Foiling cats are changing competitive sailing

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The foiling catamarans sailed in the America’s Cup last year are forcing organizers of events such as the Extreme Sailing Series to rethink the future. However, the limitations of harbors that host these races means there are some logistical concerns to using the boats.

Freddie Carr, a British America’s Cup sailor who raced on Luna Rossa in the last America’s Cup, tells The Telegraph that foiling is an “insane” experience.

“It’s a crazy sensation,” said Carr, who recently joined Sir Ben Ainslie’s British campaign for the next Cup. “The thing you notice first is the G-force. You are hanging on to the pedestal grinding, and you feel yourself getting thrown over the side of the boat as you go from 25 to 40 knots in 8 seconds and basically start flying. You have no idea about the speeds until you look behind you and see the chase boats going flat out trying to keep up.”

Carr is not alone in seeing foiling boats as the way forward.

Extreme 40 skipper Paul Campbell-James, who also sailed aboard Luna Rossa in San Francisco, won the Round the Island Race last week on a GC32. The foiling catamaran design was launched two years ago, and there are said to be 45 boats on order, with a new European circuit set to kick off in July.

“It might turn things upside down because the boats are awesome and you have all the top professional sailors involved,” Campbell-James told the paper.

Extreme organizers, who had the idea of bringing sailing into city “stadiums” long before the America’s Cup highlighted it, are well aware of the need to update their boats to keep the top sailors engaged.

But foiling at 35 knots in a venue like Singapore, where the water is surrounded by tower blocks and shopping malls, would be impossible, says Extreme Sailing Series event director Andy Tourell.

“It is fundamental the sailors are excited by the boats, but to go foiling, we would have to increase the size of the race course to accommodate the higher speeds, and that would compromise the stadium racing concept which is core to our circuit,” Tourell said. “At some point a redevelopment or transition will definitely be needed, but whether that is 2015 or a year later remains to be seen.”