The International Tornado Catamaran was designed by Rodney Marsh and Reg White in 1967 and gained it's Olympic Games status from the IYRU after winning a selections regatta held in Brightlingsea, England in the same year.
The Olympic status of the Tornado has brought some of the finest sailors from all over the world to the class. With over 22 nations regularly attending the annual World and European Championships and the three medals won at the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games going to three different continents, the Tornado Class has a world-wide fleet matched only by a handful of other sailing classes.
The Class rules allow the boats to progress with technology and let modern materials such as carbon fibre, nomex, epoxy resins and premium grade aluminium to be used in the construction of the boat. This helps with the re-sale value of the boats and enables the Tornado to maintain it's marque as the ultimate speed machine of the water and to this day still remains unchallenged as the fastest one-design boat in the world.
The total weight of the Tornado is around 160 kilograms (similar to the weight of the two people sailing it) and with an upwind sail area of 22 square metres and an additional 25 sqm of spinnaker down wind the Tornado's top speed is in excess of 33 knots.
The International Tornado Association has been working extensively over the past ten years developing both the Regatta Format and the improvement of the Sail Plan.
The 1994 World Championship in Sweden was the first time the new Regatta and Course Format were introduced and they were overwhelmingly accepted by the 77 participants in attendance.
The Course is a simple Windward-Leeward layout with a gate rounding at the leeward end of the course. The introduction of the gate has provided much closer racing due to the advantage offered to the back part of the fleet being able to choose which side of the course they would like to go rather than being forced to go a particular way in a single mark rounding scenario. The Start/Finish line also allows the Race Committee to remain on station for the entire race enabling quick back-to-back races to take place.
The Sail Plan on the Tornado has been through a major development program including the use of spinnakers, bigger 'square-top' mainsails and lower aspect jibs. All the possible combinations were tested by the best cat sailors in the world during an evaluation event in France in 2000.
Taken into consideration was not only performance variations or enhancement but also cost controls and the ability to remain a strict one-design class. The final outcome was for the boat to include the addition of a spinnaker, twin trapeze, square top main sail and a higher aspect jib.
The Tornado is still by far the fastest and most spectacular Olympic Class and with the new hull-flying technique on the downwind legs coupled with the spinnaker and twin trapeze the Tornado is still the ultimate speed machine.
Over 4,800 Tornados have now been built and with 1,300 Class Association Members the International Tornado Class will be competing at its ninth Olympic Games in China in 2008.