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Southern Spars

Vestas Sailrocket 2 hoping for big things

by Paul Larsen on 22 Oct 2012
Vestas Sailrocket 2 Vestas Sailrocket - copyright http://www.sailrocket.com
Paul Larsen, Vestas Sailrocket 2 project leader and pilot, discusses the new PB over 500 meters of 50.98 knots.

So I should be happier about setting a new PB over 500 meters of 50.98 knots. The peak speed was around 53 knots (one GPS was over, the other under). The run started perfectly and felt super steady. Having an average so close to the peak shows this. Vestas Sailrocket 2 felt great, the leeward pod was flying and the ride was smooth. Conditions were fantastic with winds between 25 and 29 knots.

I was hoping for big things but in all honesty they still didn't come. I decided to try again and reduce the inclination of the main foil even more. This would reduce the amount that the main foil pulls downwards and should allow VSR2 to ride higher.

There is still something big holding us back and it's not immediately obvious. As I was towed back up the course I pondered the fact that we had just unofficially beaten the Australian record and were within less than half a knot of overtaking Hydroptere to get the unofficial title of fastest boat. I highlight unofficial because although we used two GPS systems and are running on a well-known course, we are not using the official Trimble GPS timing system in the presence of the WSSRC who ratify these records. The numbers will be pretty close but we aren't that fussed as we are really still just developing the boat.

Whilst that last run will have generated a lot of data that should have been digested, the competitive streak in me wanted to at least knock Hydroptere off. Conditions were building over 30 knots so we hurried into another run before they got over the top.

The second launch from the RIB didn't go so well. I will explain the whole launching sequence in greater detail later but for now all I will say that there is a phase where I sheet the boat in hard and stall the wing... and this is hard work for the RIB. When the wing stalls VSR2 tries to heel to leeward and this presses the leeward float hard. Sometimes we dip the leeward, horizontal wing extension. I wait to see if it comes up with the flap still attached. The windier it is the rougher it is and it all gets a bit marginal.

Things didn't work too well on the second launch and I got stuck head to wind. I simply couldn't bear away and was risking damaging the leeward wing extension trying... so I sailed VSR2 into the beach just a few 100 meters down from where we had left moments earlier. We walked the boat back up to our launching position. Helena confirmed gusts to 34 knots and steady winds over 30. Bloody typical. You set a limit and it gives you something just over. I was desperate to go again. I wanted to drink at least that triple rum and coke in a pint glass that comes with a new best peak speed. Beating Hydroptere would be pretty nice too... even unofficially. I decided that 34 was just too high. We shouldn't even be out in that stuff. The fact we can handle her in over the top conditions is a bonus that we can call on if pushed during record attempts. After attempting to launch in these wind strengths, 25-29 knots is a doddle.

So we waited and waited. The wing was up throughout. Helena called the wind strengths in via the VHF.

Every time it would look good... we would start to think it was dropping... and then the solid 30-34 knot sections would punch through. I was going through all the usual checklists of why we should go and why we shouldn't. Logic said we shouldn't, emotions said we should. I really wanted to go.

Once again I had to concede to logic. We don't have to go, we have great data to look at, time is still on our side... and as mentioned, we shouldn't even be out there in those wind strengths. The sun set.... so we lowered the wing and came home in the dark.

I have had a quick look at the data and it all looks good. I can't see why we are still stuck under that bloody low-mid 50 glass ceiling. We still have a few things to trim out and I'm sure we can gain a couple of easy knots... but she didn't feel like a 60 knot boat today. On the other hand, it was only our fourth run with new foils so maybe I'm being a bit hard. Righto, beer-O-clock. The Raft beckons. Hydroptere can have their title for another few Vestas Sailrocket website

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