by Paul Larsen
Sailrocket on 35+ knots run
The aim of the SAILROCKET project remains the same, to set the outright world speed sailing record and become the fastest sailing vessel ever.
Paul Larsen, project manager and pilot,' Our backs were hard against the wall on that last run. That day marked our last chance to prove that our faith in the project was not misguided. Four days earlier we were standing on the same beach with our dream lying broken at our feet with the wing-sail in the water.
I had lost steerage and hit the shore at 20 knots! Sailrocket survived that but a handling error that followed combined with a hidden flaw from a previous incident turned everything 'pear shaped'. The main beam was in two pieces. It marked our darkest hour.
I didn’t sleep much that night. We had four sailing days left and every option available was bad. There was only one option and it was a long shot. The clock began ticking, every one of the 24 hours in the day was priceless. We would try and repair Sailrocket and pray for good conditions in three days time.' A ‘bubble tent’ was placed around every lamination and inflated with a hair dryer to speed up the curing process.
Sailrocket broken at run 23
As soon as one laminate cured another one was applied regardless of what time of day it was. For the past three months the container had been our office, workshop and home. The boundaries got pretty blurred in those last couple of days. Sailrockets beam was repaired with an hour to spare. The wing was fitted, the instruments recalibrated and we headed once more across the lagoon to ‘Speed-spot’.
Conditions were awesome.
We knew more than anyone that if we are to even be considered a genuine speed sailing craft that we need to be constantly punching well over 40 knots. To leave Namibia without achieving this at least once would make it very difficult to return.
The wind was gusting between 14 and 20 knots but the water was very smooth in close. The angle was good. As soon as Sailrocket lifted onto her planing surfaces I began to feel the lee helm building. This was good as this was what we should be expecting in our current configuration. Lee helm is safe as it insures that if anything goes wrong she will turn away from the shore.
I focused on getting the wing in to 10 degrees Angle-of-attack. We hit a gust just past the timing hut and I knew it was fast. I hung on for about 5 seconds and then began the slow-down procedure. You burn up a course very quick at that speed.
Sailrocket took a while to shake off the apparent wind and when I leant forward to read the top-speed a great sense of relief washed over me. We didn’t just do 40 knots but recorded a 42.1 (later 42.4 once the track was downloaded).
'Happy' doesn’t describe it.
Whilst not an officially timed run it marks a significant milestone for the project. Sailrocket was sailing in a very coarse and ‘safe’ mode with twice the necessary rigging in the air and the big low speed rudder still down. The rudder alone is good for another 5 knots once raised!
Sailrocket 40-knot team
The concept upon which she is based is just entering its element. We are not restrained by a power limit like all of our competitors. Our problems to date have been centred on controllability and this last run proved that we can post these runs without drama or issue. We have a lot of ‘easy’ speed still to come through quick and basic refinement.
Both our visa’s and our budget were soon to expire which meant we had to pack up and leave Namibia for the time being. We had turned our darkest hour around and that afternoon we finally cracked the 40 knot bottle of Mumm champagne and poured it over the bow.
The Sailrocket project is an exercise in persistance, not futility and we now have hard proof to support our faith. We have a REAL good chance at getting to 50 knots during our next outing to Namibia which we hope will be in mid January. Of course it won’t be easy but we have survived a very difficult learning phase with a radical prototype craft and we are on location at a truly remarkable speed sailing location. Walvis Bay delivers world record breaking days with remarkable consistency whilst others wait for their 'blue moon' days. It's a huge part of a difficult jigsaw and one where we have pole position to benefit from.
Like it or not Britain, Sailrocket is looking like your only contender in the current race to 50 knots... and she IS a contender. One based upon dedication and solid science. This is a powerful combination which is now starting to bear fruit. Sailrocket was designed and built in Britain and is largely supported by British sponsors. The project is currently without title sponsorship.
Sailrocket base in Walvis Bay
We will take this project all the way one way or the other (as we have to date) but if we are going to stand any chance of being the first to 50 then we need ongoing financial support to consolidate our current position. You can sit back and watch... or you can jump in and help carry the weight.
The race to 50 knots is hotter than ever with the Windsurfers currently on standby in the ‘French-trench’, Hydroptere being refitted for an assault in March, the Macquarie Innovations team constantly awaiting their day in Australia and everyone nervously eyeing the Kite-surfers after their amazing record haul a couple of months ago in Luderitz, Namibia.
50 knots will be history very soon and one thing is for sure... it will not mark the end of anything. More likely it will mark a new beginning and one for which the concept behind Sailrocket is aptly suited for.
Everything has NOT been done.
The SAILROCKET project is supported by HOMETRACK, SP GURIT, VESTAS BLADES, AEROTROPE, EKSPAN, WALVIS BAY YACHT CLUB, DESIGNCRAFT,COMPOTECH, AEROCELL, MUSTO, HARKEN UK, PI RESEARCH, B+G, TACKTICK, SEAFLEX, DOYLES SAILS UK, MARLOW ROPES, BLAKES PAINTS, COMPLETEFREIGHT, FCM SERVICES, BAYLISSWARE, MOBILEHOME 3G WALVIS BAY, SUPATRONIX, C-TECH BATTENS... and numerous individuals who have also kept the faith.
We all did 42.4 knots that fine day, stick with us and we'll all do 50!