I was as devastated as everyone else in the sailing community about the tragic death of Andrew "Bart" Simpson when Artemis, one of three AC72 America's Cup challengers capsized in San Francisco last week. And I've read the various blog postings about whether the America's Cup 'hyperyacht' developments have pushed too far, too fast. In 2007, I was in Valencia for the America's Cup, sailed in monohulls, and whilst it was a great occasion, I was on the 'racetrack' aboard a chartered Oyster 53, from a spectators perspective, it must have been, well - boring - especially if you weren't into sailing.
Some yachting industry pundits are pushing for a return to the 'old days', and that the sport is trying to become too televisual for its own good. Well, I disagree. Imagine if Formula 1 cars went around the race track at 15mph. That wouldn't be watched for very long, and although exciting for the participants, has the potential to be as dull as ditchwater for spectators.
However, clearly you can't have yachts that go so fast, and in certain conditions, are so unstable, that they're potential deathtraps. Advances in F1 composite engineering in recent years have made F1 cars safer to drive than ever before, and faster too. So, the AC72 design concept (see this pic of a 'hyperfoiling' Team Oracle) looks the part, but clearly has design issues.
Well, I think (although I'm not a trained yacht designer) I have a solution. Or, rather, A), my concept yacht the BatYacht has one, and B) the designers of the C-FLY "4 x 4" foiling catamaran have the second, and most important one.
If you see the picture of my Batyacht concept (which has a reverse sheer bow, similar to the AC72's) you'll see it's rather voluminous in the bow section. Although it's a 125' carbon monohull, it was designed to accommodate the owners in the front section, in a double height cabin (like an A380 jet). This additional height forwards, provides essential volume, so when it's reaching off the wind, or bearing away into the reach, the bow is kept 'up' rather than nosediving 'down', which is a characteristic of a reverse sheer bow. Then, when it's powering downwind under Wingsail (BatSail), it punches through the wavetrains keeping the bow high.
However, rather than a full on redesign of the for'ard sections of the AC72, I believe there is a hugely simple and trialled solution that could be retro-fitted in time for the Cup. The C-FLY "4 x 4' hydrofoil at the bow. If you check their website here, or watch the video above, you'll see this catamaran has 4 hydrofoils on it, 2 at the front, and 2 on the rear. These can be 'swung up' when conditions are not right or unsuitable for foiling. My idea is that the AC72's have the front 4X4 hydrofoils retrofitted, so when the yacht bears away, the foil on the leeward hull provide extra lift to stop the AC72 pitchpoling.
Whether these are 'down' all the time or rotated down in the approach to turning marks is to be determined, but it seems to me that application of this British tried and tested design expertise could save an event that has cost hundreds of millions of dollars in development expenditure, and more importantly, people's lives.
I'm sure the C-FLY team are way more qualified to comment on this than I, but if I was the owner of Team New Zealand, Artemis, Prada & Oracle, I'd be flying them over to San Francisco right now to see if their amazing innovation could prevent further tragedy in this amazing sporting event.
Over to you, C-FLY!