They look right. They sail like a dream. The competition is fierce. And it’s all France. Yes the iQFOiLs are stealing the show down in Hyeres. Who wouldn’t want to race one? For every poor kid sat in a water-shifting bathtub being shouted at by coaches with whistles who happens to be reading this, I tell you, there’s hope out there and it’s 220cm long, 95cm wide, 16cm deep and has carbon foils.
The future of our sport, literally everything in our sport of the next 20 or 30 years, is on display. The racing is innovative, interesting, visual, wet, close, and there’s more smiles per square inch than anything we’ve seen since Beecher Moore put a trapeze on a Thames A Rater at Upper Thames Sailing Club in 1938.
The iQFOiLs are quite literally everything in this Olympic cycle. They are the greatest single addition to the IOC’s sailing roster since we first saw the Lasers come in (that feels like a lifetime ago) but it’s next-level stuff.
The windsurfers in Tokyo looked dated and sad if truth be told – that’s not to diminish the sailors as they were first class – but the sport had moved to a final phase of its development with the style of sailing being one-way and one-way only. Now we have a complete change. New styles are being developed. New ways of acceleration, flight, upwind and downwind tactics, lower-body kinetics, feet positioning, rig tune and foil tweaks are being found and that’s breathing massive life into this ultimate beach sport.
And the athletes too are fitter, faster and I have to say ‘cooler’ than ever before – that’s such a middle-aged thing to say – but it’s true. If you’re a teenager or in your early 20’s why on earth would you want to sail anything else? The circuit is brilliant. It’s like the 1960’s surf culture in California. Everyone is keen, up for it, fit, healthy and living the Olympic circuit dream. Get a camper van, strap your board to the back and the world’s your oyster. What a fabulous thing to pursue – university and a desk-job can wait.
And down in Hyeres it’s a very interesting story unfolding. Look across both the women’s and men’s divisions, it’s almost a French lock-out with four riders in each discipline dominating the Top Ten’s and sharing world championships with Nicolas Goyard in the men’s and Helene Noesmoen in the women’s. Vive la France. There’s something in the water, or perhaps in the culture, that has lit the fire of French iQFOiLing and you can’t look beyond them for the medals in Marseille 2024.
The other disciplines must be looking on at the foil boarders with envy. They spread out on the beach, they move as a pack and when they come together with the other aspiring Olympians it’s like they are operating in another dimension.
“Oh hi, I just won in the 470’s,” to the response: “Qu est-ce que c’est?” and really there’s no answer to that. The iQFOiLs are grand-fathering the classic Olympic classes in one cycle. It’s the Royal Flush of flops. It’s the nine dart finish. The 147 maximum in snooker. The Grand Slam in rugby. They are killing the established notion of what Olympic watersports are all about with relevance, charm, elan, and accessibility mixed in with diversity and sustainability. I tell you, it’s largely over for the water-shifters post Marseille and Los Angeles. By Brisbane, if you’re not airborne, you’re dead in the water…and that’s a truism.
I don’t ‘like’ the iQFOiLs…I love them. Every time I see them whether visually at these apex events or locally from my sailing club I feel a warm glow that the sport of sailing and its future is safe. I’d love to have a go but I fear endless hours of looking like a chump on a sailing holiday in Greece trying to master the non-foiling version before graduation to the air. That’s my ego. Leave me to dwell on that. But if you’re 15, don’t bother with anything else. Leave the Laser to your Dad. Pass on that double-hander with your brother or sister. Just go foiling and embrace the beach culture. It’s truly fabulous.
iQFOiLs are today’s future, right here, right now and they are setting the Olympic world on fire. Welcome to the fray.