Volga Hydrofoil project for sale.Offered for the first time on the open market in nearly four decades is a very special craft indeed – a first generation Volga ‘wide body’ hydrofoil project, listed here for sale with NO RESERVE and complete with trailer.BACKGROUND HISTORY: Conceived in the golden era of Russian foil development spearheaded and overseen by visionary shipbuilder and hydrofoil designer ?????????? ??????????? ????????? (Rostislav Evgenievich Alexeyev of Caspian Sea Monster ekranoplan fame), these ????? (Volga) hydrofoils were a product of the USSR ‘Shipbuilding Design Bureau’ of the Krasny “Red” Sormovo shipyard in Gorky, approved in July 1957. Titled project number 343, the first Volga motorboat models were revealed in 1958 with an example exhibited in the USSR pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World Fair, winning a coveted Gold Medal. Known as the Volga ‘Molnia’ (Lightning) production moved to Batumi SRMZ, (Soviet Georgia) and Gomel Shipyards shortly after the ’58 exhibition and initial launch. Built to the very highest standards, more akin to aircraft manufacture than boat building, they were primarily assembled from riveted aluminium in line with air-frame principles, with the foils exquisitely crafted from solid stainless steel. No corners were cut or expense spared and these early craft were equipped with a rear mounted GAZ 6 cylinder petrol engine driving the propeller via a V-drive gearbox just ahead of the rear bulkhead. Intended as high speed travelling vessels for state inspectorates, exclusive water taxis, delivery and VIP pleasure craft these hydrofoils were an instant success, being both fast and well handling, whilst offering impressive economy, comfort and stability for the day. Indeed so revered were they that Leonid Brezhnev presented US President Nixon with one (a Volga ’70’) as a gift in November 1972 – that boat entering service shortly thereafter with the US Coast Guard as water security and transportation for the presidential retreat at Key Biscayne, Florida. It was claimed the boats would rise onto the front foil at speeds as little as 8 knots, and despite a relatively modest initial power output of 75hp would go on to cruise at 35+ knots. Their ‘Dan Dare space age’ styling was particularly striking with their multi-stepped hull, glinting stainless steel wings and be-finned stern and they drew much attention and admiration as they ‘flew’ across the water, gliding effortlessly at seemingly other-worldly speeds in comparison to equivalent traditional V-bottom hulled boats. The initial Molnia model quickly evolved into the ?????? ‘Strela’ (Arrow) or ‘Krylatka’ in the very early 1960’s – built to the same exacting specification and retaining the purity of the iconic original design in wide-body configuration, they continued to be powered by a GAZ 6 cylinder engine through a V-drive and featured some minor detail amendments to the ‘wings’ and some fittings. The evolution continued into the later ‘narrow body’ Volga and then Volga ’70’ and ‘275’ models of the 1970’s, with the hull retaining the same basic multi-step design but gaining a GAZ V8 engine and ultimately a Volvo engine and Z-drive. Production eventually ceased nearly 30 years from inception, with the last Volga leaving the plant in 1986. Today these fabulous boats continue to draw much admiration with their unique design and outstanding, classic looks and they remain very highly regarded and keenly sought after as pleasure craft for the discerning classic boat lover.THIS BOAT:The boat offered in this listing is believed to be a very early ’60s Volga ‘Strela’ model, featuring the one piece twin plane front wing and W-shaped rear wing introduced with the first design amendments of the original generation of wide-body craft. This hydrofoil has a fascinating history, with period racing provenance forming part of it’s story despite a relatively short operational life – concluded before it was even 10 years old. My father has owned it since 1996, although he has known the boat since the late 1960s. It is believed that this boat was one of six used in Europe, possibly in the Balkans, in the very early 1960’s. It was brought to the UK in the early 1960s and purchased by the owner of Springfields Boatyard on the upper reaches of the Thames river at Maidenhead. It is entirely possible this is the very boat shown in British Pathe newsreel ‘Russian Hydrofoil in London’ (available to view on YouTube or BritishPathe websites). Mr Springfield prepared the hydrofoil for power boat racing (hence the racing numbers, Union Jack flags and his name on the sides) and entered a race, which it reportedly won with ease – utterly outclassing the competition. It was apparently then immediately banned from competing, citing unfair advantage of the foils. Somewhat crest-fallen, Mr Springfield returned the boat to his yard with the intention of converting it into a fast water-taxi on the Thames and the boat was placed in a prominent position as an advertisement and conversation piece. Around the same time a speed limit was introduced on the non-tidal reaches of the Thames to prevent bank erosion from wash and the idea of a fast water-taxi immediately became redundant. A few years later, in the very late 1960’s, my father first came across this boat whilst looking for moorings on the Thames for his own cabin cruiser. Its extraordinary appearance and race numbers piqued his interest and he introduced himself to Mr. Springfield. Over the years they became friends and the history of the boat was revealed, as related here. The hydrofoil sat at Springfield’s yard as a gate guardian and advertisement until Mr Springfield died, the yard closed and the contents of the yard were sold – whereupon my father lost the trail and assumed the ‘foil would never be seen again…..
