Wed, 9 Jul 14 14:41

 Greetings all,

 

well it has been a while but I think the news story (on the front page) shows that we haven't been idle. I have held back on saying anything publicly though as I like to be pretty sure of what I'm talking about before saying anything. There comes a point, as with Sailrocket 2, where a good concept just keeps shining through the scepticism (often your own) and can't be held back.

If you liked what the project achieved last time, you won't be disappointed by where we are aiming now. 

 

The concepts upon which Sailrocket 3 will be based already have a lot of credibility. The numbers are good. The real challenge now is to put together the resources and project where once again we can turn these numbers into reality. 

The journey beckons.

Cheers, Paul.

Mon, 25 Mar 13 00:38

 Greetings all,

We have been archiving a lot of our footage from the past 11 years and there sure are a lot of memories in there.

Recently our friends at CNN Mainsail put a huge amount of effort into cramming our project into a 23 minute program.

We think that considering the time restraints, they did a really good job. They worked very hard to get all the details right.

There are some real behind-the-scenes heroes in our project such as Chris Hornzee Jones and his team at Aerotrope. Chris designed our first wing and was primary designer of VSR2. It was a shame we couldn't squeeze them in there somewhere to give him this credit.

Many of you will have seen it but for those who haven't, here is the link. 

 

Sailrocket on CNN Mainsail.

 

Here is another video that I know you will enjoy. It's the full length video of our 65 knot run as seen from the RC plane that chased us. Bernt did such a good job with this that we think it's worth sharing in its entirety. There is a more in depth explanation of the run from this perspective beneath the video itself. Here's the link...

 

Shooting a Rocket

 

Right now we are playing around with some ideas and getting ready to start building some scale models to test them. Helena and I are heading over to America tomorrow to go and see some Land yachting and then heading for San Francisco to see what everyone's up to over there. There seems to be a lot going on so now is as good a time as any to check it out.

Hopefully this crappy spell of weather will have broken by the time we get back.

 

Cheers, Paul

 

Mon, 21 Jan 13 05:04

 Greetings everyone... from Arctowski Polish Antarctic research station on King George island.

Right, firstly... this turned up in the mail the other day. I could stare at it for hours. It's little things like looking at this that really bring it all home.

I just look at it and ponder what it took to get it.

 

Ok... back to Antarctica, once again I find myself in some temporary style accomodation with the wind whistling outside. About 400 meters from where I am sitting, another weird boat sits patiently waiting for the adventure that she is about to take us on.

Check out www.shackletonepic.com for all the details and updates.

The 'Alexandra Shackleton' sits at the other end of the speed sailing spectrum. She is just under 23 feet long and weighs 3 tons. 1 ton boat, 1 ton ballast, 1 ton humans and accessories. The rigs are tiny and everything on the boat is either 100 years old or designed and built with the same style and materials as the boat which she so closely mimmicks. We are trying to re-create the voyage of the "James Caird" which Shackleton and five other men sailed from Elephant Island (120 miles as the crow flies from where I am now) to Sth Georgia. We will be eating the food, wearing the clothes and using the same equipment to navigate with. I'll be sharing the sailing side of things with Nick Bubb and also the celestial navigation. We really want to do this the old school way and want no input from outside sources. We will be shadowed by a support vessel for a number of reasons but only want the bear minimum of contact from them. Tomorrow we head off to try and make a landing on the notoriously desolate Elephant Island. That is where our voyage will really start.

Well, she aint no speed weapon... but she may well deliver another 6 men safely across 800 open miles of Southern Ocean.

 

It remains to be seen if we can truly follow in the footsteps of Shackleton and his men. Weather is a huge, random variable down here. we have a good team, a great little boat and a pretty thorough plan. It has been a real holiday for me not to be carrying the weight of the responsibility for the whole project.

Why am I doing this? 

