Last weekend there was a brief report from Chris Caldecoat, the 96 kg Finn and F18 sailor and General Manager of Performance Sailcraft Australia,(PSA) a company that’s been building Lasers since 1973, of his first ever foiling experience.
Not in a Moth but in the world´s best-selling dinghy, a Laser, with speeds of 20 knots, fitted with a foiling kit that requires zero modification to the Laser, just a few minutes and no tools to fit.
Foiling Moths are quite expensive beasts, while a foiling Laser has the potential to bring foiling to huge numbers of sailors.
Who is behind this development?
First up Ian Ward, 10 years the President of the International Moth Class who designed and sailed the first centreline foiling moth in 1999. Ward certainly has the qualifications and engineering background, he has a Doctorate in Metallurgy.
Peter Stephinson, Grandmaster Laser and NS 14 development class sailor and toolmaker friend challenged Ward to put foils on a Laser and together the two sailors worked through the issues and the solutions.
They launched their first ever foiling Laser in 2009, not just any Laser, it was Michael Blackburn’s boat from the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Then the real work started.
Four years later the Glide Free duo are ready to bring the fully developed retrofitting kit to market, with PSA.
Ward explains ‘Our new Glide Free kit is simple to rig and easy to launch in shallow water, has automatic control with no need to ‘tweak’ the settings on the water, easy to clip on without altering the existing boat and robust construction at a reasonable cost.
‘To make foiling simple, practical and fun in a Laser, we needed to address the many limitations of today’s foiling dinghies. We have not just copied what has been used before, but have developed a completely new foiling system with flapless foils and integral wand which utilizes many unique design features. These features enable easy launching in shallow water, safe efficient and fast foiling, along with good displacement sailing performance in light winds.
‘This has been achieved without any alteration to the standard Laser hull. We use a simple, toggle pin to attach the foils, which are strong, stiff and robust, employing standard materials at a reasonable cost. Connect and detach in minutes!’
‘Double the weight, with 12% less sail area, the foiling Laser is not as fast as the Moth but it’s a more stable foiling dinghy, easier to sail and right after a capsize, with a much more pleasant, lighter helm and an impressive turn of speed.’
As Peter Stephinson explains ‘ The secret to the success, now protected internationally is the fully articulated foil, which provides less drag and at the same time is both detachable and retractable. All the control mechanism is encapsulated within the centreboard. A lot of tooling and a significant investment has been needed to bring this foiling kit to market.’
So does it fly?
PSA´s Caldecoat was blasting around Lake Macquarie for three hours in his first ever attempt at foiling.
‘Call me a heavyweight test pilot. I’m 96kg Finn and F18 sailor and I don’t hold back. But I knew from all the engineering, the Finite Element Analysis and the three years of hard testing that this rig would outlast me.
I’ve never sailed a foiling moth, so this was my first ever foiling experience. I must say I was very surprised, the foils actual unload the boat from it’s natural displacement loads. I had a few swimming moments mainly in backwards as I was learning and the boat had a sensation of softening the landing, I have had many more damaging wipeouts sailing a Laser normally.
The good fit sailors will have this sailing on the foils at all angles in no time at all, just a matter of hiking hard upwind, typical Laser, nothing has changed.
‘Overall I was pretty blown away. In 18-20 knots on the reach I was hitting the same numbers in the foiling Laser, just about the same as the F18 Capricorn.
‘It’s clear that upwind the top sailors like the Moth 2012 World Champion Josh McKnight will be able to tell us the limits of the foils and offer changes if needed.
Just for the moment Caldecoat might have the record for being the faster Laser sailor ever, but with the Glide Free Laser and Kirby Sailing boat foiling kit expected to hit the market, ex PSA very soon that his record will not last.
If you would like to be kept updated on this new product, with vision and lots more images to come please register here www.lasersailing.com.au/SailingboatFoilingKit.cfm