Hydrofoil enthusiasts will descend upon Baddeck next summer for a big celebration
Casey Baldwin's grandson planning festival for 100th anniversary of HD-4 marine record
If you know Baddeck at all, you likely know the story of the classic HD-4 hydrofoil that skimmed across the Bras d’or lake on Sept. 9, 1919 to set a world marine speed record. That experimental vessel was the brainchild of Alexander Graham Bell and Engineer/pilot Frederick W. "Casey" Baldwin.
Nearly one hundred years later Sean Baldwin, grandson of Casey, has formed ‘Foil Baddeck’ to organize a 2019 summer festival in honour of the centenary of that momentous achievement. Eileen Woodford will co-chair the committee.
“The technology peaked around 1970, mostly with military, shipping and ferries. That’s all fallen. But it’s really come to the surface again with sailing. A lot of different classes of sail craft have come out now and there’s renewed interest in human-powered hydrofoils – like bicycle and paddling types,” said Baldwin at a May 9 presentation to the Village of Baddeck Commission.
According to Baldwin and Woodford, there will be events throughout the summer. The focal point will be “Foiling Week” (Aug 11-17, 2019) – a regatta and symposium of sailing hydrofoil technology held in four locations around the world each year. This is the first time the event has ever come to Canada and the first time it has been held in such a remote area.
Baldwin attended a Foiling Week event in Miami last year. Although it was small, he says it was well organized and gave him a sense of what is possible for next year. He and Woodford are currently setting up a series of events that will be of interest to locals and visitors alike.
“I think it will be great for the village, it will bring in a lot of people from other parts of the world. Sailing enthusiasts should make the harbour quite a spectacle at times,” said Baldwin.
The International Hydrofoil Society held their annual conference in Ingonish in 1984. Their 40th anniversary is 2020, but the group has decided to move their celebrations up a year and mark the occasion in Baddeck.
A replica of the HD-4, along with the broken remains of the original, sit in the Water Hall of the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site. Sean Baldwin was part of a team who built the replica in the 1980’s. Site visitors often ask why the original was abandoned along the shore and allowed to decay.
“It was an experiment, so it wasn’t built to last,” explains Baldwin. “They tried to get the military interested in it as a submarine chaser, but that never came to fruition. They didn't have any future use for it, so they pulled it up on the beach and just let it go.”
Baldwin never had the opportunity to meet his grandfather, but his work and accomplishments have long been a part of his life.
“I lived in his house with my grandmother and it was full of models and images and artifacts and papers and documents and blueprints. I was totally immersed in all of that. I used to play in the HD-4 [on the beach] when I was five years old.”
Back to present day, Baldwin is particularly interested in seeing small sailing hydrofoil crafts appear next year, such as the ‘Foiling UFO’ sailboat made by Rhode Island-based Fulcrum Speedworks.
“To me, that's the kind of craft that will get kids interested. We can get kids interested in something like that if we hang out a carrot and say, ‘If you go through the sailing program, on the optis and the prams, you can get into one of these.”
Those interested in helping the planning committee should contact Sean Baldwin, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sailing vessels like this 'Foiling UFO' will be part of a hydrofoil festival set to take place in Baddeck next year to celebrate the centenary of the HD-4 world marine speed record. Photo courtesy of Fulcrum Speedworks.