Skippers Declare Future of Volvo Ocean Racing Foils

Volvo Ocean Racing Foils


Will they be the future of Ocean racing?

As I was intending to be taking notes and snapping images of the colorful Formula One-like boats on the water during the Volvo Ocean Race stop over in NewportI took time to note my surroundings as any trained skipper would do – and guess what caught my attention – Moths. 

International Moths to be specific – not the bugs, but the brand of obtainable boats now known to sail on foils. Foils, allowing sailing craft to sail above wind speed, are the latest attention nabber in sailing since their global racing wider public introduction in the 2014 America’s Cup.  Moths as research shows have in fact been racing as a class since 2001.  I was intrigued by the smallness of the Moths and their speed in a gorgeous 10 knot, yet flat water day. 

The next morning during the last skipper’s press conference before leaving for Lisbon, the world’s top media was on hand asking questions, hard questions – as in what was the future of ocean racing?

One after the other, the skippers declared their thoughts on the future. The overwhelming, and admittedly shocking assessment were “foils were the future”.  Really?

The skipper of Mapfre pointed out, “60 knots would allow safer passages in the southern ocean allowing faster arrivals to port.” 

My neophyte engineering mind of logic geared to safety, wanted me to stand up and say “are you crazy?!” But skipper after skipper pointed out, “look at the progress of speed over 20 or 30 years ago.” They had me there.

It will be interesting to see what the next five years will bring, however Ian Walker, skipper of the overall and current Volvo Ocean Race score leader, with a broad smile stated “his preference would be a Learjet over foils in the southern ocean”.    

Foils – the future or just a flirting flurry with ocean sailing? Time will truly tell. 

Maybe I will try an International Moth before heading to the southern ocean.

 -Ellen MacPhail

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