NauticExpo e-Magazine - #2 - Foiling Frenzy - NauticExpo e-Magazine

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The Foiling Frenzy

It’s time to learn to fly. In this issue of NauticExpo e-Magazine, we dig into the foiling megatrend that’s turning watercraft into aircraft.
Check our interactive timelines to understand how pioneers have reshaped the boating industry. Then read our Foiling Week coverage to see what top innovators such as Alain Thebault (the “flying madman”) and skipper Glenn Ashby of Emirates Team New Zealand America’s Cup have to say about the next steps in foiling.

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You also need to be fast when foiling, not just foiling.
Courtesy of Team New Zealand

It’s still a competition between sailing yachts, but the America’s Cup may soon belong to the flying contest category. In 2017, in Bermuda, it is expected that the participating yachts in the next edition of the America’s Cup will be able to race 100% foilborne. “It’s a new world,” explained Ken Read to the America’s...

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These boats do literally fly on the water and can achieve unbelievable speeds.
Courtesy of The Foiling Week

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 Voilavion has 4 T foils for more stability and control over the boat, and a mast that tilts 35° for a lifting effect.

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.

2016 Winners:

  • “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)


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At 50 knots, the Hydroptere rides on a surface of two square meters.
Hydroptere CreditPhoto: Paul Bessereau

French sailor Alain Thébault, 54, nicknamed “the flying madman,” is co-creator of the Hydroptère. In 2008, this foiling multihull was the first sailboat to exceed 50 knots. The following year it set the World Sailing Speed Record Council nautical mile record, proving that “a boat that flies is capable of high speeds.”...

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    Naval architect Sergio Cutolo of Hydro Tec takes stock of hydrofoils.

    NauticExpo e-Magazine: How do hydrofoil work ?

    Sergio Cutolo: How hydrofoils work is simple in theory:

    • Basically, the hydrofoil consists of a wing-like structure mounted on struts below the hull.
    • At low speeds the hull still glides through the water; as the boat’s speed increases, the hydrofoils create lift.
    • At a certain speed, the lift produced by the hydrofoils equals the boat’s weight. Therefore the foils lift the hull out of the water and the boat rides, or planes on the foils,
    • Instead of having an increase in drag with increasing speed—contrary to what happens in traditional boats due to pressure drag—the hydrofoils provide a more efficient way of cruising. Decreasing the drag increases speed and fuel efficiency.

    There are two main hydrofoils configuration: surface-piercing and fully submerged hydrofoils. In the former configuration, part of the V-shaped hydrofoils rises above the water surface; operations become limited as wave height exceeds the hydrofoil’s strut length. Fully submerged hydrofoils are less subject to the effects of wave action and assure better seaworthiness. However, they need quite sophisticated stabilization systems.

    NauticExpo e-Magazine: What are the main pros and cons?

    Sergio Cutolo:

    • As the boat slides on hydrofoils, it becomes extremely fuel efficient and provides a smooth and comfortable ride.
    • A wide adoption of hydrofoils is prevented by the complexity of building and maintaining them.
    • It is necessary to install powerful engines that will be used just to have the boat in foilborne trim.

    There are a few challenges that need to be addressed. Foils generally have sharp, potentially dangerous edges, which also entail maintenance issues.

    NauticExpo e-Magazine:  Any significant application in the yachting industry?

    Sergio Cutolo: Apart from a few, one-of-a-kind examples or prototypes, the luxury yacht industry has never embraced the hydrofoil system that, on the other hand, benefited from the success of medium-sized passenger crafts and small leisure motor-boats and water toys with both traditional and electric propulsion.

    Hydrofoils application on sailing boats deserves its own chapter. They are indeed widely used on highly sophisticated sailing boats, America’s Cup boats included.

    NauticExpo e-Magazine: What about stern foils and the Hull Vane?

    Sergio Cutolo: It is worth pointing out that a vast array of sophisticated stern hydrofoils are widely used on boats of different size and type to reduce pitching while improving fuel efficiency. This kind of hydrofoils gets the boat on plane more quickly and not only benefits water-skiers and powerboat racers, they also improve safety and efficiency by keeping the bow down.

    The Hull Vane designed and patented by Dutch Van Oossanen and Associates Naval Architects, is a purposely shaped underwater foil at the stern of the yacht. Tailored to the individual yacht, the foil is fixed at the aft end of the hull creating lift and a resulting forward thrust while also reducing the stern wave. It also reduces the running trim—advantageous with a bulbous bow—and dampens pitching motion, which not only enhances efficiency but also increases comfort.


    Wim Vercauter

    Wim Vercauter is a freelance boating editor and a fire safety expert.

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    Maria Roberta Morso

    Maria Roberta Morso is a freelance yachting journalist based in Italy.

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    Erin Tallman

    Erin Tallman, writer for NauticExpo e-magazine and Online Managing Editor of ArchiExpo e-magazine.

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    Celia Sampol

    Celia Sampol has been a journalist for more than 15 years. She worked in Brussels and Washington for national medias (Agence France Presse, Liberation, Europolitics). She’s the editor-in-chief of NauticExpo e-magazine and MedicalExpo e-magazine.

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    Samantha Fisk

    Samantha Fisk worked at RINA for 7 years and has now gone into freelance for European magazines.

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    Kristina Müller

    Kristina Müller is a freelance journalist writing mainly about nautical and medical issues.

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    Ludovic Nachury

    Journalist and innovation enthusiast for more than 10 years, Ludovic Nachury is VirtualExpo e-magazine’s editor-in-chief.

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