Fujin Wins on the Water But Loses the Tweak War

<em>Fujin</em> Wins on the Water But Loses the Tweak War
Fujin, in the background, giving chase to Elvis. Photo courtesy of NYYC and Stuart Streuli.

Here’s Brad Baker’s wrapup to the New York YC Multihull Regatta. It’s clear that Brad has found a new love in multihulls, but we’ll have to find out if he has any new thoughts on blue blazers. It’s also clear it was a fun regatta and Fujin had a great crew. No matter the handicap results, the Bieker design caught everybody’s attention, including the handicappers’. Here’s Brad:

Well, the regatta is in the books. I have some time to reflect on the experience as I wait for our plane here at the Providence airport. Since my last write up, we had two more lighter air races on Friday, a total bust with no racing on Saturday, a BBQ at NY Yacht Club, an awards ceremony, again at NYYC and a bit of a rating controversy to boot.

We had two races Friday. The forecast was for lighter N to NW winds in the 5-10 knot range. The committee elected to take us outside of the bay. The one design Swan 42 class sailed from a different starting line a bit further east while the IRC fleets and the multihull fleet shared a starting line. Other than a brief shot of winds in the 14-knot range, wind speeds generally stayed in the 7-11 knot range. These powered up light weight cats still move at a pretty good clip in these wind speeds, but after sailing at speeds ranging from 12 – 16 knots upwind, doing speed mostly in the 8-knot range Saturday was, well, underwhelming. Also, with the inherent stability of a cat you just don’t get the sensation of power and speed that you might on a monohull going the same speed. Faster is indeed more fun, especially on a high performance catamaran! 

We had a good start for the first race on Friday. In these conditions Fujin uses the code 0 for the upwind work.  Fujin’s boat speed is much closer matched to the Gunboats and the HH 66 in these conditions. The GB (Gunboat) 62 Elvis with her aggressively tall rig and powerful sailplan, really scoots in the 10 knots and under wind speeds.  Fujin, the HH66 Nala, and the GB 62 Elvis banged left while the rest of the fleet split right. With more pressure and a right hand shift the right paid. This was the first time in the regatta that we on Fujin didn’t round the first mark in either first or second place. A GB 60 named Fault Tolerant lead the fleet around the weather mark. That said, tactician Jonathan McKee aboard Fujin did a great job, we never gave up, kept the pedal pushed down and worked our way through the fleet to cross the finish line in second, after rounding the first mark in 5th

For the second race of the day we sailed in similar conditions. Fujin struggled in the lighter breeze, with all the taller rigs surrounding us at the starting line. It seemed to create a vacuum.  This combined with a last minute left hand shift and we nearly couldn’t cross the line, battling to stay above the pin. Elvis started clear and managed to jump out to an early lead.  Even with our struggles, Fujin’s start is best stated as second best. Jonathan sailed us smart and fast as we held off the rest of the fleet to round the first mark in second place behind Elvis. We maintained this position for the race as the rich got richer. Elvis was just too quick to catch in these conditions.  As it turned out this was the last race of the regatta. 

The wind refused to fill in, in a timely manner on Saturday, and the race committee made the call to abandon at about 2:30pm on Saturday. Of course the overcast cleared off 20 minutes later and the seabreeze filled, but that’s the way it always works, right?  The race was on!…. to the dock. We on Fujin had wisely covered the dock side of the course and led the fleet heading back to shore. Our nemesis, Elvis, motored quicker and was on our starboard hip as we entered the bay. It turns out they wanted to share some more of that rum they have on tap.   They tossed a bottle of rum and coke.  Great sports and great competitors!

Any time there are rating systems used there is typically controversy. This regatta was no exception. Initially, Fujin was scored with a 1st and a 2nd place for the final two races sailed. That put us with 1,1,1,2 for the regatta, for a solid win, but……….     the multihull fleet is using a performance/polar based system that actually rates the boats on the average true wind angle and average wind speed for each individual leg. The boats are asked to record their data during the race and send the data log file from the Expedition software to the rating organizers at the end of each day of racing. This is only the second regatta to use this new system. Some of the competitors felt that the polars being used to rate the boats wasn’t representative of the actual speeds achieved on the course, specifically for Fujin.  The decision was made to tweak the numbers. It’s still a bit unclear as to what was tweaked and how the new rating adjustments were achieved, but the end result was the 1,1,1,2 for Fujin turned into a 1,3,4,2. Interesting changes to say the least. With these finishes, Fujin ended up with a second place finish for the regatta. In my humble opinion, this second place result for Fujin was likely appropriate, as Elvis was probably the best sailed boat for the regatta. I am concerned that the tweaks over compensated for the disparities in rating. I know the organizers are working hard to make this very complicated rating system work. I hope that they can get it right, or close to right, to keep the racing fun and to appropriately reward the better sailed boats.

