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Unlucky Friday 13th crash for Vestas SailRocket and Paul Larsen

by Sail-World.com/Paul Larsen on 16 Mar 2009
Vestas SailRocket - did a 44.02 knot 500 metre run with a peak of around 46 on 26th February 2009. Vestas Sailrocket - copyright http://www.sailrocket.com

Paul Larsen and his Vestas SailRocket team left Britain at the end of January for Walvis Bay Yacht Club in Namibia, to attempt to break the Outright World Speed Record.

On the 3rd of December 2008, Vestas Sailrocket set a new 'B' class world record of 47.36 knots over the 500 metre course. Unofficially, she is of the worlds fastest boat... but still 3.21 knots short of the Outright world record currently held by the kitesurfers.

Larsen and his team have their sights set on the Outright record.

On the 9th of March, Vestas Sailrocket performed her third run of this World Record attempt.

Vestas SailRocket managed 42.5 knots over a 500 metre run with a peak around 44.7 knots with an average wind speed of 19.5 knots. The run was flawless, according to Paul Larsen’s blog.

On Friday the 13th, the team scheduled another run, which resulted in Vestas Sailrocket crashing at high speed and injuries to Paul Larsen. Larsen was hospitalised, but later released, and although shaken is determined to carry on.

Vestas SailRocket was extensively damaged, and after examination ‘it appears that a lashing on the stay that holds the main beam forward failed and the beam swung aft.’

Extracts from Paul Larsen’s blog appear below.

‘A world record attempt on Friday the 13th??? Well we haven't had much luck weather-wise during this record session so we will take it whenever it comes. Unusual amounts of rain inland have affected the normal 'flows' of wind up the coast. It's becoming tiring as we are all sitting around making work and itching to get wet. Forecast winds keep moving away from us like a mirage and when we finally catch them they have usually weakened to the point where we don't even go out.

‘Well hopefully today will be different!

‘The tides and the forecast all look great and Vestas SailRocket sits patiently outside all locked and loaded. The course will be good from 2 p.m. onwards.

‘When we came down this time we felt that we would only need to book one 28 day WSSRC ratified record attempt as that should be all we needed... but experience made us plan for a second one just in case. We have less than a week left of the first one. I think that our performances over the three runs we have done have shown that we are well within the ballpark. A couple of good days here could really see us nail this.'
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Friday 13th March 2009 – 4th World record Attempt

It appears that something failed structurally early on the record attempt today and the boat collapsed and turned over very quickly. Paul has some nasty cuts and was badly concussed. We will report in more detail tomorrow when we have looked at the boat and any available footage.

Sunday 15th March 2009 – On with the Show

Hi all... one slightly beaten up Sailrocket jockey here.

Obviously the last couple of days have been pretty strange from my perspective. One moment I'm going 47+ knots with the glorious Walvis Bay 'speed-spot' stretched out before me and ready for the taking... the next I'm on a hospital Gurney sort of aware that I'm asking the same question over and over... 'what happened'?

I won't go into too much detail here until we are certain of all the factors.

I went straight back to the container once out of hospital and had a look at all the onboard and shore footage of the incident. It appears that a lashing on the stay that holds the main beam forward failed and the beam swung aft. The huge side loads on the main foil then levered the hull to beam frame out of the heavy carbon forks which they attach to on the beam and allowed the main hull to rotate as if it was attached to an industrial lathe. The free inboard end of the beam then shot back towards the cockpit. It was all over in milliseconds...

I do recall jamming the control full aft as she began to roundup... but that was it and now I know why.

Poor Vestas SailRocket has been extensively damaged in altogether new and creative ways. Never mind... we've been here before. We probably have the best boat building team we have had on site and now it's their time to shine.

I have just spoken to Malcolm (Barnsley) for the first time and he was noticably shaken. It's normal for the designer to feel a heavy burden when they know someone has been dealt a hard blow by one of their creations. I assured him that as far as I know it was a small component failure (always is) and that we should push on until we have all the information needed to make an honest and sound decision.

So there we are. Down but not out. We were just entering the mile course and were already hitting 47.4 knots without the main wing flap in. I wanted to bag two records in one. From the PI Research data we accelerated from 30-40 knots in 2 seconds even. But this isn't a game of 'nearlies'... we were obviously flatly denied and hence will have to try a bit harder.

It's all very annoying but then I guess I have to be thankful too. It could always be worse. We are entering a punishing stage of the game as can be seen by the outcomes of two of our top-end attempts. You have to expect some rough play in an endeavour like this but you can't just charge forward on bravado and witty remarks. It will be understanding and team work that push us forward. As long as the pieces add up then I will go on as determined as ever... this time with a bigger helmet!

I will, as always, let you all know exactly what we discover in the coming days... and how we plan to deal with it.

Cheers, Paul.
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