Friends with Benefits

Rider: Tom Earl, Jonathan Wilson, Mike Chapman
Words: Tom Earl
Photos: Aaron Barrett
Location: English Channel
Date: Saturday June 10th, 2023

A planned gathering of three hardcore foil frothers and four equally hardcore Zapcat pilots provided some mutually beneficial fun times off the coast of the southwest UK, plus plenty of insight into each other’s respective sport…

On the 10th of June, the perfect opportunity came about to bring together a group of friends. Half were hydrofoil addicts, the other half Zapcat racing boat addicts.

Jonathan from @foilhub organized a day of fun, capturing content and combining the two sports. Mike Chapman and I picked up fellow foiler Jonathan from our neighboring county of Cornwall on our way to meet Elite Marine Service’s Lewis Huddy, Ben Lawly, Steve Putt and Matt Pearce at their base at Turnchapel, in Plymouth Docks.

Everyone gathered on the side of the docks, deciding on a “let's head out and see what the conditions are like” approach to the day. If there was very little ground swell maybe there’d be some further offshore action, with some downwinders. It seemed like that might be an option in the moderately strong easterly wind that was blowing. Ideally everyone was hoping for some lumps to be making it into Whitsands Bay, a 30 minute blast south in the boats.

With the Zapcats in the background and already in the water, the boys were scratching their heads wondering which foils to rig up. Jonathan decided on his Lift Foils 120. Mike with his Unifoil Progression140. I couldn't decide which front wing to go for, so took a few of my Unifoil wings with me.

After a bumpy ride out of the Plymouth Sound and around Rame Head peninsula, we were greeted by 1-2ft of clean little peelers tucked away out of the easterly wind. With only two tow ropes and trigger-happy boys driving the Zapcats with their grunty 2-stroke engines, there were some funny wipeouts to get going while everyone refined their tow up approach. There were some violent tow ups that left riders airborne and gear flying everywhere – worthy of “Kook of the day” entries. Thankfully there were no injuries before everyone had everything dialed in!

Halfway through the session, Aaron Barrett, the dedicated in-water photographer swam out from the beach and jumped in a Zapcat, to be dropped into position further down the beach. Aaron had never been in the water with foilers before but quickly managed to nail some great shots that captured the foil action. It was also the first time the team from Elite Marine Services had experienced towing a hydrofoil, quickly learning and getting a sense of what the sport was about.

The day was finished off with the foilers jumping into the Zapcats for a joy ride to experience the speed and unreal G-forces those boats are capable of pulling around corners. While the swell didn't reach its anticipated peak, it was a super fun day and everyone was already making plans for another session later in the year. After a bumpy upwind journey back home, a rather exhausted but satisfied team gathered in a local dockside restaurant for some beers and food. Sharing stories and discussing some of the intricacies of Zapcat racing and foiling.


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