Best Dinghy: UFO Foiler

The UFO is otherworldly, the judges agree, with the potential to disrupt the dinghy-sailing scene as an all-access low-cost foiler.

As a unique foiling object, indeed the UFO’s most appealing aspect is the ability to sail it in conditions that have other foilers on the beach. Sailors new to foiling will be quickly rewarded with minimal effort.

Dave Clark is the UFO’s co-creator, builder, tweaker and apostle. When he explains the construction of his 10-foot catamaran contraption (“we use this apocalyptically thick triaxial fiberglass layup”) and its handling (“as you ask the boat to challenge you, it will continue to challenge you, but only when it’s asked”), his enthusiasm is as animated as the UFO’s behavior on the water, especially in flight. The UFO is otherworldly, the judges agree, with the potential to disrupt the dinghy-sailing scene as an all-access low-cost foiler.

UFO
As a unique foiling object, indeed the UFO’s most appealing aspect is the ability to sail it in conditions that have other foilers on the beach.Walter Cooper

Nowadays at Clark’s Fulcrum Speedworks factory in Bristol, Rhode Island, he’s cranking out these pint-size craft, shipping batches in cardboard boxes and containers with international shipping manifests. He’s taking orders over the phone, on credit cards, from impulse buyers dropping $7,600 for an “all-inclusive” sailing experience.

How’s the UFO built? It’s vacuum-infused, with carbon-reinforced vinylester for an all-up weight of 110 pounds. The wishbone spar assembly is a mix of carbon and fiberglass components; the foil struts are extruded aluminum; and the elevators are a mix of carbon, glass, foam core and stainless-steel parts.

“Complexity is the enemy,” says Clark, who developed the UFO with his father, Steve Clark. “I need it to be robust, and I can’t have parts go missing.”

That might be true of the UFO’s big pieces, says Allen, but there are still quite a few little pins and parts required for assembly and flight. “You’ll have to take good care of it, especially if you’re in and out of the water, and moving it around all the time.”

UFO
Sailors new to foiling will be quickly rewarded with minimal effort.Walter Cooper

The carbon windsurfing mast tube that Clark uses is bendy, so he added a jumper strut system to stiffen it. The wishbone arrangement is then the most effective way to provide high leech tension and power in the sail, which is essential to the entire rig package.

The judges’ testing session in sub-8-knot conditions doesn’t allow flight for Tom Rich nor Greg Stewart, both of whom exceed 200 pounds. But Clark, at 170 pounds and with two years in the boat, has it foiling in a heartbeat, using an explosive kinetic technique he’s perfected to get liftoff. Allen is initially unable to get it foil-borne, but 2 knots more of windspeed and a little extra effort on the mainsheet is all it takes to get him flying.

The UFO’s tunnel hull is a simple and defining platform that allows it to be sailed home when the breeze gets to be too little or too much. Its T-Foils lift nearly flush with the bottom of the boat, for launching it from a shoreline or a dock. The ride-height wand is easily adjustable to the desired challenge of the day. “Low to start and learn,” says Clark. “Higher as you get better and faster.”

At the end of your UFO session, break it down and leave it on a dolly, or stuff the whole lot into your family wagon.

“That’s what makes this boat so cool,” says Allen. “It’s innovative, creative and inexpensive. I can see a lot people getting their first taste of foiling with this thing.”

Or as Clark pontificates, “You can use it across your entire sailing career — from your Opti until you’re old and dead.”

At a Glance

To watch video of the UFO in action, click here.
To read more about the genesis of the UFO, click here.