Little America's Cup to sail today?
Six boats and wings are ready to fly on day two of the 2010 Little America's Cup, aka the International C-Class Catamaran Championship. Instead of racing as planned yesterday, internationally accomplished sailors from five countries played show and tell under the tent at New York Yacht Club. A collection of designers, America’s Cup evaluators and multihull pioneers weren’t too upset that a blustery weather system delayed day one.
One of the most prestigious titles in the world of ultra-high performance sailing, the Championship was last raced in 2007, at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club in Toronto. There, Canadian challenger Fred Eaton and crew Magnus Clarke sailed Alpha to a 5-0 victory over the previously undefeated Steve Clark’s Cogito.
The C-Class is governed by a simple set of rules that reward outside-the-box thinking in aero and hydrodynamics to create the lightest, fastest course-racing boats on the planet.
“All wings under the C-Class rule are the same area of 300 square feet but it can be distributed in any fashion,” shares Steve Killing, the designer for Fred Eaton’s C-Class program. They are propelled not by traditional fabric sails, but by elegant wings, rigid but with twist capability.
“The C-Class cats were never meant to be convenient, practical craft, instead efficiency and high performance are the goals,” Killing says. Exotic materials allow them to sail significantly faster than the wind, with a top speed near 25 knots, approaching efficiencies of ice boats.
John Casey, multihull sailor and writer observes, “The Canadian Defenders have meticulously constructed Canaan, a completely new black and white boat to challenge for this year’s 'Little AC.' It may be the lightest such boat ever built, but Eaton has a target painted on his back.”
Steve Clark is ready with crew Oliver Moore and a new boat as well, Aethon. He decided to stay with his proven Cogito wing for reliability instead of an untested new design, hoping that his new boat can give enough of an advantage to win back the trophy that he held for so long.
Four other competing teams will try to wrest the Little AC trophy away from Eaton, including James Spithill, BMW Oracle Racing’s winning helmsman of the 33rd America's Cup in Valencia, Spain. Spithill will crew for multiple A-Class Catamaran World Champ and Olympic medallist Glenn Ashby. Both Australian nationals, they will sail in Eaton's proven champion Alpha.
“I've looked forward to two regattas this year," said Spithill. "The America's Cup and this one."
British challengers Paul Larsen and Gordon Kaiser have worked for years to get to this event with Invictus Challenge, which is also sporting a wider wing than the rest, designed with the help of Airbus engineers. They've spent countless hours perfecting their unique racing cat, and their enthusiasm is evident for many reasons. “The C-Class is what will drive sailing forward for years to come," said Kaiser. "It’s a complete honour to be sailing on Invictus against such a great field, and a privilege to work with such a devoted group of team mates and supporters."
Antoine Koch and Jeremie Lagarrigue will sail the 25-year-old Patient Lady VI under French colors.
“She's the Grand Dame of the fleet, but one who has also attained the highest top speed of any of the six boats. This upper end power may work perfectly to Lagarrigue's advantage — he currently holds the world record for the fastest speed ever attained on a sailboat onboard the trimaran Hydroptere,” adds Casey.
Royal Canadian Yacht Club high-performance sailing coach Dan Cunningham and Canadian shore team guru, Rob Paterson, will sail Orion, the slender-bowed design that makes up the second half of the Canadian team.
Principal Race Officer Kevin Keogh has postponed ashore until at least 1100 due to sustained 25+ knot winds in the course area. Winds are expected to drop this afternoon. Racing is scheduled daily through the 28th and will likely take place north of the Newport Pell Bridge. Spectators can follow live streaming videos at www.LittleAC.com.
Whether racing will be held today still remains in the balance with winds gusting to more than 25 knots forecast.