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My first season foiling by Keith Bedborough

by Keith Bedborough 7 Dec 2018 12:00 GMT
Keith Bedborough's first season of foiling © Iain Calder

As I'm sure many others in the sailing world will relate, I was suitably amazed by the spectacle of the foiling cats in the last two America's Cups and this ignited a spark within me to learn more about this exciting new type of sailing.

Having several friends with foiling moths I knew a little bit about the concepts of foiling but had never seriously thought about getting one, imagining that the time and cost involved would be prohibitive. Over the winter there were a a few clubhouse "wouldn't it be a laugh if we all got one of these?" and "shouldn't we try and get a few at the club to inspire the youths?" type discussions and having been a stalwart of the RS400 class for the last 20 odd years I knew that I wanted to try something new this year.

As if by fate a new member (Jamie Calder) turned up at our club at the start of the year with a gleaming new WASZP and instantly the one-design "foiler for the masses" side of it appealed to me. Another guy at the club had a test sail in Jamie's boat and was instantly hooked and from that point on what had been a vague idea rapidly developed. Three of us agreed that we would all get boats "if the others did and then we could all blame each other" and hence the Dalgety Bay Foiling Section was born. So in April this year 2nd hand WASZP #2400 turned up at the club - with the one tiny drawback that I had never been on a foiling boat before, never mind sailed a WASZP. How hard can it be - right?

It turned out it was a little harder than I imagined and after my first sail (seven seconds on the foils – two hours swimming around in the cold north sea whilst the RS400s planed past me laughing) even I was starting to have second thoughts. However what is great about this type of sailing is that everyone is very keen to encourage everyone else. So after some advice from other WASZP sailors and our resident Moth guru Ian Renilson I soon picked up the critical techniques such as sheeting in hard once the boat is on the foils – and discovered once it is up and going in a straight line it's remarkably stable.

The wand and adjustable lift system automatically and continuously adjust the flap on the main foil, which mean that you just have to worry about keeping it flattish and don't fall out the back as it accelerates! It's isn't remotely stable when slow or stopped and this is probably the main difference to a conventional boat - so you must always keep the sheet on, much more important than holding the tiller (which doesn't really do much at low speeds). A cardinal beginner sin is any sort of roll to leeward which will quickly result in a crash off the foils. Initially I found it relatively easy upwind but much harder downwind as there is so much power - however after a few sails the sensitivity becomes more familiar and you start to enjoy the speed.

Dalgety Bay proved a perfect environment to learn with youthful Jamie storming up the learning curve and the other three more senior sailors somewhat behind but all at similar levels to help and encourage each other. Dalgety is on the sea and I was a bit worried that learning to foil in waves might be challenging but up to a force 4 it's actually ok as there are plenty of other things to worry about!

So what else can I tell you about the WASZP? The one-design side of it is great – it's pretty simple as there are only three control lines and a couple of other settings, so you can basically copy exactly what the others use and it's very easy to compare boats. The foils are made of metal rather than fragile carbon hence when you hit them off things (which you will) it doesn't really matter. It can be rigged in about 10 minutes and it's lovely and light to pull around (after an RS400)!

Launching is tricky – the retractable foils certainly help but an onshore breeze and chop are challenging. It's also pretty physical to sail – the fact that there is no boom or shrouds is fantastic for the many catapults you will have (and you will have many) however there is a lot of power and in the early days you will be trimming continuously which is hard work. On the plus side there is no need to go to the gym you just go WASZP sailing! The other great thing is that it's incredibly easy to right from a capsize. It has air bladders in the wings which means it doesn't invert - so when you get tired you can have a rest on the centreboard - get your breath back then off you go again.

Given that I was just finding my feet I only travelled to one event this year – the Scottish Championship at Loch Lomond – where I was delighted with a mid-fleet finish. It turns out that sailing around a course is not as easy as simply blasting around the big wide open sea, but we did also have a low riding day where the boats are quite evenly matched and the racing surprisingly close. What I did really enjoy was the welcoming social side of the class and this is really important as there is so much to learn and certainly no stupid questions.

We now have five WASZPS at our club with the promise of two more joining next year, so I look forward to continuing the development of my foiling skills and focus on my gybing. With 700 boats now worldwide and the price of second band boats starting to fall I'm really positive about the class. We have a Scottish circuit of four events including a visit down to Ullswater to sail with our northern chums there.

The class actively organises training events for newcomers and the nationals are again at flat water Rutland where the emphasis is as much on fun and learning as performance. The Europeans Championship is at Lake Garda (fifteen Brits travelled last year and the entry was over 60) and the class is included in Kiel Week so there are plenty opportunities to sail somewhere warmer than Scotland.

My advice - if you are young go for it – the WASZP also has a 6.9 small sail specifically geared at youth sailors. Take a look at Norway they are "all in" on WASZPs as the foiling pathway boat. If (like me) you are middle aged, balancing the demands of work, family and life with sailing it may seem like a big step to take. However the buzz from flying around on the foils is awesome and has completely re-ignited my passion for the sport. I would describe myself as an average dinghy sailor hence skill level wise it is no different than moving to a skiff from a non-trapeze boat. If you're looking for a new challenge I can only recommend foiling – regardless if it's in the WASZP or another class – it's the future!

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