Stopped just a short distance from the port of Zeebrugge (Belgium), Gitana X abandoned the idea of racing her 1st Grand Prix on July 12th, and this on the decision of the experts, despite the rapid repairs carried out by Multiplast.
Back in the yard, more precise analyses have been carried out by "electronic tapping", exactly like the doctor tapping his patient's back with the back of his hand, listening to the difference in resonance to detect possible problems.
This latest investigation did not reveal anything so it was decided to sand down to the carbon cloth to obtain a direct vision of the incriminated zone. Once again, everything proved to be homogenous, the carbon cloths are perfectly bonded to the honeycomb core. Verdict: the construction is apparently not to blame. So the Gitana Team have therefore pointed their research towards a possible weakness in the engineering of the beam.
The new generation of 60 ft (18.28 m) trimarans to which Gitana X belongs, uses very efficient curved foils placed on the floats just abaft the forward beam, which permit, as soon as the boat accelerates, the catamaran to lift therefore increasing speed by reducing drag through the water.
These foils are precision parts in carbon, they are immensely strong and load up the beams enormously, while the old straight foils generated much lower loads with inferior lift. The use of these new foils have obliged the designers to precisely study the loads that they generate in order to calculate the right scantlings. This is an area where the strength to lightness compromise is very difficult to find on prototypes, despite the precision of the calculations.
Reinforce the beam stocks
The damage to Gitana X - a crack in the forward beam stock 15 cm above where it fits into the float - appears to stem from a lack of stability of the carbon fibers in compression (direction of the carbon fibers) at this point.
The Gitana Team engineers have already provided some elements of the reply as to what caused this damage and next week will be proposing some new approaches for strengthening and improving the reliability of the beam stocks.