The original North American Catamaran Racing Association

I'm hoping a few people have some memories or even better links to the original story of NACRA, the racing series that spawned the now-well-known brand of beach cat.  

As I remember it:  Tom Roland attempted to start a professional racing series using 40-foot beach cats right around 1975.   He was clearly a man ahead of his time, as it would be quite a few years before anyone else would try to make something like that work.    He built a couple boats, had some demo races, but (I assume) didn't attract enough advertisers to make the scheme work.    But, he liked the name and used it for his production boat business, smaller trailer-sized beach cats to compete with Hobie and Sol Cat.  Thus was launched the NACRA 5.2 in 1975. 

So, back to the Association racing boats?    Back in the early 1990s when I was living in Santa Cruz county there was a very large beach-cat style boat that was in the harbor.  I remember it both in dry-dock and in the slips, all the way near the end where it's huge girth and minimal draft allowed it float where nobody else could.    At the time it had a garish red paint scheme, with the boat's name starkly painted on the hulls:  Rocket 88.    My buddy and I were fascinated by this boat, it didn't seem like it was every quite fully rigged, but neither was it just floating debris, small changes were being made constantly on it. 

That's as much as I know about the original North American Catamaran Racing Association and what I've termed here "the Association boats" that were built to serve it.   I still don't know if Rocket 88 was one of the original NACRA Association boats, or not. 

I think I did read (probably here) a decade ago that one of the Association boats had been sold, possibly for shipment to Australia? 

I'd love to get this information added to the Nacra Sailing WIkipedia article, but I'd need some links. 

Cheers! 

PS: This came up because my buddy from those days and I are both keenly following the Worrel 1000, and there is a boat in the race named Rocket 88.   Coincidence? 

 

 

mundt

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There was a Rocket 88 that raced a lot in SF.  I think it was a D class boat?  With Roland you might be talking about the 36?  I bet Rasputin 22 knows the real story.  If you were living in the hills of Santa Cruz there's the possibility that your memory might have been affected by all that greenery up there?

 
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guerdon

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Tom, sold the big NACRA tooling to a guy that lived in the Bay Area.  It may have included one complete boat.  Probably the coolest inspired big cat ever.  I really benefited from his direct approach to problem solving and was sad when he moved to Ojai.

o

 

david r

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Interesting story.  I never knew that their was an actual north american catamaran  racing association.  The was a north american mulitihull association.  I have raced in their championships decades ago.

I think the nacra guys made the alpha cat before the 5.2, which was a scaled down 36.  I saw Roy Seamans 36 at a PMA worlds in hurricane gulch back in the mid 80s.  The Alpha cat had some of the same hardware as the 5.2s, so i think the nacra guys built them.  They were not very pretty, and looked nothing like a 36.

ps their was also a windsurfer called a rocket88.  Was an early shortboard that you could uphaul if you couldn't water start yet

 

Rasputin22

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The big cat from Roland was a 36' x 18' una rigged (no jib and 1000 sq ft main) and was very minimal. It had a plumb bow that had more volume down at the waterline than at the sheer and was in effect an early 'wave piercer' without the reverse rake of the stem. That bow shape was a refinement of the fuller bows (really blunt in actuality) of a design called the 'ALPHA CAT' at 18' x 10'. My boss at Sailing South in New Orleans loved the ALPHA and was National (and World?) Champion a couple of years mostly because he was a hulk of a guy and had been State Champ High School football center and needed the volume of the ALPHA for his near 300 lbs. We had a NACRA 18 Square (meter sail area) that was 18' hulls with a 12' beam that was a single handed trap design. That boat was perfect for my 6'6" frame and the boss encouraged me to trail and race it all over the Gulf Coast. It was bigger than an A-Class cat and had a trailer that would flip up about 45 degrees sideways to be road trailerable without disassembly which got lots of puzzled looks on the highways and in gas stations. I had a WIDE LOAD sign make for the back end of the trailer that said in addition "Danger ROCKET LAUNCHER" which many drivers took seriously. I don't know if that had any connection to the ROCKET 88 back on the West Coast as 8.8 meters is only 25 feet or so. The hot windsurfer of that era was called the Rocket 88 and was a chopped down original Windsurfer and was probably 8'8" so there may be some connection there.

