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‘It’s so cool’: Self-taught Oak Bay hydrofoil sailor captures national title

RVYC’s Grace Poole learns from videos and replays
Royal Victoria Yacht Club sailor Grace Poole takes on the hydrofoil challenge of racing a waszp. (Photo by Geoff Webster)

An Oak Bay-based sailor is at the top of a new sport just a year after first stepping into her latest vessel.

Grace Poole came aboard her first hydrofoiling sailboat last summer at a demonstration and spent all winter learning how to sail it.

“I tried that and liked it so I just kept going with it,” Poole said. “It’s so cool, you get it flying and it’s just so much faster than these other boats I’ve been sailing.”

Waszps are high-speed hydrofoiling sailboats that recently exploded in popularity after being endorsed by Sail GP as a stepping stone into professional sailing, Poole explained. The waszp can get up to 40 km/h.

“It’s pretty crazy when we have a whole fleet of boats doing that, and coming in to the finish line together it’s really fun,” Poole said.

RELATED: Oak Bay sailors harness fragile August wind, soar to national title

Already a national champion in other vessels, the young Royal Victoria Yacht Club sailor finished third in the youth and women’s categories at the recent Pan American championships and top woman in Canadians. The podium finishes leave her ranked third in the world for women.

The two regattas, both held in Kingston, Ont., were her first in the waszp. It was also her first encounter with coaching in the sport.

“I completely figured this out myself,” she said. “My experience in the 29er and 49er were helpful, but there’s definitely a lot to learn.”

She spent the last year gathering videos, recording videos and comparing videos as she honed her craft.

The biggest difference is speed and there’s no time to overthink – but that’s also the appeal.

“You have to know what to do. Everything happens so much quicker which makes it really fun.”

How you set the sail impacts hover speed and it’s a fine balance to control lift is on the main foil and on the rudder. The combination matters. Too much lift will draw the boat right out of the water and send it crashing back down.

“It’s really tight between boats, everyone gets off the start line together,” she said. “It’s all about who can stay foiling the whole time … and really push the limits of how fast you can go.”

Next up is North American’s in Swampscott, Mass. Aug. 3 to 6.

“I look forward to continuing learning there and working on my starts and getting faster around other boats,”

Poole also hopes to see foiling grow,

Now with some support from WeCanFoil, some experience and a couple regattas under her belt, Poole would love to help the sport grow.

“For anyone wanting to get into it I have the knowledge now and I”m happy to hare that with other people,”

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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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