The Foiling Week, a year in review as 2017 comes to a close
Tuesday, November 28, 2017 10:11 AM
When the Foiling Week set up its first tents along the sparkling shoreline of Lake Garda in 2014, a small group of excitable and tweaky designers, engineers and sailors gathered to share, learn and collaborate. Once all alone in their corners of the sport and the world, this was their moment to go beyond their own visions and advance the new field of “foiling” on the water.
A mind-blowingly short time later, as 2017 comes to a close, Foiling Week is on three continents, there are more than a dozen established foiling classes and the seeds of foiling’s place beyond sailing are sprouting across the world.
Luca Rizzotti, Founder: “In 2018 we are going for the first time to exciting locations like Sydney and Miami. We look forward to connecting with the amazing Australian and American foiling communities, tap into their latest innovations and spread the know-how around the globe. Garda is also promising to be bigger than ever with many requests from new classes. Finally, we see we are growing alongside our present partners and aim at having more on board to keep the foiling community ahead of the innovation curve, plus seeking impact investments for some of our new ambitious projects.”
At the heart of innovation within the foiling space, Foiling Week sits alone as a forum. But this is not an exclusive club. Forums in Europe, the United States and Australia are now opening up doors and networks that were once, by the very nature of competitive events like the America’s Cup and even geography, barriers to collaboration and development.
Cup designers once muzzled by NDAs eagerly bat around concepts with their counterparts at Foiling Week. Product developers racing to become “first-to-market” in the auto-foiling SUP space are able to explore production and distribution complications together. From the innovator to the end user, there is no doubt that this is a particular moment in foiling that transcends the sparks ignited by classes like the Moth, A Class catamaran and America’s Cup boats.
Foiling Week’s Responsibility
Following the success of the Foiling Week Newport, USA in 2016, the first forum outside of Garda, the event not only expanded to other nations, the 2017 event on that natural playground in central Italy pushed the boundaries of innovative forums into the social responsibility realm.
Though Foiling Week is not an authoritative organization, its participants are a community of new authorities on this burgeoning area of innovation. And, as the most diverse, intelligent and creative individuals in sailing, they have a resulting camaraderie and drive to improve the sport and the world through their abilities.
Core values for Foiling Week were established in 2017 after the successes of the Safety Forum in Newport. Safety, accessibility and sustainability were each given a day at this year’s Garda event.
As the sun warmed the cliffs, before the clockwork thermal breeze drifted in, the sports’ and industry’s top minds dug deep into these topics with an engaged audience. Olympic gold medalist Jo Aleh and Moth sailor Josie Gliddon, both representing the Magenta Project, lead the accessibility forum by tackling the gender issues faced with women in professional sailing. Gliddon was able to condense the concept that hydrofoiling across the range of sailing craft in the sport increases access to women. In short, with reduced loads, requiring less brute force and more technique-based skills, foiling should open doors for women. But she is quick to point out that the sailing culture lags behind these innovations and some doors are still closed.
Josie Gliddon: “To continue to talk about accessibility for all in our sport allows us to address the equality and diversity challenges we face not just for men and women. We are extremely fortunate to be in a sport where boats can be designed and adapted and I think that we can go much further in this area. Even just small changes can make a difference - putting in extra purchases / ratchet blocks or having extra people on board results in strength and psychical size becoming less of a dominant feature that in turn opens up more opportunities to more people. That can only be a good thing.”
The same forum announced design efforts to allow disabled sailors to foil and gain instruction with a Paralympic champion on hand to lend insight. Legions of tiny boys and girls also donned helmets and life jackets to safely explore this third dimension of sailing.
Sustainability, that mystical term that covers everything we need to do to save the planet, is a value Foiling Week has brought to a tangible concept. Right off the bat, the Garda event offered entry discounts to presenters and participants who carpooled to the lake. Collaborations that highlighted the outrageous inefficiencies in the use of motorboats to run regattas have led to concepts that include automated, solar-powered mark set drones.
As for safety, the Newport forum produced a collection of sailors and race management officials from around the world who, independently, had been creating race management tools and instructional interactive videos to address the growing issues that arise from boats going three- to four-times the speed of previous race craft.
On the Water
The forums now spread around the world have become synergistic moments for the greatest brains in sailing to connect and collaborate on technical and social levels. But Foiling Week has tapped into the child-like excitement these and other participants have regarding exploring and experimenting on the sea with wind and craft.
The most advanced classes in the world are attracted to each Foiling Week venue to host championships and share their progressive crafts with the world. Beyond top designers and engineers, the elite sailors of the world place Foiling Week at the top of their event wish list each year.
Glen Ashby: “For me, to walk around the boat park is absolutely fantastic. There are so many clever people that have worked on a lot of different foiling boats and apparatus over the last few years. For everyone to be able to walk around, share information openly and look at all the different concepts that have been built is absolutely wonderful.”
Francois Gabart: "I think it is just perfect, the Foiling Week, because there is a lot happening now in the foiling world. It's good to mix all together.”
One would think that foiling is now established and that there is a plateau, apres’ 2017 America’s Cup, in innovation with these technologies slowing influencing recreational sailing and speeds steadying out for the professional foiling craft. But the Foiling Week has matured, and its free-thinking drive for pure innovation is expanding.
Paul Larsen, one of the fastest sailors in the world having set the outright world speed record aboard Vestas SailRocket, gave Foiling Week a taste of the direction foiling can take the world. A privately funded design challenge has Larson developing a 100-foot transatlantic passenger ship that is a hybrid power/sail. “one idea is to take paying passengers across the ocean in luxury as fast as the Ultime trimaran Banque Populaire,” says Larsen.
This unique project has been combining a fabulous collection of old and new ideas. A Polynesian “proa” style set of hulls means the ship can only sail on one tack and must “shunt” to change tacks.
These fascinating terms tied to the dawn of navigation and civilization were linked by Larsen to the futuristic concept of “energy farming.” Larson says battery banks store energy generated by hydrogeneretors while the wing-sailed craft reaches across through the depressions of the Atlantic then uses this stored energy to power the low-drag hulls through the glass of high pressure systems. The same ship is envisioned to double as transport for commerce, similar to cruise ships efficient use of their holds as dry docks to transport yachts across oceans.
Now, how does the rest of the world learn about what these innovators and collaborators are working on? The Foiling Week! And although this forum has been expanding, a primary aim of the organizers is to push the boundaries of online communication by making all presentations live and archived on as many media platforms as possible. Virtual reality and interactive experiences are also imperative.
Creating more and varied partnerships into the varied spaces outside the marine industry is also a must for Foiling Week to achieve its lofty goals of connecting more spaces and innovators. BMW, Slam, Gurit, Persico Marine, Marlow, Torqeedo and Ingemar have all been rightfully supportive of getting innovators together.
The efficiencies developed by the Foiling Week community fit flawlessly with the direction innovators want to take the world. Individuals like Paul Larsen, Jo Aleh and Jossie Gliddon see an endless horizon of possibilities. So does the Foiling Week.