Hawaiian-based aerospace designer's dream realised

A brand new giant trimaran for The Race, designed and built in complete secrecy, is nearing completion on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The 118 x 78ft boat has been conceived, designed and is in the process of being built by Californian naval architect Earl Edwards. It is due for launch in August.

Rave, as the boat is known, was first conceived ten years ago. The original concept was for a big monohull in which to break the Jules Verne Trophy record. The boat, codenamed ‘Banana’, was designed and work had started on it, but in 1992 it was destroyed when Kauai island was devasted by typhoon Iniki. At this point Edwards changed tack, opting for the multihull concept.

Edwards, 50, has had a long involvement with speed both in the air and on the water. When he was only six years old he went on board the Stanley Sawyer’s ‘hydroplane’, one of the first boats to reach 180mph and took to racing hydroplanes when he was just eight. He then discovered sailing yachts and in the 1960s was impressed when designer Norman Cross’s catamaran Crossfire was regularly demolishing monohull opposition around the race course. Meanwhile, professionally, he trained as an aerospace engineer and went on to work on top-secret research projects for the US Air Force.

In 1950 he moved to Hawaii and took up a career as a naval architect and then became a boatbuilder, constructing large catamarans for Hawaii’s lucrative day charter trade. Although he has only designed monohulls, Edwards was heavily influenced by Rob James’s seminal book on multihull design and Eric Tabarly’s pioneering steps in this area. Living in Hawaii, he also had the opportunity to sail on board Manu Kai, the ground-breaking catamaran of local multihull designer Rudy Choy.

The team behind Rave is impressive – headed by Edwards and his wife Jody, it includes Jim Antrim, who is the boat’s main designer and composites engineer, and Greg Ketterman, best known for designing Russell Long’s speed sailing machine Slingslot (which later became Hobie’s Tri Foiler). Olympic Tornado Silver Medallist and Formula 40 champion Randy Smyth is also involved with the overall concept and the rig and sails.

The design of Rave is fairly exceptional. To improve downwind sailing ability, the floats ride ahead of the main hull in the water (effectively the floats go through the water 5.5m ahead of the centre hull). This should give the boat almost catamaran-like stability sailing downwind. With a 48m tall carbon wingmast she’ll be no slouch.

The most novel part of the boat is her construction. Her hulls and beams are seamless monolithic tubes, made using filament winding (similar to the way some wingmasts are built).

For more information on Rave see Yachting World.