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Harken AUS Reflex 728

F18 the Hot new Capricorn (Part II)

by John Curnow on 5 Nov 2012
In Part One, we saw how multihull designer Martin Fischer and PSA's Chris Caldecoat had set out to build a better mousetrap for the F18 cat class. Not only was the it perfect pairing of talents, but the result would seem to be pretty perfect, too - Speed, strength and agility. Now just like the larger of their feline counterparts, these are somewhat mandatory prerequisites for a high speed, twin-hulled sailing machine.

Chris commented, ‘When we started out, we were thinking that the new boat should be a bit like Henry Ford’s early cars and borrow parts from all over the place. Early on, the feedback was that customers were going to want it to race, full tilt boogie, straight out of the box. So we’ve spent the money and built a better product.’

‘If you add volume and size, you do get weight, so we had to look at the vessel from a holistic point of view and find the areas where there was the potential to get some of the mass back. There are new sails and a new mast section on which to carry them. The result is an overall weight saving. So too, we have hollow beams, which whilst being bigger are stronger than before, are now also lighter.’

Interestingly, the early craft had hulls made from 6mm core and they are now 12mm, which prompted Chris to say, ‘They are so stiff, it’s not funny!’

Martin went on to explain some of the elements in greater detail, ‘Chris has worked a lot on the structure of the vessel and we did make a few, but very distinct changes. That new section we designed for the beams is much bigger and stiffer. It’s very important to have a stiff platform and Chris also did lots of testing on the way the fibre was laid up for the hulls, with the result being an extremely stiff platform.’

‘The same principles apply to the daggerboards, which Chris built in plain carbon with a press, which allows for much higher pressure than you get with a normal baking system. As a result, they can be long, don’t break, are very stiff and we can even make them thinner. Right now, they are the thinnest in the class, to my knowledge, which is an advantage in terms of drag.’

‘There is also a complete new rudder system. The rudder blades are the same as on the Phantom, which is also a new boat that I designed and just won the Worlds some six weeks ago. The rudder heads come from England and are really very nice’, commented Martin.

‘We also worked quite a bit on the so-called, Ackerman effect. With a catamaran, when you go around a corner, the radius of the inner hull is smaller than the radius of the outer hull and therefore the angle of the rudders has to be different, just like on a car. We ran a detailed analysis on that and found that the setup for the rudders could be improved. According to the sailors who’ve tried these new rudders, the boat tacks much better now’, explained Martin.

‘Speed through a tack is critical, especially racing at a World Championship with 90 boats in the fleet. It is absolutely crucial to have good tacking capabilities.’

Having designed, sailed and observed many of the cats out there, how does Martin feel the new Capricorn compares with another of his creations, the Wild Cat? ‘The Wild Cat is extremely quick in light to moderate conditions, say up to 15 knots of wind, but if it is blowing 20 knots or more, then downwind it is an extremely difficult boat to sail well. It can be sailed quickly, but it is very difficult, especially for the bare away at the top mark, as the tend to nose dive.’

‘The level of design today in the F18 Class is such that you can no longer design a boat that is quicker in all conditions. You have to make a choice and we made the choice to have a boat that was a bit more taut in stronger winds.’

‘The new boat is much easier to sail, so you’ll be able to maintain a higher average speed, whilst taking fewer risks and on average, that all pays dividends. I reckon it will be the better all-round boat. It might be that in the very light stuff it won’t be the quickest boat, but it will be much easier to handle than the Wild Cat. The racing will tell all.’

‘You’ll be less likely to see the new Capricorn doing wild things at the bare away and we saw a massive example of how that can come very unstuck, just recently with the Oracle incident. Of course the top crews in F18's can manage the Wild Cat, no problem, but it is difficult. With the Wild Cat you are much more on the edge than with the new Capricorn ’, Martin finished by saying.

There are four or five pre-production Capricorn in circulation at the moment and PSA is open to hearing from some local sailors that want to get involved with the new Capricorn and help push the development along. They’ll be happy for that, as they are keen to get the tweaks done and move to the final specification for the production vessels sometime in December, with the Australian Championships flying up quickly behind that, in January 2013.

Accordingly, Chris says, ‘We are making an open offer to come and purchase a boat and trade in/trade out with us, whilst we nail the last bits. But with our great result at the NSW F18 titles on the weekend we have already received a flood of orders’

Since 1973, Performance Sailcraft Australia has been based out of 2 Catamaran Road, Ourimbah, NSW, 2258. In those days, it was all Hobie Cats before Laser, RS and the Byte CII became the mainstays. The Capricorn 2 has been the first cat to leave Catamaran Road in around 25 years, and yes, the PSA team are pretty happy about that.

‘For this part of the world, we’ll sell and support the new Capricorn directly out of this factory, with the PSA trucks and trailers providing regatta support. We are a production boat facility and this vessel very much fits our company ethos. In full flight, we make five Lasers a day. With the new Capricorn, the team have been able to tinker and work away at improvements, which is something you obviously cannot do with our other craft, so it has brought a renewed joy to the factory floor.’

European and US distribution agreements are already in place and they hope to sell very significant numbers in both those markets.

Martin concluded by saying, ‘I am really happy that Chris has launched this project. I am really hoping that he will reach the top and I am optimistic about that actually happening.’

Given the recent 1, 2, 3 result at the weekends F18 NSW State Championships, (second place was an earlier Capricorn with the latest appendage upgrades) you’d have to think that they are being guarded with their enthusiasm.

That Chris actually took out the title certainly augurs well for both he and the craft itself.

Ultimately, you get the notion that Martin is so very perfect for cats, which would be just like many of his fellow countrymen.

Now in conjunction with Chris Caldecoat’s dedication to the F18 box rule and being out on the water, it’s more than a perfect match, so we expect this cat continue will continue to get the winners hat.

To get a further appreciation of the new Capricorn, go to www.capricornsailing.com
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