Gino Morrelli Says It's "Back to the Future"

Gino Morrelli’s company is even making high-performance composite paddle boards! Photo: Chris Smith

What’s one path to designing the fastest boats in the world? One way, says Gino Morrelli, is to look at square riggers. What? Really. They didn’t have stainless steel for rigging, so they had to hold everything together with hemp. Today, substitute something made of composites (steel is disappearing from the fast boats), but use techniques from the days of wooden ships.
Today’s advanced boats are turning things upside down in other ways, too. Gino says the hulls of catamarans used to be broad at the top and sharp at the bottom. Today, it’s the opposite in order to get buoyancy lower.
Gino plays our game at the very highest level, designing boats for everything from America’s Cup to Disneyland, from Gunboats to Hobie Waves. He helped design Oracle’s first winning boat and the Team New Zealand entry in AC34 and he’s now helping devise the rules for AC35 (tip: it’s looking like it’ll be a 50-foot boat).
This accomplished man heads Morrelli & Melvin and hangs out with the rich and successful, but he’s a very approachable and enthusiastic guy—self-taught, amazingly. He told Tuesday night’s AYC monthly meeting that he built his first boat with his father in the back yard. Within a very few years he was building catamarans that ran at the front of international races.
What about foiling? It’s every third word in boat design, he says. At first they’ve been used for boats that teeter on the bleeding edge, but they’re beginning to show up in more everyday boats. Gino says they’re now foiling microwaves, refrigerators, and air conditioners, fast cruisers that we would never imagine could rise up in the water.
Asked to do a postmortem on Team New Zealand’s loss in San Francisco, Gino says there were various mistakes by TNZ and various improvements to the boat for Oracle Team USA, but he points to one big change from the first races to the last: Oracle learned how to come out of the tacks with more speed. That made all the difference.
Gino Morrelli was involved in the design of both these boats for the last America’s Cup competition. Photo: Mike Ferring