The modern catamaran is largely a post World War II development. Catamarans were built prior to the war, but were very rare and usually structurally suspect. The development of airplane technology, most notably in high strength aluminum, laminated woods and plastic resins permitted engineering solutions to these problems. Early catamarans could outperform mono hulls off wind, but slow to windward. On balance they were challenged to beat the best dinghies around the race course. Development in England, Australia and the United States gradually addressed these deficiencies and by the late 1950s Tiger Cat and Thai Mk IV both won “One of a Kind” regattas to the right to claim “fastest boat” These early catamarans were truly open designs, and so were hard to compare. As a way to bring some structure to the development, Beecher Moore drafted a quick classification system. This was adopted by the Royal Yachting Association and later the IYRU.
|Class||Max Length||Max Beam||Max Sail Area||Crew|
With multihulls now growing in popularity a disagreement quickly developed between the Great Britain and the United States as to whom was producing the fastest catamarans. By means of settling the argument Long Island’s Sea Cliff Yacht put up a trophy, the International Catamaran Challenge Trophy, which quickly became known as the “Little America’s Cup,” and organized a challenge. The yacht club quickly established a box rule – the trophy would be raced for by catamarans no more than 25 feet long, 14 feet wide with 30 square feet of sail. Thus the C-Class Catamaran was born.
The “Little America’s Cup” Era
1961-68: British Dominance
While the C-Class was born out of a disagreement between Great Britain and the United States as to who was producing the fastest catamarans the early days of the class proved no contest, with the British winning the initial contest in 1961, and successfully fending off seven challenges in the following seven years.
1961 –Long Island Sound, USA – HellCat II (UK) def WildCat (USA) 4-1
The first challenge held at Sea Cliff Yacht Club started a reign of British dominance that would last for almost a decade. Rod MacAlpine-Downie’s HellCat II, operated by Downie and John Fisk topped, America’s Wildcat by a score of to one and sent the trophy to Chapman Sands Sailing Club, where it would stay for the next eight years.
1962 – Thorpe Bay, UK – Hellcat I (UK) def Beverly (USA) 4-1
Van Alan Clark’s heavy weather ace Beverly stood no chance against the Downie’s Hellcat I in the light airs of Thorpe Bay. The British team of Ian Norris and Nocky Pope handily defeated Clark and Bill Saltonstall four to one.
1963 – Thorpe Bay, UK – Hellcat III (UK) def Quest (AUS) 4-0
The first challenge from outside of Great Britain or the United States, Australia’s Quest, sailed by John Munns and Graeme Anderson, made serious waves down under. They were however defeated by Reg White and Rod MacAlpine-Downie four-nil aboard their new Hellcat III.
1964- Thorpe Bay, UK – Emma Hamilton (UK) def Sealion (USA) 4-1
Ready for another shot the Americans challenged with their una-rigged Sealion, designed and built by David and Jerry Hubbard and helmed by Bob Smith. The British countered with Reg White and Bertie Holloway aboard Emma Hamilton. The Americans excelled in the light conditions, but the brisk conditions of Thorpe Bay favored Emma Hamilton, who took a took a tight four to one series victory.
1965 – Thorpe Bay, UK – Emma Hamilton (UK) def Quest II (AUS) 4-3
The Cup seemed to finally be on it’s way out of British hands when, after recovering from a 3-1 series deficit, Australia’s Lindsay Cunningham and John Buzaglo had a commanding lead on the final leg of race seven aboard Quest II. However the Aussies capsized in a sudden squall as they neared the finish line, suffering a heartbreaking 4-3 defeat to the British and Emma Hamilton.
1966 – Thorpe Bay, UK – Lady Helmsman (UK) def Gamecock (USA) 4-2
This time armed with their wing sailed Gamecock, designed by George Patterson and sailed by Bob Shiels and Jim Bonney, the Americans took another shot at the cup. However, amid structural difficulties on both sides, it was Britain’s Reg White and John Osborne who emerged with a 4-2 victory aboard Lady Helmsman.
1967 – Thorpe Bay, UK – Lady Helmsman (UK) def Quest III (AUS) 4-1
After the heartbreak of ’65 Lindsay Cunningham returned to England in 1967, this time with Quest III, sailed by Peter Bolton and Lindsay Reese and featuring a sock sleeved una-rig. Despite showing serious potential she proved no match for Lady Helmsman, this time sailed by Peter Schneidau and Bob Fisher. The British staked their claim to another victory, this time by a score of 4-2, and had at this point successfully defended six challenges in six years.
