If the wind is right, Flying Nikka can rise on its foils and sail above water.

It was only a matter of time before someone on the Maxi circuit showed up with a full-foiling 60-foot yacht that can ''fly'' above the surface of the water. Enter Roberto Lacorte and his Flying Nikka.

WHAT -he first imagined and built- is best described as a boat that is conservatively radical.

While America cup boats have been sailing on foils for years, none come close to the versatility of the Flying Nikka, which is 60 feet long, and would look almost conventional without its foils.

'' There are America's Cup boats hitting 50 knots, and the IMOCA 60 class racing around the world,'' Lacorte said of the durable monohull boats built for the longest-distance ocean races. '' I suggested to my designer, Mark Mills, do something in the middle.''

IMOCA 60s, which risk encountering Antarctic storms, carry assisting lift foils for a degree lift, but they do not fully ''fly.'' They are more like long-distance rally cars that Formula-1-style America's cup screamers.

They have to take a pounding. Lacorte, who has raced cars in the World's Endurance Championship, including at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, knows the difference.

'' We don't have to go 50 knots,'' said Lacorte, an officer of the International Maxi Association who was successful with his previous, conventional Maxi , the Super Nikka.

'' With less than 8.5 knots of wind, Flying Nikka drops into the water, and we are like any other boat. But if it blows 12 knots, we can fly at 25. If we go that fast just 30-percent of the time, we get to the finish line first.''

So far, that is theory. A hydrofoil provides lift only when there is water flowing over it. There has to be sufficient velocity, much the way a wing must reach takeoff speed to lift an aircraft.

'' To date, winds in races in the Med have been too light for the boat,'' Andrew McIrvine, secretary general of the International Maxi Association, said, referring to the Mediterranean.

'' After Lacorte showed they had control, regattas that had initially refused entry accepted him, but with a ridiculous handicap [ for a position based on adjusted time].

Lacorte doesn't care. He just wants to be the first boat to finish. But for that, he needs straight-line sailing in long distances.

TO GET TO THIS point, Lacorte said, the first challenge was constantly adjusting the angels of the foils to maintain flight.

'' EARLY ON, our autopilot SOFTWARE learned from us while we sailed the boat manually,'' Lacorte said.  '' Now it often does a better job than we can.''

The World Students Society thanks author Kimball Livingston.


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