America’s Cup in Cats

In the multihull community, a collective cheer went up back in mid-September when Russell Coutts of BMW Oracle Racing and the Golden Gate Yacht Club announced that the next America’s Cup—number 34—would be sailed in 72-foot catamarans with rigid wing spars. For those who sail and race multihulls, the choice was a no-brainer, since modern cats and tris are the fastest and most efficient sailing machines ever created.

Why race in a horse and carriage when you could be driving a sports car? For more on racing in cats with wing spars, see our report on the C-Class World Championships on page 12. Plus, creating the America’s Cup World Series to start next year in identical 45-foot cats is a marketing stroke of genius that will help popularize the actual America’s Cup while helping the teams come to grips with cat racing tactics.

Among those who were disappointed by the decision, the most common regret was the likelihood that close tacking duels will become a thing of the past. And there are concerns about crews finding passing lanes along a windward-leeward style racecourse. We all await more detail about the venue for the 34th Cup and the course designs.

In a real sense, the adoption of fixed wing, lightweight cats as America’s Cup boats underscores just how far the multihull world has come in the last couple of decades. Despite the popularity of beach cats and the IOC’s choice of Tornados for the Olympics, for years multihulls were generally relegated to the fringe of sailing and yachting. That’s all changing now. The charter fleets around the world are filling up with cats. A-Cats have taken off as the coolest new small boats to race. The round the world and most transoceanic records are all held by multihulls. And year-by-year, the world’s cruising grounds see ever more cruising multihulls out roaming the seas.

Oddly enough in this expanding environment, the IOC chose to drop multihulls from the Olympics. Perhaps the choice of cats for the America’s Cup will help us win the campaign to get multihulls back in. It’s a brave new world and it seems that the era of multihull sailing is truly upon us. Luckily, MQ is the only magazine in America purely devoted to the multihull scene.

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