Boating NZ - - Reflections -

While the con­cept of foil­ing yachts can be traced to the early 1900s, the first gen­uinely suc­cess­ful one was Gor­don Baker’s Mon­i­tor, which in 1950 reached speeds in ex­cess of 30 knots.

Dur­ing the 1960s and 1970s a num­ber of am­a­teur de­signed suc­cess­ful foil­ing yachts were built in the UK and USA such as Phil Hans­ford’s A Class cata­ma­ran Mayfly, the Gro­gono broth­ers B Class

Icarus, Sam Brad­field’s Nei­ther Fish nor Fowl and Don Nigg’s Fly­ing Fish. Ocean rac­ing foil­ers first ap­peared in 1979 with Eric Tabarly’s 16.4m tri­maran Paul Ri­card, which fin­ished sec­ond in the first Transat en Dou­ble. Tabarly then sailed Paul Ri­card across the At­lantic in record time, break­ing the pre­vi­ous record set by the three-masted At­lantic in 1905. Paul Ri­card had an in­verted T foil rud­der with 45° foils set at the bot­tom of fine floats; more foil-sta­bilised than a true fly­ing foiler.

Noel Fuller’s 4.2m Sab­rina was one of the first foil yachts built in New Zealand in 1976, again a foil-sta­bilised yacht. Yacht­ing the­o­rist and au­thor Ross Gar­ret put foils on an A Class cata­ma­ran in 1977 and Leon Talaic also built an early New Zealand foil yacht named Mish; both were short-lived ex­per­i­ments. An­other was Bernard Rhodes who in­stalled foil sta­bilis­ers on the floats of his tri­maran Kliss II.

In 1985 David Knaggs, an EX-GBE sailor, de­signed and built a set of high-as­pect ra­tio foils for a Pa­per Tiger cata­ma­ran. These worked re­ally well and fully foiled the boat, but un­for­tu­nately it tended to crash back into the wa­ter at speeds above 25 knots.

Seek­ing to over­come this ten­dency, in 1986 Knaggs built a 5.7m foil­ing tri­maran with a sin­gle beam sup­port­ing small­ish floats with T foils, with an­other T foil at the stern for lift and steer­ing. The outer foils in­cor­po­rated au­to­matic flaps to con­trol the amount of lift, which solved his crash­ing ten­den­cies.

Foils on ocean rac­ers and sail­ing speed at­tempts in­creased in pop­u­lar­ity and ac­cep­tance dur­ing the 1990s, then started trick­ling down to pop­u­lar classes such as Moths in early 2000s. Wide­spread pub­lic ac­cep­tance of foil­ers fol­lowed the high vis­i­bil­ity Amer­ica’s Cups of 2013 and 2017.

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