My heart sank a little when I saw Sharon Green’s photos of the G4 that capsized in the last race of Les Voiles in St Barths yesterday. That’s because after the magical three days I spent flying on the G4 recently, I’ve become attached to this adrenaline-pumping/category-busting/never-seen-before speed machine that’s also equipped with a fridge and a kitchen sink. I felt for the crew. And I felt for all the folks at Gunboat and Holland Composites. And I felt for whoever was at the helm when they sailed up to—and then over—the edge.
But then I realized there’s nothing to be bummed about. In fact, in purely scientific terms, something like this provides as much, if not more useful data than simply drag racing under the sunny skies off the ultra-swanky beaches of St Barths could ever reveal. I wasn’t aboard (sounds crazy, but I really wish I was), so I’m just going by what the folks who were there have said, but for me, learning that a boat like this is so well built and well engineered that it can recover from a full capsize with minimal damage (except for some cell phones, some battens, and maybe a bit of pride to the crew) is simply amazing. They know where the edge is. They’ve experienced it. And gone 180 degrees over it. And bingo, they’re back up and will be foiling in no time.
I mean, check out Sharon’s amazing photos. Look at the foils. And the rudders. And the mast. And the rigging. And the main. All intact after what must have been a pretty abrupt stop. Totally amazing.
Johnstone himself was aboard and called it a “dumb” capsize. And some of the guys from Holland Composites have it absolutely right where they say:
“The G4 capsized sideways yesterday—obviously. Crew are fortunately okay, one team member suffered minor injury. Mobile phones have been lost, as such we back at home in The Netherlands do not have all info available. Once more is known we will update you.
“During production the boat was referred to as the Batboat by many. Being quite fond of the last trilogy I recall a phrase in such Batman movie where the butler asks a young Bruce Wayne ‘why do we fall?’, and follows with the answer ‘to learn how to get up again.’
“The upside (no pun intended) to what you see here is that the limit has apparently been found, that the boat was pulled back up very quickly again and the only damage appears to be two broken battens in the mainsail. Electronics are drying up and we hope we can get them working again shortly.
“In spirit of the butler’s words, we got up again and now work hard to see you all in Antigua in a few days again. Lessons learned.”
Other early reports cite the need for a quicker main-dump system. Which makes perfect sense and is a relatively easy fix.
As for being one of the lucky ones who knows what it feels like (and sounds like) to foil at over 30 knots on the G4, I want one more than ever.
And you gotta tip your cap to a truly unflappable guy like Peter and the folks at Holland Composites who not only design and build one of the coolest and most radical new designs any of us jaded sailing writers have seen in a lifetime, but they’ve done it in the uber-bright light of one of the highest profile regattas there is with only a couple of weeks testing prior. Chapeau! to their audacity and their tenacity. The future is here. There’s going to be lessons learned along the way but man, this is what creating a whole new thing looks like.
Because as it is in life, you never can see what someone (or something) is truly made of when things are good. Adversity brings out greatness. Just wait till Antigua Sailing Week. I predict the G4 is going to light that regatta on fire.