In 2006, the sailing world was stunned with the speed and performance of the foiling Moth, and the genie forever escaped the bottle.
Peter Stephinson foiling at 18kts on Sydney harbour.
Flash-forward just a few short years, and the Moth Worlds were being were contested on foils; jump-forward a bit further still, and the 34th America’s Cup was won using foils. The ability to dramatically reduce wetted surface area and drag, while spiking boat speed and ratcheting forward apparent wind angles was clearly a hit with performance sailors racing aboard bleeding-edge designs, but what about the countless existing older-generation dinghies that were designed to plane but not to fly on foils?
Australian Ian Ward is credited with being the first designer to attach centreline foils onto a Moth (1998) In 2009, his mate, Peter Stephinson, challenged Ward to build a foiling prototype for a Laser. They initially used the World Champion, Michael Blackburn’s medal-winning Laser, and the challenge was on to create an aftermarket kit that would allow the venerable Laser to enjoy vastly improved boat speed and way higher performance.
More importantly, the new system could be used to help train-up a new generation of foil-bound sailors who would not otherwise have access to a high-performance foiler…provided that Ward and his team could crack the formula.
Ward, of course, accepted the challenge, and he and Stephinson with a great deal of testing and retesting created an easy-to-fit aftermarket kit that not only lifted the Laser out of the drink, but it also allowed the boat to enjoy a 200-percent performance boost in the right conditions.
Their 'test pilots' were flashing around at speeds of 18-23 knots (in good breezes), and it was clear that Stephinson’s challenge had led the team to something really cool. Best yet, however, was the fact that the new design proved forgiving enough that intermediate Laser sailors could enjoy a foil, as the design doesn’t pitch-pole or cartwheel, and its relatively low 'foiling freeboard' helps to provide a sense of extra safety compared to other, higher-riding foilers.
Foiling-Laser-4 - Foiling Laser
The new product, now known as Glide Free Foils is now commercially available as an aftermarket kit, which contains all the equipment needed to get you up and foiling including all foils, centreboard, rudder, centrecase insert, rudder stock, tiller and carry bags.
Here is how Glide Free explains it ...
After four years intensive development Glide Free Design is pleased to announce that their unique Glide Free Foiling kit for Laser sailing dinghies is now in production and available for sale.
The very latest development of Glide Free Foils is quite unique, taking a standard Laser dinghy and giving it turbo charged performance on foils, never before thought possible. And the performance is just incredible!
Foiling-Laser-5 - Foiling Laser
So what is all the fuss about. Well it has certainly something to do with the incredible performance, acceleration, excitement and adrenaline rush associated with lifting clear of the water and simply taking off down the bay at unheard of speeds, beating almost every high performance boat on the water.
While the foiling cats such as AC72 and A class improve their displacement speed by just 20-30%, the Laser dinghy on foils improves its normal performance by well over 200%. This is no mean feat! To think that your humble Laser can out perform most standard catamarans and skiffs on a reach is truly incredible! Speeds of 18-23kts are easily achieved and the maximum speed has yet to be measured, it could be very much higher!
Foiling-Laser-6 - Foiling Laser
On the Laser, you are leaning very close to the water, going very fast and really need to use your skill to balance. It hones your sailing skills and gives you a sensation of speed not available on other foiling craft, which are way off the water surface. It is an exciting and challenging experience. And yet the boat is very forgiving. It does not cartwheel or pitchpole and is inherently safe as you are foiling low to the water.
The Glide Free Foiling kit contains everything needed to go foiling on your current Laser dinghy, as well as custom kit bags. The foils are easy to fit and remove; no modifications are needed to your existing boat. The foils have automatic control with no need to tweak settings on the water and you can
launch in knee deep water.
Ask your local Laser distributor for a test sail, or check out the Glide Free website for details on where you can purchase a set of foils locally from stock or you can even order direct from the manufacturer.
David Nicholson in full flight at Budworth SC, UK.
To find out more about this exciting new development and express your interest in learning more about foils go to the website.