Whole Hog (1965)Since the America's Cup was reduced to a one-design match race between 48-footers (14.65m), the International C-Class catamaran championship, affectionately known as the "Little America's Cup", has become one of the last regattas where yacht design prevails. The secret of this competition lies in its founding rules, which, from its inception, took into account the surface of the spars in the sail area. It is this particular detail in the wording of the rules that is responsible for having given "wings" to the competition.
A reminder of the C-class open rule:
Length Over All: 25ft (7.62m)
Beam: 14ft (4.27m)
Sail area, spars included: 300sqft (27.87m²)
With the launch of his C-class Beverly, William Van Alan Clark Jr. astonished everybody with his original and groundbreaking choices in the new catamaran's design. Whereas other contemporary boats had wooden crossbeams and a plywood cockpit, Beverly featured narrower hulls, fastened together on their topplates by three raised aluminium tubes, similarly to Hobie Cats. A trampoline was set between the two aft crossbeams.
Beverly was designed by Bob Harris and bears of the name Beverly Yacht Club. She was built near the club at the Cape Cod Shipbuilding in Wareham, Massachusetts. Like Van Alan's other sailboats, she bore a red livery on her topsides. This area on the northern shore of Buzzards Bay is worth visiting and Ram Island, where William lives, right across from the town of Marion, is a small jewel constantly rounded by the local regattas, except in winter. On August 19th and 20th, 1962, it was there that the North American Catamaran Championship was held, the winner being selected as challenger for the Little America's Cup.
Beverly beat four other American C-Class catamarans as well as the previous holder of the Little America's Cup, which the Brits had sold before leaving for home in 1961. However, things were not so easy for Beverly on the Thames Estuary; During the final, she was beaten four to one by Hellcat and the trophy remained in England.
Two years later, American yacht designer George Peterson developed a wingmast for his C-class Sprinter, but could not beat the brothers Dave & Jerry Hubbard's Sealion, which was rigged without a jib. Beverly also received a new "Una Rig", as well as rakeable daggerboards and hull-retracting rudders. The load on the sails and rigging became so high that the fittings often broke. William Van Alan Clark later suggested that a self-standing wing could solve deformation problems in the top of the sails and also reduce the loads of the crossbeams. A wing would incur a heavy weight penalty, about double that of a conventional rig, but, in ideal conditions, it would generate significantly greater lift.
In 1965, Van Alan asked his friend Courtland B. Converse, a 33-year-old aeronautical engineer and president of the Pee-Kay Aircraft Corp., which specialised in seaplane floats. The project was named Whole Hog, but the anticipated weight was all but appealing so the boat never left the drawing board. The next year, most C-class catamarans featured a wingsail, each representing 20% to 30% of their sail area, but Van Alan is convinced that a wing would solve most post the problems relating to the wingmast tops deflecting too much.
Finally, in the winter of 1967, Court Converse, then Commodore of the Beverly Yacht Club, submits the drawings of a new wing for Van Alan's Beverly II of which the hulls were designed by the Hubbard brothers. With a higher aspect ratio than that of the previous project, she comprises three flaps along the trailing edge. Contrary to more recent wings which feature distinct profiles for the forward fixed element and for the aft thinner flaps, Beverly II's flaps were faired continuously with the forward element.
The yacht, which had not been officially christened, sailed in the Spring of 1968. She made three or four outings before she shattered in a gale. On November 23rd, before she could be repaired, Court Converse died in an open-frame autogyro accident, about 100ft from the family house in Converse Point. Van Alan remained a loyal supporter and sponsor of the C-class, but afflicted by grief, could never bring himself to continue the project that had started with his friend. The wing fell into disrepair in a hangar. His family finally ordered the wing to be broken up in 1984, following the passing of William Van Alan Clark on July 16th of the previous year. Heir to the Avon cosmetics corporation, he had specialised in many applied technological fields and had started many spinoff companies. Van Alan's second son Steve took over his activities.
William Van Alan Clark Jr. (1920-1983) and his son Steve.
The North American Catamaran Championship took place on August 19th and 20th 1962, inside Buzzards Bay. The Buzzards breeze proved difficult to exploit for the unprepared C-class crews. Texas Hellcat, designed and built by her owner and skipper Peter Oetking is the only contender with a boat measured to the maximum size in the open rule, but owing to lack of preparedness, abandons on the first day. Sprinter, designed and built by George Patterson, was crewed by Bob Smith and Dave Hubbard, is completely new, and had the same measurements as Hellcat II
Courtland Butler Converse (1932-1968). Court was the youngest commodore in the history of the Beverly Yacht Club in Marion, MA. He came from the family that gave its name to the company renowned for its world famous All Star basketball shoes. He was married to Josephine Saltonstall, whose brother William G. Saltonstall, Jr. had steered Beverly in the Little America's Cup in 1962.
