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SuperFoilers are go!

by John Curnow 2 Jul 2017 08:30 BST 2 July 2017

SuperFoilers represent many things. Whilst those components are disparate and virtually from different planets in the great scheme of things, they come together in the one form as harmoniously as a Rolls Royce, and also deliver intense energy way past the sum of their parts, just like some amazing band.

Firstly, there is the distinct feeling of the romance of the long gone Flying Boat era. There's almost an element too of the Thunderbirds, as if the strings of the marionettes are being pulled this way and that when they are up on their 'stilts', and the craft totters around a bit in the prevailing conditions. Previously, I have written about the prehistoric visual reference to the pterodactyl-esque appearance of the trimarans, which today is better known as the foil delivery system.

Then of course, and not surprisingly at all, Bill and Jack Macartney have captured that unique element of the old 18-footers, where you felt you were in there tussling with the best in the land, and every second there was something that completely demanded your attention, and danger lived around every corner. Finally, and very importantly, there is that crucial component made up by instantly drawing parallels with things like the Red Bull Air Race.

It's a big wrap, but I have been out and seen the boat do a little over 20 knots in something like six to seven knots, maybe eight occasionally, maybe, and they have already cracked 33 downhill. They certainly are pretty impressive figures for a boat still in development. Jack Macartney responds to that summation, "Absolutely. The numbers we're seeing pretty much match the velocity performance projections that Pete Melvin modelled initially. Having said that, we're only sailing the boat with two people on the trapeze still, as we're being pretty cautious about our approach to the conditions, how we're sailing in those conditions, and also building our knowledge around the boat before really pushing it."

The SuperFoiler is a very sexy looking beast. We kind of knew that was going to be the case, for the Macartney's were very keen to have that, so as to assist with the overall marketing. She's also a real thoroughbred; a twitchy little item, which means that the skill of the sailors is going to be severely tested. Enjoying this important phase presently are Euan McNicol, Rhys Mara, and also Steve Thomas, who will be part of the Moth fleet at Lake Garda soon for the World Championships.

SuperFoiler teams will benefit from all of the learnings with tuning guides and so forth to aid knowledge transfer, but I was keen to establish what it is really like. Macartney explains, "It always takes my breath away. It's so different to any type of sailing, excepting that the environment is still the same. There is the feeling of flying and having that third dimension over and above the traditional two-dimensional sailing, where you remain bonded with the water. The power and the acceleration that the boat gives is insane!"

SuperFoilers will be crewed by young, fit, agile, and talented sailors. Macartney adds, "As much as I love stepping onto the boat when I can and when it's appropriate, I'm really happy to have the guys out there running the program and developing the boat, because there's a strong continuity with them. The most pleasing thing for me is to see the rate of knots at which the boat is progressing. We've only had something like 20 days on the water so far, and we're making some really big steps forward, which is what's really needed."

Now it does seem very unfair to call this SuperFoiler the development mule, but she kind of is in the way. They have made a few tweaks to the placement of gear and the steering system, which have been implemented in the subsequent hulls. This one will be refreshed after being utilised by teams signing on for the programme, which gets underway this December.

The hulls are locked in with numbers two and three done, and four in the mould right now, but what about spars, foils and sails? "Hulls, beams, floats and superstructure are well and truly underway. That side of the production is humming along at the moment. We'll see boats two, three and four being commissioned in the backend of August, and then five and six thereafter. So it will be all six boats in the water this November."

"In terms of what I call the variable components, I've left it open ended as long as possible with foils, rudders and rig, just to confirm that the geometry and the overall platform is what we need it to be. The foils are the most important part of the boat in terms of getting the range through all the conditions, getting flight and lift, as well as being safe. Literally here today we have signed off on those, so now we'll swing into production of them, and keep to our timeline."

"The only open ended area still is the daggerboard housing, which is the most complicated and important part of the boat. It holds a lot of the innovation in the concept, so we've been juggling where to end up there over the last few weeks. We aim to make a decision on it, lock in the design and start to build those components by the July 7."

"The sails will be the last piece to the puzzle, and we've really developed this set a long way. They're pretty different to what they came out as, and we're doing another iteration of this lot, then we'll sign them off as well."

If you look at the centre hull closely, you will see that there is a lot of rocker under the for'ard beam. There is also some fantastic volume just aft of the logo on the bow, which together with the rocker does do a magnificent job of driving the boat back out during a splashdown, for this is not a craft designed to be used in low-rider mode. There's a lovely set of compound curves that for'ard beam that then also rolls through into the trampoline and all of that.

