From the Fujin Flip

From the Fujin Flip

Fujin is of course a favorite, and several Northwest sailors are lucky enough to race on the high performance Paul Bieker catamaran. In the Caribbean, no less. So it was a little scary when the news came through that Fujin had capsized in the Caribbean 600, but fortunately the news came with the rather important detail that all were safe.

Brad Baker

Brad Baker took the time to chat with me between flights on his way home this evening. It was pretty clear that while the capsize certainly caught everyone’s attention, the level of preparation and the skills of those onboard made the whole thing a lot less traumatic than it could have been.

At about 2200 local time Fujin was in a very competitive position, rounding Saba Island while avoiding a nearby reef. Baker was in the salon helping navigate – at ~20 knots there’s not a lot of room for error. It was puffy and shifty, and when a big puff of about 35 knots hit, combined with a big lift, Fujin flipped, and quickly. Dumping the main in such a situation is of course the primary way to depower, but it happened so quickly, Brad said, “I’m not even sure we could have dumped the main fast enough.”

While all the details are not clear, Baker remembers thinking “Ah, crap, we’re going to tip over. My thought wasn’t about survival at that point. My thought wasn’t about survival, it was we weren’t going to finish the race.” Brad and Mike Leslie and owner Greg Slyngstad migrated to the back of the boat where Fritz Lanzinger was already atop of the overturned boat and was able to help the others up. Personal EPIRBs were activated and rescuers came quickly. One of the keys was that Mike Leslie had the composure to flip the outside lights breaker before leaving the cabin. That extra light helped the situation enormously.

A fishing boat came out, got the crew onboard and towed the overturned boat to Saba. All of Fujin’s crew (Greg Slyngstad, Brad Baker, Peter F Johnston, Paul Bieker, Gina Borza, Fritz Lanzinger, Michael Leslie, Jonathan McKee) were rescued with no major injuries.

One key was clearly the preparation. They had a safety meeting before they left the dock so they knew what to do and where the safety gear was located. “I learned a lot – about myself – in those situations. I learned I don’t freak out. I learned it really is important to have the tools we need to get through an event like that.” It was the first time Baker and Jonathan McKee had been rescued before.


Has this experience soured Baker on catamarans? An emphatic no, although he points out that “the reality is the high performance ones can go past the point of no return and flip. The cruising catamarans are very hard to flip.” Now when Baker teaches the Safety at Sea Course, he’ll have quite a first person story to tell.

Baker and Bieker are confident that Fujin will fly again. I’m planning on talking to Paul Bieker as Fujin is righted and he can fully assess what needs to be done, plus any lessons learned.

It’s fun to track Fujin‘s triumphs, even if we don’t get to see her around the PNW. The Bieker-designed boat skippered and owned by Greg Slyngstad is turning a lot of heads, and not just because of her unique bows. Brad Baker of Swiftsure Yachts was once again onboard and shared a few thoughts. Could we be losing Brad to the multihull world? Hopefully not completely. I’ve borrowed a couple photos from Facebook to illustrate the latest Fujin triumph. – KH

It was a great race for Fujin. We set the course record. The sailing was about as good as it can get for the boat and It was a race I won’t forget, that’s for sure. We reached all the way around the course, at times with some awesome sustained speeds in the mid to high 20s. After the start, we did only one gibe and that was at the mark. No tacks! The wind speed ranged from a low of about eight knots up into the low 20s, with a few higher gusts.

The thing that was perfect for Fujin was it was all reaching, spending  most the time with true wind angles from 70 to 120. We sailed the 238 mile course in just over 15 hours, nearly a 16-knot average. What’s crazy about that is we had pretty good current against us for most the race, and certainly against at all the narrow passes.

Great group to sail with, I can’t say enough about Greg and the team he has assembled.

–Brad Baker


Little tidbits from Facebook:


Some of the crew looking relaxed in an awesome Vineyard race. 238 miles in 15 hours 7 minutes, breaking the course record by over 5 hours. What an awesome race reaching both ways in 10-24 knots of wind with boat speed over 20 knots for hours and hours. — with Brad BakerFritz LanzingerMichael LeslieAndrew McCorquodale Gina BorzaJonathan McKee and Scott Smith

For a little more Vineyard race context, the 10 year old course record was was 20 hours, 20 mins. Fujin finished in 15 hours 7 minutes. That was 2.5 hours ahead of the second finisher, a Volvo 70, which will now hold the monohull course record. And thanks to the stellar crew for a nearly flawless effort! After two years racing the boat, we are getting pretty comfortable pushing the boat hard. The weather was ideal for Fujin with a mostly northerly wind blowing across the course in the high teens, low 20s so we spent most of the race sailing at 90-120 TWA with only one jibe at the buzzards bay mark.

Post by Charles Goodrich in Facebook: New Vineyard Race records! Fujin is the first boat to finish, just after 4 AM Saturday, breaking the Vineyard Race course record by more than 5 hours, finishing in 15:06:50 hours. Two other multihulls (Nala and Tribe) and 3 monohulls also broke the record. Congratulations to team Fujin!

Fujin Winning Tight Battle in Newport

<em>Fujin</em> Winning Tight Battle in Newport

Here’s a quick update from Fujin in the NYYC Multihull Regatta. It was an interesting day yesterday to say the least. We were again postponed for two hours at the dock. Again, the race committee did a good job finding a place to race where there was wind as we went north from Newport further into the bay. A northerly filled in shortly after we arrived at the racing area and quickly built to the higher teens by the time the race started.

Views from onboard.