Greer Ellis brought Yankee Flyer into Thorpe Bay hoping to finally top Lady Helmsman with his light air specialist. However Reg White and Lady Helmsman were once again too much as Yankee Flyer struggled in the rough conditions of Thorpe Bay, and went away on the short end of a close 4-3 series.
1969 – Thorpe Bay, UK – Opus III (DEN) def Ocelot (UK) 4-3
With the Brits somewhat rundown after such an intense eight years the Danes sensed weakness and challenged with Opus III. Featuring a well sorted wing sail Gert Friedricksen and Lief Wagner-Schmitt proved too much for Reg White aboard a make shift combination of Lady Helmsman’s rig and Ocelot’s hulls. The Danes finally got the Cup away from Great Britain after an eight year run.
1970 – Skovshoved Sejiklub, DEN – Quest III (AUS) def Sleipner (DEN) 4-3
Sporting a new look wing sail with a myriad of intricate controls, Lindsay Cunningham’s Quest III quickly jumped out to 3-0 lead with Bruce Proctor and Graham Candy on board. However Leif-Wagner Schmitt and Klaus Anton found the speed button on their new craft Sleipner just in time to battle back and knot the series at 3-3 heading into race seven. However, despite the momentum swinging firmly in favor of the Durtch, the Aussies edged them by a minute in race seven to score a 4-3 lead and take the Cup down under.
After winning a very difficult selection series Quest III then made short work of their first challenger. George Patterson arrived with Weathercock, sailed by Chuck MacMillan and Jack Evans in 1972, but they were no match for the Aussies and quickly found themselves on the wrong end of a 4-0 series.
1974 – Sorrento, AUS – Miss Nylex (AUS) def Miss Stars (NZL) 4-0
Another new nation arrived on the C-Class scene in ’74. This time it was New Zealand with Miss Stars. Sailed by Bret De Their and Bill Hende and sporting a new age wing sail, the Kiwis were in for a nasty surprise when the Australians unveiled Miss Nylex. Sailed by Bruce Proctor and Graeme Ainslie and carrying a 100 percent solid wing Miss Nylex proved unstoppable, scoring a convincing 4-0 victory.
1976 – Sorrento, AUS – Aquarius V (USA) def Miss Nylex (AUS) 4-3
After a grueling three year selection process Alex Kozloff’s Aquarius V won the right to challenge in 1976. While few thought that a soft sailed boat could top Miss Nylex’s wing, Aquarius V was designed with a premium place on weight preservation, which gave her the edge in light conditions. The series went to full seven races, but breezes were light on the final day, and Kozloff and skipper Robie Harveybrought the cup to Cabrillo Beach, California.
After having their wing destroyed during the ‘76 selection series, Tony Dimauro’s team rebuilt Patient Lady III and won the right to defend away from Aquarius V in 1977 when a fresh challenge arrived from Australia. With veterans Lindsay Cunningham and Graham Candy aboard the well rigged Miss Nicholas, the Aussies quickly found themselves on the short end as Patient Lady III displayed excellent boat speed in all conditions. After a convincing 4-0 defense the Americans brought the Cup to the east coast and their training base in Roton Point, Connecticut.
1978 – Roton Point, USA – Patient Lady IV (USA) def Miss Lancia (ITA) 4-0
A new nation entered the C-Class arena in 1978 when an Italian team, backed by fiberglass tycoon Diego Scari, arrived at Roton Point with their brand new machine Miss Lancia. A very clean, well sorted boat Miss Lancia displayed excellent speed to windward, but proved to be no match for Tony DiMauro’s Patient Lady IV off the wind. All four races were competitive, with the Americans generally winning the 18 mile race by less than five minutes. However the Italians still found themselves on the short end of a short series.
1980 – Roton Point, USA – Patient Lady V (USA) def Signor G (ITA) 4-0
The Italians returned in 1980 with a new vessel, Signor G, and this time found themselves matched up against the prolific Patient Lady V after she outlasted Ned Damon’s Coyote during the American selection process. Trailing by less than a minute, and searching for an extra boost of speed, the Italians broke their battens on the final run of race one and were forced to retired. After enacting repairs and getting edged in tight competitions in races two and three the Italians again pushed slightly too hard in race four, breaking their battens again and losing to Patient Lady 4-0.
