Tech Talk: Blue Water Foiling

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Emirates Team New Zealand opened the world’s eyes to the awe-inspiring speeds of fully crewed foiling boats when it first took flight aboard its AC72-class catamaran in August of 2012. Since then, hydrofoils have been used to win the 34th America’s Cup, to lift new one-design classes skyward, to optimize “racer-cruiser” cats like the new Gunboat G4, and—most recently—to turbocharge the IMOCA 60 class, which is used for solo and shorthanded offshore events, like the legendary Vendée Globe.

While the IMOCA 60 class has adopted a one-design keel and mast for all new builds, the class intentionally left the door open for foil innovations, and the recently launched Safran, designed by VPLP/Verdier for skipper Morgan Lagravière, sports an aggressive-looking pair of L-shaped foils.

“Safran’s foils produce side force (lateral load) as a classic board, some vertical force and thus a positive righting moment,” explained designer Guillaume Verdier.

“We had to be careful not to exceed what the one-design mast was designed for in terms of righting moment. Therefore, the proportion of vertical force induced by the board only represents a small proportion of the total sailing weight, so you won’t see it flying.”

Safran’s foils are built of carbon fiber with metal fairings on critical edges, but their shape differs wildly from their forebears. “We will launch the boat with adjustable bearings for the foils and will fix them once we find the best all-around setting,” said VPLP’s Quentin Lucet in discussing the boat’s attitude while foiling. “We have a good opportunity to work on the boat trim, with the different ballasts and stacking configuration that has been designed.”

Stay tuned for more IMOCA 60 design news as skippers and teams start their work-up progression towards the November 6, 2016 start of the Vendée Globe.

July 2015

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