Climbing the learning curve to Paris 2024 >> Scuttlebutt Sailing News

The Nacra 17 was created for the mixed multihull event at the Rio 2016 Olympics, and although it was designed to reflect modern catamaran design, it required significant upgrades to keep pace. First was the addition of foilboards, but the boat proved to be unstable, so the latest is an updated rudder system.

By all accounts, the boat is fine, but each change forces teams to start over, and some solve the puzzle faster than others. In this report, the top-ranked US team of Sarah Newberry and David Liebenberg share their progress:

This year has been quite a learning curve for the entire Nacra 17 fleet, and the intense improvement the fleet is undergoing has been very exciting.

Since we participated in our first international event in April in Hyères (France), we have had the repeated experience of training hard, becoming faster upwind, feeling confident with our improvements, and then going to our next competition to find out the whole fleet has also improved its upwind speed!

Racing on this boat is a formidable challenge.

We are working hard to accelerate our learning curve in the new dynamics that upwind foiling has brought to the Nacra fleet. At various points throughout the year, we identified the skills we needed to work on and focused on improving them methodically during each training period between events.

Before the 2022 Worlds this summer in Halifax (Canada), we had improved a lot of things, but there were not enough days or hours to master all our target skills before the start of the races. This is always the challenge in our sport – time is precious!

While we were thrilled to finish 16th in the world with less than a year back in the boat (and to qualify for the USA Sailing Team), we certainly learned what skills to add to the list of jobs to be done.

Downwind speed was one of those elusive skills, and it was a real drag on worlds (pun intended) being slow on downwind legs. We lost an average of two boats per run, which added over 30 points throughout the event. That’s a big number, and the difference between a top 15 and a top 10 in our fleet.

We never put all of our puzzle pieces together cohesively, but we had some truly brilliant moments. One race we would have a good start and fall back to the middle fleet after a bad decision, and the next race we would have a bad start, foul someone on the first time, take our penalty turns and advance to top 12!

Midway through the regatta, we were finally able to string together a few stellar races and had a 1, 2 on the third day of racing, showing us what it looks like when the puzzle pieces come together.

We became one of the only teams in the world to claim victory over the gold medal Italian team of Ruggero Tita/Caterina Banti. It gave us a lot of encouragement and it is a beacon of what can be achieved with time, patience and the commitment to do the hard and sometimes tedious work to improve.

Now is the time to continue the hard work to achieve the consistency that will get us to the level we know we can reach, and we wasted no time getting started. After a short break after the Worlds, we left the United States in mid-September for the 2024 Olympic site in Marseille (France) for three weeks of training with some of the best teams in the world.

For the first week we had a good breeze and waves and were finally able to diagnose the biggest issues with our downwind speed. Big step forward! We are moving forward now with fast downwind teams in training. Now it will take countless hours of rehearsal to be able to implement this new speed on the race course. Fortunately, we have a few months to do reps before our next competition in March 2023.

Currently we are still in Marseille, halfway through this October course. This week we are working on the foil upwind in the chop and the waves. Super cool to learn how rig configuration affects ease of sailing/trimming in sea state and how body weight can best be used to achieve stability on the windward foil. We’re sailing at a better speed upwind in the breeze and the waves and it’s really exciting.

We will take a week off at the end of October and then spend more time on the water here at the Olympic site in November. After that, Thanksgiving with the family, then a few weeks of training at home with the American team in Miami in December.

More information:

Paris 2024 Olympic Sailing Program:
Men’s single-seater dinghy – ILCA 7
Women’s Single-seater Dinghy – ILCA 6
Mixed annex for two people – 470
Men’s Sculls – 49er
Women’s Skiff – 49erFx
Men’s Kiteboard – Formula Kite Class
Women’s Kiteboard – Formula Kite Class
Men’s Windsurfing – iQFoil
Women’s windsurfing – iQFoil
Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17

Location: Marseilles, France
Dates: July 26-August 11


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