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JATO ignited as SuperFoiler prepares for take off (Pt I)

by John Curnow on 22 Aug 2017
Riding out of the water in barely six knots of breeze. - SuperFoiler John Curnow
When small military transports have to take off from impossibly short runways with a belly full of cargo akin to Mr. Creosote, they reach for the JATO bottles. Aircraft like C-7 Caribous and LC130 Hercules strap rockets, yes rockets, to the underside of their wings to gain valuable extra thrust, which surely helps keep the pilots' heart rates below the red line. They are called Jet Assisted Take Off bottles, and they really work. You can see that for yourself below…



At any rate, the analogous situation for SuperFoiler is that they have a fixed deadline (short runway) and a whole heap of tasks to perform (enormous payload), so they calculated the type of JATO bottles to grab onto, and the time at which to deploy them. That would be now, and how spectacular it is…

So with all of that in mind it was time to go back to Jack Macartney and the team at SuperFoiler HQ at Woollahra in Sydney to see how all was going in the world of waterborne flight. There are three sections to consider, the very runway we have been talking about, next there’s the expanding team, and finally the all-important commercialisation of it all.



Now Macartney jumped right into it, almost as if talking to the tower, “Okay. So, the speed down the runway has developed considerably in the last six weeks. I will start with the platform down at Innovation Composites. We have built hull number five now, with only number six to go. Presently we have number two in the jig being bolted together, and we will be able to take possession of that at the end of August, with hulls three and four to follow soon after that. The timeline for the service structures is that through September we will have another three boats, and then in October another two boats coming on stream.”

“Hall Spars have now built all the daggerboards, and we have built a spare set as well. We are under way with the rudders and the rigs, and they have already built all the booms.” Note that these are the new, slightly longer version, which trainspotters will be able to see from earlier pics and more recent vision.



“Probably six weeks ago now we signed off on a bunch of things, including small modifications to all the little bits and pieces, all set for commissioning. They have been full steam ahead, and we will get a container full of goodies mid-September to commission, and these will meet the boats that are on their way.”

There were some small re-placements with the footholds, a couple of cam cleats, and a few bits that is now pretty much sorted. “We will take templates of these things in the next month, because that is the easy part of the commissioning. It will then be mirrored across the fleet, once we are fully happy with hull number one. After that, this present boat will go back for her birthday, which is not that significant. It is more like making sure all is 100%, and then sanding her back and painting it for the brand that she will be.”



Macartney added, “Then there are the sails. We have been through the entire sail profile, and we have done a next iteration of that. Those new Doyle Sails will arrive at the end of August, we’ll confirm all of that, sign off, and then they go straight into production for the whole fleet - one design. At this point that will be one mainsail and two jibs. Presently we are leaving the option open for doing another main, which we will test in the coming weeks.

“We’ve made the main slightly bigger, and the big jib slightly smaller. So we just found that the main still has significant impact on the trim of the boat and, as the central power source, it is critical for ride height stability and a number of things, so we have gone slightly bigger with that. And we have found that the jib is flapping a lot because we were going so fast, so we just chopped that down.”



Yes, the SuperFoiler is one hell of an apparent wind machine, so in real terms, “…the main has been pushed out about 150 mil beyond the boom, so you won’t really see the boom, it will camouflage in the sail, which is nice. And then that leech has been pushed up evenly up through the sails. It is still high aspect, there is actually quite a high aspect rig, so it is basically just a slightly bigger version of what we’ve got. And in the jib we have taken size out of the head, so the foot length is still the same, as the top wasn’t doing much once we were up to full speed, so we just got rid of it.”

All of which makes the small jib more like a number 10 now. “We are using our little jib quite a lot at the moment, figuring out what the changeover is for that. Now that we are going a bigger mainsail, we might find that we are putting that on a little bit earlier. But that is all part of the fun!”



Due to all the commissioning works about to commence, we may have wait until about October before we see some two-boating. Doh! Alas, that will be something to be there for… So yes, the runway was tight, because it always was tight, but the maths is real, and we are seeing all the ticks in the boxes as SuperFoiler go through their lists.

“Yeah, this has been the case from day one for us, and so far we have proven every step of the way that we can produce the result. So the runway is tight for sure, but that is just part of the project that this is. We have basically designed and built a whole new fleet of very high aspect and highly strung machines, and they took a lot of man-hours to build as well as a significant skill set to sail. So it is no easy thing across all areas of the project, but we are on schedule and on target to start in early December. Naturally, we are very excited at what is coming up.”



“In terms of getting all the major components out to have boats on the water we are in good shape. There is only one remaining area of the boat that we have kept open for as long as we can to make sure we get the best result with, and that is the daggerboard gantry, or cassette area. This is by far the most complicated and probably the most important part of the boat. So we have already done a couple of iterations of that design and implemented them.”

“We are pursuing the direction we are going in, if that makes sense. So what we call the floating daggerboard is set, which basically controls the ride height stability and acts as a very important part of the flight stability and flight control of this machine. This in turn gives a lot of confidence to the sailors and increases the wind range in which we will be able to sail. So we are executing the third and final iteration of that as we speak. I have been on the phone to Morrelli & Melvin this morning and they will commence construction early next week with Innovation Composites, which is really exciting.”



“We had Luke Parkinson out a couple of weeks ago fresh from the America’s Cup, and went for a sail with him in 16 to 22 knots of breeze. SuperFoiler achieved 26 knots upwind and 33.5 knots downwind, which was somewhat limited by our control of the daggerboard area downwind, and therefore really being able to let her rip. Luke confirmed that SuperFoiler will comfortably roll up into significant speeds, with that bearing area working perfectly. So with the third iteration we are really confident that the boat is complete, ready to race around the cans.”

Seeing as we started all this talking about small transport aircraft, it only seems fair to now talk about how the SuperFoiler programme will get around Australia. “We will have six boats on the start line for the first season, with two sets of three boats were travelling in two 40-foot containers. These will bump in and out of the locations, and we will be fitting them out in the coming six weeks. There is also a third container that will have the spare parts and shore management of the teams from a global perspective. The teams and team helpers will have a certain levels of responsibility to manage the boats, as well.”



SuperFoiler is delicate in some regards, but really robust in others. We have planted at the nose doing 30+, and not had any issues whatsoever, except for your heart palpitations. SuperFoiler really is a significantly stiff and robust platform, which is something that we specified with Pete Melvin and the team from day one. We need to be able to plant the nose, and even cartwheel at times, yet know that we can pull her back upright and for her to be in one piece.”

“You know, we actually did a cap size test recently. A controlled cap size with no sails where we just pulled her back over by boat, and she didn’t turn turtle, and was also easy to get back up with a tender. Then we did it under sail, capsizing her on purpose and again, it didn’t turn turtle. We pulled her up with just one line on the rig, and it was a really pleasing result, because there was absolutely no damage in pulling it up and man-handling it around even with the platform in the water. This really is good news.”

It seems like we are going to cut off Jack Macartney mid-sentence, but never fear. It is just a really good place to pull it up for now. Take Off is not aborted, we are just ensuring you have a moment to check your seat belt before lift off. We will be back with Part II of JATO ignited as SuperFoiler prepares for take off very soon, and well before we run out of runway…

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