Paul Larsen's with an update on the progress of his C-Class cat which wil be challenging for this year's Little America's Cup

Paul Larsen, the man behind the Team Invictus Bristol-based challenge for the Little America’s Cup this September reports that they are nearing completion of their first Airbus-backed C-Class catamaran see previous news story here . The boat being built however, is living up to the C-class’ reputation for being incredibly intricate and complex pieces of machinery.

Paul Larsen, the skipper of the new cat, tells the story: “Getting a C-Class right the first time especially when up against such a well-developed version as Steve Clarke’s Cogito is a daunting task. The design and build team is made up largely of Airbus engineers which is quite appropriate when designing and building solid wing-sails.

“Anyone who has ever witnessed a modern C-Class catamaran is struck by the effortless speed, efficiency and grace of these wonders of the sailing world. They are as rare as hens’ teeth and it takes a seriously concerted effort to get one on the water from scratch. There has not been a competitive Challenger in the UK for many decades. The most recent winners of the Little America’s Cup have been the United States with Steve Clarke’s Cogito project.

“They built the definitive C-Class which defeated the Australian team’s The Edge on home waters. ‘The Edge’ was designed and sailed by the same team that took ‘Yellow Pages Endeavour’ to the outright world speed sailing record which still stands. The class is brimming with innovators. The fact that certain bodies tried to reduce the event to little more than a one-design, production class regatta showed little faith in the underlying support and appreciation that exists amongst those who have been touched by the Cs.

Some classes just must exist in order for the sport to be truly healthy and they are usually the ones that live at the corners. They ride a roller-coaster of favour and popularity but they are the boats that are spoken of with real passion, the essence of their attraction has lasted a long time, and they are usually found on the front pages and in the money shots. They are the J-Class, 18 foot skiffs, maxi-cats, moths and 60ft tris. They are the boats that we all wished we had or sailed if we had the time, skill or money. Even amongst these distinguished and highly capable oddities of yachting, the mighty C-Class catamaran stands out as a freak. Jeremy Clarkson would have fun trying to name a car as highly-strung and exotic. From the outside it looks simple enough with only a single solid sail on a straightforward catamaran platform, but venture a little closer and the detail becomes apparent.

On the Invictus wing, the pull of one singular string can activate hundreds of metres of very taut, vectran kite string running over 72 internal pulleys activating twist mechanisms and trailing edge flaps. The wing is held up using Dyneema rigging which is much lighter than stainless wire. In some cases it’s best just to stand back. The art is of course to make it all work reliably, efficiently and to keep it super-light. You could spend millions on one of these if you were crazy enough.

Cogito is estimated to have cost around $500K US with all things considered but then this amount rarely ever changes hands. The beauty of the class is that is still an open book waiting for real innovators to come in and re-define what is possible, as in the Moth class. Sure it’s more complicated and a lot of work but then this is the ‘Little Americas Cup’ in more than name. It requires all the factors that lead to success in the ‘Big Americas Cup’ but is accessible to the masses. You need talented design, build and support teams all before you even get near the water. These typically come from a band of passionate individuals that start of big and then crystallise down to the hard core few at the end doing the long hours.”

The Invictus team aim to be sailing the first boat within a month but this will only leave them with a fortnight of sailing before shipping off to Bristol, Rhode Island where the re-vamped event will take place. The team will have a week to get ready and accustomed to the area before the long awaited reintroduction of this amazing class to the competition arena.

The construction of Invictus

Larsen says that as expected, the build has taken longer than expected! He continues: “The only way for the team to come to grips with building a C-Class was to begin building. Many lessons have already been learnt whilst building the first wing and a much improved second wing is already on the way. The infusion process used on the first leading edge was found to be heavy when dealing with low density, thin foam core materials as the resin fills every little pore. The next one will likely be done with a straightforward wet lay-up. Another serious gain will come from the involvement and support of Fibrefusion. They are a Cornwall-based company that specialise in building flat composite panels which can then be waterjet-cut to very high tolerances.

“The panels are made in a heated press to give a perfect surface on both sides which is Thermally stable to over 80 deg C. It means that all the super-intricate wing ribs can be built straight off the computer. These will arrive flat-packed like a jigsaw in a few days at well under half the weight of the wooden counterparts. Such a manufacturing process is an invaluable addition to any C-Class project and may well pave the way forward for reducing the time and cost of future versions.

“Considering the time restraints and the fact that the event is in September, a recent meeting by the key players has determined the way forward. It was decided to carry on at full steam with the heavier MK1 wing so that we can test all the systems and get on the water asap. Much will be learnt from playing around with this rig and it will serve as an excellent spare or ‘B’ boat rig. Dan Emuss at Independent Composites in Bristol has done a fantastic job with the hulls where the shells only weigh around 20kg per hull. They are wet lay-up, carbon/foam composite, monocoque structures to a Clive Everest design. At first they feel too light but then you have to remember that there is very little forestay tension with solid wing-sails as there is never any mainsheet load.

“The platform is being built parallel to the wing and both should be ready at about the same time. There is still the distinct possibility of building a second platform so as to be able to have a second boat on the water, but at the moment the financial resources are being focused on building one very capable ‘A’ boat.

“The Invictus team are delighted to welcome Henri-Lloyd onboard as clothing sponsor. It’s great to see a company that appreciates what a unique and exciting endeavour this is. The professionalism of Henri-Lloyd is apparent from the start and their enthusiasm and support in dealing with this aspect of the programme will be a great asset as it leaves the team to focus purely on the boat.

“There is one thing the sailing world will know for sure, come the first starting gun off Bristol, Rhode Island this September, the answer to the question of where the ‘Little Americas Cup’ belongs? Daddy will indeed… be back!”