Flight School(ed) In the Persico 69F – Sailing World | Gmx Pharm

Representing the sailing program at St. Francis YC High School, Sydney Lange (front), Arthur Serra (rudder) and Caspar Lenz Anderson (mainsail trim) attend school on the Persico 69F in Miami and have clearly enjoyed their studies.
Sailing Energy/69F Media


The first event in US waters for the Persico 69F Youth Foiling Gold Cup international circuit drew little attention, perhaps because its reach depended almost entirely on cryptic social media. But in the end, Team Argentina prevailed at the kickoff. Joining Nacra 17 Olympians Dante Cittadini and Teresa Romairone was Marcos Fernandez, a twenty-something who sets the benchmark for what it takes to win. Among the hopefuls from the USA, Team Sail America was led by Henry Lee from the University of Rhode Island. Arthur Serra, from San Francisco, California, skippered Team StFYC, representing the St. Francis Yacht Club high school program. Also traveling east for the race was StFYC High School senior Declan Donovan, who drove Team Thailand. US sailors represented development efforts and sought first-hand experience and thrills. Donovan survived to the final. He and Serra share their stories here, adapted with permission from the St. Francis YC Mainsheet newsletter, published March 2022.

Can not wait

By Arthur Serra

Last fall I saw an incredible boat on Instagram. It looked like a small AC75. It had a similar foil setup with three big sails and was fast. I scoured the internet until I found the Persico 69F. At the time, the St. Francis YC Junior Program was only sailing lasers due to COVID. I love the Laser but it is good for 4 knots upwind and 12 knots upwind. The boat on my screen cranked upwind and upwind at 25 knots and hit 30. I was hooked.

I researched whenever I had time and eventually got an email address from someone in the class association. After emailing them every week for four months, I got the answer I was looking for. “Starting January there will be boats in Miami; sail alone or with a buddy.”

I was thrilled and invited my good friend and young fellow sailor Caspar Lenz Anderson to come along. In our last week of Christmas vacation, on the first day of the New Year, we flew out of SFO and arrived in MIA. The day after we went out to sail the boats and break our personal speed records. We showed up an hour early. We were so excited we couldn’t help it. The trainers were surprised. The Interior Ministry in Italy had announced that two “kids” would come to sail. They awaited beginners who wanted to go for jaunts. What greeted them instead were two 16-year-old, high-energy racers ready to start. That changed their plans for how much we would sail.

First our instructors gave us a lesson on the 69F. The special thing about these boats are the V-shaped foils on both sides. These are similar to AC75 foils and make the boat incredibly stable. Usually there is only one of these V-Foils in the water and they not only generate lift but also a massive righting moment. The V-Foils counteract the leeward force generated by the sail. This makes the boat want to stay flat (compared to Moth or Waszp who constantly want to capsize under an overpowered rig). With so much righting moment, the sails can be larger, allowing the boat to accelerate faster and foil sooner.

There are three positions: skipper, mainsheet trimmer and flight controller. While adjusting the angle of the foils to control the ride height, the flight controller also works with the skipper on tactics and focuses on the gennaker when sailing upwind, paying attention to gusts and slacks. The mainsheet trimmer has a job, and that’s its name. Everything the main trimmer does is trim except when jibing. The boat must always sail as flat as possible. Even a slight leeward heel in a small gust of wind can cause the boat to capsize, so the trim needs to be right. Of course, the other way to control the heel is to change the angle to the wind. This is where the skipper comes into play. The skipper’s job is the same as on any boat: driving, playing the angles and making sure everyone works together.

We rigged the boats, launched them and towed them. The boats are easy once you get a good look. There is a large self-tacking jib, a huge mainsail trimmed from the boom and a large kite with a return line. The controls, sails and most normal sailing aspects are like a 49er. What is different are the slides. Both the sword and rudder are T-slides, recognizable to anyone who has seen a flying moth.

Dropping at a forty-five degree angle from either side of the hull, the V-Foils are dropped and lifted during tacks and jibes. The V-Foils and rudder foil rake are adjusted using lines leading to the front of the boat and these are adjusted by the flight controls to initiate foiling and maintain proper altitude. Because a trapeze can be dangerous and this class is all about safety, the 69F instead has fuselage extensions, “walking racks” that crew members sit on outboard. Over the next four days we learned to foil and twice set our personal speed records in the high teens. Now it’s 28 knots. Going that fast makes the boat feel light and playful. It’s an exhilarating experience.

