Oh hum. “46 knots today. 50 tomorrow” is the matter-of-fact description that kiteboard/kiteboat visionary Don Montague posted with this video clip of what he and his team of scientific speed freaks have been up to lately. And even though I spent 3 days ripping past Alcatraz with Don and company aboard the kite-powered “Kiteboat” last year, and I’ve been watching their progress since then, seeing this clip of their ultra-efficient hydrofoil rigged with what appear to be electric-powered “propellers” slicing up a glassed-off area near their lab/workshop/skunkworks in Alameda is making my head spin a bit.
So, as you can see, it’s super easy to go 46 knots. Just throw all preconceived notions out the window, get some very smart people together, develop a one-of-a-kind hydrofoiling trimaran, take all you’ve learned from sailing/foiling with kites, attach some light weight “propellers” (that kinda look like oversized “fans”) to the rear crossbeam, and voila…the “Airfoiler” that’s capable of 46 knots today….50 tomorrow…is born.
I’m not surprised Don Montague and his team are pushing the design, engineering, and development envelope like this. But I was honestly surpriesed to see the apparent “simplicity” of their approach to on-the-water speed. It’s almost like they are saying…”Hey, we’re pretty much flying now, let’s see what we can do with real propellers.”
Remember, Montague is the world-champion windsurfer who went on to literally help invent kiteboarding with Robby Naish and others who I first met on a seductively fast catamaran in St. Martin last year. And oh yeah, he also helped found a “little” alternative energy company—Makani Power—that was acquired in 2013 by Google and is now part of the Google[x] team that’s working to make widespread clean energy a commercial reality.
In fact, what Don and his team are simply expanding on what they’ve already learned about attaching an extremely efficient kite and intricate control system (that of course Montague and his team have invented from scratch) to an extremely light and strong hydrofoiling hull (ditto) that’s capable of mind-boggling speeds and precise control.
“Have you heard about the Kiteboat Project?” he asked.
“We use a kite instead of sails for power and the boat we’re testing these days on San Francisco Bay sails pretty comfortably at well over 30 knots. We’re constantly testing and refining and improving. You should come check us out.”