The offer was made about 18 months ago but I turned it down. the main reason was that Sailrocvket was just taking up too much of my time and I couldn't commit the required effort to make this one work. When Nick stepped into the skippers role I knew that there would be a solid guy there to pay attention to the details. I was speaking to him a month or so before I last departed for Namibia to see how he was getting on. He was still looking for a 'number 2' and we discussed options. I asked him about the timing of this project and then commented that we should have finished our session with VSR2 by then. Nick quickly fired back that I should do it. My mind naturally raced for excuses but then was quickly dampened by my awareness that I wouldn't believe my own excuses myself anyway. I said I would sleep on it. I discussed it with Helena and in the morning agreed to do it. It was simply the opportunity for adventure that was impossible to turn down. These things don't come knocking often and when they do you best recognise them for what they are. I continued to question my motives for doing this and what the trip was really trying to achieve. You can't really copy Shackletons trip as to do so you would have to do it in the context by which he did it i.e. to save his and 27 other mens lives. In the end I had to stop myself and simply go back to the adventure. That's most likely what made them walk out of the comfort of their own homes 100 years ago... and that's what made me walk out of the comfort of mine. So, here I am.

 

The base is quiet and I'm the last one up. I had to update the blog as I have been aware that I sort of just stopped... then x-mas and then this and so on. I didn't have much of break between the two. In fact after we landed at Heathrow after that epic session in Namibia, Helena and I drove to Weymouth, I picked up a back pack and then Nick picked me up and we drove 1000 km up to Scotland to the foot of Ben Nevis where we did a mountain survival course. that was pretty radical. from a sand dune to an igloo in a few days.

When VSR2 started smashing things up I was worried that these two projects were going to overlap. I wondered if I should ditch this one and focus hard on pushing the recent success of VSR2 to the media and sponsors. I really didn't know what to do and there wasn't an obvious answer... so I went with my heart and that said to go with the adventure. The rest would work itself out. I could be wrong but then everytime I look around at the sheer splendour of the scenery down here, it just feels right. It has already been a fantastic adventure and we haven't even got to the good bit yet.

By doing this I have also avoided the 'come down' that can often come after something like what we just achieved in Namibia. Everyone wants to know "What's next"... and so do I. We have some good ideas but they really need knocking into shape. we have a really nice team here and we all feel that we are well placed to do some pretty special things. I don't think anyone expects us to return to a 'normal' path of development. There are so many other great ideas out there that have either never been done properly or simply haven't even lifted themselves off the drawing board. Whatever it is we do, it has to be fun. It has to be something that we are passionate about... to the extent that we are willing to put everything we have into it again. We have to totally believe in it.

What I am doing now is giving me a nice break. It gives me some breathing space to sit back and really think about what is next... what I want to do myself.

Fear not by the way. One way or another we will be back to have one more shot with Vestas Sailrocket 2. She is nowhere near done yet. The current foil might be close to her limits but we reckon we can take our newfound knowledge and have a good hard dig into the 70's. We will also focus harde on the safety elements of the boat.

We have all really enjoyed the joy that the teams success has brought to those who have backed us in all forms. It's just so damned nice to finally deliver the goods that we promised. I feel the sense of satisfaction that I hoped would be here. I think about it all every day (there are yellow '65 kns' written wobbly in the snow andon glaciers down here:)

When i get back to the UK in late February, our little design team will sit down with a clean sheet of paper... just like we did at the start of the VSR2 stage... and start looking at our options. It's a fascinating and very exciting stage of any project... but especially one that has so much creative potential. The loose plan is to start making our discoveries more practical. Surely we have to take this offshore. I have some ideas that I think can deliver a lot more offshore for a lot less than what we see out there now... but I need the brains trust to run some numbers on things. We'll see. The ideas aren't ready to be wheeled out yet. Many of the answers will present themselves pretty quickly though I think. I'll leave it at that. I'm pretty sure that we are closer to a new beginning than the end.

