There’s an invasion quietly pouring out of Rhode Island. Since the spring of 2017, Fulcrum Speedworks has been busy making three foiling UFOs per week and shipping them to customers all over the world. 211 of them have come out of their facility to date. Where did this come from? What have we all been missing?
“The UFO is about you” explains Dave Clark, Fulcrum’s 27 year old founder and president. “That’s what does it. It’s about your joy, your skills, your costs, your free time, your satisfaction. We stayed away from conventional categories and focused only on helping you sail, fly and learn.”
They have definitely succeeded in making it different. The UFO weighs 110lbs all up and can be easily car-topped. It flies in the air in 8 knots of windspeed and above, and the whole thing comes ready to fly for $7600. It’s appropriate for it to be named after a flying saucer, because it’s definitely not from any world we know about.
So where are they going and who’s buying them? “To everyone, everywhere. Twelve year old kids who want fun. 65 year olds who want to ‘fly before I die.’ Families who want a stable catamaran for the kids as well as a flying machine for mom or dad. To date we’ve delivered boats to 16 countries and every continent except Antarctica.” Fulcrum has also started getting orders from sailing programs. “We don’t see ourselves as fitting a niche so much as providing something new that’s useful, economical and fun for a broad set of users.”
Wide breadth of appeal and high-performance usually don’t go together, but the UFO works differently than other foilers. Off the beach it’s a stable catamaran, which then rises to a preset “ride height” maintained by automatic control systems. By changing the ride height, you can pick your difficulty setting and set the boat to your skill level. Essentially, you get what you ask for, ”Anywhere from beginner to nutjob and all the points in between.”
There must be some catch, because none of this adds up. Foiling catamarans are expensive and hard to maintain. How can an American startup build them for the price of a Laser? Dave’s father Steve was the Chairman of Vanguard Sailboats, builder of the Laser, Sunfish, 420 and countless other one designs for decades, so there must be some rationale. “Most of the legacy products we still sail today were designed for an era where composite materials were expensive and labor was far cheaper,” Dave tells us. “The exact reverse applies now. So building a boat for today simply gets us better results.”
When asked what’s next, Dave answers, “more UFOs”. Truth is stranger than fiction, and it turns out that there are UFOs everywhere. No wonder we love sailing. It never stops being an adventure.
To read more about the genesis of the UFO, click here.