We started out as air traffic controllers before moving on to skippering and mainsheet trimming. We have worked hard on communication. Never before have we sailed a boat where the skipper and trimmer have to be so in sync that even a momentary lack of focus will result in at best falling off the foils and at worst capsizing. On the second day, Caspar preferred the trimming and I preferred the riding, so we spent the next two days like that and really got in sync. Our jibes and tacks weren’t perfect, but we were able to get the boat going fast in a straight line. For the first three days we raced around Biscayne Bay, blasting past Hobies.

On the fourth day there was no wind so we went to the sea to catch more breeze. We got the boat ripping, but to catch our flight back to San Francisco we had to fly home through the shipping channel. We asked the Coast Guard for permission but forgot to check with the Port Police and when this strange contraption came flying into a busy canal a high speed chase ensued. We have given up. The police stopped us. Luckily, it mattered when we told them the Coast Guard had given us permission. After all, they have bigger guns.

Sailos poses in front of graffiti artwork in Miami's Wynwood District
Arthur Serra, Sydney Lange and Caspar Lenz Anderson travel to Wynwood Miami during the 69F Youth Foiling Gold Cup Regatta.


Kevin Rio/69F Media

Now you can say: We were stopped because we were sailing too fast. How cool is that?

The 69F is sailed in the Youth Foiling Gold Cup, a World Tour Grand Prix series – think SailGP for under-25s. The first “act” of the 2022 Cup was in Miami, and we were there because the instructors made an offer on our second day that we couldn’t refuse. Come back in February, they said. come back and race They knew we were hungry for more and a team from the Bahamas had dropped out. We jumped on it and quickly added Sydney Lange, another member of the StFYC Junior program, to manage flight controls. Caspar stayed on as mainsheet trimmer and I as skipper. Together we represented the St. Francis Yacht Club and competed against eight other teams – including another representing St. Francis with Declan Donovan at the helm.

We gave it our all and when we come back from Miami after our loss we’ll be disappointed but to be honest I’m inspired. We have competed against some of the best youth sailors and to see them absolutely destroy me shows the work I have ahead of me. I can barely wait for it.

Go towards the goals

By Declan Donovan

I had never sailed a 69F before but here I was, skippering Team Thailand and representing StFYC in Act 1 of the Youth Foiling Gold Cup. My teammates were Dylan Whitcraft, our lead trimmer from Thailand, and Ella Beauregard, air traffic controller. Of the three, Dylan was the only one with experience of this fast foiling boat. We faced a big learning curve. Luckily, the format of the 69F YFGC series allows practice time before the race. Unfortunately, our two practice days were not optimal. Mother Nature turned Biscayne Bay into a light-wind lake. But let’s look at the format first.

Declan Donovan gives every ounce of focus to keep the 69F on their slides; Hyperactive mainsheet trim is the key to sustained flight.


Sailing Energy/69F Media

Two days of practice were followed by three days of racing to determine qualification for the finals. The qualifying teams then proceeded to the knockout rounds. In total, before the KO series, my team had five days to learn the boat. First we learned that a 69F can foil in very light conditions. However, it’s difficult to select the right pull to hover onto the foils – and then pump hard enough to sustain flight – to get the timing right, and even more difficult to sustain flight. The trimmer and flight controller both have to constantly roll and push to maintain speed (the class rules allow it), and the three of us switched positions frequently to recover. We didn’t have much time on the foil before the race started.

I am at home in the high winds of San Francisco Bay and when a gust suddenly brought the wind to 18 knots on the first start of the first day of competition I was excited. We started a 30 knot boat on a four sided course and I had about 30 minutes of solid foiling under my belt. What could possibly go wrong? Spring …

At first we were only just able to avert a collision with a boat that capsized to leeward. Then came a gust we weren’t prepared for and the discovery that going from 25 knots to zero is an abrupt change. Our air traffic controller Ella executed her next two maneuvers perfectly. First she flew out of the boat. Then she popped back on board and said, “I’m fine!” and we were back in the running.

Significantly older and wiser, we found ourselves in fourth place after three days of knockout rounds and qualified for the finals. A win late in the day put us in second place but – and it was a big but.

On the last day the breeze dropped again. We stayed competitive but had problems in the starts. We made a few maneuvering mistakes and our lack of batten tension really “blew up” in the words of our friends at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. Still, the day had its triumphs: we set the fastest daily speed of 26 knots, improved our coordination on tacks and completed a foiling jibe. We had arrived in Miami with plans to learn as much as we could about the 69F and how to race it, with the goal of preparing for Act 3 in Newport, Rhode Island this July. We arrived knowing that we had exceeded our expectations.

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