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Sailrocket 2 - 30 knots and a bottle of champagne

by Paul Larsen on 24 May 2011
Vestas Sailrocket 2 Sailrocket http://www.sailrocket.com

Paul Larsen and the Vestas Sailrocket 2 (VSR2) crew are in Walvis Bay, Namibia chasing the Outright World Sailing Speed record.

Vestas Sailrocket 2 was unveiled in March on the Isle of Wight and then packed and shipped to Namibia. Since then she has undergone a series of trial runs.

Paul Larsen says Vestas Sailrocket 2 is simply dropping into her element.


It was quite a promising day today as Vestas Sailrocket 2 thrust the team effortlessly into the fridge for the 30 knot bottle of Pol Roger champagne.

Nice. I'm not going to even try and dramatise it as it felt so cruisy and natural.

VSR2 is simply dropping into her element and she feels right. I have no doubt that we will just as easily knock the next bottle over. Damn she felt rock solid. Like a grunty car slipping into top gear at 50 mph... you know a whole world of speed... I just said I wasn't going to do that. It was cool though.

We woke up this morning to a text from very good friends Martin and Henda who are living on their yacht out on a mooring in the Bay. They told us that the SW wind was already blowing and to expect wind this afternoon.

It is extremely unusual to get a SW wind first thing in the morning but nonetheless we hit the Yacht club expecting to sail. The wind didn't abate so I pushed the guys(and girl) to get their jobs done and focus on getting wet.

The afternoon high tides have left us and we now have to go out around all the sand bars at low tide. The water is having some sulphur 'bloom' thing going on so it is milky aqua, very cold, starved of oxygen and smells of rotten eggs. The fish can't breath underwater so the birds have a field day grabbing them all on the surface. It's a Walvis thing.

By the time we got over to 'speed-spot' it was gusting to 25 knots and by the time we got the wing up it was hitting near 28. I decided to hold and the wing came down. Whilst VSR2 should be able to sail in these conditions, so much is getting added on and modified between these early sessions that it is simply too soon to push. The cockpit has been changed immensely and all the Cosworth data loggers and their associated looms are now crammed in there.

I have to get familiar with it all and comfortable enough to know the sequences when things get heated. Today was supposed to be a day to ease me into this new cockpit... not throw me to the speed sailing lions.

So we stood down and waited. I'm getting a good feel for this place now. I refer to local knowledge but don't assume it's always right.

We got it pretty much spot on today as we hit the course a couple of hours later and at pretty much the ideal time. The wind was 17-20 knots.

I went through the ropes on the tow up the course and felt semi-confident I could get them all right. The new systems did their jobs and we sailed over the 'hump' quite easily once again.

I was now sitting down in the forward facing and angled cockpit and quickly became aware how weird it was not to be able to see the boat and sails ahead of you.

It was great to have the Cosworth instruments in the cockpit to reference the wing and rudder angles. I sheeted in from the start up settings and VSR2 just shot forward. She was no longer mushing but was now riding hard and firm on the surface.

You can see that the top wing section wasn't sheeting in properly and was in fact fully eased. In fact there are a number of details that will make the wing significantly more powerful... but once again, pure speed was not the objective of the day. Preparing for pure speed was. The steering response was fantastic, all the controls worked... but some need to be tidied up.

The ride was clean, spray free... almost majestic compared to our first boat. I used to get hammered by spray at 30 knots but not in this boat. I knew we were over 30 knots and finished the run early as it was low tide and the shallows at the end of the course beckoned.

We tried another run before sunset hoping to bag the 40 knot bottle but a detail slipped through the net and we weren't able to go for speed. By this time it was dark and we were happy to head home.

So it was all good. The work we had done in the week between sails had all shown its worth and the week ahead lies openly beckoning us to give it a good 'nudge'.

I think tomorrow is going to also be windy so let's see what we can come up with.

I'm now tempted to jump straight to the 'funky' foil to see if it too can jump through the hoops. It is the foil for which Vestas Sailrocket 2 is built so why not get it out now?

