Photo by Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / Safran

Get That Cat Outta Here!

Although we understand not all sailors are racers, we do like to keep up with the America’s Cup because it’s not only sailing’s preeminent event it also always carries trickle down ramifications for technological advancements for all of us.

The big news this week is Patrizio Bertelli, team principal of Challenger Luna Rossa, has stated, on the record, that the 36th America’s Cup will be sailed in foiling monohulls. By the way, we predicted that in a piece right after the last Cup concluded – that has nothing to do with the content of this story but sometimes bragging just happens.

We’re back to monohulls,” Bertelli said in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa. “They will be very powerful boats, but [as for] technical details, for example with foils or canting keels, we will see them later.

It will be interesting to see how the sailing world will react to this development. So many purists detested the flying catamarans that held the spotlight in the last two America’s Cup editions and openly sighed at the lack of relatability to ordinary sailing. Foiling monos will be all kinds of experimental but at least they will likely resemble something similar to a normal sailboat and perhaps that will bring back the audience that left feeling abandoned. It’s doubtful that one of these boats will have an onboard exercise bicycle for generating energy like the kiwi team had in this past event. There has never been a sight less traditional-looking than crewmen continually peddling four exercise bicycles as two others sailed the boat around the course.

© ACEA 2017 / Photo Ricardo Pinto
© ACEA 2017 / Photo Ricardo Pinto


Many will, of course, be somewhat happier with this change but does this announcement of foiling monos definitively mark the end of the America’s Cup identity as a time-honored gentleman’s game? That already happened you say, the last decade has been about off the wall multihull design. True, but is this as far as the referendum will go? If so, we are officially in the world of flying boats from here on in and the America’s Cup will be more like X games than golf.

With that in mind, how does all of this influence the trickle down effect that was part of the fun? There was a time when the engineers and designers of America’s Cup boats would introduce a new sail material or running rigging solution and the sailing public would say, “Oh really? I will have that on my boat please.” But with hard wings and lifting foils, it’s not the same.

Well, maybe more and more sailboats will have foiling capabilities. Probably not. We’ve reached a point of separation. The days of creating technology to make a traditional boat go faster are over, therefore the systems and approach to managing those systems are unique and idiosyncratic.

It seems that this storied event has crossed over into a different species and that’s not neccesarily a bad thing. The 36th Cup looks to address other elements like nationalism and affordability which could make this next event very exciting and really fun to watch. It’s very possible we could see 12 or more separate countries with full crews rounding marks at 30-knots resembling Cups from the past… except the hulls won’t be touching the water. Ah well, roll with the times and enjoy the ride!

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B Boardman

Racing of all types helps to introduce improvements to its underlying participants whether it’s sailboats or cars or planes. Good things will flow from this.


Yeah, agree that racing is not just for entertainment but a learning experience for us non-racers: how do racers choose courses, execute maneuvers, balance their boat…in short, what are some things I could learn and do better in my recreational sailing. The recent foiling cats are so foreign to anything I might ever sail it is hard for me to see any benefit to my experience and becomes even less entertaining. Kind of like Formula 1 racing…I will never drive a car like that, but Demolition Derby, yeah, a parking lot at Wal-Mart is like that!

It’s a tough choice between J-class and non-foiling monohulls. IMO J-class yachts are the most graceful, beautiful objects ever designed. On the other hand, sailing technology that we can all use would not advance much if a strict one-class rule was adopted. I suggest letting the America’s Cup return to its genteel, refined past with J-class yachts or some other non-foiling, lower-tech monohull design we can all relate to, and let other race series push the design envelope. Let the other series use “sailboats” that don’t touch the water and have wings instead of sails. Some things need to stay… Read more »
Robert Hunt

The winged cats were both too fragile and a step too far. I’ll be happy to see foiling monohulls, although I doubt I’ll ever sail one. I just don’t want to go that fast in a boat. Still, the stresses created by the speed, and possibly the canting keels, will lead to more reliable parts and design that are applicable to cruising monohulls in general. Lighter, stronger and more efficient parts, as well as increased margins of safety in bad conditions, are going to keep people sailing longer and younger.

Just like F1 racing cars aren’t an extension of the family sedan, the America’s Cup racers shouldn’t be an extension of the family/club sailing “sedan”. It should be unreachable and unobtainable by the average fan. The AC racer should be a dream and remain a dream for everyone without extraordinary means – just like an F1 racing car. A foiling mono just seems somehow wrong. It’s not the proper vehicle. A foiling cat allows for all sorts of technological improvements (and just as many options for getting it wrong) during design, build, and racing. But when it all comes together,… Read more »

if you watch the races on TV, you’ll notice the stands are decreasing full at NASCAR, INDY Car, and F1. People can’t relate to those hi tech cars like they did when you could buy those NASCAR vehicles at your local showroom.

Bill S

Definitely return to monohull without foils. We have seen the ultimate tech high speed cats. I doubt anything will go faster. I love the 12 meters. I was present when the Easterner was launched, varnished with a copper bottom…a beautiful boat. AND REQUIRE entire crew and skipper be from country the entry represents. Buying the best skipper, tactician, etc should be OUTLAWED. THIS IS A COMPETITION BETWEEN COUNTRIES!

Have sailed a small variety of sailboats. Have owned a Hobie Cat now for years. Learned even more with it about racing than the other types and speed is the name of the game for me and for the America’s Cup. The America’s Cup is a racing event. Why would one want to restrict a racing event to a certain type of sailboat which is not the fastest, or restrict where the sailors come from (we’re after the fastest sailors; who cares where they come from, though we’re not proud that they might have been bought). And how silly to… Read more »

I say the sport benefits with the innovation of the cats they are impressive to watch. I prefer monohull but let’s have 2 classes in the World Cup mono/cat