The wing designed by Court Converse in 1968 foreshadows that of Australian Roy Martin's Miss Nylex, winner of the Little America's Cup 1974. The sail was put away in a hangar with the hulls of Beverly II for sixteen years, before being demolished. (unknown photographer, Steve H. Clark collection)
Finally, Tremolino II and Tremolino III, which both belonged to the Le Boutillier-Cornwell syndicate, had been designed by Harold Boericke and by Lt. Col. C. E. Cornwell. The sons of the owners, Ed and Boot, sailed on Tremolino II whilst Walt Hall and Tommy Jackson sailed on Tremolino III. Beverly, which was sailing in her own playground, won three quarters of the fleet races and match races and won the trophy. The Little America's Cup challenger selection trials followed immediately, with Beverly, Sprinter and Tremolino II. Beverly dominated the series and was selected by the challenger committee.
Particulars of Beverly (1962)
C-class sail number : US 7
Yacht-club: Beverly Yacht Club, MA, USA
Location of regattas: Thorpe Bay Yacht Club, Essex, UK
Owner: William Van Alan Clark Jr., Ram Island, Marion, MA, USA
Yacht designers : Frank MacLear and Robert B. "Bob" Harris
Builder: Cape Cod Shipbuilding, Wareham, MA, USA
Year of launch: 1962
Sail Area: 27.87m²
Helmsman: William G. (Billy) Saltonstall, Jr.
crewhand: W. Van Alan Clark, Jr.
Hull build: laminated polyester
Crossbeams: three aluminium profiles
Deck: Dacron trampoline
Mast and boom: aluminium
Rudder: aluminium and rigid polyurethane foam
Mountain Lion (1968)
One of the most important developments was that of Mountain Lion, the first C-Class to feature a wing...or maybe the second - in that year, the wing concept was not unknown and two were actually tested: one in Deep Creek Lake, MD, the other in Beverly, MA.
The sail area is limited to 300sqft (27.87m³) on a C-Class and William "Bill" Steane, the designer and builder of Mountain Lion, made an extremely basic wing for her: a rectangular shape, 10ft in breadth and 30ft in height. He designed a symmetrical profile, bearing in mind that under load, the frame and membrane would distort. Steane built the wing in his garden using small aluminium fairings reinforced by a criss-crossing matrix of rods and covered by a nylon film. The wing could can be reduced to two levels, thanks to zip flies that run all around the wing... At the time, Steane worked for a company that supplied three quarters of all the World's zips at Talon Zipper in Meadville, PA. During the first trials on Deep Creek Lake, the performance was neither discouraging nor very convincing.
(unknown photographer, from Lorhing Miller's collection)
Bill Steane's story is very different from that of all the other C-Class crowd, most of whom had grown up amidst all sorts of sailing boats. Steane was born in 1915 and grew up in Vermilion on Lake Erie, but quickly left to work inland. He only came back to sailing when his son-in-law introduced him to A-Class catamarans in 1967. In that year, he bought the Class Sealion, that which had campaigned to defend the American flag in the 1964 Little America's Cup at the Thorpe Bay Yacht Club in the mouth of the River Thames.
The builders of Sealion (Dave & Jerry Hubbard), had designed the hulls with a special feature: the deck had as an inward negative slope to reduce the developped surface. This unique feature was used again in 1996 in Steve Clark and Duncan MacLane's Cogito.
After much thinking, Bill replaced the plywood crossbeams with aluminium tubes and rechristened his boat Mountain Lion (to contrast with Sea Lion's origins on Long Island) and starts sketching wingsails.
The wing consisted of 44 frames, each spaced 8in from one another. The base was a turning circle, set in a rollerbearing between the forward crossbeam and the aft crossbeam. This complete structure is unstayed and pivots freely, enabling the sail to be hoisted and dowsed conveniently.
En 1968, Mountain Lion took part in the North American Multihull Sailing Association Championship (NAMSA), but her performance did not influence multihull history, so Bill abandoned the Wing concept. Wings would go almost unnoticed until Australian Roy Martin's Miss Nylex made it to the Little America's Cup final in 1974, which she won soundly.
In the following year, Steane steps a cat-boat rig, designed by the Hubbard brothers, on Mountain Lion; With this configuration he sailed on Lake Arthur PA, in the company of the dinghies and keelboats of fellow Moraine Sailing Club members. He took part in a another NAMSA championship in Hamilton, ON, and realised that wingmasts had proliferated and now dominated the multihull scene, particularly Scimitar and Yankee Flyer. Steane was even beaten by the brothers Maede and Jan C. Gougeon catamaran Victor T. He became the grandfather of a new little girl named Sue during the regattas, and this encouraged him to further his research.
