Foiling - the Future or a Folly

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by bistros, Feb 2, 2009.

  1. bistros

    bistros Previous Member

    My perhaps obvious dislike of foiling "discussions" has nothing to do with the engineering, technology and application of foiling.

    How many people here really think foiling is the future of sailing? A "revolution" as it were.

    How many people think foiling is a minor branch on the tree of sailing evolution?

    I'm asking this of the forum, as it has a proportionately high representation of designers and builders. Have designers and builders seen a groundswell of interest from paying clients to incorporate foiling technology in their upcoming design commissions?

    Your thoughts please! I would love to be convinced that my personal opinions need to be reviewed.
  2. Gary Baigent
    Joined: Jul 2005
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    Gary Baigent Senior Member

    Future smoocher - who cares? Foils have been around for zonks and foiler and wing nuts will be playing about with them forever. They are just another boating configuration - and all developments (planing, lifting/inclining sails/wings, foils, boards, fast power boats, whatever, all are interesting IMO.
  3. Guest625101138

    Guest625101138 Previous Member

    There is growing interest in foils.

    Probably a mix of drivers:
    High speed for low power and low forces
    Cost/future of hydrocarbon fuel
    Growing awareness that gas guzzling boats are anti-social
    Availability of low weight high stiffness materials and knowledge in their application
    Health benefits of self powered craft or actively sailed craft
    Electric powered craft that perform well
    Solar energy craft that perform well

    All these factors contribute to the interest. There certainly is a wow factor when a boat flies.

    There are many practical hurdles that need to be met but I see a lot of momentum and expect to see wider acceptance of foils on all sorts of pleasure craft.

    Rick W
  4. Paul B

    Paul B Previous Member

    I doubt it will become the dominant, mainstream method of sailing. It adds complication, and simplicty sells. Simplicate and add more lightness.

    I thought it was interesting to see the designer of the Mirabaud interviewed on The Daily Sail. He indicated that in his opinion it would be very difficult to make a foiler work any larger than what he had there. In fact, it sounded like he might have been thinking of downsizing and trying again at the two hander size.

    I'm sure many will tinker, and some classes will emerge. So far I'm not seeing any of it where I am, at the largest dinghy sailing club in SoCal.

    Also, I have not seen any movement on the DSS front even since their media blitz mid last year.

    What I would like to see is the foilers go off and do their thing, and leave the existing fleets alone. Seems that's what has happened in the FF fleet.

    I'm sure someone who has sailed in a class for 20+ years, owned 5 or 6 boats during that time, acted as class President, Secretary, Chief Measurer, etc, and has worked diligently to keep the class vibrant over the years would not be very happy if his class suddenly went foiler and he was driven out. Even if he was replaced by 2 foilers for a net increase in the fleet I don't think this is right. Let the foilers start and nurture their own classes.
  5. robherc
    Joined: Dec 2008
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    robherc Designer/Hobbyist

    There will always be boats with foils, and there will always be boats withOUT foils. I think the "revolution" of foiling has already occurred, many years ago. Now they're more of another design option as far as I'm concerned. Something you can add to a design if you want a boat to be more efficient/faster/fly to impress people. They have their pros & cons, and those must be weighed right along with everything else as you reach the compromise that will be your next boat.

    I guess I'd have to say that foiling is a "medium-large" branch on the tree of sailing evolution. I don't forsee it falling off any time soon, but I also don't see it replacing the trunk.
  6. Paul B

    Paul B Previous Member


    If you had every non-moth foiler that is currently foiling worldwide and put them all on one regatta it wouldn't make a decent sized club Opti fleet.

    Take out the Moths and you would have a small handful of boats. Some people here continually mention foilers that have not sailed in ages, or have been given up on, in their list of "current" foilers (I14, 18 footer that has been abandoned, M4, etc).

    After the Moths I suppose you have the RS600FFs. How many are there? Less than 20? Less than 10? How many class regattas have they had?

    Other than those two, you pretty much have one off projects, and you can count them on your fingers.

    I would say the foilers are currently a small twig. An interesting looking twig, but still nothing more.
  7. Chris Ostlind

    Chris Ostlind Previous Member

    No review of your understanding necessary, Bistros. I think your take is pretty well balanced.

    Rick, I agree with your point that there is likely a growing interest in foiling. However, I also think that it's a fringe interest that is currently enjoying a lot of the Wow factor from the visual and speed sensations and not from the realities that are attached to foiling craft. Soon enough, the wow fad will wear-off and then things will settle back down.

