Robert Gilruth: The First Foiling Catamaran-1938



How SEA WINGS hydrofoils developed from bathtub hobby to commercial reality. “This story begins in 1938, in Bob Gilruth’s bathroom… he started with 6-inch models…from the model tests, a full scale, 12-foot sailing catamaran with hydrofoils, CATAFOIL I was built and operated in the Chesapeake for several years.” The author started a collaboration with Bob Gilruth in 1943 that led to to world’s fastest open sea waterborne vehicle — the XCH-4. But the US Navy turned down the idea of an 80 knot patrol boat, so the author turned to commercial products. In October 1955 he tested SYNOTROPUSS, an 8-foot rowboat with fiberglass foils and 7 hp outboard that made speeds over 30 mph. The next test craft was a 16-ft Goodyear family runabout fitted with foils that could do 34-mph. In August 1956, the author associated himself with Grumman Aircraft engineering Corp. After months of testing a foil-equipped 15-ft aluminum runabout in Florida, the Grumman boat was placed on the market at the New York Boat Show, January 1957. Unfortunately, “there were so many man-hours of labor involved in production it put the cost out of reach of the mass market.” At the time this article was written, a new type of mount had been developed to allow the Sea Wing foils to be attached to many makes of 14- to 16-ft runabouts.

From: Carl, William P., “The Fantastic Hydrofoil Runabout – Its Development and Future”, The Rudder, Aug 1958

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