Life after the America’s Cup

Published on July 13th, 2021


While foiling may be the future for high-performance sailing, it likely remains too expensive, technical, and limiting for the bulk of recreational enthusiasts. However, the door looks to be open wider for foiling applications in powerboats.

Seattle-based Paul Bieker may be the most talented naval architect and engineer nobody in the USA has ever heard about, and he is involved in a project to develop a 27-foot all-electric hydrofoil performance craft.

Bieker worked with Oracle Team USA as a designer from the 2003 America’s Cup through their defeat in 2017, and is ready to apply that knowledge to an area of boating in need of environmental solutions. Now working on a recreational boat called Navier 27, he reflects on life after the America’s Cup.

“An America’s Cup effort is similar to the Navier 27 project in that they are both an intense push to get from a clean sheet of paper to a race ready team and boat. They are different in that there is less room for trial and error in the Navier than there is in the America’s Cup’s boats. The Navier needs to be dependable and safe from the beginning rather than simply being high performance.

“If we execute the Navier 27 concept to its full potential we will have created a boat that combines high efficiency with comfortable general-purpose accommodations, and a foil arrangement that can handle rougher sea states than any small recreational hydrofoil craft built to date.

“Marine transportation in the Western world got addicted to cheap fossil fuel based power after the second World War. High output engines and cheap fuel combined with inefficient but capable, heavy deep-vee powerboat hulls became the default way to move fast over water. In this world, hydrofoiling is a way to move fast over the water while using approximately a third of the power of a conventional high speed boat carrying the same payload.”

The America’s Cup has long been known for its “trickle down” of technology, but as the sailing platforms distance themselves from most sailboats, the accrued knowledge may assist the “dark side” from being less dark.

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