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foils at dawn

We dig just how excited the top two manufacturers are about their respective A-Class offerings, and we love how their social media accounts are duelling just as hard as the racers are in Sopot, Poland (where Barcelona’s Manual Calavia leads after 4 qualifying races).  The above photos come from DNA and eXploder, and both builders and an army of regular folks are posting videos, updates, and more on the Event Facebook page.
Longtime whinging SAer SimonN took some issue with the DNA-centric Worlds Form Guide we published over the weekend.  Here’s some of his response, and you can head to the A-Class thread for a deeper dive:

As stated, the DNA platform is the same as last year. PJ states that Exploder has moved the beams and foils around a lot this year, resulting in many different Exploders in order to get the right set up. Let’s be very clear on this. There has been one small change this year from last year that makes zero difference speed wise. the rear beam has been moved back 100mm to give a little more room to get through the sail when tacking and gybing. I have sailed a boat with both beam positions and cannot tell the difference. In reality, there is no difference between the Exploders this year and what Stevie Brewin used last year. I understand a few have asked for different beam positions and because they have the flexibility to do so, Exploder have complied, but the important thing to know is that the standard customer boat, which both Bundy, Stevie and others are using is the same as last year. Stevie tells me that the intention is to keep it the same for next year as well, in order to provide some stability for customers, just like DNA have done.
Foil development has been interesting. To clear up things from the start, the new production board is the Z22 (the Z21 which PJ referred to was never made). It is actually the same the Z15, but the 15’s had an issue with the head of the board being a couple of mm too big that meant that the sliders needed a small modification. The intention has always been to ensure that any new board could be slipped straight into the existing Z10 cases so a new mould has been made for the Z15 that ensures that they can be retrofitted to all boats that had the previous generation of board. The numbering is also misleading because a lot of the boards between Z10 (the previous production boards) and Z22 (the new production boards) only ever existed in the computer. From the customer point of view the situation has been good. Customers were never sold the interim test boards and so they have only got 1 upgrade to do. It should also be noted that all the new boats at this worlds come with the Z22’s meaning that they are sailing with the same boards as the “works” drivers. 
I love the way there is an implied criticism of Exploder for trying a number of different foils. PJ claims “Exploder pushed foil development to the extreme by developing literally dozens of prototype foils and rudders”. Do the sums. If last year we had Z10’s and this year they are Z22’s but some of the difference  were never made, how does that add up to “dozens”? In a number of cases, the development team have waited in Australia to get to try new foils because Exploder hasn’t wanted to make many of the same iteration in order to keep costs down. On rudders, there has been some development on winglets and 2 different verticals have been tried. the good news is that for most, all they need to do is order a new set of winglets and stick them on their existing uprights. In fact, I was the first to try the bigger winglets and that is exactly what we did. I will not be buying new rudders because we cannot identify any difference between mine and the latest.
I would also suggest that PJ needs new glasses if he thinks the latest Exploder foils look like the DNA ones. I have seen them side by side and they look nothing like each other.
Moving to the rigs, it should be noted that our little training group has done a lot of work on this and in particular, the short rig. 8 weeks ago I would have said there was no way they would even take them to the worlds, never mind use them. Although Stevie used the short rig for some of the pre-worlds, Stevie and Bundy will be sailing with conventional tall rigs because of the forecast and the fact that the short rig hasn’t been proven enough in light conditions. The short rig is just too much of a gamble in conditions we haven’t tested in enough. What I can tell say is that there is little to no difference in ease of upwind foiling between the tall and short rig. Both take off in about the same wind strength. Both need the same technique. The only difference is in speed when foiling upwind. The short rig is faster. Downwind, I personally don’t believe there is any noticeable difference in speed when foiling. Only time will tell if we can find a way of getting enough speed in lighter conditions.
As part of the development program, one of the team will be sailing with the short rig, namely Adam May (of Artemis). This is so we can collect more data and get feedback from a world class sailor and designer.
Based on all the testing we have done, I am pretty convinced that there is still a lot of development work to be done before we find the ultimate rig for the current boats. One thing I remain convinced of is going boomless. We tested both boom and boomless fairly recently and we all agreed that with the current Brewin sail, having a boom is slower. There is a lot that is “illogical” about it and there are times it looks wrong, but for some reason, that “wrong” is fast. I think people need to get rid of their preconceptions about how sails work and what looks right and wrong. By way of example, I way 65kgs and in 15 knots of breeze, I go slower upwind when I fit stiffer battens low down to get rid of what looks like far too much depth in the sail. As an aside, my lightweight gives me an edge downwind in almost all conditions. Once Stevie and Bundy had finally coached me enough, which took a long time, I got to the point where my VMG downwind was faster than Stevie, because while I am a little down on top speed, I can go lower. 6 months ago I thought being lightweight was a serious disadvantage. Now I believe I can compete at top level, although I need to be able to use the speed in a race situation. In my case, great speed helps me get to the wrong side of the course fast!
My hope is that they get enough breeze to showcase upwind foiling. I am sure there have been some huge gains in this area and it would be good to compare the various development groups so we know where we are. I think many people will be shocked at some of the upwind speeds being achieved.
What i do agree with PJ about is where we now are. With what can only be called a lot of luck, the A Class rules have led to us now having a truly wonderful boat. We have been forced to develop foils that give both speed and ease of sailing. Insert from above and leaving all foils down turns out to be the best way to go. I am convinced that without the effective limit on how  big the foils can be, we would have ended up with bigger foils that would have been barely any easier to use but would have been slower, because everybody would have developed inside the current 1500mm rule. The current boats are a joy to sail, if set up right. You do need to do your apprenticeship, but if an old git like me can manage, then most can get there. You don’t need to sail full time, but don’t think you can sail once a month and get good. The boats are actually really nicely behaved when set up right, probably better than the C foil boats. The thing that takes the biggest getting used to is the speed and the forces involved. I used to have a retaining line that I hooked on with so I wasn’t thrown forward when trapezing at the back but now I know what I am doing, I have taken it off. Speeds are getting insane. “Cruising” at between 24 and 26 knots downwind seems almost an everyday thing and on flatish water, I would expect to sail for as far as I want without touching down. Recently, in about 12-15 knts, Stevie and I were sailing out to our training area downwind. We were close enough to talk to each other. When we stopped to regroup with others, Stevie pointed out we had gone close to 3kms without the speed dropping below 24.5 knots. We really weren’t trying. If it was just Stevie, you would say it as all down to skill but when a short 58 year old “has been” can do it as well, it shows what a great boat we now have.
Let’s see what happens at the worlds. I don’t want to make any predictions or give away any more details of speeds, not least because what you can do training on your home water can be very different from what happens on the race track. If we get decent breeze, what I do know is that whoever wins is going to put on quite a show. If it stays light to medium and very shifty, the winner will have put on an amazing display of smart sailing. Let battle commence.