Getting to grips with the Nacra 17

Sander van der Borch Photography /
Princess Sofia winning crew Thijs Visser and Swiss helm Matias Buhler look at the issues with the new Olympic cat
While the 49er FX is something of a known quality – it is no more than a 49er with a cut-down albeit slightly stiffer rig – the Nacra 17 catamaran is causing much more headscratching for those involved. For starters, while there have been classes in the past, such as the Tornado and 470, that have been theoretically mixed, in practice only a handful of mixed crews like Carolyn Brouwer/Seb Godefroid in the Tornado and Pete Newlands and Cathy Foster (before the 470 was split into separate male and female fleets), have ever chosen to compete in anger. With the introduction of the Nacra 17, Rio 2016 will be the first Olympic Games to have a sailing class where it is mandatory for crews to be mixed. Then there is the boat. Catamaran design, not to mention build techniques, sails and equipment, have developed immeasurably since Rodney March penned the Tornado 46 years ago. The Nacra 17 features a state of the art hull design and its daggerboards (rather than the Tornado’s kick up centreboards) have a shallow C-shape to them, causing them to develop some vertically lift, in addition to merely preventing leeway, when lowered. For the Nacra 17 crews, many, in particular the female sailors, come to the class having had very very little previous catamaran experience. But even the old catamaran hands have very little experience with the new generation C-shaped daggerboards, that we have previously seen fitted in limited numbers in some dinghy cat classes like the A-Class and Marstom 20, etc. Male helm or male crew? With the first Nacra 17 Worlds this week in Den Haag, two Nacra 17 males - one a helm, another a crew and both from widely different backgrounds - gave us their views on the new Olympic catamaran. Argentinian-Swiss sailor Matías Bühler,