Feb 6, 2014

Takapuna Worlds preview: QA with Martin Fischer

Image: Fischer's Mayfly prototype foils, Noumea Feb-Apr 2011. When Fischer launched the 'Mayfly' many didn´t believe for an instance a flying  A-Cat was ever going to perform. Finally the boat couldn´t achieve the desired goal, but surely set the basis for the ACup course racing flying mode and what we are seeing today in the C-Class, A-Class and Flying Phantom (Project he launched with Udin right after the MF)
To me the the Mayfly setup was 'Ultimate Weapon' at the time beyond being not proven in racing, and got rightly 'killed' on that phrase...

Two years later we are about to know if Martin´s concept will be finally applied in the As with some degree of  success, as we have flying boats already but none has won a major event yet.

Flying A-Cats are the talk of the day with all the intense development going on at Takapuna, including ACup teams like TNZ and I think it is a good thing to happen:
All tests at once concentrated in the same place for the Class to decide what to do next and which are the best steps to follow.

On latest modifications I think the 'Cassette' case is legal and I don´t see flying per se as a class killer as it is already happening for a while with J boards and Airborne time has become an additional appeal for the Class.

But in my view the super refined As should retain these key aspects: 

- Being able to race from 5 to 25knots
- Equipment should be kept as simple and reliable as possible.

These two concepts will continue to attract more sailor beyond any foiling consideration.
There is a reason local Arg F18 sailors who sail in a super crowded competitive fleet are buying these As in masse before even know they could fly on them.

And I do hope for a couple of blessing 5 knots days at Takapuna Worlds combined with some windy days, that would be the perfect scenario.

Fischer was the first to aim for a legal flying A-Cat with the MayFly and we published the project since the first foil prototype tests at Noumea back in Feb 2011, in April Fischer sent the pic above. Original post here

I contacted him yet once more to know his thoughts on current developments.
On the rules I already published Arno Terra's view along Drummond's  against opening Pandora´s box, Fischer has another opinion. 

Always good to read the opinions of the guys involved in the actual development.
- How are you seeing now the development after you launched the MF in 2011?
Martin Fischer: I think it is a natural development and I am very happy about it. When we came out with the Mayfly we were probably a bit too early. We did not have enough time for proper testing and furthermore at that time our whole setup was biased for strong winds, since that were the weather conditions we expected for Denmark. Anyway, now the A-Class goes into that direction and I think it is good, however, due to rule
limitations it is still a rather awkward setup and in my opinion it will be absolutely crucial to remove these restrictions if the Class wants to survive on the long term (more about that below).

- In parallel with the MF you also launched the FP project and later then worked with Cammas and you guys achieved in my view the perfect foiler as Frank also performed in 5knots and went off the scale with steady foiling in the upper range  You expected to do well in the calm too?
MF: We were pretty confident that Groupama-C would be quick in non foiling conditions. However, I must admit that we were surprised that the cross-over was at such a low wind speed. Only below 4 knots of true
wind speed (TWS) we struggled. From 4 knots TWS onwards Franck overtook anybody on the first leg and basically never looked back... We actually expected the cross over at  6 kts TWS.

- What about the A Class? The Js are still to be proven in mixed conditions at a ma

jor event, the new experiments at Takapuna are not even tested in racing. Overcoming rules restrictions in this way (Landys cassette case) , it possible to achieve a all round performer? or the As lack the rig power of the Cammas C or FP for ie?
MF: The J-boards seem to work and the Exploder guys went even further with their L-foils. However, in order to achieve an all round foiling boat it is necessary to increase the horizontal span of the foil. With the
current rule 8 limitations the boat will be very competitive in stronger winds if the "lift fraction" (the portion of the weight that is carried by the foil) is high, but at low speed one will struggle.

Hence with the current rules you have to make a decision before the race whether you expect strong or light winds. If you made the wrong choice you are fu..ed. Without the rule 8 limitations it will be possible to provide good performance in basically all conditions.

Therefore I am convinced that the removal of rule 8 will provide for closer racing over a wide range of conditions. Another point of the current boards is that they are inherently unstable. If foiling on one single foil they don't provide any heavy stability.

If they go towards proper foiling on a single foil this kind of setup will be dangerous - see Oracle
first version! I saw the video of Micha flying in New Zealand, but for me this is still a sort of skimming. For me proper flying is what the Flying Phantom or the C-Class does. I think everybody will agree that there is a big difference in flying between the Flying Phantom and the current A-Class boats.

- What do you think of A Class current rules restrictions? they must be reviewed to restrict or should be opened ?
MF:  I think both rule restrictions on foils (inserting the foils from the top and the 75cm limit) must be  removed. The "inserting from the top" has already been out-designed and that is only the beginning.
However, to get a foiling boat with good all round performance it is necessary to increase the horizontal span of the foils. With the current 75cm rule it is possible to fly in stronger winds but to do so you struggle in light winds.

To overcome this the foil size and efficiency must be increased. If that is done a foiling boat will also be competitive in light winds, as shown by Groupama-C or by the Flying Phantom.
In my opinion the A-Class will struggle to survive as a top level racing class if these restrictions will not be removed. The A-Class is the perfect development framework for a single handed foiling boat
since a worldwide organisation is already in place.

However, if rule 8 stays other classes / boats will appear that do fly properly and those boats will easily outperform an A-Class and probably cost less. At that point the performance orientated sailors will switch to that new Class and only the conservative sailors - let's call them "old school" - will stay with the A-Class. The A-Class has survived over the years because it was always at the leading edge of beach catamaran development.
But now the leading edge is proper foiling and if the A-Class bans that there is no more need for the A-Class.

- With the FP flying fast and stable and in full production, how does it feels to achieve such a great boat?
what is next in that project?

MF:  I am obviously very happy about the success with the Flying Phantom. But I insist that it was a whole team effort. First of all I must mention Alex, who put a lot of money into the project and hence took a big financial risk. Then of course Franck Cammas and the whole team that was involved in the Groupama-C project (internal and external). A lot of know how gathered during that project went directly into the FP. And last but not least the test sailors - first of all Gurvan Bontemps - who went out in freezing cold conditions during the last 2 months to bring the boat to the point where it is now.

- How about the GC32?
MF:  We are in full work for the new foils. The design of the foils is finished and currently the moulds are machined. We hope to do first tests towards the end of February. I am very excited about this project. It will be the first "large" foiling production catamaran.
Our first estimates of the performance with the new foils look very promising, but I won't reveal anything until we have done tests on the water. A lot of teams have signalled interest in the Flying GC32 but Andrew McPherson is better placed to talk about that.

- Are you going to Takapuna? 

Unfortunately not. I wanted to go, but I didn't get a boat as it had been agreed upon with an (unreliable) producer.

- Any chance to go for an updated A project applying the the FP experience?
MF:  I love the A-Class, but I won't do anything with the current rule restrictions. If they stay with the rule 8 restrictions I'll probably design a new single handed boat with proper foils but then outside the A-Class rules.

- Current / future projects you are working on?
MF: There are a lot of things going on at the moment but I cannot talk about that now.

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