We had a shorter windward-leeward type course this time around with a total distance of about nine miles. Our start was nearly identical to yesterday’s with us  starting nearer the pin end with Gunboat 62 Elvis ahead and below, the only boat closer to the pin. The race can only be described as really good fun!   I haven’t experienced anything quite like it. There’s something about sailing a 53-foot catamaran flying a hull going to  weather at speeds approaching 16 knots, with a 62-foot cat doing the same thing less than a boat length away. 

It was again a very tight race with Fujin and Elvis leading the way for the rest of the fleet. We are very closely matched in boat speed and swapped places a couple of times during the race. At these speeds laylines and mark roundings came quickly and we had to be on our toes and thinking ahead to the next maneuver. Our top speed on the second run was 26 knots!  Fujin barely hung on to correct over Elvis by a mere 15 seconds.

The race committee wisely chose to call it a day as strong thunder storms were heading our way. On the hour-long motor back to the dock it rained hard with plenty of lighting and thunder.  Evidently Elvis has rum on tap and they were kind enough to share, by mixing some in a 2-liter bottle with a bit of coke then the bottle over to us while under way. Little did they know that we were staying close to them on the assumption that any lighting would hit their taller mast not ours! 

The forecast is for rain near the starting time, but the breeze should be blowing enough to allow for an on time start.  Boat call is 0900 and it’s 0825 now.  Time to wrap it up.

Ed. Note: Thanks again Brad. Keep it going PNWers! Regatta web site here. Results so far are lovely.

Fujin Invades the East Coast

<em>Fujin</em> Invades the East Coast

We are very lucky to get some reports from Brad Baker onboard Greg Slyngstad’s Fujin in the NYYC Multihull Regatta. Designer Paul Bieker’s post on the design has been one of the most popular pieces on in recent weeks, and with good reason. A lot of thought has gone into this design that serves as both a cruiser and impressive racer, and Bieker gives us some keen insight. But back to the matters at hand, Brad is a renown navigator but a newbie to catamarans. We’re counting on the Northwest crew no doubt to be in the thick of things. Here’s Brad’s report from the start of day 2: 

2017 NYYC Multihull Regatta

The first day of sailing is now finished, at the 2017 IRC East Coast Championships and 2017 NYYC Multihull Regatta.  I’m aboard Fujin a Paul Bieker designed 53 foot “cruising” catamaran.  Yeah, right, “cruising!”  It’s a cruising cat if you like to go upwind flying a hull at 14 knots with boat speeds at over 20 knots.  We are racing against 6 Gunboat cats and a new HH 66 cat. 

My wife PJ and I arrived late on Monday. Tuesday was a practice day and a big eye opener as to what it is like to sail on a very fast catamaran.  Designer Paul Bieker knows all about designing fast boats with a long succession of performance oriented revolutionary racer cruising monohulls. Fujin is Paul’s first shot at a catamaran, and as far as I can tell he hit a home run! To better understand Paul’s genius, his second catamaran design was the Americas Cup 50 for Oracle. 

It’s currently the second day of racing. We are currently postponed and at the dock. A perfect time to fire off a race update! Yesterday’s forecast was for light to moderate winds out of the S to SW, with a reasonable chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. The reality was heavy fog in the morning with very little wind. The race ended up being postponed for about three hours. The NYYC race committee did a nice job finding wind on the bay. Though we shared a starting line with the IRC fleet our race, we sailed different courses, with the IRC boats doing shorter buoy races while the multis sailed a “Navigator’s Race” which turned out to be a race around Prudence Island. The course length was about 17 NM.

It was an upwind start in about 14 knots of breeze with higher gusts. It was impressive to see 7 other big powerful and very fast cats on the start line. We started nearer the pin with a highly modified Gunboat 62 named Elvis winning the pin just below us. My job was main trimmer. All I can say is thank goodness for electric winches. The loads on the powered up cats are surprisingly high. Fujin is the smallest of the catamarans at 53 feet. The size range in the fleet is 53’ up to 66’.  Fujin might be the smallest, but she is one of the fastest, being nearly half the weight of the Gunboats and a radically different design, which includes C shaped foils.  The foils don’t completely lift the boat out of the water, but they do provide lift and reduce the wetted surface.  In 14 knots of wind we were achieving 14 knots of boatspeed upwind. The race quickly turned into a match race between Elvis and Fujin, with Elvis leading around the first mark on the south side of Prudence Island.

Fujin is sailing with a very talented all Pacific NW crew, with the bonus of having her designer Paul Bieker on board along with his son Leo.  We work the boat hard and shook out the first race jitters.  About 1/3 of the way around the island we managed to pass Elvis going downwind on a shift and legged out on a short reaching leg around the top. Our top speed was 22 knots. Keep in mind I don’t think the wind speed exceeded 16 knots. Though the wind got shifty at the end, we managed to hang on and stay ahead of Elvis to save our time for the win. The wind and sun held for the entire race, which took us maybe an hour and a half to complete. The intention was to complete two races, but with the late start the committee decided to call it a day. I learned a lot on that first race, but have a ways to go. These fast cats are a different animal, but super fun!

 After racing, the multi crews gathered at the New York Yacht Club Newport outstation. Cognizant of dress codes I made sure to wear a collared shirt and did not wear jeans.  The Fujin crews rubbed shoulders with the likes of Cam Lewis and Nigel Irens. Not to be out done, we had our own rock star yacht designer Paul Bieker along with his son Leo.

 The forecast for today is for light winds from the south in the morning. A cold front is forecast to make it’s way south probably crossing the race course sometime between 1300 and 1400. The wind should make a switch to the North and the temp will drop 10 to 15 degrees. Oh, and there might be strong thunderstorm activity. Should be interesting! 

 Update, the AP flag has been lowered, game on!

Ed. Note: Brad Baker is an owner at Swiftsure Yachts in Seattle. Hopefully we can hear more about this regatta and, fingers crossed, our PNW crew can make it’s mark. 

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: