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ISAF Rio 2016 Evaluation Trials report

FX and RS900 for the Women's Skiff and Nacra 17 and Viper for the mixed multihull recommended

Friday April 20th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

ISAF has published the reports on the recommended equipment to be used for the Women's Two Person Skiff and the Mixed Multihull events at Rio 2016. Briefly the Women's skiffs to be recommended are the Mackay FX and the RS900, while the Nacra 17 and the Viper are to be recommended as the Mixed Multihulls.

Women's skiff: 

Mackay FX and RS900.  It is recommended that none of the remaining boats presented in the 2012 Evaluation Event is considered for selection as Olympic equipment at this time. These boats are the Arup Skiff, the Aura, the Rebel and the 29erXX.

In deciding between the RS900and the Mackay FX it is recommended that the following key factors be born in mind:
- Both boats fit the established criteria.
- Both boats require skillsets which exactly parallel those for the Men’s Skiff.
- Both boats have visual and practical affinity with the Men’s Skiff equipment.
- Both boats have suppliers with a proven track-record for quality and global supply.
- The Mackay FX offers the advantages of a providing a common platform with the Men’s Skiff event.
- The Mackay FX is bigger and heavier. It will suit crews at the upper end of weight range criteria. 
- The RS900 was designed specifically to fit the published criteria for the Women’s Skiff event.
- The RS900 is lighter and smaller.
- The RS900 is expected to suit a crew weight well within the criteria.

The Mackay FX and the RS900 are both suitable for the specified crew weight criteria including consideration of kinetics and the manageability of the boat. It is clear that the Mackay FX offers advantages as a common men and women’s platform with rapid implementation. However this has to be balanced against the smaller and lighter RS900.

These two boats, the Mackay FX and RS900 were clearly preferred by the MNA sailors. In terms of the boat layout and performance, both the Mackay FX and RS900 have solid wings and offer similar skills and techniques to the men’s skiff. 

Both the Mackay FX and RS900 manufacturers have a proven track record in a global market and with high performance skiffs; they currently produce and distribute ISAF Classes worldwide.

Good Performers: Rebel
Of the four other skiffs, the new Rebel has the best performance and is designed to be challenging. It is different to the RS900 and Mackay FX as it had racks with netting instead of solid wings. On balance it did not rank as well as the RS900 or Mackay FX. Only one MNA sailor ranked the Rebel as their first choice. International supply capability is less well-proven.

Not Suitable: 29erXX, Aura, Arup
The 29erXX is a larger rig on the 29er hull platform. Only two sailors ranked the 29erXX in their top three choices. It failed to impress in respect of its performance, the sailors felt it was too easy to sail and underpowered, particularly upwind.

The innovative Aura impressed at first sight but disappointed on the water. Only one MNA sailor ranked the boat as a top three.

The Arup skiff offered a technical departure from the other boats. It was the lightest boat but seen to be too complicated and too unstable. It was not ranked in the MNA sailor top three.

MacKay FX

The Mackay FX is an existing 49er  hull and appendage platform with a new smaller rig designed specifically for the evaluation. The modification includes a few simple retrofit deck layout changes, including; increased downhaul and jib sheet purchase and an additional turning block on the gennaker sheet.

The Mackay FX proved to be one of the fastest in terms of speed.

Performance was good and the sailors felt it was nice to sail and power was easily controlled. The work done by North Sails and Southern Spars should be acknowledged as rig and sails were executed perfectly and looked in proportion to the boat.

The sailors felt that the boat was challenging and quickly adapted to the boat, some of this owing to the large size of the hull platform. However this size and weight is also a concern voiced by the panel and the sailors, where boat manageability may be difficult on and off the water. The optimum weight range of the boat is suspected to be at the higher end of the criteria weight range.

Due to the excellent work and substantial investment of the 49er builders the quality and equipment control is good. The platform is good quality and will therefore have a good second hand market. As the 49er is currently available the price information is creditable and the Mackay FX is €1000 cheaper than the 49er.

