SailGP’s F50 catamaran is one of the most cutting-edge racing boats to ever hit the water.
Only the most elite of athletes can fly these top-of-the-line contraptions, with each member of crew onboard tasked with a specific role to ensure top speeds of nearly 100 km/h.
While it is unfair to say any one crew position is more important than any other, it is undeniable the Driver is the de facto leader of each boat and plays a key role in commanding their team to success.
As well as plotting and steering the perfect route around the racecourse, the Driver also has a host of controls to adjust during racing to ensure the F50 foils for as long as possible – preferably for every second of a race.
The Driver not only steers, but also controls the rudder differential; a priority task to ensure perfect foiling.
Differential is how much the windward rudder is pulling the hull down for righting, or lifting the hull up. The more accurately and more controlled the differential, the better the boat will foil and the faster it will go.
To keep on top of this task, the F50 steering wheel is a cutting-edge design featuring many buttons and grips so the Driver can manage the differential without needing to stop steering the boat around the course.
SailGP.com takes a look behind the wheel of the F50 to explain what each of these buttons does.
This button, located directly at the bottom of the wheel control panel when in its upright position, is the reset button. If a system alarm goes off and the issue is fixed, the reset button is used.
At the top left of the control panel, button 2 switches the rudder differential to maximum. This is turned on when foiling.
This button, located underneath button 2, turns the rudder differential to neutral. This is the state the F50 is in when it is not foiling.
On the right side of the control panel, there are a further two buttons which also control the rudder differential. However, these buttons control the differential in small increments, rather than maximum/neutral of the left-sided buttons.
Button 4, located at the bottom right, removes rudder differential by 0.3 degrees with each press.
This button is located above button 4 and does the opposite job, adding rudder differential in small increments with each press.
Directly at the top of the control panel is a dial, split into 10 sections each identified by a vibrant color upon the black base of the control panel.
Australia SailGP Team Driver, Tom Slingsby, explains how he uses this dial and how it works in relation to the twist grips on the wheel itself.
“The colorful wheel is what sets my daggerboard foil rake adjustment increments,” reveals Slingsby. “1 does the smallest movement and 10 does the largest movement for a set amount of twist grip movement on the wheel.
“The twist grips on the wheel [are] how I control fly height. Rolling them forward decreases rake and the boat comes lower, while rolling them back adds rake and the boat flies higher.”
Learn more about SailGP's cutting-edge F50 catamaran, HERE