Alinghi's crew suffered a bloody nose - literally. It shows that catching up in the multihull world is a risky game


All this week, the images of the multihull Foncia capsizing during sailing trials with the Alinghi team have been similarly turning over in my head and have come to seem quite ominous.

In case you’d forgotten, or didn’t know, Alinghi took on the outspoken and often daredevil French sailor Alain Gautier to help them catch up with Oracle, which has for a long time been working with top multihull designers VPLP and rival skipper Franck Cammas.

While out training last weekend, Gautier’s 60ft trimaran Foncia capsized, as shown in this picture by Thierry Martinez . One crewmember suffered a fractured collarbone, elbow and broken rib, while another had a broken nose. The Alinghi team, you might say, has had another bloodied nose.

Alinghi’s Ed Baird was at the helm at the time, and what interests me is the speed at which these monohull sailors assume they can absorb the intricacies of multihull sailing, which is more delicately balanced and considerably riskier. If the two teams opt for a boat for the next America’s Cup that meets the maximum dimensions of 90 x 90ft, then that will especially be so.

The ORMA 60 trimarans proved time and again that, among other peculiarities, these hugely powerful ‘square’ multihulls can have serious steering problems, being tricky to manoeuvre and difficult to control longitudinally – a result, if you like, of the wheelbase not being long enough. A 90 x 90ft multihull (or anywhere close) will be even more extreme.

And what of the crews that are going to sail them, after they have finished an all-too-short apprenticeship with the experts? Well, I was very interested in a comment by Franck Cammas, recently returned from his own disastrous capsize off New Zealand , which has the heft of logic behind it. “They are not going to catch up in a few months what we have learned in a decade,” he says.

The early decision of the Alinghi guys to take control of a possibly over-canvassed Foncia in 35 knots of wind bodes ill. As for Foncia, it will be a month or two before she sails again.