   This is a Red Oldsmobile Rocket 88...

the-story-of-the-oldsmobile-rocket-88-america-s-first-muscle-car-168929-7.jpg


     I doubt there is any connection there!

     I think this may be the WIndsurfer 88 but looks like a 103.

img_0090_877.jpg


    The fledgling performance windsurfing wizards such as Jim Drake were hanging out with the catamaran gurus such as Alex Kozoloff at Hurricane Gulch in San Pedro due to the winds that came roaring around Palos Verdes and I am sure that there was a lot of cross pollination between those gangs.

90


https://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-xpm-2012-jul-02-la-me-jim-drake-20120702-story.html

Here is Alex Kozoloff who was part of the C-Class and D-Class catamaran scene and won the first Little Americas Cup and inspired a lot of modern performance sailing.

1517560217107


image.png

    Back to the Roland 36. This is the last incarnation of the boat as a NACRA 36 after the molds were shipped to Australia.

nacra_36_photo.jpg


    Back to the New Orleans Sailboats South days, my boss was able to find and buy one of the few 36's that had been built in Texas. It had been 'rode hard and put away wet' and I spent most of a winter season 'resurrecting' it and we had a blast with it the following summer. Until we decided to take it out in an approaching hurricane in the fall. That 'flexi-flyer' was scary in 6 knots on the lake but the boss just figured that all we needed was more crew weight to dare the hurricane. I doubt that there was more than 30 knots on that adventure but our hardcore gang of cat sailor guys plus an equal number of fun girls that Colin had picked up in the waterfront bars down the street from our shop failed to keep it right side up. Needless to say we ended up getting towed in after righting by the Coast Guard who simply threw up a towline and a clove hitch around the mast base and beam and they throttled up. There was a lot of water in the hulls and it was not long that the main beam ripped out and that was the end of one of the few Roland 36's. Good thing we had a couple of Stiletto 27's to continue our wicked ways on the water!

    But that is another story...

 

Rasputin22

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Interesting story.  I never knew that their was an actual north american catamaran  racing association.  The was a north american mulitihull association.  I have raced in their championships decades ago.

I think the nacra guys made the alpha cat before the 5.2, which was a scaled down 36.  I saw Roy Seamans 36 at a PMA worlds in hurricane gulch back in the mid 80s.  The Alpha cat had some of the same hardware as the 5.2s, so i think the nacra guys built them.  They were not very pretty, and looked nothing like a 36.

ps their was also a windsurfer called a rocket88.  Was an early shortboard that you could uphaul if you couldn't water start yet
Thanks for substantiating my post David! The Roland 36 was actually the prototype for the NACRA 5.2 but scaled down instead of up as prototypes usually are. You are right about the ALPHA cat being ugly but that was the boat that established the wave piercing concept that was the basis of the R-36 and most of the NACRA's that followed. Petty obscure cat and I think this was a later model from Australia called an Alpha-Omega 5.0 that had already inherited the R-36 bow shape. I am still looking for the original ALPHA 18 and it was still a molded hull with bonded deck instead of the novel NACRA's that had left and right hull halves bonded down the centerline.

alpha_omega_5_metre_catamaran_20482327.jpg


    Ha! Look at this Alpha-Omega 4.4 from down under with a SA logo!

image.png

   Finally found what is listed as an ALPHA cat but I remember them as having a lot fuller bow. I guess the evolution was taken incrementally to the bow forms we are used to today.

main.php


    Another surprise, that boat is in my neck of the woods!

    OK, enough for now, there will be a test on Monday class.

 

mundt

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I got to sail on Billy Bob's 36 a couple times and compete against he and Ed on different boats.  Great boat and great sailors.  Billy Bob has his in NZ and I think there's still a pair of 36 hulls in Roland's yard.  Sounds like typical old timer talk but I'm pretty sure sailing used to be more fun.  I think Roland himself was aboard when they flipped a 36 in the SB Channel.  Those guys that pioneered cats and windsurfing were not only great sailors but true watermen.  Nowadays, Kai Lenny is out of the same mold.  

 

Max Rockatansky

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    Another surprise, that boat is in my neck of the woods!

