Flying boats: The Formula 1 of the sea

Nautical Channel
04 Sep 2023
NEWS | Sailing

In an exciting breakthrough in the world of sailing, so-called "flying boats" are taking to the seas in spectacular fashion, being compared to the iconic Formula 1 cars in terms of speed, innovation and adrenaline.

For years now, and annually we see new boats or boats increasingly innovative. Therefore, since 2014, we can witness the Foiling Week, with the aim is to promote sailing with 'foils' (boat 'flight mode') and make it safer, accessible and sustainable.

Characteristics of the AC75 or flying boats

There are different models of boats that can be considered "flying boats". Arguably the most popular are the AC75s, which are the ones that compete in the America's Cup. However, there are others also known as IMOCAs, catamarans such as those participating in SailGP, F50s or monohulls that also make use of foils.

These boats stand out for their innovative features and advanced technologies that allow them to rise above the water and sail at extremely high speeds. They all have similar characteristics:

  • Hydrofoils: A distinctive feature of flying boats is the incorporation of hydrofoils. These aerodynamic wing-like structures extend from the hull and generate lift when the ship reaches sufficient speed. This lift allows the ship to rise above the water, reducing friction and enabling faster sailing. These foils are essential to maintain balance as the boat glides through the water.
  • Tilting Hull: The hulls of the AC75 are designed to tilt up out of the water when the boat reaches sufficient speed. This significantly reduces water resistance and allows the boat to rise fully above the hydrofoils.
  • Extreme Speeds: AC75s and other flying boats are known for their extreme speeds. They can cruise at speeds in excess of 50 knots (approximately 93 kilometers per hour), making them some of the fastest vessels on the water.
  • Cabins: To protect the crew from high speeds and splashing water, many of these boats have enclosed cabins that provide safety and comfort for the sailors.
  • High-Tech Equipment: Flying boats use advanced control systems, including sensors and electronics, to monitor and adjust hydrofoil position, speed and direction. This requires precise coordination to maintain flight and avoid accidents.
  • Aerodynamic Design: The design of these boats is more akin to that of an airplane than a traditional boat. They are designed with aerodynamic shapes that reduce air and water resistance. This allows the boat to move more efficiently through the water and also helps generate the lift needed to fly on hydrofoils.
  • High Level Competitions: Flying boats such as the AC75 are used in elite competitions such as the America's Cup, where teams of highly skilled sailors compete in exciting and highly technical races. These competitions are discussed below.

Main competitions

America's Cup

The America's Cup is one of the most prestigious and oldest sporting events in history. This competition is held every several years and attracts the most talented teams and sailors in the world. The America's Cup is a 1 vs. 1 regatta where the club that holds the cup defends it against the club that challenges it.

The America's Cup is not only a sailing competition.  It is also a technological competition between countries. The organization requires that the technology incorporated in the boat must be its own, within the selected class of boat. In this new edition, which will be held soon, it is the AC75. The defender's boat as well as the challenger's boat must be designed and built entirely in the country launching the challenge.

One of the rules that make this regatta unique is the one that allows both the defender and the challenger to establish, by mutual agreement, aspects such as the date, times, rules, i.e., any conditions for the regatta. New for this 2024 edition, the New Zealand team (defending team) has proposed that the boats to be used in the race be hydrogen-powered.

Sail GP

SailGP is a sailing competition held in various locations around the world each year. Specifically, it is an official catamaran competition in which teams, currently nine, representing nations compete.

It is currently in its fourth season. In total there are 11 races and an overall winner of the season is crowned, which is the one who has the most points in total for the results obtained in the different races held during the season.

The boats used in this competition are the F50 catamarans, which can reach speeds of up to 100 km/h, making it one of the fastest sailboats in the world. In these F50s, technology plays an essential role. Each element incorporates thousands of sensors that provide concrete and instant information on the behavior of the boat. All this data is used to make certain decisions.

69F Cup Europe

This is an open circuit for anyone with a desire for competition, speed and close racing. This European Cup and Championship is made up of 6 Grand Prix in 6 different locations.

Each Grand Prix is made up of four days of racing with a maximum of six races per day, on different race courses. The season's trophy will be awarded to the team with the highest score from its four best results.

The 69F class is a state-of-the-art boat that "flies" above the sea thanks to its hydrofoils.  It is the same type of boat as the current America's Cup boats but on a reduced scale.

Ocean Race (IMOCA class)

Since the last Vendée Globe and in this last edition (just finished) of the Ocean Race, a new class of boat has been added to participate in these competitions. We are talking about the IMOCA class boats.

IMOCA monohulls have been known for quite a few years now, however, recently these hydrofoils have been added to these sailboats making them much faster and more competitive for long duration races. With this technological innovation, these boats have been able to increase their speed by up to 15 knots compared to those without foils.

Moth World Championships

The Moth World Championships is an annual international sailing regatta for Moth (dinghy sailing). This championship is organized by the host club on behalf of the International Moth Class Association and recognized by World Sailing.

The Moth class of boats is known for its speed and foiling ability. Moths are small single-handed boats, and the Moth World Championship is one of the main competitions for this class of boats.

In conclusion, flying boats represent an exciting breakthrough in maritime technology that is and will continue to revolutionize the marine industry and yachting. Combining the innovation of foils with the ability to soar above the water, these boats offer impressive speeds, improved energy efficiency and a new level of excitement and challenge for sailors.

Related News
Advertising Companies
Content Companies
Media Companies
Technology Companies