by Daniel Smith
Paul Larsen became the fastest man on the water, reaching 65.45 knots on Vestas Sailrocket 2 and eleven years of hard work and effort came to fruition on 24 November 2012. For his endeavours and testing the restraints of physics in sailing Larsen received a nomination for ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year.
Paul Larsen - Vestas Sailrocket 2
Speaking in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman Larsen said, 'I guess I’m representing the fringe dwellers of sailing who go out and chase the records and endeavours that aren’t so much in the spot light. We’re not represented by a class and we don’t have a huge defining event like an Olympics or Vendee Globe.
'We often live in shipping containers on very remote shores and when we have our success there are five or six people around to acknowledge it. To have the sport’s governing body to acknowledge that is nice. It’s comforting.
'I’m proud to be here and representing everyone else in our discipline.'
Larsen is no stranger to breaking records and in 1998 he was part of Bruno Peyron’s crew on Explorer as they broke the Trans-Pacific record. In 2002 Larsen joined Maiden II for a record breaking campaign that included breaking the Cross-Channel, Round Britain and Ireland and the outright 24-hour records, with Larsen as watch-leader.
His 11 year journey began shortly after and years of designing, testing and perfecting a highly unique craft came to a climax in Walvis Bay, Namibia.
Recalling the recording breaking run Larsen said, 'It has been edited out from the video everyone has seen but it was fast and fast had a rather rude prefix to it. At the time I knew it was special. I managed my expectations at the end and when I saw that number on the GPS it nearly sat me on my backside. It was as fast as I thought it was. That was 11 years of work. It took us 11 years to sail 500 metres the way we wanted to sail it and it just had to end that way.
'The whole experience and the whole day was magical. I almost can’t believe we did it when I look back at it.'
Larsen surrounded himself with a small team of dedicated sailors, designers and friends, facing numerous obstacles along the way. Some of the brightest brains in the world were powered by modern technology in Walvis Bay but for Larsen the whole project went deeper, 'It was incredibly pure,' he remarked.
'You’re on this mile long stretch of sand that slowly tapers down into the water and you just have the wind, the water, this boat and this small group of brains and that is our team and that’s our problem right there. How do you put the fastest most efficient craft between those two mediums of air and water and apply these brains of people to the problem to build that boat. To have that at the start and at the finish it was just a beautiful moment.
'Sometimes you think you’d love to have the grandstands full of thousands of cheering people but I really grew to love that purity of speed sailing, it was a special moment.'
The ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards features a diverse crowd of sailors and Larsen is delighted to be recognised alongside them but modest in how he compares all of the nominees, 'For me personally to be in this group of incredibly talented people, I think it’s where we deserve to be. I don’t believe we deserve to be ranked below or above them. I think that the sport is so diverse the reason we are nominated is because we’ve all been very successful in our own fields and then to say one is better than the other, I really struggle with that. Whether we win or lose that’s the way I feel.
'They’ve done such amazing achievements and when I had to try and look at ours and wonder if we should have promoted it. I’m just happy to be in a room with these guys and I think the sport should celebrate that diversity rather than pick one over the other and just to be nominated is special enough and I’m sure the other nominees feel that way.'
The 2013 ISAF Rolex World Sailors of the Year will be announced on Tuesday 12 November at a glittering award ceremony in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.
The winners are selected by the ISAF Member National Authorities (MNAs), the national governing bodies for sailing around the world, who vote for the one male and one female nominee who they believe most deserves the Award