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#21 - Top Naval Architects

Martin Fischer, Luna Rossa: “Design Work Should be Based on Numbers”


Martin Fischer (Photo caption, courtesy of Groupama Team France)

German Martin Fischer was deeply involved in the design of the AC-75, the foiling monohull for the next America’s Cup. Recently, he was part of the team behind the class rule. This puts him in the front row of interesting naval architects right now.


NauticExpo e-magazine: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Martin Fischer: I live in New Caledonia, a group of Pacific Islands, where my wife is from. Soon we will move to Italy though, because I need to be close to the Luna Rossa team base, where I am head of design.

Actually, I was not trained as a naval architect. I’m a physicist, specializing in fluid dynamics. I worked for many years in research and statistical analysis. But on the side, I have always worked with boats. I sailed A-class for about 15 years on an international level. In 2002, I met Franck Cammas from France, and started working for him. But it was actually not until 2010 that I switched completely to boat design, and gave up my previous career.

I have worked on several big trimarans in France – Groupama, Banque Populaire and Sodebo. I also worked with A-class cats, Formula 18 and several other smaller cats, and was also involved in Groupama’s Volvo Ocean Race campaign 2012/13 – which we won.

Luna Rossa team (Courtesy of Prada)

NE e-mag: How did you get to work with the new America’s Cup boat?

Martin Fischer: My speciality has always been fast, high-performance boats. Mainly on the hydrodynamic side, a bit less on the aerodynamic side, although that is also very interesting. Mostly it’s been hull shape and appendixes.

In 2013 I worked on a C-class project, also for Groupama. We won the Little America’s Cup, and right after that I received a call from Luna Rossa. They wanted me to work for them. This was the America’s Cup in San Francisco. Unfortunately, they pulled out after the rules were changed, and the project stopped.

So, I worked for another team during the cup in Bermuda. But now I’m back with Luna Rossa for the next cup. Luna Rossa is the official challenger and closely linked to Emirates Team New Zealand, the defenders.

With the new AC-75 class rule, an important aspect is that the control of the boat will be done by humans, not machines.

NE e-mag: What does it take to do a good job in your field?

Martin Fischer: I always try to look at design work as a scientific thing. Not as an artistic thing. I try to base my design work on numbers. On mathematics, physics, not on feelings or vague ideas. I find this important in all design work, and in the America’s Cup even more so. I have always done this, and I think that it makes a big difference.

NE e-mag: The class rule document for the AC-75 is publicly available, but it’s a long and hard read. Could you break down and explain the headlines?

Martin Fischer: On deck there will be more or less normal, manual maneuvers, but everything under water will be powered by batteries. Another big change is that most of the rules are open. Each team has to design their own hull, their own sail shape and so on. So, this time it will be an open development class. Another important aspect is that the control of the boat will be done by humans, not machines.

Luna Rossa (Courtesy of Carlo Borlenghi)

NE e-mag: Do you expect some trickle-down effect from this development?

Martin Fischer: The power pack technology will be very interesting. Efficient systems to obtain, store and use power will be crucial to run control systems for foils. I don’t know what kind of configuration it will be, but I’m pretty sure the concept of foiling for monohulls – not only foil assisted, but really flying – somehow will find its way into normal sailing.

NE e-mag: How do you see your own professional future?

Martin Fischer: Until 2021 I will be involved with Luna Rossa. Hopefully, we will win the cup – that’s why we’re all working on this project. If that happens, I will be very keen to defend it. So I mainly see my future in that domain. But besides that, I’m also very interested in big trimarans, the so-called Ultime Class, the 100 footers. So I hope to be able to work in that direction too.

About the Author

Øyvind Bordal is a Norwegian writer and sailor, based in Denmark and Caribbean.

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