Nov 6, 2012

Rio 2016 Olympics: Nacra 17 Update & Gunnar Larsen interview

Nacra press release and below Interview made with Gunnar Larsen at Long Beach.
Nacra press release: New Olympic Multihull Nacra 17 – Update
The production of the Nacra 17, which is the new Olympic multihull for Rio 2016, is continuing at pace at the factory. By the end of the week boat number 70 will be laminated and the first containers are underway to Europe.
Nacra 17 in the fit-out. Since the Nacra 17 was chosen as the multihull for 2016 a lot of work has been done, the production of the Nacra 17 is spread over three continents and has been fine-tuned and the quality control has been optimised with the expectation to develop a class with a high one-design integrity and the best possible reliability.

The progress also includes a fully revised version of the well know Nacra rudder-system with CNC-milling technology and a Q-bond system to glue the sail panels together before they are stitched, for a durable high strength. “This is an exciting time for us,” said Peter Vink, technical director of Nacra, “The last couple months we invested a lot in order to get a fine product up to Olympic sailors’ standard on the market.

The Nacra 17 will be out of the box ready to go sailing, to put it simple plug and play with equal equipment for every sailor. The Nacra 17 one-design class rules will be published soon to make sure the class will keep its strict one-design integrity.”

Apart of the fact that the Nacra 17 is a strictly one-design class the sailors will still be able to trim their rig to their preference. To give the sailors a better pathway to find their own optimum rig setup Nacra has introduced three optional sail batten stiffness’s.

The top 4 battens of the 7 mainsail battens may be changed to the manufacturer supplied, relative to the standard (medium) supplied battens, harder or softer battens. Clearly coloured certification labels will make sure the battens can be identified by others while sailing. The table below gives the particulars of the Nacra 17 in comparison with other popular multihull classes the F18 and F16.

Particular Formula 16 Nacra 17 Formula 18
Hull Length 5.00 m 5.25 m 5.55 m
Beam 2.50 m 2.59 m 2.60 m
Mast Length 8.50 m 9.00 m 9.00 m
Total upwind sail area 18.70 m2 20.10 m2 21.15 m2
Spi Area 17.00 m2 19.00 m2 21.00 m2
Average crew weight 130 kg *135 kg 150 kg
Relative RM /w average crew weight 681 kg*m 754 kg*m 881 kg*m

Interview made in LA with Gunnar Larsen
CSN: How is the Nacra 17 project going.

GL: Well it is going beyond our expectations, we promised ISAF we were going to ship 60 boats this 2012, and we are doing 80+

CSN: These boats are going to be delivered to the NA s?

GL: For the first 100 boats ISAF is calling the shots, we have nothing to say in the initial stage.
It was part of the agreement we sign prior to the trials, and we are ok with it.

CSN: And they assign these boats?

GL:It is only federations that are buying the 100 first boats. We have an excel sheet provided by ISAF, in our bid we offered to ship from our three major distribution hubs, one in North America, one in Europe and one in Asia . Most major races are still held in Europe and many sailors have chosen to receive their boat there and probably will ship back home after the season.

CSN: And the next step?

GL: It was quite a process to get the Nacra 17 ready. With that I mean, really ready ready. Our aim is to have an as simple assembly for our customers as possible. Hassle free that means. We have sold already more than 200 boats today and who knows how many more as the big public ( non Olympic sailors)is very much interested to sail the Nacra 17 locally as well, and I think by the end of 2012 we will reach 275.

CSN: So you already have a class formed, those numbers are quite impressive

GL: Next year we will have the first N17 Worlds in Europe, we are looking at 100+ boats competing at it. Especially those Worlds being held on our doorstep. This was done on purpose, so we can facilitate the sailors and federations as much as possible with their first Worlds.

CSN: That is beyond anyone expectations, for a new boat that was only a concept months before the trials, at the time I wrote that I like the project, but it was only that, pure wishful thinking, but you guys delivered finally
GL: We start with the whole idea and to produce it in September 2011, very well kept secret, with only few people involved, and we had to submit our bid January 20th 5 o'clock British time. By submitting we knew that our secret project would be known to the world. Very exciting to execute such project with a small number of people involved. An inside crowd/group where Nacra has been working with for a long time. We only believe in long term relationships and never push for short term therefore. I guess that was the key to this Nacra 17 project.

CSN: And that time the boat was sailing?

GL: No , but almost ready ready for sailing. The best thing about this project was that we could use all our knowledge from the Nacra F20 carbon. Of course it needed to fit the criteria of ISAF but that is where Morelli & Melvin came in together with Nacra Technical Director Peter Vink. A golden team when it comes to launching new boats, they proved that several times.

CSN. Tell me about the transition Nacra has in these past years

GL: It never has been a secret that we wanted to change our business model towards a more “outsourcing” manufacturer model. The key to be able to outsource your production is volume, without volume it doesn´t work, these companies want a 12 month forecast.
In 2007 we owned a full noise big ass factory here in Santa Ana Cal, with 70 people working there, and our main office was based in the Netherlands. Any businessman knows that it is not easy to run a company 10.000 km further down the road. In our business customer satisfaction is key and we just wanted to move up the ladder in terms of quality control and performance. That’s is why we all changed the model.
I In the end is not cheaper to be buying to from a third party, it is just more simpler, but again the key is volume, if you don´t have it, don´t do it...