    OK, enough for now, there will be a test on Monday class.
That boat used to be at Sundowner over by Mobile YC but I don't think it's there anymore

Do you know Vic Ferrera? He used to have an Alpha in NOLA if I recall

 
The big cat from Roland was a 36' x 18' una rigged (no jib and 1000 sq ft main) and was very minimal. It had a plumb bow that had more volume down at the waterline than at the sheer and was in effect an early 'wave piercer' without the reverse rake of the stem. That bow shape was a refinement of the fuller bows (really blunt in actuality) of a design called the 'ALPHA CAT' at 18' x 10'. My boss at Sailing South in New Orleans loved the ALPHA and was National (and World?) Champion a couple of years mostly because he was a hulk of a guy and had been State Champ High School football center and needed the volume of the ALPHA for his near 300 lbs. We had a NACRA 18 Square (meter sail area) that was 18' hulls with a 12' beam that was a single handed trap design. That boat was perfect for my 6'6" frame and the boss encouraged me to trail and race it all over the Gulf Coast. It was bigger than an A-Class cat and had a trailer that would flip up about 45 degrees sideways to be road trailerable without disassembly which got lots of puzzled looks on the highways and in gas stations. I had a WIDE LOAD sign make for the back end of the trailer that said in addition "Danger ROCKET LAUNCHER" which many drivers took seriously. I don't know if that had any connection to the ROCKET 88 back on the West Coast as 8.8 meters is only 25 feet or so. The hot windsurfer of that era was called the Rocket 88 and was a chopped down original Windsurfer and was probably 8'8" so there may be some connection there.

.-----trimmed-----

    Back to the Roland 36. This is the last incarnation of the boat as a NACRA 36 after the molds were shipped to Australia.



    Back to the New Orleans Sailboats South days, my boss was able to find and buy one of the few 36's that had been built in Texas. It had been 'rode hard and put away wet' and I spent most of a winter season 'resurrecting' it and we had a blast with it the following summer. Until we decided to take it out in an approaching hurricane in the fall. That 'flexi-flyer' was scary in 6 knots on the lake but the boss just figured that all we needed was more crew weight to dare the hurricane. I doubt that there was more than 30 knots on that adventure but our hardcore gang of cat sailor guys plus an equal number of fun girls that Colin had picked up in the waterfront bars down the street from our shop failed to keep it right side up. Needless to say we ended up getting towed in after righting by the Coast Guard who simply threw up a towline and a clove hitch around the mast base and beam and they throttled up. There was a lot of water in the hulls and it was not long that the main beam ripped out and that was the end of one of the few Roland 36's. Good thing we had a couple of Stiletto 27's to continue our wicked ways on the water!

    But that is another story...
Thanks, this is exactly the sort of information I was hoping someone would have.   And, you even have a picture of the NACRA 36 under sail, how cool is that!   

It was fine of you to take all the time required to share all this.   That's what makes this place so good. 

 

Rasputin22

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Thanks for the thanks Ric. I guess it is because I have been following the WORRELL 1000 myself the last few days that has me reminiscing. I entered the Worrell in 1987 in a SuperCat and I thought that was a rough year, but I think this year is the toughest of all time. Randy Smyth was entered that year and we both dismasted our state of the art carbon wing masts. Tom Roland was sailing a NACRA 6.0 with a radical hiking rack and won the event. I wanted to come back the next year with a 20' version of the Gougeon's SLINGSHOT but that never happened.

http://epoxyworks.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Slingshot.jpg

 

Fat Point Jack

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Thanks for the thanks Ric. I guess it is because I have been following the WORRELL 1000 myself the last few days that has me reminiscing. I entered the Worrell in 1987 in a SuperCat and I thought that was a rough year, but I think this year is the toughest of all time. Randy Smyth was entered that year and we both dismasted our state of the art carbon wing masts. Tom Roland was sailing a NACRA 6.0 with a radical hiking rack and won the event. I wanted to come back the next year with a 20' version of the Gougeon's SLINGSHOT but that never happened.

http://epoxyworks.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Slingshot.jpg
See the Worrell thread for your race.

The name was deleted to protect the guilty.

I'll put up Formula 500 up in the morning and with an Alex design brief.