The builder is in a satisfactory position to produce and deliver boats in a reasonable timescale. For nations with existing 49er fleets it would appear to have advantages. However it is considered that the size of the boat is not ideal for the women’s target crew weight and it may be a compromise.

MNA Sailor Feedback

Number of sailors 1st Choice = 11, 2nd Choice = 7, 3rd Choice = 0

In an open discussion forum the sailors unanimously said it is suitable for the women’s Olympic skiff class. Common feedback themes included:

- Hull and appendages are proven in Olympic competition
- Rig is refined and controllable.
- Boat is heavier than others, may be hard to launch in waves for two women.
- Concerns that the correct  crew weight is too heavy.
- Sailors saw the benefit of parallel training with the Men’s skiff.

Evaluation Panel Feedback

On the boat: It was the Laser Radial version of the 49er with few surprises  
On the bid: The presentations traded on the 49er history,  proven track record and availability. Details were provided of how the new rig proportions were developed and compared with the current 49er rig. The boat is the most expensive of the skiffs. If selected then 50 full mast and sails packages could be ready for delivery 10 weeks from order. Additional orders could be supplied at 8-10 per week.

Selection should be subject to the following:
- Signing of the ISAF Olympic Classes Agreement
- ISAF controlled distribution of the first 100 rigs or to May 2013 and hulls if necessary.
- It is suggested the boat is renamed the 49erFX to provide better media understanding.
- 49erFX should utilise the 49er class rules with the addition of an appendix.
- 49er Class Association should consider administering the class. The benefits of having a women’s
committee in this class and utilising it combined strength. The Constitution Committee should review
the current proposed class association proposal.


General Review: The RS900 design is a new boat similar in style to the 49er and is designed specifically for the women’s skiff evaluation.
The boat’s performance was good and the sailors felt it was a stable hull and rewarding to sail. The boat proved ideal for the target
weight range of 110kg -130kg. While the boat was not the most powerful at the evaluation it rewards good crew handling and tactics. RS Sailing provided ISAF with a good building specification and demonstrated the quality control procedures they have in place with the hull manufacturer for a number of their products. The boat pricing information is creditable with additional discounts for boats sold to MNAs. The builder is in a satisfactory position to produce and deliver boats in a reasonable timescale.

MNA Sailor Feedback: Number of sailors 1st Choice = 6, 2nd Choice = 6, 3rd Choice = 6

In an open discussion forum the sailor unanimously said it is suitable for the women’s Olympic skiff class. Common feedback themes included:
- Sailors liked the layout and lighter hull.
- Boat was forgiving but would benefit from better control of rig and sail power.
- Felt good downwind. 
- Easy to right and more stable than the other powerful boats.

Evaluation Panel Feedback - On the boat:
- It has similarities to the male skiff but has been further refined. (Examples of this included extending the wings forward of the shrouds and centralising the control lines).
- The power of the boat is optimised to the target crew weight range.

On the bid:
- Proven track record of bringing a new product to market in high volumes.
- The boat is substantially less expensive than the 49erFX.
 - RS Sailing’s commitment to its range of high performance boats.
- Production boats will be 109kg.
- A rig and sail refinement programme is complete following feedback from the evaluation.
  -If selected, then full production can start before the end of June 2012, 16 boats produced by end of  August 2012 and then at a rate of 16 to 24 (maximum) boats per month.

Provisions of Selection
Selection should be subject to the following:
- Signing of the ISAF Olympic Classes Agreement and an amended ISAF Classes Agreement.
  -An MNA discount of 12% £10352 will be available to all MNAs this commitment is guaranteed for the 12 months or first 100 MNA supported purchases whichever is the sooner.
- The list price of £11750 is to be managed under open book price control policy
- ISAF will control distribution of the first 100 boats or up to May 2013.

Read the full Women's Skiff evaluation report here

Mixed Multihulls: 

The Evaluation Panel recommend consideration of two of the entrants, the Nacra 17 and the Viper.

