Will Side Foils Revolutionize the Sport?

Published on August 6th, 2015

When the 603nm Rolex Fastnet Race gets underway on August 16, it will host the largest and most diverse fleet of yachts in the world. Amid the record-sized fleet of 335 entrants will be an important test for the design direction of the most elite class of offshore boats – the IMOCA Open 60.

Two newly launched designs – Banque Populaire and Safran – are equipped with side foil appendages intended to lift the hull while reaching and running. But what reduces hull displacement off the wind increases drag while upwind.

For the biennial race, over ten IMOCA Class boats are entered, with the 3- to 4-day race providing a good first glimpse into each type of boat’s potential. Against Banque Populaire and Safran, three of the four highest ranked IMOCAs – PRB, Groupe Quéguiner and SMA – will attempt to counter the domination predicted by the new boat designers.

Once at sea, engineering theories can sometimes be demolished by stark facts. How will the foils perform in unfavorable conditions such as close-hauled in light air? Will the effective speed gained while reaching compensate for potential losses using different points of sail? These are some of the questions that clever designers the world over are eager to learn.

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