The paper presents a multi-disciplinary design/optimization method for the conceptual design of a hydrofoil based fast ship. The method is used to determine the maximum achievable lift-to-drag ratio (L/D) of an isolated foil-strut arrangement (hopefully greater than 50) at high transit speeds (greater than 75 knots) while lifting masses of 5,000 and 10,000 tons. First, the tools necessary for the study are presented. They comprise a panel method to compute three-dimensional flows around arbitrary configurations with a model for the free surface, a foil cross-section optimization tool, a strut cross-section design tool, and a structural analysis tool. The computational tools are then integrated into a multi-disciplinary design/optimization approach, which is applied to the design of single foil and biplane configurations. Results show that the goal of L/D = 50 is achievable for 75 knots (assuming that techniques can be developed for reducing the skin friction drag to a quarter of its nominal value) and, that for 90 knots, L/D ratios around 45 can be reached. The corresponding break horsepower requirements for 10,000 tons are around 130 khp and less than 200 khp, respectively.