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Project Speed: Wet lake causes programme to slide back by a few weeks

by Emirates Team New Zealand 10 Jul 2022 03:57 PDT 3 July 2022
Glenn Ashby with Horonuku after the land yacht was revealed in Auckland © Emirates Team New Zealand

It would come as no surprise that a lake would normally have water in it. But what is surprising is that Lake Gairdner, the usually bone dry salt lake in South Australia, currently has a somewhat inconvenient amount of water in it.

About 50mm of water right now according to Emirates Team New Zealand Land Speed Pilot Glenn Ashby who has just been to see the lake first hand in preparation for the set-up of the World record attempt.

It may seem like a show stopper for the World Record attempt, but 50mm of water is actually a positive thing for the eternal optimist Glenn Ashby. “Three weeks ago the lake had 120mm of water in it. So we are definitely trending in the right direction. For sure this does slide our programme back by a few weeks, but nothing that I am too concerned about right now. We just need to be a bit patient”

Emirates Team New Zealand Meteorologist Roger ‘Clouds’ Badham has been monitoring the lake, the weather and atmospheric conditions for months now and expects to see the rates of water evaporation continue to increase. This time of year it is normal to see around 100mm of water evaporation each month and as the months clock closer to summer this will only increase. Over the coming months, winds expected are also expected to increase, with September and October the windiest months of the year in the location.

Fresh to strong winds are precisely what is needed to propel Horonuku to its World Record breaking speeds.

On the ground up to his ankles in water, Ashby further explained, “This situation we are in now with water on Lake Gairdner is extremely abnormal and rare historically - it’s like a usual sailing regatta where ‘the conditions are never like this’ as they say.

But the water that is on the lake now is a result of a massive rain event months ago. We have seen a huge amount of rain in Australia this year- even this week in Sydney. So it’s all very out of the ordinary, but we are tracking it and hope to be out on the Lake setting up next month and getting ready to let Horonuku fly at the first opportunity we get.”

Aside from the water, the other interesting thing for Ashby is the surface of the salt, currently under the water, which could prove to be either a help or a hinderance to the world record attempt, “The surface of the salt now is just really smooth. There’s not many imperfections, which is great, but it has these little layers of salt almost like broken glass. If you were walking in bare feet at the moment, you would absolutely cut your feet to shreds. So, I'm not really sure what that would do to the tyres of the land yacht. It might provide really good grip and traction, or it might chew the tires out really quickly. So, when this surface eventually dries out, we'll be able to get the land yacht out on the surface and see what the effects are.”

And so with the latest update from Lake Gairdner, the well-rehearsed wider Land Speed team back at base continue to tweak timelines, plans, and work lists for the people involved. Horonuku and the containerised workshops are days away from port in Adelaide and Pilot Ashby keeps chomping at the bit to get out sailing on the (dry) lake.

Full NALSA regulations for speed record attempts can be read

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