I’ve been staring at the pictures for far too long now. Sometimes I see an old WWI plane. Other times, I’m sure it’s a vintage dragster. Either way, the wFoil 18 Albatross is a gorgeous racer that literally flies on water, using hydrofoils to fly through water just like a plane uses wings to generate lift in air.
And it’s fast. Theoretically, the wFoil can hit speeds of 80 knots (or over 90 mph), which is more than enough to break speed records in its class. Needless to say, bootstrapping aviator and creator Tomaž Zore is a little wary to get into design specifics, lest his better financed competitors catch wind of any advantages.
“I can explain the details, but we would like to set new world speed sailing record and there are others with same intention to,” he admits. “So in general: We transform principles of high speed aerodynamics (transonic speeds) onto the water surface. We are the first one who solved the problem of cavitations with high speed on hydrofoils in that way.”
Hydrofoils are not a new idea for high speed boats, but they’ve long had a big limiting factor: cavitation. You see, hydrofoils generally function by creating underwater lift, or generating conditions where the water on top of this submerged foil is lower pressure than that below it. (The idea is really just like an airplane wing.) But under water, this area of low pressure on top of the foil is apt to get filled with bubbles–that’s cavitation–and it creates unpredictable, turbulent conditions for the foil to handle. Zore claims to have solved the issue with the wFoil.
Without cavitation, the wFoil would be faster and more stable than other hydrofoils. Yet Zore isn’t pursuing the wFoil is a proof-of-engineering design. Instead, his team is taking the car company approach, creating a lustable sex-on-foils speedster with a user-friendly bent: Aside from its classic beauty, the wFoil can be powered by a sail or by a small detachable propeller motor, and swapping between each takes all of 10 minutes to do.
“For great performance, we do not need a powerful engine. The water drag is the same when sailing- flying on hydrofoils through whole speed range,” Zore writes. And a larger, more traditional boat motor would only weigh the wFoil down. As of now, the wFoil can lift its hull out of the water at very low speeds–just 5-7 knots–and the sooner that hull gets out of the water, the sooner it can really start burning rubber…or…err…vaporizing water?
As of now, the wFoil’s team is self-funded and entirely volunteer. They’re looking for investors, and they’re looking for buyers of their first batch of boats. But you don’t need to be wealthy to support the project: wFoilgroup plans to make their splash on Kickstarter soon.