MONITOR flying across Lake Mendota in 1955

Because we are on the eve of another America’s Cup yachting competition, it is time to look back to 2013 and review two posts about foils, one of the big reasons that AC boats have such tremendous speed.

Odd but true, foiling boats were tested on our own Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin. Three of our club members, Skeeter skipper Bill Mattison, Renegader Jack Ripp, and Renegader Paul MacMillan  remember seeing an experimental boat with foils on Lake Mendota in the 1950s. I was able to track down an article about it. In 1947, the firm engineering staff of the Baker Company in Evansville, WI had done some research on hydrofoils and tested the boat out on Lake Mendota. Read the article from Madison’s Capital Times dated November 26, 1959.



Now, for the rest of the story.
Nite skipper Don Sanford was kind enough to share with us an excerpt from his now published book, On Fourth Lake, the Social History of Lake Mendota.
Flying Boats?

PDF version

c. 2013 Donald P. Sanford
” This year’s America’s Cup was the first time most armchair sailors had seen a sailboat go faster than the wind. But for a handful Madison iceboaters including Bill Mattison and Jack Ripp it was deja-vu. They’d seen it all before–one day in August, 1955 when the Monitor flew across Lake Mendota.

In the mid-1930s, Gordon Baker raced E Scows with the Mendota Yacht Club in Madison. Gordon was a great sailor because he really knew something about wind power. That’s because the family business, Baker Manufacturing in Evansville, WI, was one of the country’s foremost manufacturers of windmills. Gordon began experimenting with hydrofoils in the 1940s and launched his first prototype hydrofoil, a sailboat, in 1950 at the University Boathouse on Lake Mendota. Based on its success, Baker Manufacturing soon introduced a hydrofoil kit for powerboats in 1953. Once installed, a 14-foot boat with a 10-horsepower motor could reach speeds of 35 miles per hour.

With some funding from the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research, Baker continued to perfect the designs on his hydrofoil next sailboat, the Monitor. On August 25, 1955, Baker and his colleague Robert Johnston climbed aboard Monitor and headed for the open water of Lake Mendota off Picnic Point. As the boat’s speed increased, Monitor’s hull lifted onto a set of three ladder-shaped hydrofoils. With her high-aspect sails, Monitor literally flew across Lake Mendota at 25 knots (28.7 mph), setting a new speed record for a sailboat of any kind. Footage of the event was shown on ABC-TV’s John Daly and the News and photos of the boat were featured in Sports Illustrated and Life magazines later that year. A year later, Monitor set another record on Mendota, reaching 30.4 knots (35 mph), or twice the speed of the wind.

One of these boats sold at an auction in May of 2012 in Wilmar, MN.

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