Steane started building a wingmast similar to that of Scimitar, with a thick profile and a high aspect ratio, featuring an aluminium fairing, a wooden-slatted frame, each section spaced one foot from one another, and covered by a nylon wrap. Stean brings Mountain Lion to the C-class sanctum of Roton Point, Rowaytown, CT, for the World Championships and the 1972 Little America's Cup selection trials. With Scimitar destroyed in a road accident, George Patterson's Weathercock emerged as the victor, though more than a few offered that Mountain Lion could have made a better defender against the Australian challenger Quest III.
A happy Bill Steane receives his 1971 Christmas present! (unknown photographer, from Lorhing Miller's collection)
Steane continued to sail multihulls with his wife Edna, including a trimaran called Trilliad designed by the Gougeon brothers, and giving his grand children many thrills on the Big Lakes, in the Mexican gulf, on the Mississippi river and in the Everglades. He passed away at age 91, having lived and transmitted his passion for sailing.
Having completed 90 drawings for the book on the History of the Little America's Cup, I lay puzzled when someone asked me which C-class I preferred. Finally, I settled in Dulcinae, largely unknown, although she sums up the spirit of this race well.
The Little America's Cup has a fascinating history of international challengers competing in the World's fastest catamarans, all measuring 25 ft in length, 14ft in beam and with a 300 sq ft sailplan. Since 1961 this race has given rise of the wildest of ideas, with the development wingsails tried in the first decade and many other astonishing innovations, which shall be discussed before the launch of the book.
Dulcinea was designed in 1970 for 4-time gold medal olympian Paul Elvstrøm, by Ib Pors Nielsen, an engineer who had previously managed the Danish team in the Little America's Cup. Leif Wagner Schmidt and Hans Gert Frederiksen, the designers of the challenger Opus III, had won over the defender Ocelot, putting an end to eight years of British dominance in the event. Paul Elvstrøm had attended the event at the Thorpe Bay Yacht Club to support his fellow countrymen and had been won over by the atmosphere, the technology and the speed of the C-class.
In 1969 the Danes only had one C-class, so it was impossible train in match racing. They had two boats but only one rig: Opus III had inherited it from Opus II. Their victory was due in large part to an ageing defender, Ocelot. Thus Elvstrøm and Nielsen's project was a good opportunity to defend the Little America's Cup in Denmark. Schmidt and Frederiksen were satisfied with the lines of Opus III, of which they raise the bow, and for which they develop a wingmast with a larger sail area. On his part, Nielsen is decided on producing a revolutionary catamaran, featuring a wing with high aspect ratio, extending to a cylindrical base, and capable of rotating 360°. He completely removes sails, providing the wing with a trailing edge flap wide enough to offer substantial trimming possibilities and remain efficient downwind.
Dulcinea became the first European C-class catamaran to feature a wingsail when she was launched, shortly before Schmidt and Frederiksen's Sleipner. She bore sail number D2. The turnplate base, integrated in the deck, measured 2.70m in diameter and revolved on a peculiar ball bearing arrangement: 50 gym balls in a track to dampen the loads! The wing was a self-standing NACA 682-615 airfoil measuring 12m and weighing 70kg. The frame build was moulded wood, aeronautical plywood as well as expanded polystyrene of 15kg/m³ for the sections.
During Dulcinea's first outing, Elvstrøm was surprised by the wing's power, and a trapeze, deemed unnecessary due to the wing's ability to turn about completely, was found lacking: the catamaran heeled, then accelerated, broached, finally capsizing and breaking the wing. Repairs took a few days, too long for Dulcinea compete against her fellow contender Sleipner, although she did manage astonish the journalists aboard a powerboat as she overtook them.
Splice was the only South African C-class catamaran, but what a C-class she was! She made all heads turn when she arrived on the Eastern seaboard for the 1976 Little America's Cup selection trials. I would not know which unique attribute to describe first. To start with, she complies with the C-class, being 25ft in length, 14ft in breadth and with sail area capped at 300 sq ft. However, in principal and by definition, there would be a crew of two, but Splice's cockpit, below the wing, only has space for one. And because the wing takes the entire width of the forward crossbeam, the other crewmember is hard pressed to change sides. The wingsail had one trailing edge flap that spans the entire height, with a stabilizing aftercanard, which itself features a trailing edge flap. This configuration vaguely resembled a vane steering system developed in Seattle, WA. The two hulls was linked by a single large crossbeam, although the wing base was wider still.