Overall this has been a great experience!  I got to sail with my wife for a week. The kids got to have the house to themselves for a week (hopefully they didn’t have any parties, or at the very least have done an excellent job of cleaning up if they did). Fujin’s owner Greg Slyngstad is a class act and a joy to sail with. The same is true for the rest of the crew, which included Jonathan McKee, Fritz Lanzinger, Erik Bentzen & Mike Leslie. I can’t say enough about the extremely talented boat captain(s) couple, Gina Borza and Andrew McCorquodale.  Gina runs a tight ship, which was very much appreciated and Andrew is a true pro. This was an entirely Pacific NW based crew and we represented our region well. Sailing aboard a high performance catamaran has been a big eye opener and I can’t help but think that sailing, both competition and cruising, is going to be seeing a lot more of these versatile, comfortable and fast two hulled vessels. I’m truly basking in the glow of this experience and eagerly await the next chance to do some more!

Brad Baker is an owner at Swiftsure Yachts, which sells (among it’s many lines) Outremer Catamarans.

Bieker on Fujin

Bieker on Fujin

The stories, videos and photos of the Paul Bieker-designed catamaran Fujin keep flying across my computer screen. It absolutely screams for attention! Paul Bieker designed Fujin, and below provides some very keen insight into his process (plus some very cool flow dynamics images!) We’re honored that Paul shares it.

Despite Fujin’s current residence in the Caribbean, it’s really a Pacific Northwest effort. Owner Greg Slyngstad is well known here for his racing campaigns. And a regular path has been beaten to the Caribbean to get Fujin flying. Jonathan and Charlie McKee, Erik Bentzen, Brian Huse, Scott Smith, Jack Christiansen and Fritz Lanzinger have all been onboard at one time or another.

(Photos have been pulled from Facebook and other sites)

It should be no surprise that there’s been plenty of success on the racecourse. She won the Round the Rock race at the St. Thomas International Regatta and placed a close second in the regatta itself. She tied for first in the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta’s Offshore Multihull Class. Unfortunately a slow Caribbean 600 and flight schedules forced Fujin to retire 120 miles from the finish.

We’d love to get some reports from onboard, but in the meantime let’s hear from Bieker, who took time from his somewhat-more-than-full-time responsibilities as Lead Design Engineer with Oracle Racing. Here’s Paul:

Greg came to us after the last America’s Cup asking for a cruising/racing catamaran for sailing in the Caribbean. 

Paul Bieker

We designed the boat with what I think are pretty innovative bow shapes partially inspired by the shapes I saw sailing in Polynesia as a teenager and partially inspired by what I have learned about hull shapes in the 14’s. The lower bow is pretty full and chined to produce more lift and to reduce wetted surface when going fast.  We kept the chine angle in profile fairly steep to help insure that it has a positive angle relative to the waterline when trimmed bow down into a moderately big wave (I have found you can “trip” over chines if they are too flat in profile). We used one of our Americas Cup contacts, Len Imas to do the computational fluid mechanics to optimize the hull shape for a range of speeds and trimming moments. The upper bow and freeboard are cut away as much as possible to reduce windage and weight.  We gave the rudders horizontal wings to help control pitching. The boat has been sailed with and without them and they seem really effective in settling out the trim of the yacht.

Most of these performance cruising cats are compromised by the weight and windage of full standing room cabin between the hulls. The arrangement of Fujin uses a mid wet deck “pod” to provide headroom for a central low profile community space where the galley, settee and navigation station are located.  The private spaces are in the hulls with each hull having a large double berth and head.

We employed another friend from our Americas Cup work, Steven Roberts to do the platform and rig structural design.  His structure for Fujin is a step above other boats of the type and hence Fujin is significantly lighter.  She is entirely carbon/epoxy/foam structure.  The builders, Gold Coast Yachts, did a great job building the boat to the structural specifications and she has proven to be structurally sound.

Now, America’s Cup stuff may have dominated Bieker’s energies for a long time, but I personally feel that his greatest efforts have been in creating innovative dual purpose yachts. Fujin is obviously one, but I’d say Jonathan McKee’s Darkstar is certainly another and my personal favorite is Longboard. Anybody looking for a truly innovative, reliable and structurally sound design would do well to talk to Bieker.


Update: Jack Christiansen of North Sails Seattle, one of the NW luminaries aboard Fujin, just shared some videos: