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‘Blowing your boat shoes off’

A handful of folks have been working on hydrofoils for years.

A handful of folks have been working on hydrofoils for years. One of them is Sam Bradfield who, with his team HydroSail, is developing a performance flying foiler for around-the-buoys racing. Others are George and Joddy Chattman, who have been working on a catfoiler in England, and the Moth Class, which encourages its members to build dinghy-size 11-foot monofoil racers.

We also have seen efforts to develop larger foilers — for example, SCAT from HydroSail, a 37-footer, and l’Hydroptère, the French 60-footer, both full-flying foilers. The offshore 60-foot class is slowly adopting foils, some putting Bruce foils on amas and a foil on the rudder, all for better stability. Others are testing flying foils.

The challenges of developing a marketable everyman hydrofoil sailer are many. One of the biggest is finding a small, manageable, strong, lightweight platform that is safe for the skipper. The WindRider Rave and the Hobie Trifoiler addressed this by incorporating a cockpit into the design. One disadvantage of this solution: Though it keeps crew safe in their seat, it doesn’t allow weight shifts for maximum righting moment.

As these boats have progressed, building materials have gotten better. With carbon fiber it’s now possible to build them at competitive weights. This has been important in advancing the state of the art. For the future, we can expect hydrofoil sailers to exceed 30 knots and race at twice wind speed. They will match speed with high-performance multihulls upwind and downwind, and foil away from them on a reach. Hydrofoils powered by kites 500 feet in the air may offer new levels of performance and leave rivals in their wakes.

There are new and used hydrofoils on the market: HydroSail (321) 723-0733, WindRider Raves (used only), and Hobie trifoilers (used only). Try foiling. It will blow your boat shoes off.

Tom Haman is a partner in HydroSail LLC, of Melbourne, Fla., and a longtime foiler.