Foiling Part 2: From Niche to Market

When we started to discuss a story about foiling powerboats, we’d heard about scattered projects that were developing boats of this kind, consulting with designers who had become household names in the world of high-speed sailing, experts in efficiency who learned how to extract speed from wind. Embarking on a virtual world tour, we found out in short order a) how foiling expertise gained on the America’s Cup racecourse is trickling down into pleasure boats that are bound to hit the commercial market and b) how technologies that can decide over inches and seconds, over triumph and tragedy, also could change the way we look at mass transit on the water. And things are moving at a fast clip.

Take, for instance, Seabubbles, a company that set out to revolutionize urban transportation with small vessels that can haul up to four passengers and get foilborne at bicycle speed. Their first prototype used surface-piercing foils, but left room for improvement. While the current issue of Professional BoatBuilder that covers their technology and concept went to press, the next iteration of their vessel hit the water on Lake Geneva, Switzerland. Comparing it to the first version, it was modified to a “Prius-esque” appearance. Most importantly, it now features an electronically controlled canard foil configuration that is reminiscent of Harry Larsen’s Talaria IV, the boat we featured prominently in PBB 173. Watching the video above, it’s exciting to imagine that foiling vehicles of this kind could become part of the commute mix in metropolitan areas surrounded by large bodies of water.

Or take a look at the Foiler, a 31-foot boat with retractable foils, hybrid propulsion and sleek, yachty looks that evolved from the Swiss Hydros Hy-X prototype that hit the water in 2014 and which is shown in the gallery that follows this article. Fittingly, the Foiler, which is built by Enata Marine in the United Arab Emirates, premiered at the Dubai Boat Show in February. It is marketed as a glamorous day boat or as a superyacht tender, a high-tech cousin of Ari Onassis’s Wingboat (see PBB 173). To get a sense of scale and refinement of the Foiler, you might find the following video helpful.

When it comes to exploring, refining and boosting technologies that improve efficiency, the Swiss have  a history for developing cutting-edge foiling boats, but they aren’t alone. Thrilling programs can also be found in other European countries like the Netherlands, Sweden or Slovenia. Learning how to do more with less is not just a technical exercise, but increasingly a necessity to deal with rising energy costs, pollution, climate change and strict(er) regulations. The projects we cover range from the ingenious Foiltwister to elegant runabouts by Candela and Edorado, the spindly solar racer V20 and the crazy-funky Quadrofoil tandem two-seater that looks like a go-kart zipping across the water while suspended on foils.

Of course, we also came across projects in the US that are worthy participants in this canon. While some declined to appear in the story citing confidentiality concerns, there are two in particular, a trimaran and a catamaran, both from the shop of Turn Point Design listed in the rubric “foiling, not flying”, that fascinate with their stark simplicity and their daring proposition that, yes, 20 horsepower four stroke outboards can pack a surprising amount of punch if the boats they are bolted to do not have to push a ton of water.

Get the full story in PBB 173

  • Swiss Hydros HY-X prototype

    The Swiss Hydros HY-X prototype during early tests. Hydros

The end.