May 20, 2013

A-Class Flight Development: Q&A with Mischa Heemskerk

Sequence Denis Lucci. -- Mischa Heemskerk is current A-Class World Champ, he is also top F18 contender for years now with Bastian Tentij. Today they won the F18 North Sea Regatta on the Cirrus R and Mischa's own sails. Together they are also training with the Hydros team along Billy Besson&Jeremie Lagarrigue) to compete in the C-Class major event.
I published earlier this week some great images and flight sequence by Denis Lucci on Mischa having the first documented stable flight on a legal A-Class.
I contacted him to know more about this ride and the development and required skills to reach this point, as it seems right now this is no automatic mode a la ETNZ AC72, and sailors skills play a great part of the flight license. Q&A below


- CSN: In which level of learning curve are you now on the flying A?

Mischa Heemskerk: We are in the beginning but with practice I will be able to fly in lighter conditions. Currently in breeze I am able to fly 50% of the time and with practice this should increase. At some point we will make videos but just been slammed busy from one thing to the next.

- How this affects your upwind performance or in light winds, for ie at Hyeres?
I've seen so far that it does not have a major effect on our light wind performance. Upwind in strong breeze is absolutely not a problem but in light wind we are still working to find the right settings and to make a better evaluation. We have approached the project in steps. First step was to achieve solid flying in breeze and step 2 is to optimize all wind ranges with the foils and step 3 is to investigate flying upwind but we do not expect any advantage with this. 

- Did you have air time in the final races with wind at Hyeres? 
Yes, in the stronger breeze I was able to get the boat flying on the down winds. In these races the ACat without the foils would be diving so flying made the boat much easier to control. The other DNA boats with J boards also had an easier time in these races. These guys were not completely flying yet as they had never practiced but they were diving less and in better control than the rest.
- Are you achieving a faster ride and deeper angles or it is just pure speed gain?
So far the gain which we see is in angle and control.

- How hard is to achieve the skills, you are trapping downwind and not all are doing it.
With the control foils on the rudder, trapping is already much easier and the J Foils help to minimize the jumping in general which makes the boat nicer to handle. We spent the last day in Hyeres on the water to teach the rest and Arno got the hang of it in 30 minutes. The big surprise comes when you need to turn back to upwind after a downwind and you have almost forgotten that there is 25 knots of breeze. Downwind foiling is like sailing in a vacuum - it is quiet and you are sailing in 25 knots of breeze but it feels only like 5 knots because of the high speeds being reached.

- Do you think this might affect the class in terms of development?
Foiling will make ACats more achievable for everyone to sail in heavy breeze as the nose diving is less. There is a semi WildThing mode where the boat does not dive which gives me a much more safe feel and gives me more comfort to focus on racing. In terms of the class development, it will take some time to do more testing and to evaluate the best path for the class. The DNA builders are the Henry Ford's of ACats as they have developed production boats with top quality and with the excellent platform they are able to develop these next innovations. They are incredible at rapid going from ideas to prototyping  which will benefit all sailors in the long run. We are already to a stable flight so the next months will be interesting.

- I've seen some renders of your C-Class you will be racing with Bastiaan. The foils are quite different from what we've seen. It flies too?
You have to understand that these are the renders and the race has a lot of strong competitors. Hydros is a strong competitor so therefore you can imagine the goals of the program and trust that this team with its management, sponsors, builders and designers that the combination with the wing and foils will achieve what we need.

- The question of a foiling racing beachcat is over with the images we published last week. The ACup is already there, how do foresee the future of performance sailing in the future?
I think I will bounce this question back on to all beach cat sailors around the World. What do they want? We need to keep in mind what these people want for the future of their sailing. For me it is clear, I like to think, design and solve problems to increase efficiency but that is much different than the beach cat sailors around the Worlds. I am working for them in the future. Eventually this kind of stuff will be a bit more accessible to them.

- What about the N17, you said you saw Landy winglets and use the concept for better control, any chance to use this in the N17?
I have already recommended this to the technical committee. The Nacra 17 feels like the Acat before the winglet was introduced. There are other differences but in general this comment relates to safety. A boat jumping on the upwind while a boat is already on the downwind. Let's just say that we will never remove this innovation from the DNA design . . .

- You are now sailing your own sails, you are involved in the dna development and you are currently Aclass world Champ, also participating on the N17 Olympic events and you are part of a quite technical Cclass project.Which are your next goals/projects?
With my project MISCHA SAILS, we are past version 1 and super happy with the performance till now. A final version will be available very soon for both the Formula 18 and Acat. For the Acat it is all about evaluating and changing based on the fact that we need to evaluate the power source now that we may be flying.
What is my goal??
Ideally it would be to bring the Cup to the Netherlands!! It seems pretty far fetched seeing that Holland seems to shy away from these big events (since ABN Amro) But I can dream. Dreams create realities. We all dreamed of flying cats and now that has been achieved. . . What is next??
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