Many years later, by pure chance, my father stumbled upon the hydrofoil while holidaying in North Wales. Whilst enjoying a drink outside a pub in the early Spring sunshine my father spotted a curious and vaguely familiar shape with a race number on it in a smallholding a few fields away. It was sheer luck as the sparse winter vegetation afforded a glimpse of something normally hidden by greenery. He visited the farm and there, unbelievably, was the very same hydrofoil last seen two decades prior at Springfield’s yard, in exactly the same condition. Enquiring of the smallholder established that he was storing the hydrofoil on behalf of the owner and the owner’s details were provided. My father tracked down the owner and learned that he had bought the hydrofoil from the sale when Springfield’s yard closed with the intention of using it to cross and operate in the Menai Straight, the short section of water connecting the island of Anglesey to North Wales. He had transported it back to North Wales only to find he was unable to get it to his home in the hills owing to the boats length and the difficulty of the access to his house – finding a co-operative local where he could store the hydrofoil in the interim. That interim turned into months, then years and the owner realised he wasn’t going to be able to recommission the hydrofoil for use as intended and it never made it into the water. My father stepped in at this point and keen not to let the Volga slip through his fingers again, purchased it where it sat direct from that yard, transporting it home the following year in preparation for recommissioning and restoration.
Regrettably, more pressing life events precluded the start of restoration and the Volga has remained preserved in our ownership since – we have now concluded that this situation is unlikely to alter and consequently the time has come to offer this fabulous, iconic, historically important Russian hydrofoil to a new owner so it can be returned to the water to fly once more. Given the additional interest of it’s brief period racing history, this boat is potentially in the unique position of also offering legitimate involvement into the exclusive and rarefied ranks of vintage powerboat racing and it’s sale here represents a genuine once in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Length: approx. 8.5m / 28ft
Beam: approx 2.1m / 7ft
Unladen displacement: 1300kg
Carrying capacity: 650kg
Draft at full displacement afloat: approx 0.85m
Foilborne draft at full displacement: 0.55m
Passenger capacity: 1-6 person
Cruising speed: 65km/h / 35 knots
Max speed: 80km/h / 45 knots
Engine Power: from 75hp recommended
Safe navigation wave height: 1.25m
Foilborne wave height: 0.75m
Construction: Stainless steel / aluminium alloy (AMg5B)
Propeller type: 3 blade screw
Screw diameter: 335mm
Screw pitch: 538mm
The Volga Hydrofoil is an all metal craft with a multi-stepped aluminium alloy hull plus aluminium deck of primarily riveted construction with extensive ribbing and bracing. It features a long fore deck with bulkhead forming a substantial watertight compartment accessed via circular watertight bulkhead hatch within the passenger compartment, beneath the dash board. Behind the forward bulkhead is a generous open crew and passenger compartment. A large, enclosed engine compartment lies behind, forming the stern of the vessel and rear deck, with a large side-hinged engine compartment hatch and various air intakes and vents. The fuel tank is found within the engine compartment adjacent to the transom. The propeller shaft runs from just ahead of the rear bulkhead with the lower bearing formed in the rear foil. Drive comes forward from the engine compartment to a V-drive gearbox under the passenger space and out to the propeller shaft. The hull features two stainless steel foils through bolted to the hull; a single plane foil at the stern with a dual plane foil towards the bow. In addition there are aluminium wings affixed to the hull below the water line on both port and starboard sides towards the stern, with rubbing strip brackets above. Steering is effected by a stern mounted, cable operated rudder.
This hydrofoil is a project and is offered as pictured. It comes complete with it’s original propeller, sitting on a custom built, break-back transport and launching trailer and with the important V-drive gearbox and some other parts. Given the age of the craft, the overall condition is remarkable, presumably owing to the relatively short operating life and the fact it was in fresh water, as opposed to sea water. Visual inspection prior to listing revealed distressed paint finishes and anti-fouling etc. but very little obvious material deterioration and the Volga looks eminently restorable and unmolested, with many of the original features and fittings intact, including one of the original aluminium oars hanging in it’s rack in the bow compartment. The few ferrous parts and fittings have understandably corroded and deteriorated, but the hull looks good with the aluminium spars and reinforcements in apparently great order. Some alterations have been made to three of the central spars ahead of the V-drive mounts as part of the historic preparations made for racing, but the original engine and V-drive mountings remain. It still wears its race numbers and Springfield’s name on the sides, with the outline of long faded painted Union Jack flags (the same paint scheme seen clearly in the period race photo shown). The stainless steel wings are in fabulous condition, undamaged. The outside of the hull looks good, with no notable major damage and retaining the water level side fins at the stern and the rubbing bars above. It still has the rudder fitted, which moves freely. The deck looks decent too, again minimal damage noted and still with many of the original deck fittings present, including the windscreen and engine compartment lid. There are inevitable dinks, dents and signs of use evident to the deck and hull commensurate with age and use and the starboard tail fin has some minor compression damage towards the front and a hole cut into the stern end, but the basic structure looks excellent overall. As can be seen, there is no interior or engine present or included – please view the pictures for an accurate guide to condition.
In summary, a fabulous and iconic 1960’s Volga ‘Strela’ hydrofoil project with period race history PLUS bespoke transport / launching trailer offered with no reserve. PLEASE NOTE: this hydrofoil is for COLLECTION ONLY, cash on collection please. I appreciate it isn’t easy buying something as significant as a classic Russian hydrofoil over the internet, so by way of assurance if the winning bidder arrives to collect this Volga hydrofoil and discovers it is not as described here or isn’t to their satisfaction I will happily release them from their contractual obligations, no questions asked – I work hard to list items honestly and completely and to provide a first class eBay service that gives buyers a positive experience, please read the entire listing, ask any questions via ‘Ask a question’ link and check my feedback so you can bid with confidence.
Good luck and happy bidding!
Current Price: £2795.00
This Volga Hydrofoil Pleasure Speed Boat Strela Type 343 ’60s Russian Alexeyev 70 275 boat is located in Bucklebury, Reading, RG7 6TE and is being sold on eBay by auctionarmadillo.