The challenge set for us by repeat client Roberto Lacorte for Flying Nikka was not just to have a foiling sailboat, not just to foil long distances offshore, but to do so within the framework of the existing rules which have no experience of handling foiling boats. This brings many challenges, as does the requirement to keep the project broadly accessible , using the best of the America’s Cup experiences in a project with the costs and sophistication more in line with a Grand Prix inshore boat like a Maxi 72. I think these practical requirements made the project much more interesting and rewarding as we were forced to solve problems in robust and realistic ways.
Because this type of boat is so new and challenging we created a team of experts in each of the specialist areas. Working with our R&D partners KND in Spain, we became one of the first users of the TNZ dynamic VPP Gomboc outside the AC arena, combined with the latest North Sails VPP producing foiling VPP solutions. With those high quality predictive tools managed by Roland Kleiter at KND we had confidence in meeting our original promise to the client to achieve takeoff in less than 10kn true wind speed, which we validated on the very first day of sail testing. We brought in AC and IMOCA foils specialist Nat Shaver, North Sails designers Gautier Sergent and Michele Malandra, and mast designer Steve Wilson from Southern Spars. On the structural side the expertise of Pure Engineering led by the relentlessly innovative Giovanni Belgrano provided the light yet robust foundation for the boats performance. From the clients side project manager Micky Costa became a crucial member of the team managing the huge complexity of systems and construction at King Marine, along with AC mechanical engineer Thiha Win solving the detail control challenges of such a complex and high performance design. The remarkable thing over a year of design meetings was how positive and constructive the team dynamic remained throughout the process.
In order for a foiling boat to perform across the widest range of conditions and wind angles in a venue like the Mediterranean Sea it is necessary to have better light air and upwind performance than a sliding foiler like an IMOCA can provide. This pushed us towards the AC75 type articulating foil solution which allows the windward foil to lift out of the water and thus reduce drag in light airs. The adjustable solid wing at the bottom of the arm allows us to alter the amount of lift much more rapidly than a sliding foil, allowing us to handle every regime from displacement to takeoff to foiling in the optimal way, without the complexity of AC75 style flaps. Similarly the adjustable rudder elevator allows real-time trim control to deliver the stable ride height that is required for safe high speed flight. Racing in some of the worlds great races under Offshore Special Regulations Category 3 brings an additional stability requirement that AC75’s do not have to meet, so for the purposes of race entry Flying Nikka also has a keel and bulb, providing the stability especially at large angles that also brings some peace of mind when offshore, especially at night. A useful side-effect of the keel is the additional ride stability producing a very accessible foiling experience.
The sail plan similarly reflects a practical approach to high speed, with a short chord rotating mast which does not require runners due to the 35 degree spreader sweep. With weight so disproportionately important to performance every simplifying step that reduces systems or crew numbers pays back in performance many times over. The removal of runners greatly simplifies the handling and system requirements allowing the 5 man crew to focus on steering, jib and main trim, pit and navigation respectively. With no headstay adjustment headstay tension is achieved as a function of mainsheet load, with the North Helix structured luff sails taking a significant proportion of the forces.
It would not be possible to describe the project without naming the key contributors that made it possible: King Marine produced a beautifully built boat which launched and foiled with no complications. ReFraschini built the solid carbon arms, wings, and rudder to an incredibly high standard. Cariboni produced not just the hydraulics, but many other challenging components, with Donati Racing and FaRo Advanced Systems with Ricardo Berospe working on the electronics and flight control. North Sails Italy under Alessio Razeto produced the Helix sail wardrobe, working closely with Southern Spars. Everything came together under the guidance of Micky Costa, himself responsible for much of the detail solutions that makes Flying Nikka look and work as intended.
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