March / April 2024

The Spirit Foiler

Taking flight in a wooden electric boat
The Spirit 35(F)

CARLO BORLENGHI/SPIRIT YACHTS

The Spirit 35(F), an electric foiler recently launched by the English boatbuilders Spirit Yachts, is taken through its paces on Lake Maggiore in Italy. Thanks to state-of-the-art foiling technology developed for the AMERICA’s Cup, the boat is capable of up to 32 knots and has a range of 100 miles at 20 knots. Her owner wanted her as a tender to his two Spirit sailing yachts, one 52′ and the other 111′ long.

Cowes, England, might like to think of itself as the birthplace of yachting, but nowadays most of the boats filling its marinas are of the modern, plastic variety. For one week every year, however, the marina Cowes Yacht Haven (CYH) is transformed into a mecca of wooden boats. The occasion is Cowes Classics Week in July, during which the CYH docks are lined with venerable old craft as well as a fair few new-builds. The 2023 highlights included the 58' Laurent Giles yawl LUTINE OF HELFORD and the William Fife 12-Meter MIQUETTE, both looking spectacular after their recent rebuilds. There was the usual fleet of Spirit Yachts modern classics, along with a 26' Stella (a Folkboat derivative), a 1967 One-Ton Cup racer, and a handful of vintage motoryachts. 

But the yacht that really stood out at this year’s event wasn’t old, wasn’t a sailboat, and wasn’t even racing. It was a 35' speedboat with a long, pointy bow and sloping reverse stern reminiscent of an English slipper launch. The whole boat was varnished above the load waterline, with an inlaid stripe of pale wood between its curvaceous foredeck and its equally curvaceous hull. The cockpit was luxuriously fitted out with cream-colored upholstery, varnished trim, and retro-looking analog instruments. Moored alongside the float, it looked like the essence of 1920s style, and it was a pleasure just to look at those carefree curves and the fine craftsmanship that made them possible.

But it was when the boat left the dock that her secret was revealed. For a start, there was no deafening roar or clouds of smoke as the crew fired up its engine; just the quiet whir of an electric motor as the boat was maneuvered out of the marina. Once out on the Medina River, the boat gathered speed, rose 3' in the air, and sped off across The Solent with minimum noise or wash. For this was no pastiche of a boat from another era. This was the latest innovation from two of the most dynamic companies in the British boating industry: Spirit Yachts, creators of lightweight “modern classics,” and BAR Technologies, foiling specialists with roots in Britain’s most recent AMERICA’s Cup campaign.

For the past two years, the companies have been tasked with creating a craft with state-of-the-art performance and classic styling. The result is the SpiritBARTech35EF (or the Spirit 35(F) for short), a high-performance foiler capable of 32 knots under electric power; it will cruise at 20 knots for 100 miles on a single charge. It’s a boat that is quite literally head and shoulders above its rivals.

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