 

We are all very keen to head off tomorrow. Can Nick and I really navigate this thing safely to King Haakon Sound on South Georgia using a sextant and a 100 year old clock? I think we can. It's sure one hell of an exam test for us two celestial novices. I'm pretty interested to see if I can translate everything I have learned in my weird world of modern sailing to solving this 100 year old problem. Yeah, it will be an adventure alright. I don't think I will be doing the blogs on this one. Tim will probably be relaying short messages off the AS via VHF. That will be our only contact. You should be able to follow our progress. We will have a tracker onboard and you should also be able to see where we 'think' we are using our own 'dead reckoning' and celestial skills. You might all be in for a bit of a laugh on this one.

See you all on the other side... then we can get back to the fast stuff.

Cheers, Paul.

Wed, 28 Nov 12 14:30

So let's get this down here before I start forgetting stuff...Last Saturday looked like it was going to be a strong day from the moment it popped onto the long range Windguru forecast. Amongst a bunch of fluctuating average days it barely deviated as it approached. We began to focus on it as being the day when we would go all out. Almost annoyingly, the day before piped up and blew just enough to force us to fully gear up and head towards speed-spot. We stopped just short of launching the boat. It was annoying as it was strong enough to force us to react but we really wanted to focus on the next day. You have to be reactive as for whatever reason, the next day may not deliver. Every opportunity has to be seized this year and we had already had two remarkable days on average forecasts.

That night we had dinner back at the crew house. I was about to raise a glass to the following day and the last day of living in the 50's... but decided not to tempt fate. We had an early night.

It was already blowing from the SW in the morning. This combined with the strong forecast spoke to us that at long last, after over six weeks, we were going to get some good, old-school, industrial Walvis Bay wind.

Our focus was to smash through a 60 knot average. After our previous record runs there had been a heap of interviews and discussions about what it all represents. people doing articles on Hydroptere, Luderitz and Rob and Alex were all suddenly diverted to that 'other team' in Walvis Bay. Everyone wanted to know what we thought she could do. My guess was a little over 62 knots average. Although our 59.38 knot run was obviously hugely satisfying for us, I wasn't comfortable to leave it at that. I sincerely felt that it was still within striking distance of the kiters. They could have an epic day at one of the venues and now they had all the motivation in the world to pull the stops out. I could just sense that they were buzzing like a hungry bunch of knife fighters whose leader had just been shot. They would want revenge and although they would figure they were on the offensive... we knew that the gun had plenty more bullets. Today we would spend them.

I was nervous about the potential of the day. It could all end a number of ways. There are crash scenarios for this boat that I'm pretty sure would be lethal. If the forward beam stay failed, the failure mode would be pretty worst case. A snap roll of the fuselage to leeward. Considering that it is traveeling sideways at 25 degrees and would be combined with a forward pod nose-dive... it would be violent. We had spent the previous few days pulling the boat apart and checking everything. Alex put dormant safety lines in key areas and serviced the wing. Ben had installed padding around the cockpit edging to protect my head. The crash harness and quick release was all serviced. The boat was good.

As I lay awake in bed that morning I considered writing a little note that I hoped would never be read and stashing it somewhere. Too morbid. Just get it right Larsen.

We had set all the previous records in relatively mild conditions and were yet to sail in average conditions over 26 knots. What would a boat with unlimited stability that is demostrating its ability to sail at around 2.4 X windspeed do in a 30+ knot gust?

Yeah it was going to be a big day alright. There was a sense of definite energy in the wind. I had told a few close friends that this was going to be it. If ever they wanted to see this boat do its stuff... then this was it. We made sure that our good luck team member Wally was on side. I also made sure that our friend and guru RC model plane flyer Bernt was there. He had a plane which could fly at 110kmh with a GoPro2 on it. It was going to be windy so it was going to be interesting to see what he could do with it as he was literally flying against VSR2's apparent wind. We had more to organise than on most days. I spent the morning fitting a streamlined nose cone to the stub-beam that holds the main foil. Malcolm calculated that it could be good for 0.25 to 0.4 of a knot. That could make the difference (in a way it did). Things like that are free speed. 'Givens'.

