Following all the fuss about foiling, Kerikeri boatbuilder Craig Partridge decided it was time to teach an old Animal some new tricks. Story by Sarah Ell. Pictures by Spec Media.


With images of the massive AC75 monohulls being beamed around the world this summer, foiling is the hot topic. Why should the big boys have all the fun? One of the latest boats to add ‘flying’ to its sailing repertoire is Animal Biscuits, a 7.5m Shaw sportsboat – already a proven performer with its hull in the water.
Partridge has always been one for pushing the envelope – his 8.5m Greg Elliott design Gorilla Biscuits turned heads with its racks and wings in the 1980s; he sailed his Ross 9m Black Out and then the Ross 45 M1 in the two-handed Round the North Island; and Animal Biscuits has been one of the fastest boats of its generation. But with this bright pink sportsboat getting into its second decade, he decided it was time to expand those horizons still further.

Fifteen years after her launch, Animal Biscuits came back out of Partridge’s Waipapa shed in late 2020 sporting a brand-new set of foils and a foiling rudder. Now, Partridge says, he just needs to learn to sail the damn thing all over again.
The original brief for Animal Biscuits was for a fast, fun sportsboat – something he could sail with fewer crew at less cost, after campaigning a larger keelboat. But after more than a decade of great rides and decent competition, Partridge began itching to take things up a notch.
Sailing can be a bit of an arms race, and when Volvo sailor Phil Jameson turned up to the annual drag-race at Bay of Islands Sailing Week with a foiling rudder on his Bieker 650 Ghost Rider, followed by Stu Wilson adding one to his Shaw 7m Angry Dragon – the game was on.
“I thought, I quite like that, but I think we can go one better,” Partridge laughs. “I’m sixty years old and no one’s going to take me on their foiling boat, so I thought I’d just build one myself.”
While just about any boat could be made to foil, you’re a step ahead if it’s light and fast to start with. Animal Biscuits was built light, in Nomex and carbon, which made her the ideal candidate.
Partridge first talked to Animal’s original designer Rob Shaw and Partridge’s good mate, Olympic sailing coach and fellow speed demon Grant Beck, back in 2018. They decided to approach Swiss America’s Cup designer Luc de Bois, who worked with Spanish foiling guru Gonzalo Redondo to design the foil shape.

“I told them I wanted the boat to foil early – to get up and go,” he says. “I also wanted to retain some decent performance upwind.” The rejig also needed to comply with the sportsboat rules and maintain the boat’s self-righting ability.
With the foil shapes designed, Partridge and Shaw then worked out how and where to fit them to Animal, and designed the control systems that raise and lower the foils and vary the angle of attack. Partridge built the carbon foils at his factory, and the whole thing came together in late 2020. Then the hard work began.
“It’s like sailing a totally new boat. It’s gone from being a really lovely boat and really easy to sail, to being this monster,” Partridge says. “It’ll take time, but we’ll master it. Our learning curve is massive. It’s not just a jump-on-and-go thing – it’s quite technical – nothing like sailing the boat conventionally.”
The boat proved surprisingly easy to get up on the foils, however. “On the first day we went out, we were going to tow it [to get up to speed], but the guys put the sails up and it just jumped up onto both foils as soon as it started doing about eight or nine knots.
“Since then we’ve been slowly progressing to get it sailing on just one foil, and we’re starting to get a handle on that. We’re typical Kiwis – we expect it to go straight out of the box but there’s a bit more to it than that.”
In her original, traditional configuration, Animal was sailed with four crew on the racks, and had an upwind sail area of 39m2, plus a 95m2 gennaker. The boat now needs to be sailed by just three crew, as its righting moment has massively increased, and the crew are sitting further inboard rather than hiking or trapezing.
The sail wardrobe has had to change, too. Local sailmaker Craig Gurnell of Willis Sails, who crews on the boat, has designed and made a new reefable carbon-membrane main and number-one jib, and a tight-luff reaching gennaker, which at 35m2 is about a third the size of the kite on the original Animal.
“The main is a little bit flatter than normal,” Gurnell says. “It’s quite a hard balance, because you need maximum power to get foiling and then you need to be able to flatten and depower everything once the load comes on.
“The gennaker is like a hybrid code zero, with a tight luff but still built of spinnaker nylon so we can use the snuffer rather than having to furl it.”

The gennaker is suited for winds up to around 13 knots; above that, Gurnell says, the boat is fast and exciting enough downwind with just two sails up.
While the regular crew of Gurnell, local Kiwi Yachting rep Blair ‘Gappy’ Gerard and Opua-based marine engineer Matt Randall are still coming to grips with their new toy (including those tricky foiling gybes), they’ve managed to get a top speed of almost 30 knots – not bad for a 7.5m boat.
“I wanted to be able to foil early, rather than go for top-end speed, but I do want to see how fast it can go – I want to crack 35,” says Partridge.
And even though the original Animal Biscuits was fast, the feeling of acceleration she now provides is something else again. “One day when Craig [Gurnell] had just made the new gennaker, we threw that up in about 23 knots of breeze,” says Partridge. “A gust hit us and we just popped up onto the foils and took off. The acceleration was mind-blowing – it felt like we’d been thrown forward by a giant’s hand.”
Another change to the usual noisy, wet ride downwind is the lack of sound once the boat is up and foiling. “When you’re semi-foiling or skimming you can hear the water on the hull – but once she picks up it just goes silent. It’s quite surreal.”
For our photo shoot the Bay of Islands – in 10-12 knots of breeze – we find it easier to sit still in the photo boat and let the Animal Biscuits fly past us – there’s no point in trying to chase this speedster. Both the setting and the boat are spectacular, and despite (or perhaps because of) the hard work going on behind the scenes, the ride looks smooth and level, with Animal Biscuits getting up on her foils easily, first sitting stable on both but then on one, seemingly without much effort.


The boat’s first big competitive outing is slated for Bay of Islands Sailing Week in late January, and Partridge says he’ll take a conservative approach to starting, given the boat’s near 5m width with the foils lifted. “Windward-leeward racing isn’t ideal for the boat in this configuration, but it’s the best way to learn, under pressure.”
So far there have been some spectacular rides and the odd uncomfortable crash, but Partridge is enjoying the journey (even if his knees aren’t). “It’s not scary, but it is a handful. Even if you do wipe out, it’s not a hard crash. We have ended up in the cockpit a few times with skinned knees a few times, though.
“It’s just a completely different way of sailing – you have to forget everything you thought you knew. There are a lot of new skills to learn but it’s cool, I’m loving it.”