Team INVICTUS, a British Challenge for the International Catamaran Challenge Trophy, has begun building the first of two boats with which they will challenge the Australians and ultimately the American defenders for one of sailings most technological trophies.
Carbon specialist, Dan EMUSS from Independent composites, based in Bristol Docks has launched into the build of major components for the construction of the 'wing' and hulls. The team aim to have a boat ready to sail by the end of February with a Mk II boat to follow sometime later.
Although the brief for the C-Class cats is relatively simple, the designs that have evolved are some of the most advanced in sailing. Soft, fabric sails disappeared long ago in favour of solid 'wing sails' similar to aircraft wings, with slots and flaps to control their shape. These can develop two to three times the lift and efficiency of conventional sails. If you've ever looked out the window of a passenger airline and watched the contortions of the wing when the plane gets ready to land then you will have an idea of how a C-Cat sail works.
Headed by AIRBUS engineer Norman WIJKER, the team is growing and the experience base is widening. The design team is largely derived from within AIRBUS but now people are lending their weight from outside the project mostly motivated by the passion to see these amazing craft take to the water once again.
Norman WIJKER (AIRBUS)- 'I first got interested in the C class at the end of the 80's after reading about John DOWNEY and Roland WHITEHEAD'S C class challenge with 'The Hinge' in 87. I could not believe that these boats existed, they seemed too weird to take in. Some time later I contacted John & Roland when I saw his boat for sale and we tried to raise sponsorship for a follow-on challenge. The time was not right and I have harboured a desire to design a challenger ever since. Experience gained in designing wing components at AIRBUS UK is good, but it is a very different job to designing a C class wingsail. The basic procedures are however similar and with colleague and friend Mark BISHOP and John DOWNEY we have built a strong team that has managed to get significant support from Airbus.'
Recent additions to the team include world record breaking multi-hull sailors Helena DARVELID and Paul LARSEN who will work with the existing team to make sure that the project realises its goals.
Paul- 'These boats are just incredible and I am so glad that there will be a couple of C-Cats on the water next summer for all to witness. They are like the J-Class of the Dinghy world (except much faster). In terms of 'off the beach' boats they are big, complicated and expensive… but when you see them on the water in their element… well you know you are looking at something unique. In comparison to keelboat racing they are compact and affordable offering a much greater technological challenge. You can't just go out and buy one, you have to get a group of very clever specialists to design and build them. Norman's team certainly has the credentials to be able to mount a formidable challenge'.
Team INVICTUS aim to challenge the Americans in Bristol, Rhode Island in September 2004 and will face competition from an Australian syndicate based in Perth.
Further details can be found on their website at the address below.