Where foiling was once an exclusive playground for professional sailors and racers, the tides have certainly changed. Foiling equipment, locations, and even instructors are now in place to help a wider range of sailors take flight on the water.
There’s no doubt foiling has taken the industry by storm. But for many, it can seem out of reach or daunting. In reality, foiling has never been more accessible. Advancements and adaptations in equipment have now offered anyone the opportunity to take flight.
Foiling is when a boat or board lifts above the water on specially fitted hydrofoils. Simply put, the foils bring the hull or board out of the water reducing drag and increasing efficiency and speed, especially in lighter conditions.
Depending on your chosen equipment, conditions, and technique, some foils lift boards or boats in wind as light as 6-7 knots. However, it’s best to try your first attempts in 10 knots or over, enabling you to get a feel of how much lift the foil gives and how best to encourage flight.
Early on, tuition plays a crucial part in gaining and embedding the right skills, techniques, and safety considerations. A combination of the correct coaching points, learning environment, and equipment set up will increase the likelihood of success and development.
If you can blast in the footstraps windsurfing, have good wing control and can maintain ground upwind wingsurfing, or comfortably sail a single-handed dinghy you can learn to foil. Intermediate windsurfers, or Level 2 sailors who can adjust their stance to the conditions and make effective use of their equipment are ready to foil.
Often compared to the exhilaration felt by planing windsurfers, foiling focuses on recreational sailing over racing. Best of all it’s also more achievable than you might think, with most people surprised at how quickly they can get up on the foils. Although it obviously takes a few more sessions to be relaxed and confident in flight.
Feedback from those taking their first flights has the same recurring theme, with most likening it to their first planing experience on a boat or board. With the overriding response being exhilaration.
The other, surprising sensation is silence as you glide freely above the water. Without the feedback from the water surface, everything is much more tranquil.
Three of our top trainers share their foiling tips:
Foiling was introduced to the RYA’s National Sailing and Windsurfing training schemes in 2019. More recently we have also introduced wingfoiling courses as part of the new Wing training scheme – adding another exciting element for watersports enthusiasts to enjoy.
The courses are all about getting on the water, with an instructor that’s trained to give you just the right amount of background theory for each stage of your progression.
The RYA Foiling book is the official supporting text for the RYA foiling courses and outlines the key skills required for both windfoiling and sailfoiling.
As an RYA member you can take advantage of free third-party liability insurance for windsurfing and wingsurfing. Simply update your boating interests to activate your cover. T&Cs apply.
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