Man’s World

Hydrofoils – boats that fly

Foiler by Enata Marine - smart design - photo © Guillaume Plisson

Hydrofoils have a long history, going back to Italian inventor Enrico Forlanini who began working on his powered hydrofoil boats in 1898, testing them on Lake Maggiore. Today, hydrofoils are familiar above all as ferry boats in various parts of the world, and as the yachts used in the 2013 and 2017 America’s Cup. Foiling technology enables yachts to sail twice as fast as the wind, reaching speeds of over 50 knots – about 100 km/h – with the current speed record for a sailing hydrofoil standing at 65.45 knots, 121 km/h.

Flying on water

A hydrofoil is a way of combining sailing and flying. The hydrofoil is like a wing immersed in water instead of air, but the principle is exactly the same, generating lift and raising the boat’s hull out of the water. The reduction in drag enables far higher speeds with respect to conventional boats. A hydrofoil can also provide a smoother ride because the boat is flying above the waves. The result is an exciting experience, which always comprises an exhilarating moment of acceleration when the foils lift the craft above the waves.

Some companies are making foiling craft accessible to people who are not world-class athletes or record breakers. Here are three examples of vessels in which you can fly above the water.

S9 catamaran

The S9 catamaran is a fun boat, 4.16 metres in length, with good performance, simple and easy to use. It was designed and is made by Michele Petrucci on Lake Garda. Its T-shaped foils have flaps that automatically regulate the lift of the hydrofoil, enabling the sailor to keep the boat level more easily. It starts flying in a breeze of just 6 knots, and its maximum speed recorded to date is 28 knots, about 52 km/h. It costs €20,000. Further information from the stunt-s9 website.

S9 catamaran foiling yacht

S9 catamaran foiling yacht – photo courtesy of Martina Orsini

Quadrofoil Q2S

The Q2S by Quadrofoil is a two-seat electric hydrofoil that starts flying in the space of just over 5 metres, with a 5.5 kW electric motor that provides enough power to reach 21 knots, 40 km/h, with a range of 80 km. Steering is easy and fun, based on the rotation of all four foils. This ensures stability and delivers ‘go-kart’ agility, with a turning radius of just 7 metres. The steering wheel is race-car-inspired, and it is removable, part of each Quadrofoil’s identification. It serves as the craft’s key. The Q2S is one of the most energy-efficient boats on the market, with operating costs below €1 per hour. It is built in Slovenia and it costs from €28,980 plus VAT. For further information, visit the website

Quadrofoil Q2S

Quadrofoil Q2S

Foiler by Enata Marine

The latest foiling craft to appear is the Foiler by Enata Marine, which will be available for sea trials from mid-July 2018 in Monaco and St. Tropez. Foiler starts to foil at 12 knots and it is right out of the water at 17 knots. Its top speed is 40 knots. Its foils are retractable and so it can be used like a normal boat if conditions are too heavy, with waves over 2.5 metres in height. “We are a family of sailors and kite-surfers and we started using foiling kite-surfs and catamarans about 10 years ago,” said Alois Vieujot, Manager at Enata. “We produce large competition and professional drones, as well as racing sailing boats and kitefoils. The foiler brings together all those technologies.” The Foiler has two diesel engines that power a large battery, which in turn supplies electricity to the propellers. As a result, you can sail completely silently at 10 knots for up to 10 minutes, useful in harbour or while fishing. Another important advantage of a foiling boat such as this is that it eliminates sea-sickness. “The boat is very stable and safe, like a flying carpet over the ocean,” said Vieujot. “The feeling is one of total comfort and tranquillity. Going back to an ordinary motor boat feels like going back in time.” Foiler, the flying yacht, costs €990,000 plus VAT. For further information, see the website

Foiler by Enata Marine maximum speed 40 knots

Foiler by Enata Marine maximum speed 40 knots – photo © Guillaume Plisson