Paul's blog

Nothing would be finer than an epic 69'r

Gearing up to head out today. went out yesterday but the wind crapped out so Run 68 fizzled. Today looks pretty hot. The Stone Roses are blasting as we climb into the Musto drysuits.

I can feel butterflies... and they feel goooood.

Righto.. let's go see what the day will bring.

Run 69 here we come.


Run 67... a 41 knot cruise flying blind.

 New videos posted by the way, this next link is for a largish medium res file of around 18 mb. if you hit the link, you have to retype in the letter code at the top of the page and then follow the cues for the free download. We hope to improve on this. is the 'youtube' link

Righto... back to the update...

We hit the speed course again yesterday hungry to top our recent success on Run 66. We were only 0.2 knots behind Hydroptere's previous best 500 meter run and when I checked out their website to confirm this... it appears that they have gone and posted a faster run again!!! They are now around 1.8 knots faster at 46.1 knots! The king of the boats is still Good ol' Yellow Pages Endeavour with their amazing 46.52 knots posted way back in 1993.



So with this in mind we crossed the lagoon on a day that was shaping up nicely. The buoys were placed out to give me a course to focus on and show me how close in I could potentially come in to the shore. After this we pull in to the timing hut where we have built a small roof top terrace to film the runs from. Out the back we mount the TACKTICK gear on a pole as an independent weather station to log the wind throughout the session. The remote display is up with the cameraman who has a VHF and can give me a quick wind update before I take over the channel for the run. I have no wind data display on the boat as the two PI RESEARCH displays are showing wing and rudder angles. Once this is set up we head to the top of the course where it takes five people to raise the rig... and about five to ten minutes.

A large anchor is dropped and a tether attached from this to the transom Of VESTAS SAILROCKET. It is left slack during the rigging process but acts as a safety in case the boat gets away on us... as it has once before. On a windy day, the boat would have the potential of locking onto a course at 40 + knots without me in it... and just sailing... until god knows what would happen (It would probably head to sea and a month later... take out HUGO BOSS in the middle of the night)! One person holds the wing angle whilst it is raised, one person eases the rigging, one person holds the bow, one person stands on the boat to help the rig get started in the raising process and one person hauls on the 6:1 HARKEN purchase to pull the strut in and hence raise the rig. The guy holding the bow stays with me whilst the other three head down the course. One of them takes up station on the video camera whilst the other two man the RIB (one of whom catches VESTAS SAILROCKET at the other end as she comes into the beach).

We have shown we can do back to back runs in around 20-25 minutes if we hop to it.

We had already raised the rig and done an electronics test in the still air of the morning... but as is always the case... problems began to arise the minute we got across to the windsweapt remoteness of Speed-spot. The displays for wing and rudder angle began to play up. At the top of the course we tried everything at our disposal all to no avail. Here we were plugging 9V batteries into a 30' speed sailing boat to try and make it work. It reminded me of Xmas day as a kid with a new remote control toy. There was a fault somewhere... obviously... and it was affecting both the PI RESEARCH logger and the displays. I considered aborting the day but decided to do a run flying blind anyway. You always learn something. The trouble is that from where I'm sitting, the wing angle is not that easy to judge, especially as we are constantly moving the beam and rake angles. The rudder angle is also pretty important as it shows me how well VESTAS SAILROCKET is balanced at speed and hence if I am in the 'safe' fine tune zone of the steering system as against the 'coarse' part. If the boat is not balanced and I'm doing over 40 knots in the coarse zone then small inputs by me have a large effect on the rudder. We are still talking fractions of a degree here but this can lead to the dreaded 'round-up' as we have seen recently... and many times before.

So I did a tentative run with a very nice and flat start up sequence. I didn't oversheet the wing but had it out at what I guessed was around 15-20 degrees. This limits the speed of the boat and I could feel it doing this like a rev limiter. VESTAS SAILROCKET would surge ahead... and the abruptly lose power as she would almost oversail the rig. We peaked at 41. something knots in not a moderate wind of around 19 knots. the water was flat and I had pulled the main flap on.

At the end of the course I decided to head back to the base to sort this problem out. If we are not logging the data then we are wasting our time. If we hit a high speed, have a crash or anything else in between... it's all a bit meaningless in the big picture if we don't understand why or how.

It was shaping up to be a brilliant day so it was pretty frustrating to walk away from it.

We have found the faulty connection and hopefully resolved the problem. The forecast looks great for today also so let's hope we can get out there and jump up another couple of rungs.

Well done to Hydroptere. I admire those guys immensely. It makes the whole endeavour much more interesting to have two teams going for it on the water at once. I'm pretty sure we can trade blows with them toe to toe. We each have our strengths and weaknesses and we are both at a stage in our projects lives where we are in good shape for the challenges to come. It's great stuff.

