Extraordinary Boats: The TF35 semi-automated foiler
The TF35 is a new one-design catamaran with a unique computer-controlled automatic foil system, that will race in the TF35 Trophy. For Yachting World Toby Heppell gets all the info on these incredible foiling catamarans.
In recent America’s Cups we have seen a small army of grinders pumping away to bring pressure to their flying yacht’s hydraulic lifeblood, while flight controllers attempt to keep up with their speeding craft’s accelerations in three dimensions. But while these athletic and technical skills are impressive, these days there are simply better alternatives to humans carrying out these roles. Enter the TF35.
The TF35 is a new one design foiling catamaran created to take foil-borne sailing to the next level. It has no hydraulics to keep primed. Conventional ropes and winches handle the sails and raising and lowering of foils, but battery powered electric actuators drive the rest, including split-second adjustments of the foils and rudder elevators. What’s more, these operations are automated, leaving crew free to focus on skills such as helming and tactics.
The shape, size and efficiency of the TF35’s foils means it requires just seven knots of wind to take off upwind and nine downwind (when boat speed reaches 2x and 3x wind speed respectively). It also passes the acid test of foiling upwind and through tacks.
The racks increase righting moment but also protect the foils when alongside pontoons and improve crew safety.
A small penalty for having such light wind take-off is ultimate top speed, which is 18-19 knots upwind and 34-35 knots downwind, but still plenty fast enough.
After the prototype launched at the end of 2019, the new TF35 is enjoying its first full season of competition this year. The class follows on from the D35, the one design catamaran that provided sterling service on Lake Geneva for 16 years and countless Bol d’Or Mirabaud victories for Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi, his sister Dona’s Ladycat-Spindrift and many others.
Big boats will fly
Foiling is the new realm of high-performance sailing, but – as Chris Museller explains – bringing the experience to larger raceboats is brave new territory.
Nicolas Henard, president of the French Sailing Federation, was charged by the Paris 2024 committee to be bold and brave in his promotion of new Olympic sailing events. Like the dramatic gold-medal design of Marianne—the female symbol of the French Republic blended into the Olympic flame—the slate of events Henard and his colleagues at World Sailing voted in for 2024 is bold indeed. Nearly half of the sailing events will showcase hydrofoils. I witnessed that 2018 vote, and there were many arguments for and against moving so swiftly toward the future of foiling in the Olympics, but the door was thrust wide open, accelerating the inevitable evolution in high-performance sailing we are experiencing today.
Predictions that “everything will have foils” in the future, however, have yet to materialise. What’s missing? Big boats. Yes, the Ocean Race now has foiling IMOCA 60s, as does the Vendée Globe. Mini Transat designs are flying. The 75-footers of the America’s Cup are developing by the day. But no one has been daring enough to build a big monohull sailboat with foils, save for a few of the horizontal DSS foil systems.
The benefits to either fully flying or foil-assisted sailing are known: more righting moment, higher speeds, less heel angle, maybe a more comfortable ride. But the prohibitive barriers are also known: Rating rules are not ready to interpret the dramatic speed deltas between foiling and displacement modes; large foilers would be far more expensive for their size and scale than a similar-size displacement monohull; and without any larger monohull foilers, foil-assisted cruising boats, ocean racers or superyachts on the market, few owners with the financial wherewithal have been willing to take the leap and be first.
Luckily, all the latent interest in foiling is finally showing up in big monohull projects. And who are the brave designers feeding this interest? The venerable Frers family is in the mix, and there are a few others behind closed doors who are secretly poised to turn renderings into realities. But is the rest of the sailing world going to follow these designers into the future? Will foils become a regular fixture at race weeks and offshore races, just as foiling dinghies and boards are now globally prolific?
“We’re applying foils to the casual sailor to achieve the same speeds as a motorboat,” says Mani Frers, the third-generation yacht designer whose father, German, drew some of the most iconic racing and cruising boats of the past 40 years. “Clients are asking for speed, not necessarily foiling.”
Frers hasn’t seen his first foiling concept come to fruition—yet. But he’s getting close. His response to the application of hydrofoils has been predictably intense and unique, altogether avoiding the tantalising desire to make a large yacht fly above the water. “One of the issues with foiling as a new thing is that no one applies science,” he says. “There are a lot of good things and a lot of BS. I apply foil technology to the whole package.”
Frers, whose son, German Frers VI, is fully involved in their Milan design house, is in the closing stages of two foiling designs: a 60-foot daysailer and a superyacht. He concedes that using foil assist to achieve higher speeds and a stable ride isn’t sexy compared with flying. But the end result of a steady 20 to 25 knots of boatspeed in 12 to 15 knots of wind is attractive.
