SailGP’s F50 catamaran - the fastest sail race boat in the world
The F50 wingsailed catamaran is a revolutionary concept in sail racing that is the culmination of 10 years of development in high-performance, foiling, multihull racing. It was created as a one-design class to provide each of SailGP’s seven national teams with equal cutting-edge technology, putting the race results directly upon the skill of the global championship’s world-class athletes.
The F50 is a new class of boat, sharing DNA with the revolutionary catamarans used for the 35th America’s Cup in 2017, but it is the next generation. Powered by a 24-meter wingsail and flying above the water on hydrofoils, the F50 marks a huge step forward in the evolution of the sport.
The entire fleet has been extensively modified with new foils and board cases, new rudders and elevators, new hydraulics and electronics, a new cockpit layout for five crew, a new steering system, and a new flight control system operated by a joy stick. The beam fairings and systems have been refined to allow more efficient pack up and assembly. The foil rake, cant, wing twist and jib sheet adjustments will be powered by battery, making it possible for them to be adjusted by at least three crew members. The wing sheet adjustment will be powered manually by the two grinders, with the rudder pitch will be actively controlled allowing the trim/attitude of the boat to be set irrespective of the ride height.
The F50s displayed unprecedented capabilities in SailGP Season 1, and the Australia SailGP Team became the first crew ever to hit 50 knots during racing. Recognized throughout the industry, the F50 was crowned World Sailing’s 2019 Boat of the Year.
Despite its record-breaking debut last year, SailGP is constantly looking to improve the world’s fastest sail racing and for Season 2, a revolutionary modular wingsail system has been installed which will be used from San Francisco SailGP onwards. It is comprised of sections that can be assembled in varying lengths – initially from 18 to 24 meters with the future ability to go to 29 meters – to enable the supercharged catamarans to compete in a wider range of weather conditions. Vital weight savings have been achieved with the new wing as a more advanced structure and the removal of rigging and cables inside it provide additional performance gains in light winds.
The foils are constructed with higher modulus carbon fiber and the geometry has been modified to promote more righting moment and increase the boat speed prior to the onset of cavitation. The lower section of the rudders is manufactured in high strength stainless steel to reduce drag.
The F50 is a development, one-design class. This means the boats that take to the race course at each event are identical. Any performance difference is due to the skill of the crew. This is the huge benefit of one-design racing, and serves to promote close, exciting racing with an unpredictable outcome.
However, unlike most one-design classes, the F50 remains open to development. Top designers and engineers will constantly improve and evolve the boats to increase their performance and ensure they remain cutting edge. Ideas and designs will be tested and then implemented on each boat at the same time, ensuring each improvement is applied equally across the fleet, making the racing faster and more competitive.
On-board cameras will deliver point-of-view racing while on-board microphones will give race fans the sensation that they are on the boat as they listen in on the winning tactical calls.
All data recorded from the boats will be transmitted to the team coaches via the Oracle Cloud, giving them the ability to analyze performance and communicate with their crews at pre-determined times during a race. These communications will be broadcast, giving spectators a greater appreciation for the reasons why one crew may be outperforming another.
The data will also be used to create a unique second-screen experience via the SailGP App where fans will be able to select up to two teams to follow and receive key performance insights from their boats. All of this will be integrated into the most fan-friendly and informative race broadcast the sport has ever produced.
Crucially, the F50 catamarans can be disassembled and transported between venues in standard 40-foot shipping containers. The boats can be assembled and readied for racing in each venue within 48 hours of arrival at the event village.