Looking at all these photos of VSR2 sliding along now... well it's just plain cool. It's working. It's coming to life. It is a ship at heart and it is going to take us to amazing places. I love having it in my life and this is exactly where I want to be.

The team are doing a great job. We are all witnessing our efforts bear fruit. Things happen fast in small, dynamic teams. You think of things in a bar and build it tomorrow. That afternoon it's being tested. The skills in this particular team are very diverse. It's a pleasure to watch them rip into it.

Sun, 22 May 11 12:21

Hi all. Not much to report from the sailing side as we haven't had any decent weather to get out since the first run over the 'hump' nearly a week ago.

The weather is described locally as 'East' weather meaning that it is likely that the East winds will blow down out of the high desert plateau's inland and cance out the normal South West winds. There is a battle going on between the two winds and quite often Walvis Bay is in the middle. The upside is that the days are hot and gorgeous. The downside is that what makes them so gorgeous is the lack of wind. It's braii weather.

Nonetheless we work on the boat every day to get it as ready as can be for the one or two good days that may fall into our lap. We only really have 8 possible sailing days left after which we have to pack up. If one of these days is a good one then we have to be ready to get out there and tick as many boxes as we can.

I want to see Vestas Sailrocket 2 do reliable start ups and get easily into the 40 + speed range using the conventional foil. We should be able to see how stable she is as she gets faster, get a feeling for the steering and see how well all the systems work. If we are happy then we will do a quick pit-stop and switch in the high speed foil section for the main foil. Whilst we have made it over the low-speed hump, the next 'hump' will involve the performance of the high speed foil and how well it performs in the low to middle speed ranges. It will be fascinating to see how much wind that needs to really get tracking. If we can get that over 40 knots in winds around 22 knots... well, that will be the day I know we will have cracked it.

I have no true idea of how hard,easy or realistic this will be. We have our theory and list of options to assist us... but some of those are costly on many fronts i.e. whole new main foils and we want to be pretty sure of ourselves before we start ordering new ones. They aren't lollipop sticks. If we head back to Europe now not really knowing if the foils are any good then it adds another element of risk to our return session later in the year. We desperately want to get VSR2 up to its record setting potential this year so we want to be chasing high speeds asap.

Time is running out now and we need some weather related luck to fall into our ever optimistic laps.

Half the team are working full-time through the complex Cosworth wiring system. So far we have the basics of Wing and rudder angles working but the strain guage logging system is proving to be.... errr... stubborn. Fortunately Jonny and Helena have a lot more patience than me with boat electronics so I have left them with it. It's all a bit of an uncertain mess now but once they have it sorted then it should get tidier.

The cockpit is starting to look very business like. We have the two Cosworth displays sitting to my left just inside the rim of the cockpit. The small diameter, quick release steering wheel has a multi function PTT (push to talk) button on it which activates a really cool comms system which we are helping Motocomp develop. Basically it gives an absolute first rate wireless, noise cancellation system based on the Interphone F4 units used on motorbikes (which gives very clear voice transmissions even in open face helmets up to high speeds and is pretty much waterproof). The units allow a full two way conversation between the crew which is clear as a bell... and for the pilot to link wirelessly with a VHF radio to transmit off the boat. The fact is that you are often in a windy environment when using marine VHF's and most noise/wind cancellation systems are crap, let alone wireless. This system works brilliantly and is crystal clear. We are just getting started with this. The fact is that this project is a great place to test these electronic products. If they can not only survive but excel in our environment... then I will happily recommend them to anyone. I look forward to having great comms on and off the boat at last.

Outside now, I can hear the small Dremel grinder gnawing away at carbon as Ben fits the front seat. All the control lines are now run forward into organisers either side of the steering wheel. It does look a bit weird. It looks like a racing car cockpit and yet it has all these ropes hanging out of it. Yacht, plane, race car.... what's not for a guy to like about this toy?

So tomorrow is forecast to be better, as is Tuesday. Fingers crossed the good winds from the south west will triumph over the evil winds from the East;)

We're ready.

Cheers, Paul.

Vestas Sailrocket 2 © Sailrocket http://www.sailrocket.com
Vestas Sailrocket 2 © Sailrocket
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