Sunday, March 15, 2020

To Foil or not to Foil?


See some of the foiling sailboat designs below

To foil or not to foil that is the question? Or that is the question I get often. My answer to the question is simply. It depends on if 5-10 more knots of speed, more maintenance, and high cost is worth it to you.

We call sailboats that foil, Foilers. A Foiler that has just a single rear and forward foil (two foils) means that boat will be much more unstable to sail versus a boat with 3 foils or 4 foils. A foiling windsufer set up has one foil, so much more challenging to balance. On inland waters where winds typically shift a lot and come and go, I would not recommend a 2 foil boat. And if you are not in good shape, particularly do not have strong abb muscles and/or have back problems then 2 foil boats is a bad idea and one foil even a worse. 2 foil boats like the UFO and Wasp or Moth are fun boats when the winds are consistent and you have the strength to handle the boat. But if you do not have either of these then such Foilers will be a nightmare to sail.

A 3 or 4 foil boat will be far more stable. Some new foiling monohulls have 3 foils along with some trimarans, foiling multihulls will have 4 foils. One has to realize when sailing upwind a 4 foil boat will basically be foiling on 2 foils, however if the wind is coming and going, the windward foils will come into play resulting in more stability. Still any foiling boat when on the foils is going to be less stable than an in-the-water sailboat.

Also if you sail in an area with lots of weeds in the water it will be no fun to constantly pull the weeds off your foils. So if you do buy a Foiler you will want to buy one where you can reach the foils to remove stuff off them. With some foiling boats the foils do not lift up easily (or at all) for you to reach, so its something to really take into consideration before you buy one.

One most also realize with more speed comes more pain. If the boat pitch-poles you will be thrown forward with force and if you hit any part of the boat its likely to hurt, and hurt a lot. This pain can be mitigated by sailing a Foiler where you sit in a cockpit like the Hobie TriFoiler or Windrider Rave, both of which are super stable. These Foilers that do not require hiking out or trapezing. If you have to hike out or trapeze be ready for some wild trips when you are thrown through the air... It will happen!

Also remember maintenance will always be much more work with a Foiler, primarily due to the need to keep the foils in good shape. If you hit something while foiling, at high speeds, realize you will likely brake a foil and possibility parts of your boat. Again you may brake you as well, not fun.

So to Foil or not to Foil is actually a simple question. Again if you need more speed, and are ok with higher maintenance and cost, and possibility some physical pain then why not?

A down side to the current market related to Foilers it that they may not stay in production. That is a problem when you need parts, particularly the specific foils design for that boat. Currently the Wasp is likely the only boat that will be around for a while, maybe the UFO also, both of which are 2 foil boats. As for 3-4 foil boats, if remains to be seen which design will catch on and remain. There are some foil kits for boats like the Laser, but again who knows if these kits will stick around. I will keep you up to date on Foilers as I continue to monitor the market.

Foiling is here to stay but likely after the newness of it passes it will become a small market as compared to in-the-water sailboats. Likely foiling will primarily be for racing and even then will be a small component of racing.

As for me I am sticking with my Hobie 16 and and Corsair. I will grab onto a Foiler if ever one proves to be fun to sail in on and off again winds. Right now I like the Whisper and Phantom Cat, Wasp, and foil windsurfing.

The following Foiling boats are not in any particular order...

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