Gliding and foiling – Sailing

Flying on the power of nature, it is now possible with both an airplane and a sailboat. The advanced techniques from the flying world find their way back to the sailing world.

Previously, we made a comparison between a Boeing and a Bavaria. For example, navigation, communication and trip planning show a lot of similarity. More and more boats fly over the water with foils. How is it similar to gliding? We make the comparison between a Moth and a glider.


The Moth is a small, light, single foiling boat. To be able to foil, you don’t need much wind, the wind is better too hard than too soft. Also, gusts of wind make it very difficult. So pay close attention to the weather forecast. To be able to start, you have to rig the boat (and foils) well and swim out of the harbour, you have no motor and the foil sticks deep.

During foiling, it quickly becomes clear that it is not child’s play. The first challenge is to get the boat out of the water. To do this, you need to build speed. The main sheet is your speeder, but your weight also plays a significant role in this light boat. As soon as you get out of the water, the resistance has dropped so much that everything suddenly goes much faster. One small mistake and you can start over.

The Moth (c) CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, flickr


Shall we or shall we not? Gliding, in German Segelfliegen, as foiling takes advantage of certain weather conditions. For example, the wind should not be too strong and you need rising air.

Gliding is also difficult to take off and land. To get in the air we get a tow from a motor plane. Once you are in the air, the connection is broken, and then you are left to nature. No roar from an engine and dependent on the wind. Albert, the local flight instructor, says that ‘flying calms him down, it’s a kind of therapy’.

A tow of a motor plane

However, it is not the same wind you are looking for as when you are sailing. Instead of horizontal airflow, look for vertical airflow. You can find this vertical flow by looking for thermals or mountains. For example, some clouds offer a more favorable airflow than others. So take a good look around you during the flight. As you ascend with the air, you climb higher and higher into the sky. Without rising air, you’ll be down again in half an hour. You can see more about how a glider can fly in this video.

Subtle control

As with foiling, subtle control movements are needed and it is important to keep up with what is happening around you, you only have limited influence. For speed and altitude you look for local wind conditions. You get feedback on your actions from the onboard equipment, but also by feeling good. In addition, there is a kind of control light (gear cable) on the windscreen, which nicely shows the air flow. In principle, it should blow back nicely, just like the indicators in your sail.


Instead of looking for the open space, you fly close to the mountains with a glider: you really have to look for the wind. If everyone is in the same room, it can get crowded. As with sailing, commercial aviation has the right of way, a powered aircraft has less right of way than a glider and there are also important priority rules.

When everyone has landed again, the planes are nicely scrubbed and driven back to the shed. The clubhouse has a recognizable atmosphere. Everyone chats happily over a beer. In addition, the students who have ended up on the wrong wing must process.

Gliding and foiling are similar, it is a game with nature where you can reach high speeds with a lightweight craft without an engine.

Cover photo: (c) CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Last modified: November 4, 2022

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