The Altair flag was flying high on the water last month at the 2015 F18 Worlds Championship among 167 competing boats from all over the world! Altair products have been supporting various sailing events for over two decades. The greatly anticipated weeklong championship was eventful and definitely worth the wait.
It all started with a little bit of excitement as the F18 championship kicked-off early last month in Kiel, Germany. The Altair team consisted of my friend, Sebastien Gouin-Davis, Vice President of Products at Amatis Controls, my wife Krista, who was part of the winning team in the 2013 US Women’s Match Racing Championship, and myself. We are all avid sailors with years of experience and we were incredibly excited to sail the Altair boat! From physical training to boat preparation, we are tremendously devoted to the F18 World Championships. Half of the American teams shipped their boats in containers across the pond and it was an anxious wait for many sailors, as they had no control over when the boats would be released from customs. As a result, many boats were assembled only minutes after the cargo got deposited at Olympia Zentrum Schilksee.
Team Altair spent the entire Friday before the start of the competition on Saturday, July 11th assembling and improving the boat. The event began with two days of measurement to assure that all boats comply with the strict Formula 18 class rules. After passing the measurement requirements, we completed rigging the boat and were ready for Sunday’s extensive training session. It felt good to finally be on the water in Kiel!
Monday’s schedule called for a practice race, which was a typical racecourse consisting of two laps around buoys (or marks) that mark the spot where all boats can turn to the next heading. Legs 1 and 3 were going “up” against the wind, whereas legs 2 and 4 were going “downwind.” The winds at the practice race were right in the sweet spot at 15 mph. Exercising caution was still important as the boats were moving extremely fast and everyone converged to the same point at mark roundings. After the practice, all teams and family members met up for the ceremonial opening of the 2015 F18 World Championships.
The race officially began on Tuesday and since the winds were light, only one race was held. We were quite pleased with our result on Day 1 of the race. We were well in the upper half of the entire fleet, especially considering that we were up against many professional sailors. While big names were not uncommon in the F18 fleet, the most famous competitor this year was Glenn Ashby, who has a 15-times world champion in different boat classes, and will be sailing Team New Zealand again at the America’s Cup in 2016. Our finish boosted our confidence and made us hungry for the next race!
Unfortunately, the next day went completely different and was extremely disappointing. Shortly after pushing off the beach, we were hit by another competitor. While the other team could fix their boat, we suffered a large hole in our starboard hull and broke other parts. We were stranded and spent the day repairing the damage. We missed four qualifying races that day to qualify for the gold fleet, but we did not give up on completing the F18 World Championship.
On Thursday, the last day for qualification races, the wind was light and our boat was finally repaired. We achieved another mid-fleet finish, and started in the silver fleet for the finals despite the accident.
In contrast to the qualifying races, Friday was nice and windy. The northwesterly wind direction caused high waves, which made sailing very challenging. We were quite comfortable at the start and tended to be the first boat to go off in every race. Although the condition seemed difficult to some teams, we had fun surfing the big waves with speeds over 20 mph! We received great results on Friday, ranking 13th, 14th and 17th out of 84 boats in the races. Watch this short video below to get a glimpse of what goes on in the waves!
Once we returned to the shore, we became aware that the strong winds and waves claimed a lot of “victims.” Several boats got dismasted, many crews “went swimming,” and one of the American teams ended up with a totaled boat because another one capsized right on top of them. Even the 3-time North American Champions, a very strong team with ambitions to win, broke their rudders and had to get towed back in. Can we somehow prevent these damages from happening to the boats? Winds and waves are unpredictable in nature, but simulation can certainly play an important role during the design and development stage of the boats. Composite optimization can strengthen the material and design of the boats in order to develop a strong, more reliable, safer boat while improving performance and satisfy the strict measurement requirements.
On the last day of the race, the wind was blowing even stronger. The wind speed ramped up to 30 mph, so a more conservative strategy was the best way to guarantee success. After a great start and focusing on keeping the pointy end up, we managed to secure a 3rd position in our final race! We proudly enjoyed the view back on the huge fleet and the thumbs-up from our competitors.
It was an amazing experience to be a part of one of the largest sailing competition around the world. I was proud to sail the Altair boat in front of worthy competitors and live-TV coverage. We are very pleased with our results and enjoyed meeting sailors from different countries. We finished 100th overall out of 167 boats and 16th out of 84 in the silver fleet. We truly showed our potential despite missing a few races. We cannot wait to do it again!