The wind continued to build. The forecast was playing out. I fully believed that it was going to 'over develop' and build to a strength beyond what we could safely handle. I also felt that this might be the first and last big day of this record attempt. I knew what I had to do today. As the day built I began to feel that we had to get out there early. It could have built too quick and left us with the horrible realisation that we missed it. With the big crew it took a lot longer to get ready. We had to send over two RIB loads of people to speed-spot. By the time it was our turn to get towed over it was already over 25 knots.

FOCUSED.

 

On the way I sat in the cockpit and pulled my cap low over my eyes. I leaned back against the new side padding that Ben had installed and just relaxed. As we entered the end of the magical mile that is speed spot I began checking the conditions out in detail. I watch the kiters and windsurfers and check out what sails they have up, how easily they waterstart etc etc. Many come past the boat as it is being towed and we swap quick expressions to discuss the wind and such. I got Alex to pull into the timing hut where I ran up and did a quick wind check. Conditions were good.... not great but worth pushing forward with. We already had gusts up to 27 but dips to 22. The direction was good and things were only going to get stronger. I felt pretty edgey. Big things happen on days like this. It was great to see so many friends over on this normally desolate landscape. Close friends who knew what all this meant to us. Malcolm and george were here. Malcolm has never seen either boat go over 50 knots yet! He would have front row seats to see something special today.

FRONT ROW SEAT FOR MALCOLM AS VSR2 HEADS UP THE COURSE.

 

I ran back down to the boat and we quickly took it up to the top of the course. I had a quick chat to the boys to remind them to stay cool if it goes wrong. They would be a long way behind and would arrive well after the crash. I could be anywhere as they approach and in any shape. I don't wear a life jacket as I don't want to be stuck inside an upturned hull. Maybe I should. If my drysuit gets torn then it could be a bad thing. I drifted out of the upturned cockpit of VSR1 unconscious once. I'm still not sure how. I sit much deeper in this boat. I reminded them once more of the harness I was wearing and its mechanism... but mostly just to stay calm and turn off any emotion. No drama, just cool heads. I was nervous but in an excited way. I knew what I had to do and I also believed that I was about to have the ride of my life.

The wing went up cleanly and all the little rigging extras were removed. We had a clean ship. Everything was good. I had removed all the comms. to Alex i.e. ripped them off my helmet and thrown them in the piss after getting lost in the French language menu whilst trying to connect! Hand signals work. The release from the RIB went pretty well and I don't remember too many issues with getting over the initial 'hump'.

