If a position on the OMR Racing Committee wasn’t already challenging enough it is probably about to get more complicated with the result at Hamilton Island Race Week 2016. Along with all of the existing variables in multihull performance to contend with, in the context of OMR racing we have a fresh one to add…full flight foiling.
The OMR review that came into effect on July 1st dealt with the issues of a perceived bias in favour of more cruising oriented boats (bridgedeck cats), discrepancies in sail efficiency factors, the difficulty of being competitive in smaller multihulls, and the upwind screecher issue that has been controversial in recent years. The work that was put into adjusting these factors was extensive and thorough. All credit to those involved.
With the review now behind us, apparently to the satisfaction of most people on most issues, The GC32’s clear dominance at Hamilton Island Race Week 2016 throws OMR racing into the same field of dilemma that the A Class cats have been dealing with for the last two years or so, and are still dealing with to some extent.
To foil or not to foil? To introduce a foil penalty and if so how to calculate it?
Performance is at the core of the appeal of multihulls and to stifle advanced technologies would be contrary the philosophy of multihull sailing in general and the OMR in particular.
The OMR is a development rule. It rates the platform you sail on where it can do so without too much complexity.
But foils are made of advanced technology. They’re expensive, not easily adapted to trailerable boats, and at their present stage in development they are effective in a limited wind range.
If a small number of boats in the fleet start using foils and sail in suitable conditions the lower rated boats will simply not be competitive unless the foils are somehow rated in an equitable fashion. Finding a suitable rating factor for foils could be a rather daunting task when you consider that the GC32 foiler is deadly fast while it’s foiling downwind but can be beaten by Mad Max and others in the light.
It gets complicated.
Ex Extreme 40 The Boat Works grabbed the line honours in all but one of the six races at Airlie Beach Race Week but was let down with gear failure at Hamilton Island and outclassed by Frank Racing in two of the three races she contested at Hamilton Island.
Malcolm Richardson's Nacra 36 Malice sailed consistently well to take second place on OMR in the Airlie Beach Race Week series. She didn't contest Hamilton Island Race Week.
In fact the foiling GC32 might not be the big problem. It’s conceivable that a fleet of GC32’s could turn up next year and have their own division. But what if Mad Max or Morticia or The Boat Works turned up with foils?
We’d see some great racing at the front end of the fleet but it would be a select few boats and it might be a bit discouraging for the boats that don’t have foils, whether or not they have the power to weight ratio to make foiling a possibility.
A separate division?
We had record fleets at Airlie and at Hammo this year. Some controversy over weighing procedures aside there was a great deal of optimism for the future of multihull racing under OMR.
But with foiling now being thrown into the mix the whole existential issue behind OMR racing comes into question. The record fleet is still only 16 boats, and dividing up those sixteen into separate classes is not that simple either.
A GC32 is clearly a foiler. But what of a lightweight trimaran with C foils? It might be coaxed into full flight in optimum conditions, or it might simply use the foils for stability and carry a fairly substantial drag penalty when the foils are not making a positive contribution.
Simon Hull's GC32 Frank Racing got airborne whenever there was breeze enough and introduced full flight foiling to OMR racing for the first time.
Mad Max was Ist on OMR in all six races at Airlie Beach Race Week but met her match at Hamilton Island Race Week when Frank Racing found ideal flying conditions and chalked up four wins on OMR to take out the series. Max finished in second place.
Just how big an issue is the performance boats gain from foiling while racing in a mixed fleet under OMR?
The results of the two regattas, Airlie Beach Race Week and Hamilton Island Race week in 2015 provided a wealth of performance data over a range of boat types that the OMR committee was able to use as a foundation for the review of the rule that came into effect in July 2016.
Similarly, with the participation of the GC32 foiler Frank Racing in the same events in 2016 we now have some very useful data to be able to compare the foiler’s performance with the other boats in the fleet.
At Airlie Beach Race Week Frank Racing’s performance was good but not spectacular. She was beaten across the line by The Boatworks in all five races she contested except in race two. Her winning margin on elapsed time in that race was only 22 seconds.
On OMR she scored two third placings, two fifths and a sixth placing. At the end of that series the advantage, if any, that she was getting from her foils didn’t seem to be an issue.
Hamilton Island Race Week was a different story. Frank Racing contested five races. She took four first placing on OMR and a fifth place in Race 2, giving her a clear four point victory over Mad Max for the series.
The elapsed time results in Races 3, 4, and 5 clearly show that in the conditions these races were sailed in the GC32 foiler has very similar all round performance to the Extreme 40, almost certainly thanks to being able to fly downwind.
An infographic of the elapsed time performance at Airlie Beach comparing Frank Racing, Malice, The Boat Works, and Mad Max. The bars represent elapsed time so shorter bars are faster. The left hand end of the bars have been chopped off to accentuate the time differences and the longest elapsed times have been evened up to make the comparison easy. The numbers are the elapsed time rounded out to the nearest minute.
Frank Racing was beaten around the course on elapsed time in every race by The Boat Works except for Race 2 where she beat Boat Works by just 22 seconds.
What conclusions can we draw from this data?
1. When the conditions are right for the GC32 foiler it can boost its performance from that of a high performance 32’ sports cat, to that of a typical high performance 40’ sports cat like the Extreme 40.
2. That the performance of the foiler is restricted to a specific wind range and the non foiling boats can sail at full potential through a broader range of conditions. It appears the GC32 can be quite easily beaten on OMR by Mad Max and others in light conditions, and in fresher conditions the foiler might elect not to compete as apparently was the case in race in Race 6 at Hammo.
Speculating on what effect this might have for OMR racing; given the cost and practicalities of foiling at its current stage of development, it seems unlikely that full flight foiling will be broadly adopted by boats in the OMR fleet in the short term.
Even if full flight foils do come into play in the fleet it might simply make the racing more interesting.
The speculation will be on whether the foilers will get enough breeze to be competitive.
We already have a situation were trimarans can outperform cats of equal rating in the light, and visa versa in fresher conditions. We currently find no need to introduce a compensating factor into the rule to counter this discrepancy. It might well be that a similar situation can exist with foilers and non foilers.
Looking four or five years into the future it could well be a different story.
This infographic of the elapsed times at Hamilton Island shows a strikingly different picture to the infographic at Airlie. In race one Max is decisively faster than Frank Racing (keeping in mind the distortion in elapsed time due to the LHS of the bar being chopped off). In race two the result is reversed in similar proportion. Boat Works didn't compete races 1 and 2 but in races 3,4, and 5 we see a very consistent pattern in the results between the top three boats.
The Boat Works rates 1.148. Franks Racing only rates 1.098 but the foils give her the wings to match or beat Boat Works around the course in races 3,4 and 5. It would seem to be a fair bet that if the foiler always got the conditions that prevailed in these three races she would be unbeatable by the floaters.
Want to know more about the OMR (Offshore Multihull Rule) including the recent changes?
I strongly recommend this video of the 2016 review of the Rule by Alasdair Noble, Mike Hodges and Geoff Cruse including some history of the rule, the way it has developed over time, and some of the mechanics behind the rule, The video also provides an explanation of the changes addressed in the review of the rule that came into effect on July 1st this year (2016).
See the video here: www.mycq.org.au/21-racing/omr/619-2016-omr-review It might not make it to the big screen but it's not boring!
Alasdair Noble, Geoff Cruse and Mike Hodges presenting the OMR review on behalf of the Multihull Yacht club of Queensland.
These guys have put in the hard yards on a difficult job.