The Windrider Rave - SailNet Community
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The Windrider Rave

For a marine version of get-up-and-go, it's hard to beat the Windrider Rave.
Imagine scooting across the water at speeds in the high teens and low 20s, carving a jibe, and reaching back across the scene without wiping out or slowing down. No, you're not on a sailboard or a Jet Ski; you're actually aboard a novel, foil-borne trimaran equally capable of propelling you across the water and of reinvigorating your outlook on the sport.

Naturally, you'd expect extraordinary things from a company that claims it was founded "on the idea that the wind belongs to everybody."

Windrider Trimarans, based in Archdale, NC, has been building this revolutionary roto-molded, foot-steered, hydrofoiling trimaran since 1998. To date, they've placed seminal fleets in a few locations around the country and in Canada and held their first class championship last year with 13 boats in attendance.

A practiced hand can rig the Rave on his or her own in just 30 minutes.
As complicated as its many parts may look upon first glance, the Windrider Rave is remarkably simple to assemble and sail. In displacement mode it sails like a normal multihull—tacking more quickly than most beach cats. It's full-battened main may need some assistance in light-air to get the battens to pop to leeward after a tack, but once the boat is foil-borne, it becomes an entirely different program. Under ideal conditions (flat water and winds in the 20-plus range), the boat can achieve speeds up to 25 knots.

Let it be understood from the outset that this author's initial experience aboard the Rave was less than scintillating. Marred by sketchy, uncooperative winds in Miami's inner harbor on test day, we never got the craft foil-borne. Nevertheless, the few times the boat did get close to breaking free and jumping onto its foils in the puffs, we could definitely feel it wanting to take off. The potential was palpable.

The control arms are connected to the trim tabs on the foils by a simple mechanism.
According to Windrider's Mike McGarry, who worked alongside hydrofoil expert Dr. Sam Bradfield to develop the vessel, once foil-borne, the Rave is superbly easy to sail. When the boat gets up on its three foils (two beneath the amas and one on the rudder), the articulating wands take over. These curved aluminum control arms or wands, set outboard of each ama, are connected via a simple mechanism to trim tabs on the aft end of each foil (see detail photo). As the wands self-adjust in the waves, they cause the trim tabs to angle the foils up or down. If the boat plows into a wave, the wand bends back causing the trim tab to drive the foil up, gaining lift, and freeing the boat from the wave. A small lever mounted alongside the aft cockpit allows the driver to adjust the trim tab on the rudder's foil. This control can bring the boat off its foils in a hurry.

The foils themselves are aluminum flanges welded to aluminum struts that deploy by way of a control line, which is led to the cockpit. In displacement mode, the struts retract through the amas, like daggerboards, leaving only two feet extending below the surface. (There are actually three settings: fully deployed draws four feet, halfway up draws two feet for displacement sailing, and all the way up draws about a foot for approaching the beach.) Just before the Rave is moving at sufficient speed to get foil-borne, you deploy both the weather-side foil and the leeward one, and you're off. The rudder, also retractable, is usually kept fully deployed after leaving the beach. With all the controls being led in a clean fashion to the aft cockpit, the driver can easily adjust the mainsail, the headsail, and the foils. Like the brochure says: "simple."

In just 12 knots of breeze, two people can get foil-borne aboard the Rave.
But can you really sail these boats in chop? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. McGarry claims that the Rave is very manageable in seas up to three feet. Beyond that, he says, you really need to have some experience driving the boat. (He's had it out on demo days in six-foot seas, but he wouldn't allow uninitiated sailors to drive in those conditions.) And consider that one of these 16-footers ably survived a coastal passage from New York to Florida and then across the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula. Though we don't recommend the boat for this kind of lengthy, open-ocean passage-making, that's pretty impressive testimony for a roto-molded plastic craft.

Still, the Rave's true strength lies in letting sailors get their high-speed ya yas in semi-protected waters.McGarry says that it takes a solid 10 knots of breeze to get one person (175 pounds) foil-borne. For two people you'd need at least 12 knots. On lighter-air days, there's the option of a roller-furling reacher (for an additional $1,500—including sail, bowsprit, winch, blocks, and control lines), which he says will get one person foil-borne with eight knots of breeze on a reach.

Are there drawbacks to the Rave? Well, apart from a relatively steep entry fee for a 16-footer ($10,200 with trailer), not really. You'll have to spend some extra time getting accustomed to unfamiliar features like steering with your feet and understanding the nuances of the foil controls, but this author is living proof that you needn't be a card-carrying member of Mensa to figure those things out. Plus, says McGarry, having more controls to absorb and understand adds an interesting dimension to the learning curve, and he's right. Of course with a 17-foot beam, the boat is awkward at a dock, but if you've got a beach or a ramp with which to work, access and egress isn't much of a problem.

One-design racing is becoming popular among Windrider Rave fleets around North America.
McGarry, who owns and actively races a Rave, says that he can set one up from full trailer mode to sail-ready in 30 minutes by himself. But novice Rave owners should count on taking about twice as long their first few times.

Another aspect of the Rave that its promoters like to mention is the fact that it's not a physically demanding boat. Given that there are several owners in their 60s and 70s who sail the boats actively, this is a nice feature for a sport that's always seeking to open new market niches.

The Windrider Rave

16 feet
16 feet

17 feet(foil tip to foil tip); 7.5 feet on the trailer

400 pounds
195 square feet (main and jib without reacher)
4 feet when fully deployed; 1 foot when retracted
Crew Capacity
400 pounds
$10,200 (base boat with trailer)
Windrider Trimarans—(800)311-7245

Dan Dickison is offline  
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