Wooow FlyingNikka! Offshore racing will never be the same again

FlyingNikka in flight (photo F. Taccola)

Offshore sailing of the future was staged in Punta Ala on June 4. The occasion was the launching of FlyingNikka, the new 60-foot flying foil, which was applauded by a crowd of onlookers, enthusiasts and industry insiders.

Of course, seeing a boat like FlyingNikka(find out what it looks like here) that looks much more like an America’s Cup flying monohull than a traditional monohull makes quite an impression. You feel like saying, Wooow! But also it comes to mind, how will he navigate on the high seas with formed seas.

FlyingNikka, a bulbous America’s Cup.

At first glance it looks like an AC 75 code name for the boats of the last and next America’s Cup in miniature. FlyingNikka only seems a few meters shorter in length, 18 meters instead of about 23 meters.

Video – Wooow FlyingNikka!

Then, if you look at it more closely and hear the account of project leader Mark Mills you realize that it is true, there is so much about the boats that raced the America’s Cup in New Zealand in 2021. But there is also a lot of work and a myriad of totally original tricks that will enable it to sail on the high seas, without breaking down or sinking, even for days at a time instead of along the coast for a few hours.

The most obvious difference is that it has a traditional drift fin and bulb. Which AC 75s do not have. But, as owner Roberto Lacorte pointed out, it is only needed when there is very little wind and the boat has to sail in displacement, that is, with the hull submerged in the water without scuffing.

FlyingNikka, in full foiling with 6 knots of air

The first test releases before the official launch were comforting. FlyingNikka proved to get up out of the water and sail flying in full foiling thanks to the arms (movable side appendages) with T-shaped foils in just 6 knots of wind.

FlyingNikka’s goals were made clear to us by team mangaer Alessio Razeto: “We want to try to set records in the world’s major offshore regattas. This year we will participate in the Giraglia Rolex Cup (in mid-June). Then we will be in September at the Maxi Rolex in Porto Cervo and in October at Les Voiles in Saint Tropez.”

Razeto also clarified that FlyingNikka’s goal is not to win the offshore races on corrected time, but to get to the finish line first, possibly breaking previously established records.

FlyingNikka contestants (for now).

Who will be the competitors of this flying boat capable of exceeding 40 knots of speed? For now the big maxis like Arca SGR who just won the 151-mile real time race. Or traditional superboats such as Rambler, Wild Oats, etc. One thing is certain. A new scene opens up in the world of offshore racing with the arrival of FlyingNikka, that of monohull boats with foils. Perhaps the time is coming for the “old” monohull maxis to retire.

The controversy against FlyingNikka at offshore races.

At the dock in Punta Ala, insiders, while admiring the extreme lines of this bolide, were saying, “How can a boat like this, which can fly at over 40 knots with little more than 10 knots of air, participate in races where all the others are normal boats, monohulls that at best have a canting keel?”

And they pressed, “How can you, make a homogeneous compensated time ranking?“. The follow-up to the discussion at the dock is from an old racer who sentenced, “Placing a FlyingNikka flying object in the rankings of major offshore races is like having a Fiat 500 versus a Ferrari enter a car race together. Who will win in your opinion? He rejoined, “It seems to me that when I was young we used to have shooting contests with 50 Vespas. A guy with a beat-up but very fast Vespa always won. Until we realized that he had changed the engine with one from a Vespa 90.”

The dilemma of offshore racing

This has always been a dilemma of offshore racing, having boats that differ in characteristics and size compete on equal terms, drawing up a ranking that establishes penalties and rebates, thus making it possible for a smaller boat to beat a larger one. Thanks precisely to the fees that rebalance the values involved.

When there are too marked differences, legislators have created one-size-fits-all or “box rule” classes. In the first case, monotypes race each other with boats that are all the same. In the case of the “box rule,” the restrictive regulation, like that of the America’s Cup, makes the performance of several very similar boats comparable. It is then up to the imagination of the designer to make one boat faster than the other. We are talking about 5 percent variations in performance between the fastest and slowest boat.

FlyingNikka crew. Roberto Lacorte is third from the right

FlyingNikka goes twice as fast as a conventional monohull of the same length

Here, in the case of FlyingNikka and future boats with foils, the differences in performance when the boat gets up on the water compared to a traditional 60-foot monohull are abysmal. With 10 knots of wind at slack a traditional racing monohull reaches between 12 and 15 knots of speed. FlyingNikka, theoretically equal length makes if not twice as long, almost. We are talking about 25 to 30 knots at least.

Also at the dock, experts were saying that the Offshore Racing Council (ORC) regulation, one of the two compensation systems in use in Europe (the other is IRC), has already adapted by going to estimate the performance of a flying boat.

Grossly said one technician, up to 10 knots wind the ORC estimates the boat to be displacement (i.e., with the hull submerged) while when the wind rises the compensation system predicts its performance in a flying gait, with the hull out of the water supported only by the foils.

In the heated discussion at the dock, another old racer intruded. His assessment is this, “Until there are other offshore boats of the flying generation, FlyingNikka, should race in a separate classification. Will he be alone? Little matter, he will surely win his category as the only participant. Waiting for some other owner to decide to get a similar boat.”



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