The clear preference of the MNA Sailors and the Evaluation Panel was the innovative new NACRA 17. Designed specifically for the Mixed Multihull criteria the Evaluation Panel concluded the NACRA 17 is seen as the best option. Featuring curved daggerboards providing vertical lift, the Nacra 17 will carry a wider – range of crew weight better than the 16 footers and is considerably lighter than a Formula 18. The modern Nacra 17 also offers the sailors in the Mixed Multihull Event the exciting challenge of mastering the potential lift of the curved daggerboards.

Of the six other entrants, the Viper was the second choice of the MNA Sailors. As an existing ISAF Class, with over 50 boats waiting in stock, the Viper offers a rapid implementation. The MNA sailor feedback was that some felt that they were at the upper limit of the competitive combined crew weight. The new NACRA F16 was not seen to offer major advantages over the NACRA 17 or the established Viper.

The superbly-refined, and much admired Tornado at 20ft was judged too powerful by the female sailors. It was considered that at highest level of Olympic competition the female sailor would inevitably be the helms person, leaving the male crew to deal with the higher loads of the mainsheet and gennaker sheet. Only one MNA sailor (a man) ranked the Tornado as their first choice.

The Hobie Tiger, a Formula 18, was the heaviest boat at the evaluations. Presented in ‘light crew’ mode, with the smaller jib and gennaker, the balance of the rig was questioned. Only two sailors ranked the Tiger in their top three choices.

The Hobie 16 with gennaker did not find support from the MNA Sailors. It failed to impress in respect of its performance and sailing qualities when compared with the other boats presented. Only one sailor ranked the Hobie 16 as a top three choice.

The Spitfire S is priced competitively with the Hobie 16. It was not popular with the MNA Sailors who would have preferred a self-tacking jib and better organised controls.

Mast Configuration - the Request for Proposals documents specified the option of a two-piece mast to facilitate transportation.

Manufacturers presented two-piece masts for evaluation. The feedback from some manufacturers was that the join in the mast added weight, around €400-€500 in initial cost and potential for weakness, inconsistency and loss of watertight integrity. Unless controlled at regattas competitors may seek to bond the spar into one piece. The evaluation panel concludes that a one-piece mast is more suitable for this application.

Consequently the pricing for two-piece options have not been presented.

Several boats offered the option of a carbon-fibre mast or an aluminium mast. Generally the carbon masts add about €2,000 to the price of the boat. Benefits of a carbon fibre mast are performance, longevity and improved safety in capsize recovery due to lighter weight. Depending on the method of carbon-fibre construction it may offer one-design compliance advantages.

Nacra 17

General Review: The Nacra 17 is a new catamaran specifically designed by Morelli & Melvin (USA) to meet the mixed multihull evaluation criteria. The Nacra 17 is 40kg lighter than a Formula 18. At 5.25m (17ft 3in) long, the modern hull shape combined with curved daggerboards creating vertical lift is designed to have a wide competitive crew weight range, lower sheet loads and promote new skill factors. The curved daggerboards which provide vertical lift are a development already proven on the Morelli and Melvin-designed Nacra 20 of which 80 boats have been built.

MNA Sailor Feedback: Number of sailors 18: 1st Choice =14, 2nd Choice = 3 , 3rd Choice =1

The NACRA 17 was the clear favourite of the MNA Sailors with 14 out of 18 ranking it their first choice.

“Very big difference to other boats – long term solution”.
“For me this is the Olympic boat. It is challenging and exciting, dynamic and feels like there is a lot to learn to optimise performance. It has good loads that are enough to make the boat athletic but still allow for crew rotation between male and female. I think the design of the boat allows for longevity over several Olympic campaigns…. This boat is the best size for the job and offers the most exciting enviable class for 2016 Olympics and beyond.”
“All systems worked very well, good layout, no sharp edges (soft deck) – all standard high performance catamaran features (diamonds-bolt adaptable on the water etc.) + “kick bars/wedges on trampoline “
“Stiff hulls, stiff platform”

