In 2012 sailor Paul Larsen, an Australian and former engineering dropout, and his team broke the world sailing speed record by sailing at 59.39 knots over 500m in Sailrocket II, a carbon fibre boat in Namibia, a dream decades in the making. Now he thinks the technological breakthroughs to achieve the record might deliver other dreams into reality. But he needs partners.
Paul Larsen aboard Vestas Sail Rocket.
The Vestas Sailrocket team have been developing their concepts for an offshore sailing boat which utilizes the innovation that helped them smash the outright world speed sailing record. They believe the craft they are working on can re-define what high performance wind driven boats can do across the oceans of the world.
In November 2012, the Sailrocket speed sailing program delivered on 11 years of dedicated work. Whilst the last run stunned the sailing world, the deep satisfaction within the team came from the fact that the run proved not only that their theories were sound and the numbers were good... but that they, as a team, could turn them into reality.
Although speed sailing provided a great environment to demonstrate both the innovative concepts and the teams potential, the next challenge should be to demonstrate its practical application.
Whilst they will reference todays benchmark boats, the team is looking much further down the track. They believe that these proven concepts can be used to make faster, more stable craft that can be practically sailed from A to B in the broad range of conditions you can expect to find offshore.
Paul Larsen - Our passion with sailing goes beyond just a sporting pursuit. We have a deep fascination to see what is possible with the forces of wind and water. Speed sailing offered us a brilliant unrestricted canvas. We were free to use whatever designs we figured could best get the job done. We chose a concept that could take on the challenges of the future rather than just aiming at the standards of the day. Whilst the boats we created were pretty impractical one trick ponies, they did a great job of proving a point. We learnt a lot more than just how to go fast. We know the core concepts that yielded such a huge jump in outright speed are also very efficient, stable and scalable. We know how they can be applied to ocean crossing yachts for similar gains.
After finally achieving such a long sought after goal, I personally wondered if I could muster the energy and motivation to go again. I gave myself time to let the answer come naturally. I looked around at what was out there and realised that there is so much to be done and that we are perfectly placed to take it on. Ideas that had been pushed to the side in pursuit of outright speed came flooding back. Ideas became drawings and drawings became working models. We started putting numbers into our well refined velocity prediction programs (VPP’s) and the ones that came back out are very exciting. They represent a big jump forward on many levels and I can’t ignore them. I sat there with the first scale model of Sailrocket 2 on my living room floor. Next to it was the bigger model of our next concept. We had lived and breathed every detail of turning that first model into full-scale, 65+ knot reality and it thrilled me to think that we could do the same with the new numbers on the bigger one.
On one hand it is still just a model and a concept… and a bunch of numbers in a VPP… but what it really represents is much more than that. It’s a road that beckons. On a personal level, the value of our last success was way more than the rush of the final ride or the name on the certificate that hangs on the wall. It was the thrill of the chase that we lived with every day. It was the feeling that every day we were closer to making a better world. That is what we crave and that is why when we climb one mountain we look for another.
A large part of the challenge ahead will be in navigating the path between what is theoretically possible and what is practically achievable. Whilst we need to take bold steps, they need to be done in a manner that allows logical progression. This cannot be a simple leap of faith. We have good reason to believe that the new craft provides the perfect platform to do this. It aims to be all round fast in all the conditions you can expect to encounter at sea… with a few big tricks up its sleeve. The project will be structured in a manner that gives our choices the best chance to demonstrate their merits… and then demonstrate them in the most convincing way possible.
The main purpose of sharing our plans now is because we need to find partners whose passion can help carry the burdens of the journey ahead. On one hand I would prefer to keep developing the concept in secrecy but the fact is that we now need the resource that others can bring. We have no doubt that there are people out there we have never met who understand and would like to share our journey.
It will take time, money and patience to get where we are going. Our team can only bring so much to the table however we know there are individuals and companies out there who are as keen as us to take on the responsibility of the future and make it happen… not wait for someone else to maybe do it one day. We need to connect with them.
The response we got for our speed sailing achievement was very emotive. The respect and offers of support from people we have the utmost admiration for was humbling. I realised that this journey we are on can be a fantastic focal point for a lot of very talented people to do what they are really passionate about. This will be difficult and our resolve will be tested. We need to do our homework very carefully and choose well who we travel with.
For now we will hold back on the specific targets we are aiming at and what the full-scale craft will actually look like. We need to have more in place before either is revealed. We know already what we are proposing is possible. The journey we are offering is to be the ones to make it real.
*Sailrocket 2 currently holds the outright world speed sailing record at 65.45 knots. She is designed and structured to go much faster. The project has no further sponsorship obligations and remains an ideal platform to develop the next generation of high speed foils.