Cheers, Paul.

Happy days a few rungs higher up the speed ladder!!!

What a great run. With perfect top-end conditions we hit the course determined to go for it. Yesterday was a great day for dialling in VESTAS SAILROCKET and based on those four runs we reconfigured the geometry for today.

I knew it was going to be fast because I knew I could get her in close to flatter water.

My visor hadn't blown up since the 44 knot run earlier this year so I guessed it was pretty damned quick... and it stayed quick... because my visor blew up a second time. She felt great. Once I had managed to slow the madness down I informed the team that we had a new top speed. The GPS read 45.7 knots, later on the download it read 45.85 whilst the PI RESEARCH GPS recorded 46.28 knots!!! I'll let you all work out what was probably real but I will guess somewhere in between.

We were all stoked and decided to put the boat away so we could once again digest all the data from todays run in case any little 'red flags' had appeared.

We have now downloaded all the data although it was a bit frustrating as a number of systems decided not to work including the expensive solid-state onboard camera and the shore logger which records the data of the ultra reliable TACKTICK gear (the logger is a custom jobby and not TACKTICK by the way). The B+G/PI RESEARCH system on the boat caught all the vitals which we are joyfully wading through.

Even better news for us was the averages we attained over the course. We did 700 meters over 40 knots and managed a 500 meter run of 44.3 knots. In boating terms that puts us up in pretty exclusive company. I think Hydroptere's best 500 meter is somewhere around there... although I think we all know they are capable of a bit more.

Whilst we sailed in much flatter water today, we can still come in as close again. The main flap on the wing wasn't pulled on at all, the strut is still unfaired and the raising and lowering rigging was left up to assist in turnaround times. So there is plenty more still to come.

The ride was much nicer thanks to the new thinner rear planing surface and the steering felt very positive. The pod was flying perfectly clear of the water just nipping the odd wave every now and then. We are still not out of the woods with control issues... but then this run showed how we have come a looooooong way to achieving solid averages in a controlled manner.

It is so nice to move forward once again. Some times you just seem to get stuck at a number for seemingly no reason. VESTAS SAILROCKET showed us that she has a lot left to offer and it's a huge relief to all the team to have all the hard work rewarded.

The video looks like it was in fast forward. Pics and vids to follow.

Happy days, Malcolm was so happy to hear the good news.

Cheers from Paul and the team.


Finally... a day we can work with!!! Four runs today.

What a glamour day. Brought to us by sheer patience. This season down here in Walvis Bay hasn't been a good one. It's either been blowing like crazy... or nothing. Today was just right and we were ready to make the most of it.

The new steering slot, which alters the way the rudder moves to my inputs, arrived today and we didn't hang around in fitting it to the boat. Thanks once again to Uwe at JAZ MARINE in Cape Town for chasing this up for us. As the wind filled in we began to dress accordingly in preperation. The wind had built significantly by the time we got onto speed-spot and sure enough... we had another windy day on our hands. i tried a startup closer to the shore and then set VESTAS SAILROCKET off on a course. She wouldn't hold up to the beach over 40 knots so instead of trying to correct it with a totally new steering configuration... I abandoned the run. The wind dropped slightly so we headed back up. I was determined to get as many runs in as I could so that I myself could develop a solid routine for starting sequences. On the next run I just sheeted in to 20 degrees and watched what happened. She was reluctant to bear away at the start but as she accelerated she settled down onto a nice course running parallel to the beach. I could almost sail her hands free. We weren't going very fast as we were well sheeted out... but VSR was very well behaved. It showed that I don't necessarily have to oversheet and use large steering inputs to get her onto the course.

In the next two runs I focused on doing tighter 500 meter runs withe the final run involving a 500 meter run with the boat fully configured as she should be i.e. wing sheeted in to 10 degrees and the flap on. The wind had dropped to high teens but I was still able to feel the balance of the boat, effectiveness of the new steering system and just have a play with her.

We ahve never done four runs with the wing before so I think it was a great exercise for the whole team. The quality of the data is now much better than it ever has been so thanks to PI RESEARCH for helping us chase the 'gremlins'. We now sit surrounded by laptops digesting all this data so that it can be used to our advantage as early as tomorrow.

After the grounding on Run 61 we moved the beam back forward but it appears that it could now come back a few degrees as it seems that we have lee-helm where VESTAS SAILROCKET is trying to bear away from the beach a bit too hard.

I feel pretty happy with today. I think we have learnt a lot recently and I'm pretty sure that we are on the right path with this latest steering system. We need days like this. If we are going to ever max this boat out then we can't just go out on top end days and see what happens. We need to be well practiced and confident enough in our craft and level of development to be able to go out with a practiced approach and totally master a top-end day.

Tomorrow is set to be windy so we better be fast learners...

Cheers, Paul.

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