North Sails NEWS


What “Great” Means In Our Offices

Four Ultims are participating in the Brest Atlantiques to test the latest generation of extreme trimarans. The race began on November 5th after a weather-induced postponement. All four of the 32m tris are using 100% North Sails, and the team also spent many R&D hours with our sail designers in France. Since its start,  there have been at least a few emails circulated around the North Sails offices with links and photos as we all watch in awe. We’ve curated our favorite footage from this 14,000-mile race to share with all our readers.

Know Your Power:

Our initial reaction to these photos was “what is going on here? Are they racing? Can we show this video with hardly any sails up?” Our next move was to email our North Sails team in France, who are our in-house (and trusted) experts on the Ultims. Here is their answer:

The photos show the reality of power for the Ultims. Sailing with a main-only is fast in certain conditions, it is safer (super important on these monsters), and easier to control the power. The sail configuration is something North Sails helped model in aero and VPP and is, therefore, an integral part of the Ultim sail package and boat design.

Wait For It…

Check out this video of Macif and their North Helix sail. Keep in mind the Ultims have no runner; they rely on side rigging and mostly mainsheet tension to support the forestay. This set-up provides plenty of headsail luff tension when sailing tight angles, but can become problematic when the mainsheet is eased and the load goes down, not providing a lot of support for the headsail luff for downwind sailing. Simply explained, there is a large amount of luff sag, which gets worse when the mainsail is reefed. 

The Helix sail with Load Sharing Technology provides a solution to this issue. The Helix structure supports the luff of the sail and dramatically reduces luff sag. True to its intended purpose, the structure keeps the sail forces projecting forward and harnesses the wind force to maintain stable forward propulsion.

Nothing catching your eye in the video? Hang on until after 46 seconds…

Beasts of the Ocean

Perspective is everything. It’s easy to lose that when looking at the Ultims. Notice Thomas Coville up the rig in the video, he is so small on the scale of the 32m mast. We often need to remind ourselves that these boats are being sailed with one or two people on board. With this in mind, reliability is key as any breakdown can be terminal because it is so hard to fix short-handed. Plus, the Ultims are so fast that any stop or reduced speed periods translate into hundreds of miles lost, which we have seen this past week.

While this video may look peaceful, these boats are anything but. They are like the contrast of the Albatros; super-fast, powerful and elegant when they are powered up, but equally clumsy and inefficient in lighter conditions (below TWS13). They have two distinct modes. Non-foiling, the Ultims are (relatively) slow and underpowered, yet foiling they are fast and overpowered. For that reason, the sail plan needs to cater to both with a minimal amount of sails.

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