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Sailrocket World Speed Sailing Challenger to be Launched In Southampton

04 May 2004

After 20 months of research and testing, Sailrocket, one of the most bizzare looking marine crafts ever to be built, has been launched in Southampton.

The carbon fibre craft has been designed for the sole purpose of becoming the first sailboat to break the 50 knot barrier.

The spidery design of Sailrocket is based around a unique concept, that unlike all conventional yachts, the forces at work are aligned in such a way that it has no tendency to tip over. This is achieved by setting the rig off to one side and angling it so the force of the sail pulls directly on the opposing force of the underwater foil, not above it. The result is simply more speed and means that it can be pointed and held in a straight line at the optimum angle to the optimum wind, leaving the other elements to the limits of the aerodynamics and the efficiency of the underwater foil.

Pilot and team leader, Paul Larsen is passionate about the project, “We have reached a very exciting stage in our efforts to build the fastest boat on Earth. I must admit to being a bit nervous as to what lies ahead and to attempt to break the marine sailing equivalent of the sound barrier is both daunting and exciting. Like an F1 car, Sailrocket is both super strong and yet super fragile”.

Sailrocket was launched from, and built at, NEG Micon, which normally produces huge composite turbine blades for wind generators. The connection is Malcolm Barnsley, NEG Micon's senior test engineer for wind power, who designed the ingenious Sailrocket and, along with Paul Larsen, proved the concept three years ago using a scale model.

""This is exactly a scaled up version of the model in terms of the sail, the weight distribution and everything so it should do exactly what the model did. The model showed that it should do over 50 knots in this configuration, without a wingsail. But now we'll have ventilation and cavitation issues, so we'll have to go through the same process as Yellow Pages and all the other [speed record holders].""

Larsen adds that Sailrocket has come out at exactly the weight expected. ""Within a kilogram,"" he says. ""The target weight was 170kg and I think it is probably a kilo or so under.""

The first tests of Sailrocket will happen in Weymouth within the next couple of weeks. ""We'll put it up on the beach on a windy day and get used to getting the rig up and down,"" says Paul Larsen. ""There are a whole lot of systems here which are designed to make the testing period easier, from getting the rig up and down to getting as many runs as you possibly can up and down the course, but when you've worked out the configuration of the boat and you're going for the money run, then you can get rid of a lot of these and start going down to a little bit more volatile technology, like PBO rigging. SP Systems is the materials sponsor.

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