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From Alexander Graham Bell to SailGP: History of hydro foil boats in Nova Scotia dates back to 1920


A film made in 1920 in Cape Breton recorded the first prototype of a hydro foil boat as it roared across the surface of the Bras d'Or Lake in Baddeck, N.S.

It's said Alexander Graham Bell tested the boat, named HD-4, which was powered by two airplane engines.

According to the video, which is posted on the National Geographic Society’s YouTube page, the HD-4 hit speeds of 71 miles per hour on the surface of the water.

Today, the airplane engines aren't used; however, Bell's vision of high-speed racing on the water lives on and comes to the province where it all began.

Welcoming SailGP to Halifax Harbour  

With the world's deepest natural harbour, Halifax has welcomed virtually every type of boat on the water.

However, this weekend marks the first time the city has seen anything like the Rockwool Canada Sail Grand Prix races.

The races are making their Canadian debut, marking a historic moment for Halifax.

The international circuit involves 10 countries including Canada, with six team members on each boat, sailing identical F50 hydrofoil catamaran sailboats.

Pictured is the Canada SailGP Team's F50 hydrofoil catamaran that they'll be racing this weekend. (CTV Atlantic/ Jonathan MacInnis)

Race route

Each race will start just north of Georges Island on the Halifax side of the harbour, before crossing the harbour and turning towards the Macdonald Bridge. The racers will then turn back towards their starting spot, creating a loop.

Pictured is the route SailGP racers will take during the races in Halifax this weekend. (Source: SailGP website)

One of the most intense portions of each race is at the beginning, which is when the boats tend to hit their highest speeds – up to 100 km/h.

“These boats are fast, because they are foiling,” said Phil Robertson, Canada SailGP captain. “Hydro foils under the water lift the boats out of the water, and it just decreases all the drag."

In tight formation and close contact, SailGP is a furious race that looks like Formula One, but on the water.

The boats are powered by wind and team members working together to maximize the speed of the catamarans that ride above the waves, with foils cutting through the seas.

Today’s F50 hydrofoil catamarans  

Here's a detailed video by Canada SailGP Team about what today's F50 catamarans look like and how they work.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Todd Battis

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page. Top Stories

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