The Schooner and the Foiling Cat

By Steve Morrell, SOUTHWINDS Editor

Editorial, January 2018 issue

Will the next America’s Cup boat be a foiling monohull? There have been rumblings for years about the desire to return the Cup racing to a more traditional monohull race with big crews and close-quarters competition between the boats, as they try to squeeze out another half knot. Yet others prefer the cutting-edge developments that ushered in the foiling cats that go 40-plus knots. In recent weeks, I’ve discussed the issue with some people who tend to want the traditional race, while others want the continued excitement of the fast foiling cats. In November, team New Zealand revealed what they want: foiling monohulls. For some, this isn’t what they were hoping for. For others, it’s just what they were hoping for: Something new and unusual.

But this conflict is nothing new. In fact, it’s one of the oldest conflicts man has known: Keep the traditional, but let’s have change and something new. Thomas Friedman wrote about it in his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree (the best book I ever read on globalism). You can guess which is the traditional and which is the new. And the two urges are probably in every one of us, with some leaning one way or the other—sometimes leaning too far.

It probably started with the wing keel that the Australians brought to the scene when they won the Cup in 1983, taking it away from the U.S. for the first time. The Australians knew they pulled a fast one by essentially “sneaking” the new design into the race, but the American defenders had been playing with the rules and shifting them in their favor for about 100 years. The Aussies just beat them at their own game. But from then on in, the designs have changed and evolved until we are next considering a foiling monohull.

Still, others don’t like the commercialism that has turned the cup into a spectator sport, with thousands going to Bermuda to watch the races and millions watching them on TV. But we wouldn’t even be talking about the races if it wasn’t for this new “commercialism” on these flying cats that sail on the edge of danger.

It’s no different from many of the sailors out there who want a traditional-looking schooner with big overhangs and classic lines, while at the same time having the most modern electronic navigation, communication and steering equipment they can afford on board. Paraphrasing Friedman’s book, it’s the schooner and the foiling cat.

Learn more and see drawings of the new America’s Cup foiling monohulls on page 43 in the January 2018 issue. It’s like something you’ve never seen before.