The opening season for the new cutting-edge TF35 hydro-foiling catamarans has drawn to a close. Here we look back on all the highs and lows of 2021.
A SLOW START
With lockdowns, venue changes, light winds and storm surges, the first two events of the inaugural TF35 Trophy took place tentatively with the world still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Impressively, thanks to the support of the owners, the TF35 Trophy was one of the first professional racing series to get back on the race course, its season getting underway in late April 2021. With Geneva going into lockdown there was a last-minute change in venue from the Société Nautique de Genève, to theSociété Nautique de Nyon where seven TF35 teams lined up to race for the first time. Strikingly the nimble catamaran delivered perfectly on its design brief to foil in the ultra-light winds typical of Lake Geneva. At the end of a weekend of trying conditions that permitted only three races to be sailed in little more than eight knots, Ernesto Bertarelli's masterful Alinghi claimed the TF35 Trophy’s first event.
Round two in Nyon two weeks later saw Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard's Spindrift finish a tricky first day. However on day two, Realteam Sailing hit the gas, posting an almost perfect scoreline to take the second event win of the season when the final day of racing was cancelled due to heavy rain and no wind on the lake.
Round the cans racing on the TF35 Trophy was punctuated mid-season with two long-distance races: the Genève-Rolle-Genève acting as a prologue to the all-important Bol d'Or Mirabaud.
Given that four out of seven TF35 teams are based on the Lake it was a surprise when, after 30 nautical miles of racing in a fickle southwesterly breeze that flitted between five and ten knots, Frenchman Erik Maris' Zoulou took the Genève-Rolle-Genève win.
The following weekend Switzerland’s most famous race, the Bol d'Or Mirabaud, came down to a thrilling 25 knot, five boat sprint for the finish line in the pitch black of night, after 13 hours of racing in light winds which only momentarily peaked above 6 knots. With less than two minutes separating the top six boats over the finish line, it was Bertrand Demole's Ylliam XII - Comptoir Immobilier that took the win, having raced all day conservatively, remaining in the lead pack, but staying out of trouble.
In the most spectacular zero to hero moment we were to see all season, Guy de Picciotto's Zen TOO team came from almost one hour behind to take second place, .
PUSHED TO THE LIMITS
This season’s events have pushed the new concept TF35 to the limits of the wind spectrum.
Starting the season ghosting upwind on their foils across an eerily mirror-flat Lake Geneva in just 6 knots of breeze, the TF35 achieved what the designers had planned; a boat that takes off and foils easily in the lightest of winds.
Conversely, when the TF35 fleet migrated to Scarlino, Italy, for the end of the season to tackle the open water of the Mediterranean, they were faced with Mistral conditions and howling downwind a new top boat speed was recorded of 35 knots.
ON THE RISE
Spindrift's progress over the season was notable, culminating in an outstanding performance at the finale in Scarlino, Italy. As a new young team, put together at the start of 2021 specifically to campaign the TF35, they held their position, leading the chasing pack for most of the season, learning and improving on their boat handling event by event. By the time of Scarlino, they had managed a noticeable gear change, resulting in a string of second-placed finishes in top of the range conditions, the young team with Yann Guichard helming were challenging for the lead in every race.
Realteam Sailing performed outstandingly for their first year racing the TF35 with four event wins from six events. The team, led by Jerome Clerc, have been sailing together for a long time but approached the new boat from the outset, pre-season eager to learn all they could. Spending more hours on the water in their TF35 pre-season than any other team, Clerc and the team focused on understanding how the onboard software works and adjusting the way they sail to fit the automatic flight control.
OMEGA NEXT GENERATION SAILOR
Official Timekeeper OMEGA presented Matthieu Ravussin with a Seamaster Diver 300M 007 Edition watch in support of the next generation of sailors for his performance as bowman with Team Sailfever on the 2021 TF35 Trophy.
PREDICTIONS FOR 2022
Second to Realteam all year, nothing is more motivating than being the underdog. The performance of Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi team this year was outstanding by any standard; not posting a regatta result lower than second all season. Watch out for Alinghi in 2022.
With 40 races on their scorecard at the end of 2021 increased competition is certain to compress the fleet in 2022. All teams now have good experience in lake and open water conditions; they also know their competitor's strengths and weaknesses well. The owners have a better understanding of what it takes to succeed in this fleet, and the shore crews have a better knowledge of what is needed to get these racing machines running at peak performance. Add to this the crew changes that are likely to mix up the dynamics onboard the boats plus a new Italian team joining as boat eight, we should be in for an exciting 2022 season.
As with all new designs, development is ongoing. After season one, the design team is working hard to strengthen the foils for stronger winds and higher speeds without losing any of the TF35’s nimble, light wind ability. Next season all the teams aim to complete a race without coming off the foils. Watch this space.