    Like any other market sample study where a new product invades an established buy/use tradition, the foilers will absorb a small section of the fringe of the market's bell curve while they are fresh, stabilize at that point and gradually see market share recede for a variety of factors.

    The business aspects of the foiling trade; that being a hyper technology driven component of the sailing industry, will have to push the boundaries ever higher, or the freshness of the technology will soon become passe to the buying public. The further the boundaries of new tech solutions are pushed, the further from the largest component of the marketplace the foilers will move. A sort of self-administered limiting function, if you will. You saw this in the sailboarding and windsurfing segment and you'll likely see it for foilers as well.

    Pick just about any sector of an outdoor sport where ultra high-tech products staged a coup against the established traditions. When this happens, you eventually see that after the initial exciting rush and subsequent honeymoon, the market share dwindles. It is at that point that the big consumer interest wanes and the more complex/expensive item is relegated to a hard core cadre of users... essentially this is the original, interested audience.

    If the core audience is sufficient, then the product can gain a small, albeit potentially profitable, foothold and possibly survive. There will be a fairly tough shakeout of the firms that don't really have a solid product and/or marketing vision and... life goes on for the rest of the sailing community.

    For comparison sake, I give you the U.S. sales figures of various classifications of motorcycles as an example of market trends. I can give you the base reasons as to why this type of change is happening if you like, but will leave it out for now and you can draw your own conclusions.

    Here are the gross sales figures for 2008 and a comparison to 2007:

    2007 Totals 2008 Totals Unit Change % Change

    Dual Sport 36,837 45,250 8,413 +22.8%

    Off Road 209,739 146,779 -62,960 -30.0%

    Street Bikes 647,633 611,133 -36,500 -5.6%

    Scooters 54,255 76,748 22,493 +41.5%

    Totals 948,464 879,910 -68,554 -7.2%

    Clearly, there is a strong move to more utility and economy of purpose and not to highly specialized machines with big dollar price tags and limited utility. The boating market is very much like this set of numbers above. It is similar in the way that it functions for the "average person" type of end user with enough disposable income to afford a near luxury item such as a boat that costs in the $20,000 realm. You guys can draw your own conclusions.

    There's a dramatic shift going on to less complex, less spendy and more overall utility that simply can not be denied. To buck these trends as a manufacturer of any recreational vehicle is to invite disaster.

    So, to wrap it all up... Yes, I think that there will always some kind of foiling component in the boating world. I do not, however, see it as anything more than a group of special interest enthusiasts when weighed against the total boating environment.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2009
  8. Guest625101138

    Guest625101138 Previous Member

    The question was on foiling not exclusively sailing. There are many avenues being explored. Some examples:

    Some have not got past the curiosity stage but there are efforts to market them and some have developed a lot of interest if not yet sales to match. These things have great pose value and that sells. Look at the impracticality of a sports car but there are still plenty on the market.

    Who would have thought adding a sail to a surfboard would make something that people wanted to buy.

    My personal objective is to be able to slowly run down a rowing 8 and pull past under pedal power. Only hope is with foils. I guess similar aspirations to Peter Ribe:
    I have a more efficient propulsion system but still to get foils that work well.

    Rick W
  9. robherc
    Joined: Dec 2008
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    robherc Designer/Hobbyist

    I think the ORIGINAL question was directly for sailing, but you're exactly right on every single other point you make. I'd love to see you pass that rowing scull too, PLEASE post a video when you achieve it...I've been throwing the idea of a paddle-wheel human-powered foiler in the back of my mind...kind of an "old-meets-new" crazy idea. If you build yours & are successful, then my wife will have run out of ways to talk me out of it! ;)
  10. Paul B

    Paul B Previous Member

    A few years ago I saw someone riding one of those bounce up and down things in SF bay. If you stopped you would sink, and could not water start. That seemed to be an issue.

    If you are going to strap a board to your legs and surf like Laird Hamilton is doing in that viseo you better be Laird Hamilton, or damn near as good. A wipeout on that must be pretty ugly.

    To keep up with/overtake an 8 how many watts are you going to have to put out, over what duration? Any ideas?
  11. Guest625101138

    Guest625101138 Previous Member

    Actually I forgot the most commercially successful use of a new foil application:
    Not used for flight but a very successful application of foils. Do not come close to the efficiency of a propeller but good marketing effort and good reputation has given commercial success.

    So these are more novel uses of foils rather than the ones we live with all the time like sails, rudders, keels, wings and propellers.

