Interview with Martin Fischer

December 3rd, 2020

We had the privilege of meeting with a figure widely regarded as a point person for the sailing world, and a leading authority on flying boats: Martin Fischer. He regulary advised us and offered his point of view on the progression of foils today and his thoughts on SP80. 

SP80: Hello Martin! For our readers that don’t know you yet, could you present yourself? What is your domain of expertise, which projects have you worked on and what are you working on currently?

I have been working for nearly 20 years on the development of racing sailboats. In the past I worked on Class-A catamarans, Formula-18, Groupama Class-C, Flying Phantom, GC32 and AC50 (Groupama Team France), the ORMA 60 trimarans (Groupama 2), Ultime (Groupama 3, Sodebo) and a monohull for the Volvo Ocean 70 (Groupama 4). For 3 years now I have been working for Luna Rossa, the Italian challenger of the 36th America’s Cup which will take place in March 2021 at Auckland. I specialized myself in the development of hydrodynamic shapes, so rudders, daggerboards, foils, but also in the shapes of hulls.

SP80: You are therefore a reference in the world of flying boats! Concepts and designs have multiplied in recent years, whether in multihulls (Flying Phantom, F50, Ultime, etc.) or monohulls (Imoca, 69F, AC75 from the last America’s Cup, etc.). Do you think there is still room for innovation in the world of flying boats or have we reached a certain limit in their development?

I think there still remains a lot to do in terms of progress. Flying boats have gained a solid lead, but their growth only really took off 10 years ago. We are making lots of progress in optimization techniques which enable us to better adapt the shape of foils. This strength can be employed to improve the performance, the ease of operation, or a combination of both. Today we are able, during the design phase, to take into account and exploit the deformation of foils when exposed to loading. Furthermore, it is possible to impose additional constraints in the design phase, such as constrains on the cavitation, the structure, amount of stability in flight, or a combination of all these parameters. We can therefore obtain more efficient foils that are easier to use. This type of navigation will then become available to a greater variety of sailors.

SP80: In 2016, while you were still involved in the Groupama Team France Challenge for the 35th America’s Cup, you were asked to draw the boat of the future (see video). You spoke then of a kite, of a central hull with two floaters for stability, of a sealed off cockpit to protect the crew. Four years later, we present to you our boat and SP80 project to reach 80 knots (150 km/h). Does this correspond to what you had imagined?

Yes, it is really quite close to what I had in mind when I drew the sketch. Actually, when the SP80 team told me of their project, I was delighted to see that it was coming to reality. I would never have imagined that just a few years later, there would really be an engineering team working on a boat such as this.

SP80: We made the choice not to fly above the water to gain in stability. In your opinion, does setting stability at the heart of the boat’s development offer a real advantage or does it on the contrary hinder it because the drag will be too important?

I am convinced that stability is the key factor, not only for a boat aiming to beat the outright speed record but also for all other fast sailboats. Next, there are several possibilities to obtain this stability. We can draw configurations with inherent stability, but we can just as well use active systems, mechanical, pneumatic, or electronic. To beat the speed record, the choice that SP80 has made seems very good. The configuration is stable and theoretically there is almost no limit to the power. If necessary you can increase the available power. So it makes a lot of sense to sacrifice a little bit in drag (3 hulls in contact with the water) to obtain a very good stability.

SP80: According to you what are the pros and cons of our boat?

The big advantage of the concept is the boat’s stability. A disadvantage is the drag that is linked to having three hulls in the water. But drag can be compensated by power and the power has nearly no limits with this concept. It therefore makes sense to “buy” a rare resource – the stability – with another available resource – the power.
Some other important points:

  • The closed capsule
  • The symmetrical configuration

The sealed-off capsule is important for the safety of the crew and good aerodynamic properties.

The symmetry allows starboard and portside navigation. This enables you to repeat tests rapidly, which is an important aspect for tuning the boat.

SP80: Do you think that this type of boat could eventually be democratized?

Why not. The concept offers good protection and a good stability. So in principle it could become accessible for a wide number of people. Perhaps not for sailing at 80 knots straight away, but why not at 40 knots to start with?

SP80: To finish, another contending project has been created in the South of France by Alexandre Caizergues: Syroco. They revealed their concept a few weeks ago. What are your thoughts on it?

It is likewise a very interesting project. Their concept produces less drag – no hulls are in contact with water – but this requires an active flight height control. So their concept is less stable but in return requires less power.

SP80: A few last words for the team of young engineers and passionate students working overtime on the project?

I find your project impressive. It seems to me that all the aspects – management, financing, technological development – are very well operated. I am optimistic that you will succeed in your goal.

SP80: Thank you Martin for the time you have devoted to answering our questions! We wish you the very best for the America’s Cup and hope to cross paths again very soon!

This discussion was recorded by Aurore Kerr, communications manager & Mayeul van den Broek, co-founder
Picture of Groupama AC50 in header: © Eloi Stichelbaut
Portrait in header: © Christophe Launay

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