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U can't touch this

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail World AUS 15 Jan 21:00 GMT
Parade of the arrival of the Ultim Maxi Trimarans - Arkea Ultim Challenge © Alexis Courcoux

Reputedly, these were the very words that came out of MC Hammer's mouth. Now there is always a point of inception. In this case, our rapper was seated on his personal jet, for he always travelled with one hell of a posse. He had the earphones on, no AirPods back in those days of course, and was listening to Rick James' Superfreak as you do, when he turned to one of the cling-ons seated next to him, pulled one of the earphones back and said, 'You can't touch this!'

It was in deference to the greatness of the original, and of course this little phrase then went on to become his immortal tune with the super-snappy dancing that demanded you were under 30 to perform it, that very questionable fashion sense (suppose it was the '80s), and sampling all the way through the huge hit from the incontrovertible, and decidedly unique Rick James.

As for me, the hero picture above was my 'U can't touch this' moment. Like WOW, three of these slender behemoths in a row. No wonder the crowds were out. I just wanted to be there, as I have never seen an Ultim up close, and can only imagine it is something akin to when you step on board Comanche for the first time, or crawl through and over Black Jack 100 as she gets a new bow.

This next one came out a bit later, and the six lined up sealed any deal that had not already been signed. It is not that often that the fleet assembles, and often we just get one off on a world record attempt (either solo or crewed).

What is not to like about these amazing structures that look like modern Pterodactyls? I mean, they even fly! So it is not too big a stretch to squint and see these speed demons come to life. As a full, card carrying nerd I ponder the beams and imagine the loads, and the mains with like 35 to 50 tonne in the clews. Larry would indeed be busy.

I then go back to an interview I did with Navigator, Brian Thompson, on a MOD70, where we talked about the bucking bronco aspect, and consider that it must be the best ride in any amusement park the world over.

You spend time watching the videos, even if they are in French, to get an idea of life on board, and consider how little time would get in your bunk, and the size of the porthole to ensure you can still keep one eye on proceedings at all times. Then when you are on watch there are pods for you to take on this most mesmerising of games, only it is real, and do they look like P-38 Lightning bubbles, or something more akin to the Jetsons?

Blasting out of the blocks at warp speed gets you pondering if everything is done at 30 degrees apparent or less? I remember land yachting with the breeze completely square as we started, and then once under way I was sheeted on so hard my hand hurt. The sensation of speed that low was utterly addictive.

A B14 skiff can easily do 20 knots in a normal breeze, which must seem way cool, and if you multiply that to the size equivalent, it is over 130 knots. OK. They are closer to a third of that, but they are out in the big blue, and remember, Thomas Coville did cross the mighty Pacific at an average of 29 knots. Current record holder, François Gabart, did the whole lap at an average of 27. Like, respect, man!

These are all great questions. I must flick them at one of the powers that be to get some answers. I mean, don't you want to know how thick the foils are in which places, or what Larry the cases have to carry, and what hydraulic pressure is required to actuate them? Drag an icy pole stick through running water and see how long you can hang onto it? How does one trim and ease in this environment? Yes please! I'll happily learn...

As for routing, I mean we know the autopilots are geniuses, but if there was no need for humans, then these things would just be giant size Saildrones. The tiredness must be insane, and we all know about decision making capabilities when you are knackered. Your drunk self might even be able to do better.

So thank you for your indulgence here. The Ultim tris are immense, and as far as I am concerned, U definitely can't touch this. Now, for something like a little pop tune, this editorial is just long enough. So before we repeat the first verse, create a lengthy bridge, or repeat the chorus ad infinitum, let's go racing...

OK. There it is. There is so much more on the group's websites for you. Simply use the search field, or 'edition' pull-down menu up the top on the right of the masthead to find it all. Please enjoy your yachting, stay safe, and thanks for tuning into

John Curnow
Editor, Sail World AUS

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