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The little 5.0, oldest cat on the beach but still looks as tidy as ever!

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If the Felkin Buoy Race was anything to go by, we were onto a good thing. On all legs the N5.0 was staying in touch with the leader and they only 'escaped' once their kite went up! 

During the Felkin Race, the wind was a steady 15-18 knots, prime time! In the larger gusts we watched the N20 crew struggle to keep their windward hull under control! Back on the N5.0 it was the old technique to keep things calm, work the traveler more. Up in the lulls, down in the gusts and just keep the boat sailing level and smooth! 

Fewer controls exist on 'recreation platforms' than on the race platforms and that is for simplicities sake!


The Nacra 5.0 has

1. jib sheet

2. mainsheet

3. main traveler

4. main downhaul

Ours is 'race-spec' so has the additional

5. jib barberhauler - used to control the jib leech downwind

There's no boom so no outhaul!


Having the basics really tidies things up and instead of focusing on string things you need to focus on good basics like

1. good sail trim

2. where you concentrate your weight onboard

3. good race tactics

4. get your head out of the boat and look for wind


I'd forgotten just how lithe the Nacra 5.0 really is!


It's deep and slender hulls were probably the beginning of the "wave piercing" generation.

As you can see, balancing out the weight is as necessary here as it is on any modern cat. 

Trim the weigh forward and get the boat onto the maximum waterline.

But take a good look at the wash coming out the back! There's no identifiable wake!

Sailing this has become fun again, something to do with age perhaps!


The first day with 3 races (all the same course, zzzz!) was in a nice building breeze.

Race one was single trapezing and races 2 & 3 in double trapezing. That's as it was on the N5.0. The race cats with their deep daggerboards all get double trapezing a lot earlier than us. That's what daggerboards do!

We had conservative starts over the whole six races so coming off the start line for us was nearly always in dirty air and that took time to clear. But we noticed on the fetch to the first turning mark that the 5.0 could keep up with the F-16's and even close in on them once we had some clear breeze.

Fully expecting the race cats to disappear upwind we were pleasantly surprised to note that we weren't that far away from the leaders. We could achieve this by sailing lower and faster. The 5.0 has a long delta shaped skeg for a hull rather than a daggerboard. To get this working requires water flow so as long as you get good flow over it, it grips the water pretty well. The other thing with this hull is that is does not slam through waves, Its rather slender vee shape slices rather well and has to be the true definition of wave-piercing. It's a smooth ride!

As the wind built for race 2 we could see a number of the race cats starting to struggle in the building breeze with a lot of feathering going on. Feathering up into the breeze to control hull flying is basically self-defeating. The nose points high but the speed is down and the side slip is increased as the foils lose their efficiency.


As the breeze increased on the 5.0 it was a simple pull on the downhaul to open the leech a little then, to control the ride height it was just a matter of easing the main traveler down about  20cm's. With the traveler down a bit hull flying is subdued but you can keep the leech tight which gives pointing and speed. This low mode is easy to sail as you can just concentrate on keeping the boat speed up. 

Once it got more breezy, the struggles on the race cats increased and it looked like only the eventual winner had things well in control! On one of our upwind legs as the breeze peaked we went through the lee of an N20OD, popped out the other side and got to the layline before they did. Obvious from our perch they were trying to hold the platform down with full daggerboards down - that isn't going to work! So here's a word of advice for those guys, when you starting getting into the downhaul, start getting the daggerboards up!

Going downhill

We are spinnaker-less on the 5.0, every other boat in the Championship had kites!

But we spent so long sailing cats without kites that as things evolved, we were introduced to a technic called "wild thing". In the days of the Formula 40's Randy Smyth discovered that the only way a catamaran could beat a trimaran downwind in light air was by flying the hull everywhere! This technic soon crossed over to the Aussie Nacra 5.8 Champions and soon, if you couldn't "wild thing" you would get left behind! Wild thing basically puts the crew weight to leeward while the skipper tries to pump the windward hull up and keep it flying!

Things are much simplifies with a spinnaker as technic gets replaced with the extra horse power produced by the kite! But for all those who have come into cats and bypassed the 'wild thing' era, you might have missed out on one of the greatest downhill technics.

On the 5.0 race one was not enough pressure to go 'wild' instead we barber haul the jib out, put the main traveler 3/4 down, open the leech and sit well ahead of the front beam. This puts it into a slow but deep downwind mode! Then just concentrate on keeping the jib pulling the air around the main sail.

By races 2 with a bit more breeze and growing confidence from the crew, we could start to push towards 'mild thing' with weight centered  and the windward hull just up and skimming. Into race 3 we did a few legs of wild thing and that was a lot of fun again!

Funny points, after clearing our air off the start line, the first boat we would pick off was the Nacra 15, then we would pick up the straggler F16 then the struggling N20. Now it's not that we are that brilliant it's just that there were a lot more mistakes on the other platforms. 

Overall we scored a 4, 2, 2, 1, 2, 2 and the winning Viper 1, 1, 1, 2, 1, 1 which is interesting as the N5.0 was the only boat to take a win away from the Viper team but also our 1st place came in the light wind of Sunday morning so we must have played all the shifts really well! But it does prove that the N5.0 can mix it up on the race track!

That was the most interesting thing for me?

Watching how a 30 year-old Nacra 5.0 can still be effective in windward/leeward style racing. Given its market price, it's really a good platform to race! The added bonus of the platform, it's really crew friendly! On each day the 5.0 had a different crew, each one came from the Youth Laser fleet neither had ever done any crewing and had not been on trapeze ever before. I wouldn't dare do that on my race cat for fear of putting them off due to over working! But the 5.0 was a nice introduction for them and both did amazingly well as it was great to sail with enthusiastic kids - makes me remember when...


p.s. now that we've got the 5.0 in a good spot, we can make it faster by the time the next Cat Championship comes around.

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