    Rick W
  12. Guest625101138

    Guest625101138 Previous Member

    Mark Drela estimated he was working at 220W at 12kts when they were playing around with a fast cruising version of Decavitator. This was their sustainable level for an hour or so but well above what I can do.

    I can build a lighter boat and more efficient propulsion system than he was using but I have a lot of work to do on the foils. In my current displacement boat I can hold 15kph for 600m and this requires 270W in calm conditions.

    The eights I see train at about 16kph so I get their attention now but I would love to be able to have them working really hard and leave them in my wake.

    If I could get everything right I should be able to fly around 8kts for 150W and push up to maybe 14kts at full tilt for a minute or so. My current top speed is 10kts and I can hold maybe 9kts over 100m.

    My current boat design holds the world 24 hour distance record so the drive system is well sorted and very efficient. Just need to get lifting foils to match. With good foils I should easily outpace a Flyak. My power application is much smoother and requires much less control - just spin those pedals. I do not need to try hard to out accelerate paddlers. A 400mm prop turning at about 500rpm gives a lot more bite than a paddle dipping in and out of the water no matter how good the paddler is. This is the basis of the Hobie sales pitch, which get a lot of people taken in.

    Since December, I have reduced body mass by 3kg and am continuing to maintain fitness level. My aim is a sustainable 150W and to be able to hold above 200W for 15 minutes or more. I am confident if I get foils working well this will be enough to chase down a rowing 8 in training mode.

    Rick W

    Attached Files:

  13. Doug Lord

    Doug Lord Guest

    Sailing Foilers

    You simply cannot understand the significance of foiling in sailing without understanding the bi-foiler revolution that began in 1999. While sailing with foils has a long history going back to before the 50's it wasn't until 1999 that the International Moth and International 14 changed everything. It was during that year that both boats sailed on just two foils for the first time in history. It was soon after that that this new configuration began winning major races in the Moth Class-to the exclusion of every other design type today. Up until a practical two foil boat was developed most sailboats that foiled sailed on three or four foils or more. The new configuration is a natural for most dinghies because of its simplicity: you already have a daggerboard and rudder-now to foil you just add a couple of horizontal foils and an altitude control system and you're ready to go. One of the biggest aspects of drag in foiling is the surface penetration of the foils-the bi-foiler takes that down to two surface penetrations vs the old system of three or four or more. And the foilboard takes it down to one surface penetration with two small foils!
    Big improvement. The bi-foiler offers the ability to retract foils simply as is illustrated by the RS600FF and foiling 18's.
    But the thing that has got peoples attention is that the little 11' Moth has turned the sailing world upside down speed wise: it has been proven faster than an Australian 18, F18 catamaran, A class catamaran and may soon equal or surpass the Tornado catamaran. Who would have ever believed that a little monohull could be so fast?
    And that is only the beginning. Bi-foiler technology IS a revolution-not evolution as can be seen by what has happened with the Moth. But there is much more . The simplicity of the foiling system opens up avenues of development impossible before 1999 like the use of just two foils for "foil assist"
    upwind with full flying reserved for off the wind, like the use of foils on keelboats for full flying or foil assist, or multihulls with just two foils.
    The technology opens the way for hybrid designs that use very small buoyancy pods to make the boat more stable off the foils and therefore much easier for the average person to learn to sail. Coupled with retracting foils and other design innovations a bi-foiler can be designed today that makes this whole experience much more accessible than the often difficult to learn to sail and launch Moth. Innovation in design will allow a "Peoples Foiler" to emerge in much the same way as Hobie emerged during the early days of beach cats.
    This is very early days in this revolution and there is much development being done world wide to tap into the potential of one of the most exciting developments in the last 100 years of sailing! The surface has barely been scratched......

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  14. sailor2
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    sailor2 Senior Member


    Is there anybody else in this world who believe that has happened except Doug Lord ?
    Howcome so many who sail on foil moths don't believe that has happened ?

  15. sailor2
    Joined: Jan 2009
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    sailor2 Senior Member

    There is a lot of technological advantages for foiling technology on boats that are not sailing boats. The most practical application would perhaps be replacing small planing powerboats with foilers offering much smoother & dryer ride in any kind of seaway, possibly more fuel efficient as well. But is there also market potential for that kind of boats ?
    That's the real issue as most people are dot tech geeks, but rather conservative instead.

    In order to foiling to work on sailing boats is much more demanding to accheave, and results boats more difficult to sail and/or more expensive to buy. Not going to work on cruising boats needing to carry a lot of weight and be easy to sail.
    There is potential for fast dinghys for those who want that kind of boats.
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