Surrounded by water, and with a strong sailing heritage, it is not surprising that sailing in its many forms is such a popular sport in the UK ( Although yacht sailing is inaccessible to many as a result of high costs involved in starting up, dinghy sailing opens the sport up to a much larger segment of the public by making the sport more affordable.

The thrill of sailing is directly proportional to the spray from the bow, the whipping gale force winds, the beating sun(if you’re lucky) and perhaps most importantly, the speed at which a good dinghy will traverse an open expanse of water. Future Foils is aimed at the group of sailors to whom the last of these aspects of sailing is most important… speed.

Future Foils is an engineering group project initiative from the University of Warwick aimed at assessing the commercial viability of the use of hydrofoils in the UK dinghy sailing market.

…To This end, our aim is:

To determine whether a hydrofoil based sailing boat can offer a higher-speed alternative to the popular small dinghy (e.g. Laser) market segment for a similar price.

The project is run as a masters degree group project and is supported by individual projects from third year students. This year (2003-2004) marks the start of the project, following on from an individual project (link) completed last year studying the use of hydrofoils in surfing and water-skiing.

So why Hydrofoils?

A hydrofoil is designed to work in water in the way that an aerofoil generates lift in air. By attaching hydrofoils to watercraft, the craft can be made to lift out of the water, ‘fly’. Because water is much denser than air, much smaller hydrofoils can be used to generate lift equivalent to that of an aerofoil.

Once flying, the only components that remain in the water are the foils and connecting structure. This has the advantage of greatly reducing the wetted area of the craft and hence associated friction. By lifting the main body of the craft clear of the water, the problems associated with the free surface such as wave drag and surface conditions can be removed all together. By reducing the significant sources of drag inherent in planing and displacement craft, hydrofoil based craft offer serious scope for the design of much faster craft.