James Grogono

James GrogonoJames Grogono invented the first Hydrofoil conversion of a standard sailing catamaran. For 10 years he held a “secret” idea that foils would add speed to fast small sailing boats. There was no easy way of testing this until publication of the Tornado design in 1967. A perfect “platform ” for foils had been created fortuitously by the designer.

James Grogono Icarus hydrofoil sailing boat

In 1969 he acquired a Tornado, designed and structured wooden foils, screwed them on, and set sail.
“Icarus” – the obvious name – flew SLOWLY above the water, and suffered various failures and breakages. There was no incentive to progress into high tech metal foils without accurate speed measurement, so he applied himself, with others, to creating the sport of “Speed Sailing”.

In 1972 the first Speed Week was held at Weymouth, UK. “Icarus”, with her new metal foils, was the fastest hydrofoil, reaching 21.5 knots over the 500m course, but the giant asymmetric proa
“Crossbow” was nearly 5 knots faster. By chance “Icarus” won equal Prize Money (5000e by today’s prices). Over the next 15 years “Icarus” held the “B” Class Record at speeds which increased slowly up to 28.4 knots. Grogono played a large role in “Mayfly” and “IcarusTwo”, which were one-man and three-man versions of the same concept. He also designed and built a 7 Kg, Speedboard which made the top speed by a Brit in 1982 Speedweek. As a side line he designed and built a foil converted sculling boat. “New Scientist” reported it as the first successful “man-powered hydrofoil”, but it did not win at Henley Regatta.

The defining feature of Grogono’s contribution is simplicity. The main load is carried by two steeply inclined fixed foils, deployed just in front of the centre of gravity. On these the craft rides ever higher as speed increases. Only the minimum foil area remains immersed. Steering and stability are provided by a single small inverted “T” rudder foil, carried as far aft as possible. The stability is similar to that of an aeroplane.

“Icarus” stopped Speed Sailing in the 1980s, when Sailboards were going much faster, and it became embarrassing to compete in a huge cumbersome device which was SLOWER.
( For more detail see “Icarus The Boat that Flies – James Grogono. pub Adlard Coles. 1987. ISBN 0-229-11803-0.)

4 thoughts on “James Grogono

  1. Martin Grimm

    I heard about “The Foiling Week” some time ago and wish I was in a position to come along. More recently, I noticed James Grogono would be attending and I see a more recent photo of James is included on your page. The book “Hydrofoil Sailing” by James along with Alan Alexander and Donald Nigg was inspirational when I read it around 25 years ago. I noticed James was at the time a Council member of the International Hydrofoil Society. Of course the IHS HQ was in later years re-located to the USA and James must have dropped out of IHS some time back as he hasn’t been a member since I joined in the mid 90’s. However IHS is still going strong and it would be great to have some of the earliest IHS members, and indeed a former Council member back ‘in the fold’. Would also be good to have a greater representation within IHS of the sailing hydrofoil community. These days, it is that area of hydrofoil development that is attracting the greatest attention. I hope this message can be passed on to James Grogono with my greeting. I hope to hear from him. I would also be keen to use extracts of this update on the activities of James in a short article for the IHS Newsletter.
    Best regards,
    Martin Grimm
    IHS Board Member, interim IHS Newsletter editor
    Canberra, Australia

  2. the foiling week

    We are very happy to tell you that James and Martin are now in touch.

    We take this opportunity to post here the Martin’s message and confirm that James has replied to him, just to highlight that the native desire to “connect and share” with which the foiling week was founded, works. Really

    the TFW staff

  3. Jane hughes

    I worked for you many years ago at the London Hospital as secretary to Mr Parks – I came from buckhurst hill and learned of the famous grogono family – many many years later – you will always stick in my mind!

  4. Jane hughes



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