New RYA Foiling Courses available at Vassiliki
At Wildwind we are proud to be one of only a few locations to be offering the RYA pilot Foiling Courses for 2018.
Read on if you would like to pick up some pre-holiday tips and tricks from the Wildwind Team.
What is foiling?
The magic of foiling is silently gliding at high speed, just above the waves. It is really akin to low-level flying. The boat accelerates quickly, the ride is exhilarating and you feel on the edge of control. Once foiling, the boat can easily sail faster than the wind and up to 3 times as fast as when it is in displacement mode. It makes for some exciting rides, but also requires some different skills.
First time out…
You should first start in moderate, steady winds on an open bay without too much traffic. Even stopping requires some special skills. It is then just a matter of practice and having some guts!
Bear away on to a reach and lean hard, then as the boat lifts, bear away more and pull in the mainsheet. Experience the thrill of 'lift-off' and foiling and the adrenaline rush that comes with it. You will notice that the boat remains stable but all goes quiet apart from the swish of the foils and wand as the boat accelerates well beyond the wind speed. This feels like low level gliding and is a surreal experience.
As you speed up, you will quickly need to adjust the sails to prevent the boat simply falling back into the water as the sail luffs. You will need to respond by bearing away and sheeting in, always steering to keep the boat moving and prevent the sail luffing. In stronger breezes you will soon find yourself going very fast downwind with the sail sheeted in quite tight.
Once you get the hang of reaching, gradually head the boat up into the wind, sheeting in and leaning hard. Allowing the boat to heel to slightly to windward is one key to successful upwind sailing and requires great skill to achieve. At all times you should use gentle, steady movements of the tiller, being over aggressive can make it more difficult to stay foiling.
As foiling boats can go much faster than the true wind speed, the need to trim your sails to the apparent wind is more critical than in slower craft. At times you can be sheeted hard on with the apparent wind ahead, while going downwind!
Steering for balance. A dinghy in displacement mode is naturally stable, easy to steer and it stays upright even if you do nothing. A dinghy on foils is quite a different matter. The centre of lift is under the foils, well below the hull and it does not move as the boat heels. The boat becomes unstable as it heels, in either direction and is very much like balancing a stick on your hand or riding a bike where you steer to keep your balance. If you do not actively move your weight to provide balance, trim the sail or steer it, the boat will fall over.
Inducing windward heel for take-off
Even experienced dinghy skippers, when new to foiling, tend to sheet on hard to get speed and let the boat heel to leeward, then hike out hard to keep it flat. This does not result in takeoff. The boat just heels over to leeward and stays in the water... just like a Laser in displacement mode.
It is not necessarily a matter of leaning really hard or pumping the boat. Rather, it is a very subtle technique that happens almost automatically with a little practice.
When on a reach, lean out and build up speed. Then round up slightly to windward, this forces the bottom of the rudder to leeward, initiating a heel to windward. At the same time, you flick the mainsheet off a little, which further induces windward heel. Then, as the boat starts to heel to windward, you need to save yourself from going in backwards, so you bear away, just as the foil starts to lift the boat. As the boat lifts out of the water and gains more speed, you need to sheet on quickly and bear away as the apparent wind builds. The boat then takes off easily. All this is very subtle, just like turning a bike.
Once the boat is up and going, it is all about practice. The fun part is that you can practice by 'carving', just get going on the foils and bear away slowly around 90 degrees or so, then round upon slowly again as you go down the bay, you will soon get the feel of how the boat reacts, it is a lot of fun at high speed!
A variety of foiling dinghies currently exist. Some are specifically designed for foiling while retrofit foiling kits are also available for use on a range of popular established classes. At Wildwind we have taken the dinghies that you know and love and added a retrofit Glidefree foiling kit to them. Glidefree kits can also be easily installed and uninstalled to a number of dinghy models including Lasers and RS Aeros. So if you fall in love with foiling this summer you can carry on back home!