Until recently, Foiling Boats have been the exclusive domain of the professionals – only the best of the best have dared to take on this Everest of sailing, whilst the remainder of us have been left to gape open-mouthed as these incredible flying machines speed by. Ergo my pleasant surprise at successfully being chosen to attend Foiling Camp – and an International one held in New Zealand at that!
Hosted by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, new ‘home’ of the America’s Cup, our small group of intrepid young explorers and wanna-be foilers gained for themselves the incomparable sensation of flying along, four feet above the water, in two full foiling carbon fibre Nacra 20’s for a whole month under the watchful eye of some amazing coaches.
The Foiling Nacra 20 is unquestionably the coolest, scariest and most exhilarating experience of my somewhat limited sailing life. So when the offer came to try out the boat and actually attempt ‘flight’ myself, I needed no further encouragement. As our instructor talked through the controls and demonstrated how the mechanics of the hydrofoils workone thing became obvious; that sailing a foiling Nacra means disregarding most of what you know about conventional sailing!
Nerves abounded as I cautiously climbed onto the trampoline from the safety boat for my very first time, with assurances of “It’s easier than it looks!” ringing in my ears. Easy for my instructor to say, being one of several hotshots who have spent the past few years perfecting their techniques in order tomaster one of these untamed beasts.
I discovered that foiling isn’t really something you make happen, it is more something that happens to you… that was the realisation that struck me approximately 30 seconds after I first set foot in the Nacra. What also struck me more than anything else was the incredible rate of acceleration. Suddenly everything went quiet; glancing down, the water seemed extremely far away. And I was up!
As it dawned on me that I was fully foiling, I wondered what to do next. Once properly airborne, the Nacra seems perfectly happy just screaming along at a paltry 20 – 30 knots. Although boat balance is, not surprisingly, crucial. It is the strangestsensation to be hiking out and trying to hold the boat flat when there is barely any boat in the water and nothing underneath you save several feet of fresh air – but get the rig properly powered up and the craft responds like a thoroughbred, giving you an extra knot or three of speed on top of the 20 or so you’ve already got. And from the moment the boat starts foiling, the over-whelming sensation is that of silence; with just the foils slicing through the water, there is no crashing of the hull through the waves or sheets of spray slamming into your face, which adds further to the impression that foiling is really, actually, quite easy!
Of course, in the few seconds that I achieved my first real lift-off I didn’t have time to reach all these conclusions at once – in fact, I barely had time to figure out I was foiling at all before it all crashed down to earth with a bump, I tipped over sideways and realised I had capsized. There’s not a lot of thinking time built into these boats! And whilst taking off may feel smooth as silk, landing like that feels anything but.
I continued to alternately foil, whoop, cartwheel, giggle and swim my way backwards and forwards across the waters of Auckland Harbour for the remainder of the month. Totally buzzing and still high on adrenaline, I returned to Melbourne with a huge grin. There is no doubt that to become a pro on the World Circuit or race in Foling Nacra 17’s at the Olympic Games would take a lot of hard work with countless more capsizes, but the thrill of the ride would be well worth it!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank RNZYS for creating and hosting such a fantastic event; my many coaches and instructors who provided a small glimpse into the high powered world of foiling; RYCV, my home Club for their ongoing support; my sponsors BBQs Plus, Doyle Sails, Horner, Sanctuary Lakes Foundation and the Western Region Sports Club; my growing list of supporters, subscribers and Blog followers; the Members of RYCV; the special individuals who supported my fund raising and, of course, my family and friends who introduced me to this wonderful sport and without whom none of it would have been possible.
As an end note, I have been fortunate in gaining selection to compete in the Red Bull Foiling Generation World Series. Red Bull Foiling Generation provides talented young sailors, aged 16 – 20, the opportunity to advance their careers through elite hydrofoil racing. The seven-stop series, in as many countries – Japan, UK, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, France and New Zealand serves as training waters for the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, which caters to competitors aged 19-25. I have been invited to compete in the New Zealand leg on 24th & 25th February 2018. The Finalists from each Country compete in a Grand Final later in the year. Wish me luck!
You can follow my progress through my Blog (www.MyJourney.net.au). I look forward to bringing you the next exciting instalment of My Journey.
by Louis Scholfield