As one of Italy’s professional hydrofoil collectors, lac de Garde once again found its waters breezed over by international competitors during the Foiling Week (TFW) in July 2016. A full week dedicated to the latest technologies, the event brought together the world’s top racers and most influential designers in order to experience firsthand the various foiling boats that exist today.
“Thanks to wing-like foils mounted under the hull, these boats do literally fly on the water and can achieve unbelievable speeds exceeding three times the wind speed,” stated the press release for the Foiling Week.
Hydrofoils have become the fastest means of traveling across water. Here we take you through time to discover the main highlights that bring us up-to-date on some of the innovations flying across the Italian lake and beyond.
Speed Bumps and Gear Failure
The initial step of putting hydrofoils on a boat in 1869 led to the ladder foil system created in 1898 by Italian Enrico Forlanini, the father of the hydrofoil.
In search of even greater speed, boating enthusiasts, engineers and designers later began toying with new ideas. Experimentation brought about the world water speed record, set at 70.86 mph in 1919 and held for many years.
Thirty years later, an English designer couple built the White Hawk hoping to surpass the 1919 speed record. However, the designers faced an engineering phenomenon that limits the top speed of even modern hydrofoils: Cavitation disturbs the lift provided by foils when moving at 60 kn (110 km/h; 69 mph), bending the lifting foil.
Learn more about the evolution of hydrofoils in the timeline below: highlights from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.
Commercial & Navy Use: Born in the ’60s
“Baron Hanns von Schertel, and the company he formed, Supramar, made major advances to bring hydrofoils to a commercial reality after WW2, followed later by the U.S. Navy and U.S. companies such as Boeing and Grumman in the ’60s,” Martin Grimm at The International Hydrofoil Society told NauticExpo e-Magazine.
During this time, advances were being made left and right. Take a look at the timeline below for details on the most significant happenings around the ’60s.
Also, read what Alain Thébault, inventor of the Hydroptère and the Sea Bubbles, has to say about modern technology for hydrofoils in an interview with NauticExpo e-Magazine.
TFW 2016: The Race Is On!
“No wind, no race,” the PR for Voilavion told NauticExpo e-Magazine just before the July 8 races.
Five minutes later a light breeze picked up and the sailors headed down to piece together their boats. As the GC 32s gathered at one end of the lake, viewers lined the coast to watch them take off. An impressive sight of black sails sped past; back and forth they went to complete the course, until a zodiac, carrying one of the event’s photographers, got sliced through—no one got hurt—from one of the GC 32s, whose quick directional change, without attentive observation, reminds all of that morning’s talk on safety.
Past history shows a focus on engineering boats to move at faster speeds; today, the major theme is how to render the sport safer. Rémi Finiel, general manager at FORWARD WIP, spoke about the need for not only wearable equipment for safety, but a new demand for boat designers to consider innovative ways of constructing. Lighter boats with safer parts will help prevent such catastrophes from occurring.
Brands such as Voilavion and Waszp are putting forward a “one size fits all” philosophy and are designing for the masses, with one of their main goals being to create a safe boat. The Waszp, for example, has a free-standing rig said to prevent accidents. “More technical hydrofoils for fast-speed racing should also start aiming at safety features,” said Finiel.
The Boats of Tomorrow
A few weeks following the TFW, the Hydros Foundation rounded up future engineers and architects up north in Lausanne, Switzerland. The foundation created the first international student competition dedicated to naval energy efficiency, the Hydrocontest.
Each team receives the same electric engine and a grant to foster innovation. “Students have several months to design and build one or two boats, with maximum dimensions of 2.50 x 2.50 x 2.00 m, before coming to contend with their peers on Lake Geneva.”
Teams compete in two categories: the Mass Transport category, in which each vessel must hold 200 kg of ballast to simulate the displacement of a cargo vessel, and the Private Boats category, in which the prototypes, loaded with 20 kg, represent leisure boats. The contest itself represents next-gen hydrofoils.
- “Light weight” category Trophy: Centrale Nantes (France)
- “Heavy weight” category Trophy: ENSTA Bretagne – Paris-La-Villette (France)
- Long-distance race category Trophy: HEIA Fribourg (Switzerland)
- “Light weight” Innovation prize: EPFL (Switzerland)
- “Heavy weight” Innovation prize: HEIG-VD (Switzerland)
- Eco-Design prize: EPFL (Switzerland)
- Communication prize: University of Southampton (England)
- HydroContest Spirit prize: HEIA Fribourg (Switzerland)