The run was pretty good. It was definitely fast although it is amazing how quickly you become accustomed to the speed. The leeward pod was flying high and I couldn't get it down as the adjustment was at its limits. It was a good run... but not a great run. When the RIB pulled alongside and escorted me into the beach I quickly lifted the rear hatch and checked the numbers... 63.17 peak and 58. 4 something average. No good. I tried to radio the group of people making the long walk down and tell them not to bother as we were going to turn around and make another run ASAP. The radios weren't working for some reason. More electronics had bitten the dust. Only the ICOM M-71 radios seem to handle it out there (no we aren't sponsored... that's how it is). Ben came down to film and I was pretty sharp with them for not monitoring the radio. 'Breathe it out and turn it off' Lars... calm down, make everyone feel cool and move on. This was not the run we wanted... but it did serve to remove any nerves we might have had. VSR2 had sailed beautifully and was handling the day easily. I was confident I could sail her full noise. We were into the day now and focused on simply getting it right. We returned to the top of the course and got set up for Run 2. This one did not start so well. It was messy. The leeward float sunk and the wing extension dug into a wave. I need to fully stall the craft in order to get it to bear away from the wind. I oversheet the wing to windward to force this. Sort of like backwinding a head sail or pulling the mainsheet traveller fully to windward. In this full stalled state the boat rolls hard to leeward like a conventional craft. In strong conditions and the larger waves that accompany them... this becomes a problem. I managed to pop the leeward float up by sheeting the wing out and getting the flow attached, the trouble with this is that it rounds the boat up towards the wind as the drive vector point way aft of the main foil. I had full left lock dialled on with the small rudder in order to stop us going head to wind. This is one of VSR2's weak points at low speed. She continued to slowly turn into the wind and I sheeted the wing back in to try and prevent it. The boat accelerated onto the plane in this state. She continued to pick up speed heading at a tight angle towards the beach. The rudder was on full lock for a bear away which meant it was fully stalled and hence fully side ventilated. I sheeted on harder to help it come away but it wasn't happening fast enough. The beach was close and the only thing to do was to ease the wing a little and dial the rudder quickly straight to get flow attached. This had the initial effect of turning us back in towards the beach. we were probably doing around 30-35 knots. The flow attached but we were getting into shallow water. I was strangely calm about it. I sheeted in again and turned hard away down the beach. The turn was too quick and the apparent wind struggled to come around with me i.e. I did not really accelerate into the turn down wind. The wing stalled. I checked the swirling leeward tell-tales. VSR2 began to de-accelerate so I eased the wing again to attach flow. I also turned her a little more in towards the beach. She slowly got hooked in and then BAM... she was off again.

She accelerated straight up to over 61 knots but I knew it was a dud run. Only 54. something average. Everyone commented about how close in I had come at the start. On reflection it was a bit marginal but on the other hand also a sign that I was comfortable with handling the boat in tight situations.

Now I was bloody minded and set to take from this day what we had come for.

We went back up for Run 3. Ben and Alex were their usual fast and efficient selves. The three of us can basically rig and run this boat. Wally was holding the bow and ready to be an extra set of hands if we needed them.

The day felt stronger. I called Helena on the now returned comms and got another wind check. She assured me that the peak gust was still only 31 knots but that the wind was now pegged pretty solid in the middle high 20's. She called out a long string of numbers off the TACKTICK weather station, 27, 28, 28, 28 , 29, 29 , 29, 28, 28, 27, 28 etc. This was it. The course looked great and things were perfect. I didn't want to have to do another run.

The release from the RIB was the worst yet. VSR2 stuffed the leeward wing in hard. The whole thing was out of sight underwater. The leeward pod was well under and even the beam end was in the water. I waited for something to break.

 

THE LEEWARD SIDE OF THE BOAT IS WAY DOWN HERE AND I'M SERIOUSLY CONCERNED THAT WE HAVE BLOWN IT. WAITING FOR SOMETHING TO BREAK. IT DIDN'T.

 

There is not much I can do here but lightly ease the wing, turn the small rudder hard to windward and wait for the boat to lazily swing into the wind. The boys in the RIB were right beside me also watching this unfold. Juergen Geiger was right behind me waiting to follow me down the course on his kite board. Juergen who gave me a free room in his B+B and made it easy for me to come down to Walvis when we were broke and desperate to find a home for the project. Perfect that he was here now.

VSR2 slowly swung into the wind whilst I muttered under my breath. The minute the wind attaches to the inclined rig she starts generating lift. The core stability concept kicks in and the leeward pod rips up nice and high on the water. I had heard a 'pop' out there and figured that something was broken and the run was going to have to be abandoned. When the wing attached we accelerated pretty cleanly. I checked and double checked for damage, I expected things to be hanging in the water. They weren't. Tough boat. I had severed the outboard flap control line before this run in order to back it off as much as I could. This was an effort to get the leeward side of the boat down onto the water to reduce the heeling and increase the thrust. Sort of the reverse of flying a catamaran hull too high. The flap was just bouncing around as the pod jumped off the chop. We were actually pretty well placed course-wise and the rudder had attached flow. I sheeted in hard. Back into it then. The rear skeg was kicked up hard. It locks into a wedge but is not cleated. I turned onto the course in good shape.

