One-Design Wingfoil Racing Takes Off

The X-15 class introduces one-design wingfoil racing, focusing on youth and international development, making it a reality.
windfoiling in Arendal, Norway
The X-15 Class established itself in Europe in late 2023, including one event in ­Arendal, Norway, which delivered ­fast-paced slalom and ­windward/leeward races. X-15 Class/ Arendals Regatta

the simplicity of putting your equipment in the back of the car, driving to a local sailing ­center or beach, and getting on the water to rip around with friends at high speeds with minimal fuss is appealing to people of all ages and ability levels, which is why the emergent sport of wingfoiling has taken off. One-design racing is the next frontier.

Naturally, when a sport is new, its pioneers push limits to see what is possible, and it has been absolutely crazy—in a good way—to witness what’s been happening in the wingfoil world. Two years ago, a backflip on wingfoil equipment was practically unimaginable, but tricks today are far more complex, and racing speeds are at near scary levels. But landing ­mind-bending tricks and doing 40 knots on wingfoil equipment represents only the top of the wingfoiling pyramid, not the masses. 

In order to promote wingfoiling as an inclusive windsport, Starboard, an international watersports company based in Thailand, is focused on building a pathway for individuals and families to sail together, improve, compete, and participate in wingfoil events with limited barriers to entry. Starboard’s X-15 is the first such purpose-built package for one-design wingfoil racing.

The concept behind the X-15 Class is to have wingfoilers sail on the exact same equipment—which provides fun, safe and fair racing—while also building pathways for the development of young athletes and the nascent sport of wingfoil racing as a whole. To make it feasible for an adult weighing 180 pounds to sail on the same equipment as a youth sailor, the X-15, developed by Starboard, a manufacturer of windsurfing and wing gear, will have different equipment standards for the age divisions of U13, U15, U17, U19, and Senior. Every X-15 set includes the same FreeWing, an X-15 board, and the same Martin Fischer-designed Starboard foil. There is an option to purchase two additional Starboard foil front wings to accommodate sailors of different sizes and for varying weather conditions.

Initially, sailors will be allowed to race in different age groups, but they must use the equipment of the age class in which they are sailing. And, in order to ensure that wingfoilers can foil in very light conditions and continue racing with their same wing in windy conditions, FreeWing, the wing developer of X-15, has created an innovative reefing technology that removes the trailing edge of the wing to reduce the overall size by about 1 square meter.

The materials used in the larger FreeWing X-15 wings are built with the new material, built for strength, anti-stretch, and light weight to support the wing bladder. The FreeWing’s canopy is built with newly developed materials to make the wing durable and to prevent stretching. The smaller wings are built with Dacron in the leading edge, a move to keep costs lower for developing youth classes.

The complete X-15 ­package for a U13 sailor—with a 4.5-square-meter wing and an 82-liter board—is priced at around $4,214, and the Senior package, with a 6.5-square-­meter wing and 95-liter board, is priced at around $5,601. With an expected high demand this spring, equipment packages will be allocated to key ­development markets first.

Exhibition X-15 Class races were staged in Europe in 2023 and at the World Sailing Youth World Championships in Brazil, and the class’s focus in 2024 is to first develop regattas exclusively for youth sailors. The priority is on creating a fun and inclusive racing environment. The first international youth events are slated for June 2024, and as the class continues to grow, senior divisions will be added to certain events.

Fiona Wylde, of Hood River, Oregon—a windsurf, stand-up paddleboard and wing world champion—serves as the X-15’s first class manager and is founder of Wylde Wind & Water, a nonprofit focused on youth watersports safety and development.