11th Hour Racing Team new IMOCA 60 first designed for fully crewed racing
The arrival of any new IMOCA is a moment the class looks forward to as the design game takes its next step in the era of foiling monohulls, but the new 11th Hour Racing IMOCA is of particular interest – writes Ed Gorman.
That’s because the Guillaume Verdier-designed flying machine that will be skippered by Charlie Enright and Pascal Bidégorry in the Transat Jacques Vabre, is the first IMOCA to have been built with fully-crewed racing in mind.
The 11th Hour Racing Team has its sights firmly set on The Ocean Race in 2022 and the brief for the design team, led by Verdier and Hervé Penfornis, was to produce a boat that could be pushed hard 24/7 by a crew of four or five and one that will be suited to the stop-start nature of The Ocean Race format.
Enright can’t wait to get going on sailing trials in the multi-coloured new IMOCA which rolled out of the shed at CDK Technologies in Port-la-Fôret for the first time at the weekend. The American veteran of two Ocean Races quipped that his new boat looks like the Batmobile from the Batman movie franchise and you can see what he means.
Indeed the first impression is of a hull with a super-slick aero treatment that follows on from the old VPLP-Verdier HUGO BOSS (now named 11th Hour Racing), with a scow-type profile to its bow (in a similar vein to the first Sam Manuard IMOCA, the former L’Occitane en Provence), a pronounced chine, and with a large and almost completely enclosed cockpit with minimal side decks.
The first photos do not show how the cockpit is laid out, what the foils will look like or what the boat looks like down below, where many of the significant design advances have been made to accommodate a full crew.
“Hopefully the hull shape is an evolution of the good work Guillaume has already done,” summarised Enright. “I think we will see a foil package that is pretty radical and different to a lot of other boats out there today."
Regular readers of my Cup writings are well aware of my huge admiration for Terry Hutchinson and the way he conducted the American Magic campaign – writes Marcus Wheatley.
To my eye, he’s the model CEO in the Cup game capable of, on one-hand, delivering a boat and team that came within a whisker of winning the Cup and on the other, steering a syndicate through the darkest of hours. Terry’s a special person with strong family values and the depths that he had to reach into his locker of fortitude were remarkable in leading that team.
In a wide-ranging, must-see interview (that you can view at the end of this post) with Tom ‘Chairman’ Ehman on his excellent TFE Live Show, Terry is the model of dignity and diplomacy. Both interviewer and interviewee are members of the New York Yacht Club themselves so it’s an interesting interview to see the sub-plot of utter disbelief and head scratching from both of them. You can bet the club was watching.
Since the Cup has finished, the true personal toll that the American Magic capsize and resurrection took on Terry personally has come to light in several interviews – most notably with Shirley Robertson and now with Tom. We know that he was trapped under water, tethered in that port hull after the capsize and was close to the end. That puts the world, the sport, the America’s Cup in sharp perspective but then how he battled back, led from the front and got Patriot back on the water when the easiest thing to have done would be to close the doors and fly back home, is remarkable. It was the story of the Cup and we all assumed that the team would go again and that the New York Yacht Club would be full square behind a tilt at AC37, wherever in the world that may be.
Not so. In one of the most ruthless pieces of politicking in modern Cup times, akin to the way the club turned their back on Dennis Conner after he steered Liberty to defeat in 1983, Hutchinson is out on his ear with the club cosying up to the failed Long Beach Yacht Club challenge that didn’t quite make it to Auckland last time. You couldn’t make it up.
Rumour is that a big money tie-up with Microsoft is in the air and that committee members of the NYYC with sports marketing running through their veins are pulling the strings behind the scenes. Who knows? It’s a strange decision and I suspect one that’s hard to take after the American Magic programme effectively ended with THAT capsize in THAT race whilst a country mile ahead of Prada. The fact that the Italians went on quickly to the finals and then pushed the Defender close won’t be lost on Hutchinson but has been completely forgotten by the NYYC. Despite the slight, he’s diplomacy personified with his response: “The door is always open.”
I admire that. To be honest I’d slam it shut, send back my membership card and vow never to walk through the door of the 44th Street clubhouse ever again. Stuff them. But that’s why I’m not the CEO of the most powerful American syndicate, holding all the hard-graft IP and street smarts that the last campaign gave. And the Cup is a long-ball game – make enemies now and you’re toast down the line. Committee members have a habit of popping clogs or drifting into irrelevance quickly so what looks like the end of the road now can be the beginning of a new dawn in a year’s time. We shall see.
Yacht Racing Life
If you only watch one sailing video this week
Coffee break coming up? A perfect time to check out this fascinating behind the scenes video from the master of on board reporting, Yann Riou, as Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier’s Gitana Team crew aboard the maxi trimaran Edmond de Rothschild get creative with a handful of expert kite surfers.