How Fast Can a Foiling Sailboat Actually Go?!?!?
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Sailing Tips: How Fast Can a Foiling Sailboat Actually Go?!?!?


Published on: Sunday, September 25, 2022

How Fast Can a Foiling Sailboat Actually Go?!?!?

Despite several years of foiling behind us now, most of the world’s sailing records are still held by non-foiling boats. But if foiling boats are so much faster, how come they haven’t broken more records? In this video we are going to explore why.

Foiling is when the hull of a boat is lifted out of the water by underwater wings called hydrofoils, like these International Moth dinghies which have been using full foiling since 2000. With the highest 10 second average for a Moth of 35.9 knots, it the fasted rated sailing dinghy in the world.

The first larger boat to use full foiling was L’Hydroptere, a French Experimental trimaran. She broke the sailing speed record in 2009 with speeds of 52.86 KT over 500M, and 50.17 KT over a nautical mile. She did briefly reach 56.3 KT, but not for long enough to qualify as a record, and lost control and capsized shortly afterward.

Since 2013 the America’s Cup and SailGP boats have also been full-foilers, but interestingly none of them have yet gone faster than L’Hydroptere.

In 2017 Gitana 17 was launched. She is the first ocean-going maxi trimaran designed from the ground up for full foiling, but in the five years she’s been sailing, she still hasn’t broken IDEC Sport’s non-foiling around-the-world record.

Some boats, like Alex Thomson’s 2016 Vendee Globe boat Hugo Boss are designed as partial-foilers, where the hull is still in the water much of the time, but the foils provide some lift and reduce pitching. In this footage Alex had broken his starboard foil off so his hull is fully in the water. But despite sailing 2/3 of the way around the world with a missing foil he still came in second, and ahead of foiling boats behind him.

So what’s the deal with foiling boats. Why don’t foiling boats like Gitana 17 hold more World Records? It’s because there are lots of practical and physical limitations associated with foiling, which we will discuss in this video, not the least of which is cavitation at around 50 knots.

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