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Team Falcon takes on the ultimate open-ocean challenge powered by North Sails 3Di
Red Bull’s Flying On Water project debuts with epic adventure from New York to Bermuda. Thirty knot winds and waves up to 25 feet hammered onto the 46-foot F4 foiling catamaran and it’s six crew. Flying on Water is a project in which Team Falcon built the first vessel specifically produced for open ocean flight – a one-design platform that is the definitive prototype for the future of open ocean sailing. North Sails is a proud sponsor of Team Falcon, who sent it to Bermuda with a fresh set of North Sails 3Di ENDURANCE and NPL SPORT gennaker.
NEW YORK/BERMUDA (November 15, 2016) – What started as ideal foiling conditions out of New York harbor on Saturday, Nov. 5 turned dangerous for some of the best sailors in the world who had to fight vicious winds and unexpected conditions over 66 hours and three nights during a 662-mile open ocean flight over water.
“We went from pushing the boat for performance…into survival mode,” said Jimmy Spithill, two-time America’s Cup champion for ORACLE Team USA. “These were the biggest waves I’ve faced in a multi-hull and hopefully don’t ever have to experience again.”
Led by Spithill of Australia, the Team Falcon crew featured sailors from many nations, including Shannon Falcone of Antigua; Rome Kirby of Newport, Rhode Island; Tommy Loughborough of Singapore; Cy Thompson of the Virgin Islands; and Bermuda’s very own Emily Nagel, a member of Team Bermuda in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup.
On the 46-footer dubbed the F4, Team Falcon faced a complex stretch of ocean that turned treacherous, affected by gulf streams and always-changing currents that circle the Atlantic. The adverse weather, in addition to the unpredictability of navigating and communication in the open ocean added to the challenge of managing the boat’s finite energy supply.
The result of an eight-month engineering collaboration, Team Falcon sailed on a first-ever designed 46-foot hydro-foiling catamaran that was specifically produced for open ocean flight. The boat reaches extremely high speeds and lifts off the surface of the water, literally hovering a few feet over swells on the craft’s innovative foils.
This mission was actually postponed a handful of times by a hurricane, tropical disturbances, gale-force winds, 23-foot high swell and an overall nasty sea state in the treacherous gulf stream. When the weather window opened up, the crew left from New York – the original home of the America’s Cup 132 years ago – for Bermuda – where the 35th America’s Cup will be held in the summer of 2017.
Born from the vision of Falcone, an open ocean adventurer and former teammate of Spithill and Rome Kirby on ORACLE Team USA, this mission set out to prove that sustained foiling in the open ocean on a multi-hull is here for the avid sailor and adventure seeker – powered by wind, innovation and efficiency.
On departure from New York, there were light winds that quickly filled into a solid westerly flow of 15 – 18 knots (17-20 mph) – nearly ideal conditions for departure.
“Foiling out of Manhattan all the way to the gulf stream was awesome,” said Spithill. “It really proved this is the way forward in terms of performance and development. If the weather had stayed as forecast we would have had a very fast trip to Bermuda.”
The team reached the gulf stream Saturday evening with little to no issue, but the headaches would come Sunday morning when a new low pressure system would spawn off of the New England coast and form rapidly. As the team departed the gulf stream, they reported 25 knot/29 mph winds and 6½ foot waves, both of which were well over projection. Conditions continued to worsen as the team then reported gusts over 30 knots/34 mph and seas in the 10-13 foot range. The F4 eventually reported winds between 40-46 mph with 20-25 foot waves. Safety remained the top priority so progress was exceptionally slow. The worst of the conditions were upon them – but as had been the case for the previous 24 hours – there was nowhere to go but towards Bermuda. Minimal sails were deployed so as to maintain control of the F4. As the team arrived in Bermuda early morning on Monday, Nov 7, conditions remained fierce.