The Olympic cat

We take a look at the latest developments in the Tornado class and the likely medallists
The Olympic catamaran, the Tornado , grew out of the International Yacht Racing Union B Class Catamaran rule. For the B Class this most basic of box rules, specified a boat 20ft long, 10ft wide with 235sqft of sail and weighing 155kg. In 1967, some five years after the IYRU catamaran class rules were published, the Rodney March-designed Tornado was selected to become the new Olympic by the IYRU at a Catamaran Trial ready for the 1976 Games. Since its debut in Montreal it has remained the highest performance class at the Games ever since. Now, over 40 years later, the class is due to head into its final Olympic Games after being controversially removed from the 2012 Olympic line-up. With the exception of refinements in technical details such as a few tweaks to the hull and some developments in the rig, the Tornado had remained largely unchanged from its beginnings until fairly recently. The Olympics in Sydney 2000 saw the class competing for the last time in what many would consider its original set-up – one trapeze and two sails. Prior to Athens in 2004 an entirely new rig had been added to the boats, utilising two trapezes, a square topped mainsail and a gennaker. The added square top to the main increased its size from 15-16sqm, while the jib saw a smaller increase from 7 to 7.2sqm with full battens permitted (although sheeting was still limited to the front beam) while the new gennaker added a useful 25sqm downwind. These changes came into effect on 1 March 2001 with the aim of reflecting the current trend of three sail, twin trapeze beach cats and keeping the Tornado as the fastest and most spectacular of Olympic class. With these new rigs being introduced between the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, development