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Superfoiler Grand Prix contenders are groundbreaking composite machines

The first Superfoiler is trialed on Sydney Harbour: Australian entertainment innovation supported by our composite manufacturing excellence.

The first Superfoiler is trialed on Sydney Harbour: Australian entertainment innovation supported by our composite manufacturing excellence. Image courtesy Superfoiler Grand Prix

Father and son Australian entertainment entrepreneurs Bill and Jack Macartney are launching an adrenalin-pumping new sport onto the world stage in December 2017 based on a groundbreaking “composite machine”.

Their Superfoiler Grand Prix is based on a radical sail racer design that pushes every element of the carbon composite build and the sailing skills of the three person crew to reach world record speeds across a 2 km course.

“It’s a new world sailing machine, fundamentally a sleek high-tech composite machine that races across the water at record speeds on a knife edge,” says Bill.

Having thrilled the yachting public for 11 years with the televised thrills and spills of the 18ft Skiff Grand Prix across Australia in the 1990’s, the Macartneys had toyed with the idea of a new Grand Prix for some 10 years.

Inspired by the sight of the 2015 hydrofoiling America’s Cup contenders rising above the water to race on their foils, and the excitement this generated in the on-shore crowds and television coverage, the Macartneys decided to develop the world’s fastest course sailing racers for a Grand Prix Sailing circuit in Australia.

Commissioning world reknown racing yacht designers Morelli and Melvin in Newport California to design the fastest, most exciting course racing sail racers, they have taken the cutting edge design of the 2015 America’s Cup hydrofoil catamarans and turned it on its head.

“There are a number of innovations in the boat but the biggest innovation is that it is designed from the foils (the wheelbase) up with the shape of the single hull, two beams, two floats and the sails all designed to lift the boat onto the foils and add knots,” says Jack.

The Superfoiler is also designed to be broken down into five major components for transport in four containers to each of the race circuit locations from Fremantle in Perth to Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane over the summer.

“Having a design that is at the very cutting edge, our priority was to get the best organisation to build the boats,” says Bill. “We had submissions from New Zealand, the Middle East and Australia and on analysis of their track record and direct experience we settled on Innovation Composites.”

Based in South Nowra on the New South Wales coast 180km south of Sydney, Mark Rowed and his team at Innovation Composites have built several elite racing yachts, including maxi-yacht contenders in Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, but nothing like the Superfoiler.

“It’s an innovative design. We worked closely with Grand Prix Sailing through the selection process and contributed suggestions where there were areas we could add our expertise. We wanted to see something like this being built in this country and we obviously like to be involved in a project like this,” says Mark.

Working with the designers in America, Innovation Composites developed the high temperature carbon fibre tools for the carbon infused 27 ft long hull, two 16 ft floats and main beams.

“Weight is everything,” says Mark. “They are made of carbon prepeg, Nomex honeycomb, Gurit Corecell, cooked in our boat oven at 85oC. The main beams join everything together. They have over 40 layers, all hand laid up with carbon prepreg, vacuum consolidated every three layers under pressure in the high temperature tool and then through the freezer.

“Keeping the weight to the minimum requires a lot of intricacy, a lot of labour,” says Mark. “The first prototype took seven to eight months from concept to product finish. We spent 4500 hours, a lot of that basically working stuff out.”

With up to eight people assigned to the project, one of the biggest challenges has been recruiting the necessary skilled people. Job advertisements for one of the most exciting boat projects have drawn little response.

The 2.7m dagger boards and two 2.5m rudders and the masts are being made by Hall Spars and Rigging in New Zealand, drawing on their experience producing dagger boards and masts for high performance racing yachts including the New Zealand’s 2015 America’s Cup contender.

“They are over-engineered to take the predicted forces. Made of 30 layers of monolithic carbon fibre hand laid up and cooked in the autoclave they are on weight and spec,” says Keith, who is personally overseen all aspects of the boat build as well as testing on the water.

“Tooling up and creating the mould and putting the first Superfoiler together has been a challenging process that has honed us all,” says Bill.

As this magazine goes to press, Jack and his crew are mastering the sailing, and novel new-age electronic control systems on the first Superfoiler launched in March, while Mark Rowed and his team move into production of the five remaining boats for the fleet to be in the water by the end of October.

Grand Prix Sailing has secured a national television rights agreement with Channel 7 and envisage thousands of people gathering on the foreshore to watch each race in the series as it travels from state to state.

The series is scheduled to kick off in December 2017.

Contact for more information

Innovation Composites

Superfoiler Grand Prix 

Published July 2017 Connection magazine