But is it really true that flying boats always go faster?


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foiling and traditional boats
foiling and traditional boats compared

Are we really sure that boats with foils go faster than traditional boats? Question that may seem obvious but is not. We had fun comparing the speeds of two foilers such as the AC 75 Luna Rossa and the world’s first offshore flying Mini Maxi, FlyingNikka, with some of the most famous and successful traditional “superboats”: the Swan 125 Skorpios, the Maxi 100 Comanche and Arca SGR, the Wallycento Magic Carpet 3, a TP52. Here’s what we found out…

boats - supernikka
Roberto Lacorte’s FlyingNikka is the first flying Mini Maxi created for offshore racing

Flying boats vs. traditional boats. Who wins?

With the launch of FlyingNikka, the new 60-footer with foils, desired by owner Roberto Lacorte, a new scenario opens up in the world of classic offshore racing, that of monohull boats with foils. Perhaps the time is coming for the “old” maxi monohulls to retire?

Foiling vs displacement boats. “Birds” vs. “Fish”

The very fitting comparison was provided to us by ORC “guru” Nicola Sironi. “Fish” versus “Birds”:is it right to race together “fish”-boats that dislocate, straighten and weigh a lot, with “birds” that fly, have to be ultralight, and are also capable of swimming, but not to go great distances? Certainly the phenomenon of foiling cannot be ignored, and examples multiply“.

Lacorte along with Mark Mills who designed the FlyingNikka and a group of ORC specialists have been working quite a bit over the past few months to develop a VPP model that includes a “foiling” mode, thus reducing traditional monohull drag to zero, leaving only wind drag as the drag, with only the appendages in the water.

The problem is to establish precisely the “take-off” speed, which for example on the AC75s in Auckland we had learned was about 17 knots. How much will SuperNikka’s be?

A problem that rating systems will have to take into account. Although, as Lacorte explains in the article he wrote for us, the intention of a project like FlyingNikka is to break records, in real time, at offshore races. Then, at some future time, give rise to a separate class of flying superboats.

Super boats compared. Flying vs. traditional

superboats compared table

In the table above, we had fun comparing the measured speeds of two “birds” such as the AC75 Luna Rossa and FlyingNikka and the “fish,” i.e., traditional performance boats, depending on the gaits and wind strength. Some of them, such as the Maxi 100 ARCA Sgr, or Nautor’s Swan 125 Skorpios, will play it out in real time against FlyingNikka in offshore races.

Traditional boats

The traditional boats whose speeds we analyzed (Maxi 100, Wally 100, TP52), behave, precisely, in a “traditional” way. As the wind increases, in the same gait the speed increases (with some exceptions: this is the case of the Maxi 100 Comanche, a boat born to sail mainly at the upwind, which with 20 knots of wind upwind has to “reduce canvas” and has a VPP of 11.6 knots against the well 15.8 expected with 15 knots).

Flying boats

Things change for foilers. Speaking of the “birds,” meanwhile, the range of variation is very little between upwind and downwind. This is because the boats go so fast that the variation in apparent resting from upwind to downwind is in the neighborhood of 5 degrees, so conditions on board vary very little between gaits.

Next: as the wind increases above 15 knots, (we saw this at the last America’s Cup), on a foiler the conduction becomes prohibitive, which is why speeds tend to drop instead of rising again. Finally, there is another parameter to take into account: boats fly, and this lowers the dependence on waves (and thus on the glides that are triggered in normal boats in wind and wave conditions).

Gallery – FlyingNikka’s super “opponent” boats

“Fish” boats or “bird” boats? It depends…

It is clear that, data in hand, if we talk about pure speed, the “birds” versus “fish” comparison is won hands down by the former. On the beam, a foiler, with a wind range within 15 knots, flies at more than twice the speed of a traditional boat twice as long. But in offshore racing, there are many, many variables. The wind, the sea the conditions change, we are not in the flat waters of Auckland. Much will depend on the conditions that will or will not guarantee the flight stability of a maxi foiler. That’s why FlyingNikka has equipped itself with so much “traditional” technology in anticipation of long races: fin, bulb, mast with spreaders and shrouds, reefing hands, furling… We shall see!



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