Inside The Series
About The Extreme 40
The creators of the Extreme 40 took the biggest, fastest sailing boat in the Olympics — then made it twice as big and even faster. And no, brakes do not come as standard…
“The concept of Extreme 40 is to bring the sailing to the public and not the other way round,” explains Herbert Dercksen, CEO of TornadoSport, which developed the 40ft catamaran in 2005 and build the boats. “The Extreme 40s are incredibly exciting to watch and we placed great emphasis on enjoyment for the spectators, to try to give them the thrill of what it is like to sail the Extreme 40. The origins of the Extreme 40 are the Olympic Class Catamaran, the Tornado. Yves Loday, the designer, is an Olympic Tornado medalist and both I and Mitch Booth, who were involved from the start, have a lot of experience in the Tornado. Basically, the Extreme 40 is a scaled-up version of the Tornado, all of the dimensions are relative to the Tornado, it is just twice as big and incredibly fast.”
From the pressure cooker to the race course
Both light - for better speed and acceleration potential - and very stiff - to withstand the huge efforts put on the structure - the Extreme 40s are made of a honeycomb core trapped between two carbon fibre skins. These skins are pre-impregnated with resin, and the various elements of the boat (hulls, crossbeams etc) are cured under pressure in an autoclave. The resin hardens while the pressure insures that the honeycomb / carbon fibre sandwich is a compact as possible. The whole boat — including sails — weighs about the same as a Mini Cooper. The finished catamaran fits inside a standard 40ft shipping container, and the crew can assemble it in just a few hours – then just add water for instant fun!
Ready for take off?
The magic of multihulls lies in their absence of counterweight, which makes them extremely light and responsive. The stability is provided by the shape of the structure, the Extreme 40 being a “rectangle” sitting on the water, but things change very quickly when the wind kicks in and one hull starts to fly: it’s a treat for spectators, and a real challenge for the crew who have to maintain the balance whilst making the most of the boat’s potential! The Extreme 40 is capable of reaching speeds of 30 knots, if you want an idea of what that feels like. It is like putting your head out of the window in a car when it is raining at 35mph (56kph)! Also, the Extreme 40 often flies a hull, sometimes over three metres above the water, giving the sensation of gliding like a bird.
The generous sail area allows the Extreme 40s to sail faster than the wind, which might seem puzzling at first - in just 15 knots of wind, an Extreme 40 is capable of traveling at over 25 knots — but as Herbert explains: “If you get on a push-bike on a still day and start pedaling, the faster you go the more wind you feel on your face. This wind is created by your speed; sailors call it the apparent wind. The sails are designed and are adjusted by the crew to harness this wind and use it to increase the boat’s speed."
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