ATLANTIC 47: MastFoil Rig In Action (Sort Of)

Atlantic 47 under sail

Ever since I first talked to designer Chris White earlier this year about his new MastFoil rig I’ve been anxious to try it out. I’ve always been very interested in unconventional rigs, and this one seems particularly promising, so of course my outing aboard his new MastFoil-rigged Atlantic 47 apres-show in Annapolis last month was perhaps the one test sail I was most looking forward to. Unfortunately, the wind was much lighter than I would have liked, blowing only about 5-7 knots, so I still can’t say anything terribly definitive about how the rig performs.

I can say it is easy to handle, much easier than a conventional rig, particularly when it comes to setting and striking sail. Not having a huge full-batten main to wrestle with is a major bonus if you’re into laid-back sailing. Overall, in the conditions we had, I’d say this boat didn’t sail any slower than an equivalent conventionally rigged catamaran would have, and it certainly tacked more easily.

Atlantic 47 helm

From the helm in the forward cockpit you have a good view of the forward mast and both sails. You have to move around a bit to get a useful view of the aft mast

MastFoil mast

Both masts act as sails themselves and rotate through a full 360 degrees. There’s a small Gurney flap on the back of each mast to help increase the lift it creates. The flaps are easy to control and have just three settings–right, left, and center

The top speed we saw during our brief afternoon jaunt was 5 knots at an apparent wind angle of 65 degrees. At 45 degrees we made 3.8 knots and sometimes touched 4. We weren’t really able to point much higher than that. This boat is equipped with fixed keels, which also have flaps on their trailing edges to help increase lift. We didn’t play with these, however, and Chris conceded they’ll only get you an extra two or three degrees closer to the wind. It’s also possible to fly big light-wind sails, a screecher or an A-sail, but unfortunately we didn’t play with these either.

MastFoil rig port side

It is, I think, an attractive rig. To get an idea of how much power the masts actually generate, we stalled one out while sailing and saw our speed drop by about one knot

Herb McCormick

I shared my test sail with Cruising World‘s Boat Of The Year crew. That’s Herb “Racer X” McCormick settling into a groove at the helm while Chris White looks on

MastFoil rig starboard side

What’s the best term for a rig like this? This boat’s owner likes to call his new baby a staysail schooner or a “schoonermaran”

Thom Dozier, the owner of our boat, Pounce, was aboard for the test, and he’s had quite a bit of experience with it, as he sailed it all the way up from Chile, where it was built. As a licensed pilot he was intrigued by the rig and told me was willing to take a chance on it because its aerodynamics made sense to him. So far he is quite pleased with it. He and his delivery crew had several 200-mile days during their long voyage north and averaged 180 miles a day overall.

As for me, I’d like more experience with the rig and would love to have a chance to try it out in a stronger breeze. A gale maybe, so I can see if it really sails to windward under bare naked foils.

Be sure to look for a more detailed review of the boat in general in a future issue of SAIL.

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4 Responses
  1. sam robinson

    Charles, Too bad the wind didn’t cooperate. How do you like the forward cockpit? At first it seemed like a great innovation, but now I’m wondering if the lost aft deck and exposure up front is worth it. Does it give the crew more of a monohull feel being able to look right up at the sail? I’ve never sailed on a catamaran. Sam

  2. Charlie

    Hey, Sam. I like the forward cockpit. You get great ventilation through the main saloon with doors open forward and aft in good weather, which more than makes up for the smaller back porch, IMHO. In bad weather, I don’t know. You can steer from inside, but if you have bad luck and open the door to the cockpit to adjust lines just as a big bolt of spray comes over the forward beam, you will no doubt be cursing a bit. The forward cockpit keeps most line runs short, which is very helpful on a cat. Steering feel from that position is good, but I think it’s better from an outboard helm on the aft quarter, where you won’t be any better off protection-wise. charlie

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