1982 – Roton Point, USA – Patient Lady V (USA) def Signor G (ITA) 4-0
Feeling that their boat had the necessary boat speed if the structural issues could be ironed out Signor G returned in 1982 after extensive refinement. However they found themselves matched up against Patient Lady V who was now sporting a new and improved wing, while some the reinforcements the Italians made added weight and ended up costing them downwind. The series was again competitive, but Patient Lady carried a 4-0 win in convincing fashion.
1985 – Victoria 150 over PLVI
Having already commanded one successful challenge in 1970, Lindsay Cunningham returned to C-Class action in 1985 with Victoria 150. Skipper Craig Cairns and Crew Scott Anderson looked to be in for a tough matchup with veteran American team at Roton Point, who were ready with a new boat Patient Lady VI. However structural issues plagued the Americans. Patient Lady proved to be slightly heavier than anticipated, and while the Americans had a slight edge on the beats, the lightweight Victoria was far too quick off the wind. The Australians sailed lower and faster and staked their claim to a 4-0 victory, taking the Cup back to MacRae Yacht Club.
Participation in the class began waning after the Cup was ousted from Roton Point. The 60s had seen a challenge every year, and the activity level remained quite high all the way into the mid 80s. However by the time the 90s rolled around whatever had been driving the class was gradually drying up. After their stunning performance in 1987 aboard Victoria 150, Lindsay Cunningham’s squad only faced four challenges in the next nine years. They easily defeated the British Hinge in 1987, a boat that, despite showing promise, was shipped to MacRae without even having been tested. They then topped the American effort Wingmill in 1989 without even having to race after the former capsized and broke up ten minutes before the start of Race One. 1991 looked like it might signify a class resurgence when challenges from both America and France emerged. However Otip capsized and was destroyed during the selection series, and while Freedoms Wing, designed Gino Morelli and sailed by Pete Melvin, gave the Aussies some stiff competition, losing one race by less than a second, they still went away on the short end of 4-1 series defeat. Another challenge would not emerge until 1996, when a the United State’s Cogito, sailed by Duncan MacLane, finally wrested the cup away from the Australians. For whatever reason Cogito’s win seemingly sounded a death knell for the “Little America’s Cup” as it was then known. Despite being the pinnacle of catamaran development at the time, Cogito signified the end of the era. The Americans returned home ready to mount their first defense, but the Cup sat in Bristol, Rhode Island, unchallenged for the next eight years. Finally, with the class clearly stagnated, Sea Cliff Yacht Club repossessed the trophy, and the class looked to have reached it’s last legs. However when fresh challenges arrived from Britain and Australia class chairman Steve Clark jumped at the chance to restructure the class and change its racing format.
Format Change – The International C-Class Challenge Cup
During the eight years spent waiting for a challenge Clark had come to the conclusion that the C-Class Catamaran bylaws, as they then stood, were not conducive to class development. The challenger-defender format prohibited the current cup holder from doing anything to promote the C-Cat, and the strict nationality rules prevented prospective participants from finding any low budget entry into the class. Additionally the best of seven match race series seemed insufficient, with a maximum of seven races looking like a small reward for all the work that goes into developing a C-Class Catamaran. With this in mind Clark created the International C-Class Challenge Cup, now the main event in C-Class Catamaran racing. Under the new format more than one challenge could be accepted, with a fleet race determining the right the challenge for the cup. In 2004 Cogito and Patient Lady VI emerged from the fleet series, outlasting Britain’s Team Invictus and Australia’s Ronstan, with the Cogito team of Clark and MacLane fending off Patient Lady, sailed by Lars Guck and Stan Shreyer, in the finals. However in 2007 the story was different, with Canada’s Alpha, sailed by Fred Eaton and Magnus Clarke, wresting the Cup away from Cogito. The Canadians successfully defended their title in 2010 aboard Canaan against challenges from Australia, Britain, France, and the United States. In 2013 they will face challenges from Britain, France, Switzerland, Italy, and the United States, with as many at 16 boats expected on the line.
Since the creation of the IYRU classification system the A-Class and B-Class have been the most popular of the four. The A-Class quickly became one of the more popular high performance dinghies in the world, and has remained more or less the same apart from adopting a minimum weight. The B-Class meanwhile became very popular, eventually evolving into the modern Tornado. However gaining the Olympic selection ultimately halted development. The D-Class meanwhile never really got started, while the C-Class probably would not have either without the impetus of the Little America’s Cup and the current International C-Class Catamaran Challenge Cup. However, while numbers remained thin, the challenge format of the racing did provide the motivation for much of the original development in racing catamarans, and the C-Class has remained at the forefront of multihull development ever since.