Hydrofoils have been around since the time of Alexander Graham Bell. The prolific inventor is credited with making one of the first practical boats based on this idea. But what exactly is a hydrofoil? It’s nothing more than a wing that operates underwater rather than the air. A tiny water wing moving at sufficient speed can support enormous loads. But it’s tricky to make them work well. Nevertheless, if you want to make a boat go fast, you need to minimize your contact with the fat grabby fingers of the water. You want a hydrofoil.
If you want to set the world record for sailing speed, it follows that you need a hydrofoil sailboat. Check out this video of the French HydroptÃ¨re, a boat that sails above the waves like something out of a story book. They’re hoping to break the 50 knot mark this winter.
I think this video is the male equivalent of the Dutch horses video I showed here a while back. Just as with the Dutch horses, not much happens for a good chunk of the video. It’s just a close shot of sailors in foul weather gear shouting at each other in French: “Quarente-deux! Quarente-trois!” (42! 43!) I find it thrilling. Watch the foil strut slicing through waves that would be smacking the crap out of any boat from an earlier century. I think my favorite shot is actually the interior view of crew member hanging on to the ceiling supports for dear life. It’s got to be an extreme adrenaline rush. You can bet if that boat were to pitch forward suddenly and snag its bow, it would be an explosive high-speed train wreck of a crash.
Once you start looking for hydrofoils, you see them everywhere. Here is a hydrofoil surfboard of all things. And the world speed record for human-powered locomotion over water was set by Mark Drela of MIT with a hydrofoil pedal boat called the Decavitator.