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Sailrocket 2 hits 20 knots

by Paul Larsen on 18 May 2011
Vestas Sailrocket 2 is over the hump Vestas Sailrocket - copyright

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 Wightand, then packed and shipped to Namibia. Since then she has undergone a series of trials and testing runs.

Here is the latest progress report from skipper Paul Larsen.

Hi all, just a short one to say that we just came back from speed-spot where VSR2 cruised effortlessly over the 8 knot speed hump in mild 16-19 knot conditions. The addition of the back skeg transformed the low speed handling and made VSR2 track true from start-up. A heap of mushy drag was lost and away she went. The boys were following in the RIB and we were all 'whooping and hollering'. I left the wing fully eased and just enjoyed a sedate run. The point we were looking for had been proven. What a great day. We hit just over 20 knots so that means two bottles of Pol Roger champagne are history (the 10 and 20 knot bottles).

We are very excited by this. The boat felt great, the rudder was steering, the back float was lifting on the foil... it was simply working.

The champagne is warm as we didn't pre-empt this one. Maybe that's the secret.

What a great thing to witness. I am pretty happy at the moment. I reckon that 20 knot wave that came off the bow of VSR2 today will ripple right through the speed sailing world.

More to come.

Cheers, Paul

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Sat, 14 May - No wind...

Hi all, well we are all cocked and ready to roll but the weather has gone dead flat. We now have two weeks left for this trial session.

We will take this opportunity to take a day away from the boat and head into the great Namibian wilderness five up in our way overpriced 15 year old rental unaffectionately dubbed 'Shite Rider'. The bottle shops all shut at 1 so we'll have to get creative in that department.

On our last sail we still didn't manage to get over the dreaded 8 knot speed 'hump' but we did gain a lot of confidence in the all round handling of the boat. I am now happy to head out in winds over 20 knots andgive it a good push. There is not much point modifying the boat to make it work in the low wind range when everything we want this single purpose boat to achieve is further up the wind range. Being able to get going in light winds is really just a bonus. I'll get concerned if we can't get over it at 22 knots.

The top section of the wing is now on to also give us some more 'boost' and the gaps between the different wing sections are getting sealed to reduce pressure leakage.

A fixed rudder has also been fitted to the rear float to reduce low speed leeway. This was a pre-fitted option which we will now try.

So lot's of things have been changed... enough for now and most of them are low risk.

There is nothing we can do about the weather though so we will head inland before cabin fever sets in. We will head up around Brandberg and Uis where the wild desert elephants hang out. We've seen them a few time up there but with all the rains they could be anywhere.

Hopefully the wind will return on Monday in which case we will too.

At least if we have some time off now, we can push on to the end non-stop to the airport.

The wind will come.

Cheers, Paul.

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Thu, 12 May - Very good signs

We made our way out yesterday around 4 p.m. at low tide and through some good wave action which was rolling into the bay. The water clearance of VSR2 is pretty good so she rides nicely over the swells. Walvis Bay is a pretty open bay and there is quite often a lot of swell rolling in around the distant point. It's not uncommon to have breaking waves on the launch ramp. These swells can also be rolling into the end of speed spot and you have to approach this end of the course with caution when sailing. I have hit a wave in VSR1 at around 15 knots which buried the main beam and brought everything to a mushy stop.

Yesterday we set out to see if we could get Vestas Sailrocket 2 to bear away down the course on her own from a standing start. We wanted to see if we could do it with the beam in the aft high speed configuration. If we could then it would greatly simplify the boat and the whole startup procedure.

We are still getting used to just the basic handling of the boat so every minute on the water is highly revealing.

What we say yesterday, in mild 14-16 knot winds was that by heavy oversheeting of the wing, we could force VSR2 to bear away onto a downwind course in a safe manner. From there I could ease the wing out to around a 30 degree angle and the boat would start sailing down the course... and hold a course. This was great. She pushed along at around 5-6 knots. We reckon that in a few knots more wind with the full wing in place that she would have made it over the 'hump' and up onto the plane. Like I said before, if she can get to 10 knots, she can get to 40.

We practiced this starting/sailing procedure a couple of times and were out on speed-spot until well after dark.

There are still lots of little systems that need improving and each of these will make overall boat handling much better but... we all really liked what we saw.

I think that yesterday I saw that the boat will work... and maybe quite quickly.

It's all so conceptual and unproven that you don't always believe it's going to work until you actually see it.

I think that with a boat this ambitious that you can have two types of fear. One is that it mightn't work... and the next one is that it will work and that means you will have to strap yourself to it one day and take it to the limit! I came away yesterday feeling like we had perhaps just witnessed the transition.

It will take some more testing where the ultimate proof will be when we start from a standstill and get over the 'hump' and off under full control down the course. If we don't need to go swinging the beam and rig around through the start up sequence then that will make life so much easier.

I a still not happy about the general stability of the wing throughout all the handling procedure but we will start working on that. If we no longer have to pull the shrouds in and out around pulleys to swing the rig fore and aft then we can go to fixed standing rigging which is pre-stretched. There is still a lot to do... but maybe alote less to do than we thought before yesterday.

We will try and get out again today. The swell is bigger and the tides are wrong... but this is starting to get interesting.

Cheers, Paul

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Vestas Sailrocket website
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