Long time Anarchist and pro cat sailor ‘Macca’ checks in with this report on the pre-production Nacra F20 Carbon, called "Bad Boy". Macca is as straight a shooter as they come, but full disclosure requires that we tell you he is a sponsored rider for Nacra. For more info and pics, go to the Multihull forum brought to you by GunBoat.
Holland in March is usually not the best place to go sailing, as an Aussie I have a natural dislike to any weather that requires the use of a drysuit! John Forbes said it best: If you need a drysuit, we don’t go! But as the years I spend in Euroland go by I find myself less reluctant to drysuit weather and was even tempted to sail the new Nacra F20 in February, but sanity prevailed when there was a good coverage of ice in the harbour.
So finally the weather came good, I arrived back Holland earlier this week and after a visit to Nacra HQ we arranged to go for a test sail on Wednesday. The forecast was great; unseasonal warm weather and 12 kts breeze sounded pretty good for a first sail on the new creation.
You have all seen photos of the boat and discussed the boat at length so I won’t bore you with any more detail stuff unless someone has a specific question, but suffice it to say that the boat is what you expect from Nacra, the layout is clean and simple just like the Infusion. The build quality and finishing (on this pre production boat) was excellent, a few extra bolt holes and fittings here and there but as you would expect from the first boat out of the moulds.
The breeze was a lot stronger than the forecast and as we sailed out of the harbour and as soon as we exited the sea wall it was clearly more than 20kts. So this would be an interesting session!
First up, Peter Vink and I sailed upwind for a couple of miles, just getting a feeling for the boat and trying a few different settings for mast rotation and board height (more on the board height later) essentially the boat sails like an Infusion, same systems and Nacra DNA helps with the familiar feeling and there are very few things anyone would want to change. You can feel the foils working to lift the leeward hull even as you go upwind. The boat feels fast as you come out of a tack but then as you both get on the wire and it winds up to full speed you get a funny feeling through the boat that it’s all gone a bit light, essentially it has gone light! There is clearly less boat in the water..
Pete and I then cruised downwind (no trapezing so we could chat) getting a feel for the boat under kite and seeing what happens when you push the bows under a wave (not much, just pops out again). The breeze by now was solid mid 20’s so we were giving it some loads to deal with, At the bottom of our run we parked up and had a chat about a few things we noticed and then Pete jumped on the coach boat to check it from a different point of view and Adam Beattie joined me on the 20.
Upwind again, this time Adam and I were pushing as hard as we could and tried the boards in different heights as well as different heel angles for the boat, both of these are related to the behaviour of the boat and both make a huge difference. If you have the boards fully down and fly the hull high you get a lot of lift from the foil, this is fun but not the fastest way to go upwind. We tried some silly things like big hull flying and then rounding up sharply.. The boat flies on the foil (leeward hull out of the water until the board case) then it settles back down in the water and carries on upwind. Its all very manageable and aside from the ability to make the foils lift the boat its pretty normal sailing.
Then we set the kite and left the boards fully down and Adam jumped on the wire, you feel instantly that the boat is lifting on the foils. Its very easy to get the whole boat out! We did this a few times and couldn’t stop laughing! It’s seriously the most fun you will ever have on a beach cat. For sure the full boards down option is not the fastest in the conditions we had (25kts by this stage) but it’s a crazy amount of fun and very addictive..
Anyhow, sanity prevailed and we lifted the boards 30cm and tried again: This is the quickest I have ever been on a beach cat downwind. Pete was only just keeping up in the coach boat at full throttle. The slightly higher board setting still gives lift and the boat is semi foiling the whole time. You can feel that the steering becomes super sensitive and your speed increases as you keep the boat in the groove. It was around this time that I said to Adam: "this is the future of catsailing" It’s a whole new dimension to the sport, The added speed and feeling the boat gives you is something I want to do again and again. I would have stayed out all day if it was possible!
So, we could see some seriously bad weather coming in and as it was already 20kts plus we decided to call it a day, Here is the "funny" part. The heading back to the harbour was a square reach and being silly (bloody Aussies!) we thought it would be interesting to see what happens with a full noise reach and full boards down. We started out pretty well, the boat was semi foiling and going quick. I think we would have been quicker with the boards up a bit more though. But we were still heading a bit high for the harbour entrance, so we tried to sail a bit lower angle and initially we were fine, then we had a huge line of breeze come through and we got it all a bit wrong.. With the full boards down the boat started to get out of the water and we were standing too far aft which then lifted the bows and then the boat really came out of the water, lost grip and took a big step to leeward, this would have been ok if I was still attached to the boat!
Suffice it to say that we did some swimming in the North Sea.
The good news is that the boat was super easy to get back upright again, the lesson for the day was: don’t try to fly too high!! Its no problem upwind (the boat never fully flies upwind) and downwind is ok because the boat doesn’t make the big sideways step as it come out, but reaching is where the side loads are big and the boat wants to go to leeward once it comes free of the water.
The boat is the most fun I have had on a small cat for a very long time and I can’t wait for the next sail on it (maybe Monday..) I would happily swap my F18 for the 20 and for a lot of the bigger teams I think it’s a great option. There are already solid orders that ensure there will be a class in Europe this year and as more people get to try the boat I am sure the momentum will increase.
Steal one if you have to, but make sure you get out there and try this boat!!