CSN: Seeing the results I think to have a good transition, you are bigger company right now, focused on launching new products almost each year, with Nacra F20 carbon, Nacra F16, now the Nacra 17 bid you went off in this period at least in terms of new boats.

GL: Indeed, and the Nacra 17 just makes things a lot easier in terms of chasing our goal to once again become a true global player in the racing scene of catamarans. Amazing and overwhelming how many people find Nacra from various places on this globe. We now have business opportunities that we would not of have without the Nacra 17. Our dealer network ( 80 dealers around the world) have their phones ringing for all sorts of boats out of the Nacra program. We knew it would be crazy but in these hard economic times it is great to be up. I guess that the hard work for the complete Nacra team including Performance sails has paid off.

CSN: It is your flag ship
GL : No it is not exactly. Our flagship is the Nacra F20 Carbon. By far the quickest and easiest catamaran to be quicker than others and take line honours. This boat is amazingly quick and fun to sail. You are truly buying yourself speed by sailing one. The Nacra 17 & Nacra F18 are as important both. Different targeted public but to us all equally the same important.

CSN: So getting back to the N17 second stage, you have orders for 200 boats

GL: And counting. It is truly going crazy and pretty much what we expected it to be . Catsailing has gotten so much more popular for many different reasons. I cannot blame them, it is just exciting and fun to do. Any body around the world can order his/her Nacra 17. Although they do not want to be in the Olympics. After the first 100 boats we can sell the Nacra 17 to anybody. Just contact your local dealer/distributor to get yours and do not miss out. We know have the chance together to prove that multihull sailing is so much alive.

CSN: what about the numbers of the Tornado

GL: 670 built by Marstrom- What we are trying to achieve is to do the best job possible for the multihull world, we are trying to deliver 'finished boats ', for people to get in their boats and just go racing,
then they can personalize Cunningham , mainsheet for instance, but the boat must be perfect. A plug and play solution. The main reason? To show the world and ISAF that the catsailing community know what it is talking about.

CSN: ..We are not 'beachcats' , we are professionals
GL: Exactly

CSN: I remember when you were in Argentina and we talk about the Olympics , and you said we must all push together to get multis back, so now you guys have a great responsibility. Your brand is the face of Multis, and for the rest of the community facing the Olympics.

GL: We go with the principal of “ over delivering” instead of “ over promising” like always. It is so much better to receive your ordered goods earlier than late. This makes everybody happier in the end. At the trials we promised that we would ship out/deliver 65 Nacra 17’s in 2012 while knowing that we could reach more. Today we look at delivering almost 90 boats in 2012. That is what I mean with over delivering and making promises that we can live up too.

CSNt; Regarding the boat I think it is going to be challenging to sail after seeing Lamberto's and Siliva video

GL: The N17 will have a really good skill factor, being a Tornado sailor myself, that was a challenging boat too, I think the N17 will be a good boat for sailors to embark themselves in a 4 year campaign, a boat they'll need to 'learn' and to use to its abilities in full extension. In one word: challenging
On the dagger board we had Morrelli&Melvin doing the development too, for smaller boats, like the Nacra 17, curved boards would work the best, as you can change the angle of the board depending on crew weight balance , so there is the skill level factor , and if you put L or S foil on small cats, the drag penalty is too high below 8 knots.
The difference from AC45s or bigger is that the crew is stationary and they are not part of the trim of the boat, but of course it is key on beach cats.

CSN. And you had the experience of the F20c too
GL:The Nacra F20 carbon started with a full year of testing on M20s to define dagger/rudders setups , we fit it with Nils Bunkenburg curved foils and we sailed this for many hours to find all the details out ourselves. This is where theory has been put to practice. On paper ideas always look great but will they work. We chooses to find out ourselves and had some cool and critical moments doing. Nothing beats common sense and practice.

CSN: With whom do you made the tests, with Xander Pols?

GL: Xander, Peter Vink, some others and myself. So we experienced times with the boat completely out of control, we learned a lot on the M20 and we took all that feedback to MM, from there we made the Nacra F20 carbon and of course after that we have all the experience for a mini F20 carbon, that was finally the Nacra 17, specially made for the criteria specified by ISAF, the Nacra 17 was only made with that in mind.

CSN: How do you decided to go for an intermediate bid between the F16 and the F18?

GL: Well, first we thought about a lighter Nacra Infusion F18, but the numbers were not adding up, too much volume and not that light, and the F16 could have been , but we realized we needed a new concept in between, and we took a very big risk and spend a lot of money on starting a fresh new project.
The interesting thing with the Olympics , is that a lot of people helped to get back to multihull Olympic program, and that is where your website played a big part, and beyond us providing the business part for Multihull sailing is that we need to keep working together and anyone is welcome to come to our events , we need to share this project as a community.

CSN: Well you guys now have a big responsibility and tough work ahead, so I think we all need you to do good for the image of our sport.

GL: Yes, and I also want to remark that being here in LA at the F18 Worlds, having 120 boats in the US and else, we need to keep the F18 growing , to maintain the min weight too. We need to protect this beautiful class, and keep pushing forward for the class.
This class is made by club sailors, and we also need more youth racing, in Holland we have a saying that goes something like; who has the youth has the hope of the future, and the F18 provides a really good playground for all.
I'm all for innovation, as proven by Nacra's latest launches, but please keep the F18 accessible for all.


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