We were using all the course this time. We hit it hard and the acceleration was rapid. We went straight into the 60's. The pod was instantly high and I sheeted in as hard as I could to try and get it down. I was now adding a pre-fix to "fast". It was now "This is f*****g fast". That word is there for moments like this. I believe it ceases to be swearing.

FRONT FLOAT LEVITATION. 65+KNOTS AND CHARGING FOR THE GATE.

MALCOLM AND GEORGE WATCHING VSR2 POWER PAST. FOR MALCOLM THIS IS A LIFE LONG DREAM.

PAINTING RAINBOWS DOWN WALVIS BAY 'SPEED-SPOT'. THERE'S A POT OF HYDRODYNAMIC GOLD AT THE END OF THIS ONE.

FLYING!

 

VESTAS Sailrocket 2 was alive and baring her base ventilated claws. We were in close and conditions were perfect. After 11 years, all the plates were spinning. The boat gave a hard kick in towards the beach that I had to steer into. I later found out that the rear skeg had dropped down and was dragging behind giving a fixed steering input. the boat settled into a new balance. I thought it was something else related to the messy start up. I still thought something might be broken... but stuff it. I couldn't see it and whatever it was it wasn't slowing us down. We were hitting new highs. The timing hut was gone in an instant. I was vaguely aware of Malcolm and George standing on the shore in the shallows. It was just solid, hard speed now. I felt like the boat had forgotten about me and was now just showing itself what it could do. I was a passenger. The leeward pod continued to climb and climb.

THE LEEWARD POD IS TOO HIGH AS WE TOP OUT AT 68 KNOTS. THE WING IS EASED AS I TRY AND BRING IT ALL BACK TO EARTH.

 

Sheeting on wouldn't put it down any more as it just generated speed and hence more apparent. I had no option but to sheet out and bring it all back under control. I ended up way down the end of the beach in the shallows. We survived. That had to be it... that was hard core fast. The boys came down and we got the boat ashore. Ben once again made the long walk down. I didn't check the numbers. I knew it was 60 +. The longer I leave it the more I dial down my emotions. We told everyone to stay up at the hut. We would lower the wing and come up to them. As we got towed up there Alex was looking back at me in the cockpit to make sure I wasn't taking a peak. Everyone was pretty excited when we arrived. We hung VSR2 off a line behind the anchored RIB and walked up to the small group at the old timing huts.

COMING UP WITH THE YET UNSEEN NUMBERS.

 

I had the small GT-31 GPS with me. When everyone was there I began to play out a scene I had had in my head for years. The GPS scrolls through two numbers. One is the peak speed and the other is the average over 18 seconds... way more than is necessary for a 500m course at our new speeds. I finally looked at the numbers.

THINGS ARE ABOUT TO CHANGE.

 

The first number I saw was 65.37 knots. This was real good. This peak would definitely deliver a 60+ knot run. It was already easily a personal best. The next number nearly sat me on my arse. 67.74knots. An electric rush shot through me. It took me a while to realise what I was really looking at. This means that 65.37 is the average. I looked at the expectant faces... and then checked again. I told them that I would write the numbers down backwards in the sand.

First the peak. 4....7....7....6. Everyone exploded. This was epic... next came the average.

BOOM! The magic had happened. VESTAS Sailrocket 2 had truly arrived. Even Juergen dropped to his knees. This was big. Sailing would never be the same.

HERE COMES THE CHAMPAGNE.

 

We hugged, we cried, we laughed, we swore and yelled. I'm nearly crying now. We were all just so damned happy.

 

TO VIKKI P, JON M, PIERRE S, JANIS C AND BERNARD S.

