Cecile Gauert is on a high as she takes flight from a storm in Candela’s new electric foiling C-8...
I am driving towards Miami, keeping an eye on the sky. A vertical lightning strike does not bode well for a sea trial on Candela’s new electric foiling C-8 or, as Candela prefers to call these, “test flights”. Whether sea trial or test flight (and it turns out to be a bit of both), mercifully the storm is lingering over the larger landmass and I still have a window to get my hands on the wheel of the C-8.
I get to the dock before the Candela team and have a moment to look at the boat on my own. First impressions: the 8.5-metre C-8 looks more like a luxury dayboat than the 7.7-metre C-7 did. It is attractive with its minimalist lines, painted white with a teak alternative in grey used on the foredeck and the floors. A nice-size sunpad, a feature that was missing from the C-7, is upholstered in grey. The sides are higher, more enveloping, for a more secure feel.
The design relocated the actuators for the foils to an enclosed box in front – instead of being right by the seats, where they are a bit of a distraction. “We wanted to create a bit more space,” says Kristian Lauszus, head of control systems. An electrical engineer, he was among the first to join Candela, which now employs 230 people.
This C-8 (No 3) came from San Francisco where Candela first tested US waters. It has a good-sized cabin with a comfortable mattress that conceals the entrance to a dayhead (optional). The Swedish builder has included heating. We won’t need that here today – it’s a balmy 33°C with 80 per cent humidity, but we may need the hand-held shower at the back (another option) and Candela is working on an air-con unit for the cabin. Other options include a stereo system and an extra swim platform, which snaps on to the boat’s aft section.
The dash is an exercise in minimalism. One easy-to-read custom-made touch display (which is fixed, so you simply slip on a cover when you are done), a central wheel, the throttle and that’s it. All data can be accessed on an app and the system learns your habits as you use the boat. Candela can access the software in case of trouble. “In more than 99 per cent of the cases, we can figure out what is wrong remotely,” Lauszus says.
The carbon boat is meant to be lightweight and there is no galley, hob, big refrigerator or built-in grill. The smaller C-7 was 1.3 tonnes, and this is 1.8 tonnes. “The seats are approximately six pounds (2.7 kilograms) each. This [weight-saving] philosophy was applied throughout,” says Mikael Mahlberg, Candela’s head of communications.
There is no visible engine (unlike the C-7, which has a small outboard motor). It’s been relocated to a compact Candela-designed, torpedo-shaped pod called C-Pod below the water, which reduces noise and puts out 85kW for take-off.
The batteries, hidden in an accessible compartment below the feet, come with an eight-year warranty and will likely last much longer. Their positioning is strategic. “We have centred the weight,” says Mahlberg, adding that it makes capsizing impossible.
After a quick tour, we are off. With a slight buzz and a gentle sound of water lapping at the hull, the boat makes its way out of the marina. The storm clouds are getting closer, and the water is taking on a slate grey colour, so we hurry. At around 16 knots, the boat rises on its foils gently and almost imperceptibly. The wakes of passing boats barely register as we cut through them. The best part of it may be that the onboard computer manages everything from power use to the height and action of the foils. And in terms of sound, it is remarkably quiet.
Candela tells me that they attract a lot of people new to boating. It is not surprising. Compared to a traditional boat, this feels as intuitive as a smartphone. You may not get all the options on the first try, but it’s super-easy to start it, reverse, manoeuvre and get on the foils. If you feel like you want to get back on the water, you simply push the lever and the hull plops back down with minimal splashing. You can operate the C-8 as a regular boat with a planing hull – although you would run down your batteries much more quickly. “It’s really an advanced stepped hull,” Mahlberg says of the boat’s hull design.
On this C-8, the range is around 40 nautical miles at 22 knots, when the boat is the most efficient – enough to go to a sandbar and have a dockside cocktail before dinner. And you can recharge just about anywhere. With a supercharger – like the one offered by Aqua, which is rapidly expanding its network – it will take a mere 30 minutes to go from 10 to 80 per cent charge. The newest C-8s come with the 69kW Polestar (car) batteries, which yield a range of up to 57 nautical miles. And they’ll recharge in any marina in five to six hours, says Mahlberg.
I’m having fun skimming the Intracoastal but, at the first sign of lightning, we turn around and head back to shore at 22 knots, intent on outrunning the storm. We pull in just as fat, warm drops start falling fast. Thunder rolls in and I feel the hair rise on the back of my neck as a bright light appears to touch the bridge.
All and all, this quick ride on the new C-8 has been an electrifying experience.Read More/Phantom 65: Fairline's contemporary spin on the Phantom name