Evaluation Panel Feedback

- Nice feel because of foils creating lift, boat feels “light” – less drag, less resistance.
- Stable, but very manoeuvrable (because of hull shape), very dynamic – quick and easy turns (tacks/gybes), bigger range of angles downwind, and therefore more tactical options.
- Good size for mixed sailing, crew weight OK, loads OK, either man or woman as crew or helm.
- High performance, athletically challenging to sail, double trapezing upwind at 12 knots (sooner hull-flying)
- Four mast options were presented, ranging from a single-piece aluminium to a two-piece carbon fibre.
- Nacra maufacturers preference is for a one-piece mast. The two-piece aluminium mast is the least favoured option. The carbon mast gives a weight saving of 6kg. The Evaluation Panel recommend the one–piece carbon fibre mast option.
- Big square top of mainsail, good mast rotation.
- This is a new design, and is not in conflict with existing F16 and F18 box rules, and therefore not subject to development pressures to remain competitive within a box rule. If selected, will need initial allocation of orders by ISAF.
- If selected, it is envisaged there will be a lead time of 4 weeks to start production, which would initially be at a rate of 7-8 boats per month, while additional mould tooling will take 6 weeks to produce. By mid-August 2012, production would be up to 23 boats per month.

Provisions of Selection - subject to the following:

- Signing of the ISAF Olympic Classes Agreement and a modified ISAF Class Agreement.
- Price stays fixed at MNA start-up discount price of €16,750* for first 100 boats ordered, or until 31 October 2012 whichever is the earlier. - ISAF will control allocation of first 100 boats.
- After the first 100 boats are ordered or 31 October 2012 (whichever is the earlier), the price will be €19,000.
- Nacra agrees that ISAF will under contract control any subsequent price until November 2016.
NACRA also presented a start-up discount price of €14,500 for a boat with a one-piece aluminium mast ex VAT, ex Works (NED).


General Review:
The Viper was developed in 2008, and was described by our MNA testers as a fast, comfortable, easy to sail, easy to crew (by a woman), stable, well organized, well rounded boat. Challenging in the breeze, it’s positive steering makes for some good manoeuvring (tacking, gybing and pre-starts). Some found the boat to have a small spinnaker and that it-lacked power off the wind.

Others found the volume of the bows was not enough causing it to ride on its bow upwind and downwind, this explains their comments about the importance of crew weight placement and kinetics. The simple yet functional system to raise the dagger boards without having to go to leeward to physically raise them was refreshing (the only boat to address this). Those who went over the handlebars realized that it was quite easy to recover from a capsize. Tall teams found the boat to be a little small and felt that the optimal crew weights will drop as more teams get familiar with the boat. Equipped with a 2-piece mast in carbon or aluminium were the 2 options presented at the trials. Being such a positive boat to sail many testers did not find it a challenge to master the boat, therefore found it not to be challenging enough for the Olympics. With over 200 boats sailing, over 50 in stock waiting to be delivered around the world, low cost, one-design rules, the Viper is a well-rounded boat.

MNA Sailor Feedback: Number of sailors 18: 1st Choice = 4, 2nd Choice = 5 , 3rd Choice = 6

Ranked among the top 3 boats tested, Positive steering (upwind and downwind), Clean, simple and efficient controls layout, Efficient dagger board system, Nice sail plan (lots of twist on mainsail=more sheet load)

Evaluation Panel Feedback

- Traditional (F16) hull shape, Possible to sail competitively in a short amount of time, Cunningham system different from other boats, Nice finished product, 50+ boats available for immediate delivery.
- Daggerboard hoist strap good and simple, Proven track record (200+ boats built), Oversized cross beams.
- Could use better traction on hull and deck, Could use telescopic tiller extension , 2008 Hull Design, Platform not as stiff as some other boats tested.

Provisions of Selection
Subject to the following:

- Signing of the ISAF Olympic Classes Agreement.
- Price is €13,400*, AHPC will agree that ISAF will under contract, control any subsequent price until November 2016.
- ISAF will control allocation of first 100 boats ordered after 4th May. (As of 23 March, there were 65 boats in stock: AUS 20, EUR 20, USA 15, THA 10.)

*price is for boat with one-piece aluminium mast ex VAT, ex Works (AUS), 1-piece carbon-fibre mast add:

Read the full Mixed Multihull evaluation report here

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