During the Second World War, Norwegian Fin Utne built Flaunder, a winged sailboat that featured a self-steering aftercanard. (AYRS collection)
The Amateur Yacht Research Society had produced this sketch of Splicee in March 1976, indicating that a Russian researcher had proposed a similar closed cockpit on a land yacht in 1940.
The wingsail had a particularly high aspect ratio, and turned 360° on a hard wooden base disk. There was no trapeze, no stays, and the helmsman remained enclosed in his plexiglass cockpit at all times. The aftercanard and its flap were controlled from the cockpit, and determined the incidence of the wing and its flap. The rudders were pedal-controlled. The pilot, whilst in the cockpit generated no air drag, but could not get out, and thus could not hike. There was a single centerboard located beneath the wingsail which swung laterally into place! The hulls hulls had very low freeboard, the bows were equipped with bulbs, similarly to large displacement vessels. The protrusion extended almost to the crossbeam. The rudders could retract into slots in the double-ender sterns.
Splice's designer and builder, South African 54 year-old Patrick Beatty, from Bedfordview, a suburb of Johannesburg, was a glider pilot, engineer and builder. He spent three years to develop this C-class, testing her in a lake close to Johannesburg before shipping her to Rowayton, CT. In September 1975, the Roton Point Sailing Association was bustling with activity, with three weeks of competition: the NAMSA championship, the Pacific and Atlantic championship, followed by the selection trials for the Little America's Cup, to be held in Australia in February, against Miss Nylex.
For Splice's first outing, Beatty wanted to sail singlehandedly, but the sailing committee retorted that the C-class rules requires a crew of two, so a young volunteer was designed to sail with him. Considering the dangers that he would encounter in tacks, as well as the risks of impaling onto the centerboard lever, Beatty was eventually authorised to sail alone.
Splice immediately displayed formidable upwind performance, with exceptional heading. However, on the reaching tacks, her lateral stability showed weakness, with her leeward hull sinking distinctly. On the running tacks, the wingsail gave a lacklustre performance, her flaps being to small to generate much lift. Her only hope in getting to the mark was to beat downwind on a series of broad reaches and gybes.
The New York Times used this photography of Splice to relate the Little America's Cup at the Roton Point Sailing Association, in Rowayton, Long Island. (photographer: Joanne A. Fishman)
During Splice's first outing, the extra crew was lying on the deck et Beatty was at the cockpit controls, just like on his gliders. (photographer: Dan Nerney)
That first day of racing was the last. A violent storm damaged Splice overnight, and repairs could not be carried out to make the selection trials. Beatty truncated the wingsail and donated it to Professor Sam Bradfield of Stonybrook University. Bradfield, a hydrofoil pioneer, kept Splice a short while as Beatty returned to his home country, never sailing in the C-class again. He and his wife died in a car accident in 1991.
Californian Alex Kozloff won the American challenger selection trials aboard Aquarius V, even though Patient Lady III had dominated the championships, but her wingsail was broken in the last week of racing. In February 1976, Alex Kozloff successfully defended the American flag against Miss Nylex, winner of the previous edition.
- The "Little America's Cup" has been forbidden from serving as an official name, after having been affectionately known as such ever since its inception in 1961. Over the years, it has been known as the International Catamaran Challenge Trophy and the International C-Class Catamaran Championships. It will be raced again in September 2015. Find out all about it here.
- The author François Chevalier thanks Lorhing Miller, Gene Miller and Duncan MacLane, naval architect and skipper of the Patient Lady boats, for their precious contributions.
the bookThe French language print of Mr. Chevalier's new book La Grande Histoire de la Petite Coupe is out now. 224 pages, 90 drawings, reminiscent of the layout in the same author's supersize book America's Cup Yacht Designs, but in a compact and handheld format that is adequate for these 25ft boats (those interested in modelling or large prints should consult this page and ask for an up-to-date list of plans). Each edition of the race has its own chapter providing a brief but very accurate explanation of the boats, sailors, designer/builders and the races themselves. They are accompanied by many fullpage photographs, some of which are excellent. The centerpiece of the book are really the drawings; Each chapter is ended by a lines plan of the winning boat, sail plans and particulars of both winner and runner up, as well as a chart plotting the race course. This exhaustive history of designs gives a unique insight into the influence that this small race has had on high profile inshore multihull racing like the 1988 America's Cup and the two latest Cup cycles, as well as the current crop of fast beach catamarans. The book is a superb production, below are a few photographs describing the layout.
To be followed by an English language print, titled The Exceptional History of the Little Cup, due September 2015, although I am told a few copies are already in circulation.