Macartney says of the aerodynamic package, "So this comes back to the premise of the concept, and that is if we're not foiling we're not racing. The boat was literally designed from the foils up, and the superstructure that you see is there for that specific reason. We also had to put a structure in place that would give the sailors some safety factor or stability in touching the water again. In addition to the rocker, you'll note that the floats also disperse water, so as to aid in detaching from it and getting airborne."

"Pete Melvin, the chief designer, put a lot of energy into the aerodynamics package, which is where a lot of the foiling technology is going at the moment. Once you're up and doing 20+ knots, the airflow over the deck is quite significant, so windage has a huge impact on the overall speeds of the boat. And we're pretty happy with how the thing looks!"

It is a tremendous achievement to be achieving two to almost three times wind speed in boat speed, depending on the angle, wind strength, so on and so forth. You get to notice, particularly when the wind is light and holey, that the boat will fall over itself probably quicker than it actually accelerates. That really is saying something, because firstly the 350kg SuperFoiler will be up in just six knots of breeze. Secondly, the SuperFoiler goes from in the water, through transition, and on to high speed foiling in less than ten seconds, and has gone from four or five knots SOG to 22 knots velocity.

As mentioned already, these are very impressive figures, and serves as a great segue into talking about the commercialisation of the six boats and the six race series. Remember, they're locked in to get going come the Australian Summer this year because of the broadcast coverage.

"This has been a start-up business, with an original blueprint, and knowledge that we learned from last time, but with all new technology. There is also a new to us area of the business, which we didn't really deal with last time, and that's manufacturing. So we've had to deal with firstly the development of the boat, and then the building of all of them and managing those timelines. So we've been cautious over the last year to really pin down our schedule before knowing exactly what is possible in the build of all the machines."

"Now that we know, we've got that tucked away, and we know we're going to have six boats ready for when we need them. Yes, we are full speed ahead with the conversations we've got with brands and organisations, some of which are 18 months old now, There are also plenty of new ones as well. I would say there are 40 in the mix, and of that 40 there's a handful that are looking pretty strong. We don't kid ourselves. It's a really tough business, and we recognise that it's really up to us to get it all off the ground, but we're up for it, and so far, so good!"

"We haven't really asked for any firm commitments yet, but we can say, with our hand on our heart, that the boat is doing what it needs to do. That means now is the time to go back and start looking for decisions. It's a really important aspect for us able to deliver what we are saying we're going to deliver, and from our previous sponsorship model we know the value of overachieving in our deliverables and we're taking that to a new level with all the new medias available to us."

"It is probably best that any interested parties get in touch with us to walk through the different levels of commercial arrangements but in terms of the team context there could be multiple sponsors on one boat, there could be one sponsor per boat, and the range is between $180k to $700k, depending on what level of management, team pay, team support, and all of those sort of things that is required."

It's also a pretty fair to reiterate right here that when you're looking at the pictures you will notice that there are hand-rubbed foils, and rudders and all the rest of it. This is all part of the development process in terms of shaping, which, as we saw, is absolutely crucial.

"Absolutely. Even though it's boat one of six, it's our development boat, so with everything we're doing we're trying to hone the boat, so that means having the boards in their best form if you like, as opposed to appearance. We're also really dialling in control systems and moving things around to get the best functionality, so the changes we've made haven't been huge, but the gains in foiling, control, safety and practicality have been significant. A lot of effort goes into looking after the foils and hence we're trying to optimise that to get absolutely tight on the shape that Pete Melvin and his team created from the start."

"In terms of the racing schedule, we will have some specifics for you in the next month. Essentially we start in the first week of December and run through until March in 2018. It will be broadcast on the Seven Network, which is really exciting and we'll live stream globally. So yesterday we did a full scale live stream practice, with boat to boat and off the boat pictures and some sound from the crew, so now we're just shaking down our production modelling and putting that through its paces as well as completing the boats, hand in hand. So there are plenty of things happening, plenty of challenges, but it is really exciting."

"In closing, I'd like to say thanks to everyone who is following us, and to keep doing so! We're pretty open about our journey. We wanted people to come for the ride with us, and once we get up and going in December we want people to be on board with us, our coverage and everything we're doing."

"SuperFoilers are trying to be ahead of the game in the technology sense and what we deliver. We really want to be at the forefront of the industry, and put Australia back on the map in that area, which we think we did pretty a good job of last time. So you can expect us to be working hard to really be different in our broadcast coverage, and really deliver something exciting, entertaining and spectacular", said Macartney in closing.

So yes. SuperFoilers are go and you can go to, or better yet, to be right at the front of the technology curve.

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