It’s hard to believe how far foiling has come since the Moth class figured out how to reliably take to the air in the early 2000s.
Was it really only in 2013 that the America’s Cup was dragged kicking and screaming into the foiling world by Emirates Team New Zealand back in San Francisco? Incredible as it may seem, full-foiling has already become somewhat routine, with Moths, GD32s and even foiling kiteboards now regularly skimming across the likes of San Diego and Narragansett bays. Heck, even yours truly has now gone foiling, on a beach cat no less.
Still, there’s nothing routine about the current cutting edge of full-foiling performance—aboard France’s maxi-tri Ultime class, as part of the proposed Brest Ultime Challenge solo race around the world, set to kick off in the fall of 2019.
Back in 2016, SAIL magazine covered the fact that full-foiling performance was part of the design brief. And now said foiling has come to pass, with last year’s launch of Team Gitana’s 104ft maxi-tri Edmond de Rothschild/Gitana 17 for skipper Sébastien Josse. Not only that but it actually works, the boat having taken to the air shortly after launch.
Josse has claimed that he only sees full-foiling performance serving a tactical role in terms of his race plans. However, anyone who thinks any self-respecting French sailor is going to take his foot off the accelerator when he’s screaming along at 50-plus knots, don’t know much about the French.
Of course, there are dreams, and then there’s the matter of making it all work. In the boat’s debut at last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre the boat finished second to an older Sodebo Ultim’ maxi-tri after experiencing technical issues with one of its daggerboards.
However, the boat is currently back in a dedicated shed in France, and you can be sure its builders, designers and crew are all not only busily correcting whatever weaknesses may have cropped up during its first Atlantic crossing, but making it faster and stronger than ever.
Next up for Josse and his new mega-ride is the 2018 Route du Rhum, which starts in November and takes the fleet from France across to Guadeloupe. It’ll be interesting to see how the boat does the second time across the Pond. Good luck to Josse and company. Whatever happens, it’s sure to be one heck of an adventure! For the latest on the project, visit gitana-team.com.
MHS Summer 2018