Sailboats That Fly

By Charles Fort

A new training course teaches you how to handle the new breed of fast foiling sailboats.

If you watched the America's Cup races this summer, you saw the future of fast sailboats — hydrofoils that let even these large cats get their hulls out of the water for epic speeds. Not only are those big racers using foils to go (much) faster, last year the Vendeé Globe around-the-world racers used them for the first time and shaved 4 days off the previous record. Where racers once spent all their time trying to gain one-tenth of a knot, foils instantly add at least 1 or 2 knots to offshore racers and much more to smaller ones. It's no longer possible to win in many races without a foiling boat.

Foiling sailboatPhoto: Oakcliff Sailing/Francis George

But for most of us sailing mortals, the TV is as close as we'll get to foiling sailboats. There are a number of foiling dinghies available, including the radical-looking Moth, but most of those boats are more than a handful for the typical beer-can racer, and they're not very easy to master alone; in some cases, foiling can nearly double the speed of a small boat.

If you want to go really fast — hull hovering out of the water fast — there aren't many opportunities to learn how. Fortunately, Oakcliff Sailing in Oyster Bay, New York, recently began offering a five-day training camp for anyone interested in learning how to "fly" a small foiling racer.

Oakcliff has six foiling Waszps as well as six Nacra 17s that have been converted by the company to foilers (foiling Nacra 17s are what we'll see in the next Olympics). The class includes instruction on theory and evolution of foiling, but the meat of the training is on the boats. In the right wind, these small boats can hit eerily quiet speeds of up to 20 knots. If you're addicted to speed and want to sail the future of fast sailboats, this might be your opportunity.

For more information, go to:, and check out this video of Oakcliff's first foiling camp. 

— Published: August 2017

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