The team behind the Vestas Sailrocket 2 program are at Walvis Bay in Namibia in their quest to set the outright world speed sailing record. They have just begun their offical world record attempt period.
by Paul Larsen
Jeffro looked at me funny the minute I said 'C'mon Walvis, I dare you to blow' earlier today. You really shouldn't mess. The wind was filling in late and I was worried the forecast was going to struggle to materialise. We didn't head out until around 3p.m. The wind was filling nicely. It was 25 at the timing hut so we went straight to the top of the course. We had changed a few things and wanted to make sure things were right. It was just as well as the rig was raked too far forward and we had to mess with it for a bit to get it right.
The wind kept building and Helena was calling out 32 knot gusts by the time we started to get in shape for a run. The funny thing is that we are getting used to these winds now. I messed around too long in the cockpit as I was getting eased out onto the course by the RIB. I had dropped the quick release mechanism for the safety harness and pondered just doing the run without it. I looked around at what I was doing and decided that that was the typical decision you explain later from a wheelchair. I eventually found the piece and got harnessed up. It was pretty damned windy and rough. I was keen for a big run though and this is what I wanted. Vestas Sailrocket 2 was released but once again struggled to bare away from the wind. Something about the wind and waves makes her weathercock in stronger winds. I tried a few tricks but she just sat there head to wind. I had to gently try to ease her forward on the edge of stalling the tiny rudder before she bit. The trouble was that I feared I had damaged the horizontal lifting, roll control flap as the leeward pod buried between waves. Sure enough as VSR2 accelerated the flap came free. It was hanging on by a small control line but eventually broke free.
I pointed wildly to the support boat and they retrieved it whilst I began to line up the course. Damn it was rough and there was a hell of a lot of spray in the cockpit. I struggled to see the beach and just had to bare away when I felt it was right (ah, the good old days of VSR1). The forward flap was smacking into the waves and the leeward pod was sitting hard on the water without the lift that is normally generated by the departed flap.
The boat just felt draggy. I sheeted in hard but we just weren't accelerating as we should. I feared that the mods to the foil had created too much drag. I was still getting spray in the cockpit which is a very bad sign as it means we are way underperforming. Oh well, that's that box ticked then. I parked the boat without drama and waited for the boys to eventually come along after retrieving the undamaged flap.
I had no idea how fast I had just been, as the b*%# GT31 gps we use is about the most useless piece of equipment we have on the boat for providing simple speed data. I despair at the people who design that crap! Later we saw did just shy of 48 knots and about a 45.2 knot 500 meter average. Nothing flash and about what it felt like.
We really shouldn't be sailing in that stuff.
We lowered the rig and went back up to the timing hut. The run was a mess. I watched the video of the rooster tail and saw the change that the foil mods had created.
I got Nick to wet and dry off the small ridges we had added to the back of the foil. We managed to remove the wing extension and took it into the igloo hut where we reinstalled the horizontal flap.
The wind was already hitting 36 knots.
Walvis had come to the party... and trashed it!
We stayed on nonetheless to see if it would abate. It was a very low tide but strangely enough the water was still blowing over the beach from the lagoon behind.
We waited and waited and eventually came home at sunset as the wind peaked at 37 knots.
I admit to feeling a little dejected. The whole day just felt messy and there was no magic involved. There was no breakthrough and no big numbers. The fact that it was also the only reasonable looking day on the forecast didn't help. Oh well, I guess we ticked a box. It was a rough trip the long way around the shallow bars that guard the lagoon. The whole yacht club was whistling in the wind. Still, we managed to put VESTAS sailrocket2 away in one piece. I gave her a pat on the snout. We'll work out what makes you tick yet girl.
So the forecast looks flat. It gets hard to trust when a day like today overperforms so much. I will watch tomorrow closely before we decide to head to Luderitz to watch the kiters and deliver an observer. I really would like to see them in action though.
Righto, so that's our first run out the way. We are still in development and that is part of it I guess. We are a little bit smarter after today and have a whole new job list as well.
I'll never dare you again Walvis. Like I say, I'm not superstitious... but in this game I can't afford to be wrong!
Vestas Sailrocket website
Click on the FB Like link to post this story to your FB wall
11:16 PM Mon 21 Nov 2011 GMT
Click here for printer friendly version
Click here to send us feedback or comments about this story.