Vestas Sailrocket 2 returns to hunt the 'limit'

Vestas Sailrocket 2
Paul Larsen
The team behind the Vestas Sailrocket 2 program are returning to Walvis Bay in Namibia to continue their quest to set the outright world speed sailing record.

The months of September through to December typically provide the best winds for speed sailing and the team have been keeping their powder dry in anticipation.

The current world record is held by American kite surfer, Rob Douglas. It was set in Luderitz, Namibia late last year and stands at 55.65 knots (64 mph/103 kmh). The kite surfers are expected to return to Namibia in October this year in an effort to take the record even higher.

Vestas Sailrocket 2 is a bold step beyond their Mk1 boat which still holds the 'B' class world record and hit peak speeds over 52 knots (60 mph) on a number of occasions. The outright record eluded the Mk1 so the team focused all their energy into Vestas Sailrocket 2 which was designed and built from the outset to be a breakthrough boat with a view to overcoming the limiting factors rather than just the current record itself. They liken their challenge to the time in aviation where the focus moved to breaking the sound barrier itself rather than the speed records that preceded it and were limited by it. If they are successful, then the outright record will simply come with the territory and a path will be made into a whole new world of high speed potential.

Conventional high speed foils (i.e. rudders) begin to have 'issues' as they reach high speed and these become unavoidable around 60 knots. Liquid water turns to vapour due to the low pressure on one side of the foil. The phenomenon is called cavitation and this causes a lot of drag and quite often loss of stability with dramatic consequence. Vestas Sailrocket 2 is designed to not only remain stable if the conventional foils fail at high speed but be capable of employing special foils that will be immune to this problem and take her beyond normal limits.

Vestas Sailrocket 2 was launched in April this year in East Cowes, Isle of Wight, UK. She was promptly shipped to Namibia where initial trials were carried out over six weeks. This comprised of system checks and low to medium speed sailing up to speeds of 40 knots. The team were very happy with how this radical and highly unconventional boat performed her most basic but essential tasks. They have no illusions about her single minded purpose however. Outright speed is the goal and despite all their efforts to date, this challenge is still just beginning. With this much innovation, they aren't expecting an easy ride. Windows for success are notoriously fragile.

The aim for this session is to initially gain a better understanding of Vestas Sailrocket 2 and how to best sail her to release the potential of the new technologies she incorporates. If things go well then a ratified world record attempt will be made as soon as possible.

Pilot/Project leader Paul Larsen- 'This is a step into the unknown and it's hard to predict exactly what the scale of the issues might be. With this much innovation, some times you have to 'unlearn' aspects of what you know so that you can be open to the new ways that will ultimately take you forward. Before it was all about the record itself. In a way we have moved beyond that and are trying to break through the very physics of the sport itself.

We romantically look at boats as craft that can take us on adventures over far horizons to new and wondrous places. Whilst Vestas Sailrocket 2 may challenge many conventions in her pursuit of outright speed and efficiency, with respect to discovery and adventure, she is still every bit a sailing boat. New lands await and our eyes will be wide open. The journey will continue to be fascinating.'

Vestas Sailrocket 2
Paul Larsen

Vestas Sailrocket 2
Paul Larsen

Vestas Sailrocket 2
Paul Larsen

Vestas Sailrocket 2
Paul Larsen

Vestas Sailrocket 2 website