (sure to figure big in the Mk2)
And individuals too many to mention.

Below: Mark Bishop, Paul Larsen and Norman Wijker

Latest Comments

Add a comment - Members log in


Latest news!

Back to top
    Back to top