Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


THE 2013 America’s Cup news coverage introduced me to super-advanced hydrofoil racing boats. The races were won by Oracle Team USA over Emirates Team New Zealand. See the organizer’s official website at for details, including this map of the San Francisco venue.


The public viewing areas had tens of thousands of fans. Bill Fink, Isis Imports, Pier 33,  had rather fewer. Image from]

I confess to little knowledge about racing on water, but friend Bill Fink, of Isis Imports (, rowed for Oxford University. (The River Isis passes through Oxford). Chatting with him recently, I learned that Bill’s Pier 33 vantage point was within 150 yards of the 2013 America’s Cup Finish line.

It was Bill who alerted me to hydrofoil boat racing of rather smaller scale than the America’s Cup; namely, hydrofoil sculls. He recalled Brit Glyn Locke devising a hydrofoil single shell back in the 1980s. A Dane sculler of some note, Bjarne Eltang, took the Diamond Sculls class at the Henley Royal Regatta in 1986 in such a craft.


Henley Royal Regatta, 1988.

Through Bill Fink’s kindness, in 1988 I enjoyed the regatta, the Steward’s Enclosure festivities—and the Pimm’s Cup refreshments. I recall having a straw boater for the occasion.

The Internet displays a paucity of information about Eltang’s 1986 achievement in the Glyn Locke craft. However, the Wind and Water and Earth website mentions a sculler named James Grogono who built a hydrofoil shell in 1975.


James Grogono built this hydrofoil shell in 1975. Image from the Wind and Water and Earth website,

Grogono followed up with a book about his hydrofoil craft, including sailboats.


Icarus, the Boat That Flies, by James, Grogono, Adlard Coles Ltd., 1987. The book is listed at both and

More recently, Yale University had a Hydrofoil Scull Project. The technology has advanced, both in the shell and its hydrofoils.


The Yale hydrofoil shell. Images from Wind and Water and Earth website.


There’s a neat video of the Yale hydrofoil shell in action at Internet chats seem to indicate that maintaining balance of such a shell is difficult once it’s “on plane.”

Concerning standards shells and their piloting, The New York Times, October 16, 2013, posted an interview with Olympic gold medalist Esther Lofgren, at The video certainly suggests the intense athleticism of the sport.

There are Internet discussions about whether hydrofoil shells meet U.S. or international rowing regulations these days. A cursory look seems to suggest otherwise: The International Rowing Federaton, FISA (Fédération des Sociétés d’Aviron), says it is prohibited “to modify the natural properties of water or of the boundary layer of the hull/water interface.”

On the other hand, if we interpret “the” hull…. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2013

2 comments on “MINI HYDROFOILS

  1. carmacarcounselor
    October 23, 2013

    I seem to recall that the first experiments with hydrofoil craft were conducted by Alexander Graham Bell, a Renaissance man, apparently.

  2. Doug Milliken
    December 17, 2013

    In about the last 30 years, a number of fast “human powered watercraft”, including hydrofoils, have been powered like a bicycle — by pedaling. Probably the best collection of information is on this page,
    Links to many articles with more details can be found here:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: