SailGP’s F50 catamaran was successfully launched in New Zealand’s Northland region, with all six national teams spending valuable training time on the new class of boat over the past two months. During the sea trials period, the first two F50s were commissioned and the systems were validated, while spending a total of 27 days on the water. In just 50 days, all six F50s will be lined up on Sydney Harbour, ready for SailGP’s inaugural season opener to begin on February 15.
Crédit : Ch Cameron
The sea trials were run by SailGP’s technical team and provided the first chance for the teams to take the reins of the world’s most technologically advanced foiling catamarans. It was also the fruition of over a year’s worth of work by Core Builders Composites, which began the construction process for the fleet of six identical boats in September 2017. A team of more than 100 highly skilled engineers and technicians have been employed by the Warkworth, New Zealand, based company to ensure the on-time delivery of the ground-breaking boats.
“This is incredibly exciting,” said SailGP CEO Russell Coutts who, with Larry Ellison, launched the pioneering SailGP in October. “This F50 is a major step forward for high-performance racing. It's incredible how rapidly foiling technology has developed over the past 10 years and it's exciting to imagine where it could be in five years’ time. We will continue to evolve and develop new ideas; we already have new wingsails designed and in the production pipeline for season two, which will further increase performance in varied conditions.
“This racing has the potential to excite a whole new audience for sailing. After getting a first look at what the F50 is capable of, I’m confident that the product we will share with the world starting with our first event in Sydney will be dramatic and thrilling.”
“To get six of these high-tech boats completed has been a huge undertaking,” said Mark Turner, managing director of Core Builders Composites. “Our shared services team will also manage all of the logistics, any major repairs and maintenance for all teams as we travel around the world to the different venues. We are delighted with how the boats performed and with how the sea trials have gone, and we were able to stress test our resources and equipment before sending our first containers to Sydney.”
A top speed of 49.7 knots was achieved by Olympic champion Tom Slingsby and his Australia SailGP Team, attained in 17 knots of wind in Bream Bay. Overall, the F50 is expected to have a 12-15 percent performance improvement from its predecessor, the AC50, and once fully developed, the F50 should reach speeds well into the 50-knot range.
“With these boats, we are really pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in sailing, and we proved that with the speeds that we achieved during the sea trials”, said Slingsby. “The F50 is an amazing boat to sail and we now can’t wait to start racing at the first event in Sydney and show the world what they are capable of. It’s going to be really challenging, particularly in the early events of season one when the teams have not had many training hours. I like the fact that these are hard boats to sail, because it creates a true test of skill, athleticism and team work.”
During the trials, more than 45 people were involved in the daily operation, with bases at Northport and Marsden Maritime Holdings. The four-hour daily sailing sessions involved the teams performing a number of manoeuvres to test the boat’s structure and equipment, including the light- and heavy-air hydrofoils, control systems, safety equipment, battery, and hydraulic pumps.
“We’re extremely happy with the result of our sea trials in New Zealand, which was a fantastic host for this critical building and testing phase for SailGP,” said Brad Marsh, SailGP tech team operations manager. “We seamlessly integrated in to the Northland community, using the many resources available to get this project over the finish line. Northport and the entire Northland region played a large role in our success, and we can’t thank the people of New Zealand enough for the support.”
SailGP is an innovative, fresh approach to a history-rich sport, aiming to increase mainstream popularity and excite sailing’s next generation. In its first season, the fan-centric championship will bring intense inshore racing to Sydney; San Francisco; New York; Cowes, U.K.; and Marseille, France, as world-class crews compete for the championship trophy and a US$1 million prize.
Six rival national teams will compete in the first season: Australia, China, France, Great Britain, Japan and the United States. The league kicks off on February 15, 2019, with Sydney SailGP, during which spectators will be able to witness the F50s flying on Sydney Harbour.