Images and video footage of foiling boats in action always carries a special wow factor. See the boats in person, or even better try sailing one, and the experience is quite simply amazing.

At its most basic you might describe a hydrofoil as a wing that enables a boat to 'fly' above the water - the foils below the hull work much like an aeroplane wing does in the air to lift the boat's hull up above the water when traveling fast, so reducing drag and increasing speed. We tend to think of them as cutting edge - and the resulting flying boat is pretty spectacular, but they have been around since the late 1880s!

Hydroptere DCNS

Hydroptere DCNS. Photo Francis Demange/Hydroptere.


Hydroptere in San Francisco - photo Christophe Launay/Hydroptere

Hydroptere in San Francisco. Photo Christophe Launay/Hydroptere.


The record-breaking giant foiling multihull Hydroptere is in a foiling class of its own. designed by France's Alain Thebault she was developed from a series of boats developed since the early 1990s.

In 2009 Hydroptere broke the outright world speed record setting a speed of 52.86 knots and subsequently setting a nautical mile record of 50.17 knots. the 'flying carpet' is currently showing off her talents in San Francisco. “L’Hydroptère DCNS is more like a plane than a sailboat. It’s a real challenge to understand such a machine,” says crewman Luc Alphand.


The C-Fly sailing during Cowes Week 2011. Photo Paul Wyeth.


Developed over the course of 15 years by a team from British Aerospace, the C-Fly is currently in its 'coastal' mode - a 7.6m prototype - but the aim of the team behind it is to build a full-sized ocean-going version to challenge the mighty Hydroptere. It boasts 'innovative wave- piercing hydrofoils' and is currently seeking funding to move the project to the next stage.

Foiling moth sailing in Mar menor

Gael Pawson sailing a foiling Moth at Alan Hillman's Moth sailing school in Mar Menor, Spain

Foiling Moth

It doesn't just look amazing, it feels fantastic as well... and it's so quiet.

International Moth

Always one of the more radical development dinghy classes, the adoption of a foiling design (as opposed to the 'low-riders' - non-foiling Moths) completely transformed this class and gave it a huge boost in international popularity. Now you'll find foiling Moths everywhere from the UK to Australia and the USA.

It's definitely one of the world's most vibrant dinghy classes... And actually easier to sail than it looks, I promise! Okay you need to be pretty nimble, but anyone used to weight sensitive modern dinghies can get to grips with straight-line foiling pretty quickly... It's turning the corners in the air that takes some perfecting! There’s even a specialist centre at Mar Menor in Spain where you can learn for yourself! Alan Hillman's Pro Vela sailing school can make your foiling dreams come true.


Take an 18ft skiff and add foils... then remove the hull...

Mirabaud LX

The European lakes, with their flat waters, are ideal breeding grounds for radical new boats. Take an 18ft Skiff, more at home on the waters of Sydney Harbour... Add foils and you create a real beast! This flighty foiler was born on the lakes of Switzerland. Ulike some foilers, Mirabaud barely has anything you could call a hull! For 2012 the boat has also been fitted with a wingsail with which she aims to set a number of Lake Geneva records and will compete in the famous Bol d'Or and a range of other European lake races.

Foiling multihull SYZ and co

The SYZ & Co multihull gets airbourne.

SYZ & Co

Swiss private banking group SYZ & Co sponsored this foiling multihull launched in 2009 to capture the speed records on Lake Geneva as well as with the aim of winning races. It seems the project is currently moth-balled.

Foiling Optimist

Just to prove that you really can put foils on anything! British Moth and foiling aficionado Adam May got hold of an old Optimist and he and Katherine Knight popped foils on it! here's the video of how they did it...



Inspired by the foiling International Moths, Linton Jenkins of Full Force Boats had the bright idea to build a foiling version of the singlehanded trapezing class, the RS600. The demand came from sailors who were too heavy for the International Moth (which we'd say has an ideal weight of 60-80kg).

The beauty of the foiling 600 is it was designed so you could convert an existing 600 hull - ideal as a lot of boats came on the market when the newer, spinnaker-carrying RS700 was introduced. Linton went on to develop a specifically-designed carbon fibre hull for added responsiveness. Sadly the class hasn’t taken off in the same way as the Moth.


Take an RS600 and add foils...

The New Zealand AC72 - photo Chris Cameron/Team New Zealand

The New Zealand AC72 - photo Chris Cameron/Team New Zealand

AC72 foiling giants

The America's Cup has always been at the cutting edge of technology, so it's hardly surprising that the latest generation of boats, designed to the new AC multihull rule, have started to experiment with foiling technology. It's going to change the game completely.

Right now we’ve only seen these giant foilers out testing - with mixed results! The New Zealand boat seems to have the technology working well, while Oracle Team USA suffered a rather expensive set-back when they capsized and severely damaged their first test boat (see Oracle AC72 Capsize: Amazing Photos and Oracle Team USA Capsize: The Video).

Team New Zealand foiling

Flying Team New Zealand. Photo Chris Cameron/Team New Zealand.


RC foiler

Foiling radio controlled boat.

Foiling Radio Controlled yacht

Anything a full-sized boat can do, a radio-controlled yacht can do! Although you need super-fast reactions to sail this mini flier. You can see the boat in action in