You can’t escape it: it’s foiling mania and, now, even the Optimist – the world’s most popular sailing dinghy – can fly.
The secret lies in the use of graphene, a nanotechnology material consisting of a single, tightly packed layer of carbon atoms with the same mechanical resistance than diamond and the same flexibility as plastic.
A group of students and researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and SSPA Sweden have designed and developed an Optimist dinghy with extraordinary capabilities. The basic idea was to build a small dinghy or, better, one of the smallest among the dinghies currently in circulation in the world, with foiling capabilities.
By using composite materials with added graphene, they have succeeded in building a lighter, stronger hull, equipped with hydrofoils, custom-designed to lift the boat by delivering minimal drag and supreme performance.
After the tests performed in the towing tank of SSPA – an advanced fluid dynamics research centre dedicated to naval architecture and engineering based in Gothenburg, Sweden – where both resistance and seaworthiness of the prototype were measured, T-foils were designed and built.
The flying Optimist was therefore put on test for the first time by the 17-year-old sailor Axel Raham, a rising star of the Scandinavian sailing scenario. The sea trial was performed in a 10-knot wind. The dynamics of the vessel is clear: the Optimist stays on the water until 4 knots: at 5 knots, she starts to fly, delivering extraordinary performance.
Guided by Christiam Finnsgard, researchers are very proud of the result and tester Axel makes no secret of his enthusiasm. ” At one point, you feel the noise of the water stop; everything becomes silent and you only feel you’re sailing fast”, stated the young sailor. “Astonishing, it’s simply astonishing! That’s the way future sailing should be!”.
The pictures in the video above actually convey the idea of how exciting the experience must be since, even if it is now made of graphene and advanced hydrodynamic appendages, the Optimist is, first of all, the unique, unmistakable 2.30-long dinghy with 3.25 square meters of sails and excellent performance. What the Swedish university carried out is an interesting way to reinvent the “little girl” designed by Clark Mills that, this year, has celebrated her 70th birthday.