 

Rasputin22

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    I finally unearthed the ALPHA 18 cat with the really full bow sections that eventually made its way into the NACRA cats but refined to not be so BLUNT. You can also see that the hull/deck joint and overlap had been eliminated by molding two hull halves bonded at the keel. The smooth sheer with no overhanging flange was a big step in keeping cats from pitchpoling. Next step was to ad the plumb stem to get to the Roland 36 and subsequent NACRA's. You really could push that ALPHA 18 hard in a blow. Probably the highest prismatic coefficient of any beach cat. The twin longitudinal tubes between the main and aft beams really helped keep my bosses fat ass out of the water and stiffened the boat greatly. Actually that Alpha 18 would have made a great platform for a Worrell 1000 boat in the conditions that they have had this year! 

main.php


 

david r

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It's cool you found those alpha cat photos.  It's wild that they retooled the molds for that hull shape.  It looks to me like they made tornado style hulls more bulbous in the bow, but kept the volume up higher towards the deck.  The 36/nacra5.2 hull shape has the volume lower in the hulls, so i see the 36 as a complete redo of their hull shape.  There was an alpha cat on the beach in Wailea when i first moved here in the 80's.  It looked the same as the one on the tilt trailer, but had the decks like the first picture you posted.  I also think there was one around in Florida in the mid 60's, but idk if alphas are that old.

 


OK, enough for now, there will be a test on Monday class.
 Thanks Rasputin22!  Lots of cool information in your post. 

What I associate as sort of the unique NACRA design language that Tom Roland created is the plumb bow.  Now, of course, they are more common now than in 1975.  Even some Beneteau monohulls have them.  But in that era they were pretty rare.   

Somewhere I have a copy of the book "A Field Guide to Sailboats of North America" - which is a great book full of line drawings of boats with their sail markings, the perfect companion if you have a house on a bay.  It points out the plumb bow as a unique identifier of the Nacra 5.2.  That carried through until the Infusion (maybe the Mark II ?) 

So, which boat is that one above exactly?   

Field Guide.jpg

 
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In 1970 I built out of plywood an A Cat with a plumb bow and instead of a deck, the plywood meeting at a point near the bow. Sailed it out of Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club, Southern California. One time it was on the trailer and Tom Roland stopped and looked at the boat, especially the bow. "Interesting concept," he said. "You didn't lavish much in cosmetics." Ouch.

The Alpha Cat I remember sailing back then was shorter than 18-feet.  I had one pitchpole dive right behind me in a puff. Smooth water.

Dave Ellis

 

david r

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Yeah they had plumb bows in the early C class cats and other 1 off designs.

As a small youth, i crewed for Kim Powell on his Sharkeater, a plywood homebuild that had plumb bows in 1969.

The funny thing was he had just upgraded his mast to a Tornado mast from a Shark mast.  That meant an extra panel added to the bottom of a normal Shark main, and the wind was blowing dogs off chains.  As i started to panic on the reach he told me; relax, this the easy part when the wind is aft.

 

david r

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On the original question;  After some checking on the www, which has limited info on the subject, it looks like the 36 ended up as a marketing tool for the nacra class.  Originally, if they were going to have a pro race series they dont say that on the nacra site.  http://www.nacra-na.com/about-us.html

The 5.2 came out the same year as the 36.  https://sailboatdata.com/sailboat/nacra-52

https://sailboatdata.com/sailboat/nacra-36   Note the co-designer

The Alpha cat was the first cat listed from Tom Roland and Glastron 1970   https://sailboatdata.com/sailboat/alpha-cat-18

There is also a 15' singlehander Alpha cat according to the about-us article

The article by the current nacra company has the facts mixed up .  Possibly because they had to write the original 5.2 out of the story because 5.2 is 17', the famous olympic nacra 17 cant be mixed up with the old 5.2.  Weird because the 5.2 was popular.  Also they bought the company performance catamarans which was an amalgamation of prindle and nacra.

The 18 square nacra story is glazed over as well.  There was an 18 square made with 5.2 hulls first, then the 5.5 hulls came out to be faster against the other 18 squares the way i remember it.  Also the Prindles were still made by Sufrglass then, even though the about-us story kind mixes those 2 histories into one.

 

guerdon

Anarchist
David r your memories are accurate.  The 5.2 was the race horse, the 36 was the billboard.  I don't remember the Alpha cats having fine bows.  The cool thing about the NACRAS is the vertical seams and half round glass longeron stiffeners.  Those hulls were all glass and didn't rely on foam sandwich for panel stiffness.  Tom lived down the street from me and has an empirical gift for fiberglass.

 




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