 

The wind continued to build and sand was absolutely everywhere. It was as if even the wind wanted to come and celebrate. Conditions were already over the top. We had nailed it exactly right. I told Helena to share the love via Twitter as I knew how many people were watching this and wanting to know about it. We ran everyone back in two trips. The boat always looked good but now she looked stunning. We towed her home the long way around the shallows. It was now over 35 knots and rough. It was a long, slow, rough and joyous trip home. The day was golden. All the way we tried to comprehend what this all meant. We wondered about the reactions of all the people getting this news in different corners of the world. We shook our heads and swore a lot... even the women.

There were more hands than usual to help us ashore.

BACK SHE COMES IN ONE PIECE. ALWAYS A GREAT FEELING.

 

What a pleasure it was to put this boat away in one piece. Apart from one handling error that lead to a broken beam, this boat has done incredibly well from her first sail. It has proven to be a super-tough, efficient and reliable boat. It's even practical. It feels like a 60 knot+ Hobie cat. Three people can launch and sail this thing even in windy conditions. There is a refined process to it... but still, that's all it takes.

We grabbed the numbers off the TRIMBLE and started to go through the incredible footage. The aerial stuff off the RC plane was awesome. Bernt did a brilliant job. Bottles of Red Heart Rum appeared as if by magic and the festivities began. 'Feeling Good' by Muse was the song blaring out. I was just so damned happy. That was what we were talking about. We went out there to get it right and we suceeded. I was so proud of the team and how they performed. Everyone nailed it. The footage is great, the stills are great,... the day was just... great. The other days were fantastic. They were milestones... but today we owned speed sailing. Everything else would have to change. A point now live on the chart way up 'there' that future competitors and designers need to aspire towards. Everyone has to think differently. The performance of the kite boarders did this. In many respects they should feel proud. Everyone who has held this record should feel some level of ownership of that day.

What a day.

So now, looking back, I know we could go faster. We maxxed her out on that day with those settings but with a little bit of tweaking she could go quicker. The run was a little loose, the back skeg was dragging a lot (you can see it on the aerial footage) and the pod was way too high (due to new levels of apparent wind). The wing sections were also slightly out of alignment under these new loads. With a little bit of re-configuring I know we could get over 70 knots with what we have. I don't think anyone would doubt it. We haven't seen any further signs of cavitation and we are still well within structural limits. This boat will see the other side of 70... but not this time. The wind has left us and none is forecast. I doubt Helena will get her shot at the womens record this time. It's a shame. There really has been very little wind this year but we have sure made the most of that which we have been given. We will remain on standby until Thursday but I think this is it for us.

The first Outright world record has now officially been ratified and there are three more still to come.

The following morning I looked at myself through reddened eyes in the mirror and I liked who was looking back at me.

Yeah I'm happy with that.

Two nights ago we towed VESTAS Sailrocket 2 over to speed spot on a flat calm night. We set her up and sat her on the beach as the African sun set. It was time to crack that last big Jeroboam of Champagne. It was the Outright world record bottle that the Mk1 never opened. It had been chilled, heated, transported and left to wait many times since we were given it at the launch of the first boat in 2004. It was a sad moment for me when we had to load this bottle in with the Mk1 when we sent it back to the UK. Well the second boat had earned it and this was the perfect setting in which to crack it. The cork was hard to remove (massive understatement). I shook the hell out of the deeply chilled bottle but when the cork popped... it only barely fell out the end. That big bottle had had a hard life too. Some of the fizz had gone but it still tasted fantastic. We toasted all the people who had helped make it happen and couldn't be here with us... and we drank it from the standard resin mixing cups as the sun set. Friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These were great days.

Sincerest thanks to all who made it happen.

Here's the video.... BLOWN AWAY!

Cheers, Paul

Sat, 24 Nov 12 19:15

Fresh off the TRIMBLE... 68.01 over 1 second, 65.45 over 500 meters.

I'll let the pictures tell the story. The triple rum and cokes are already hitting the mark.

MALCOLM AND GEORGE WATCHING THE BEAST DO ITS STUFF.

POD HIGH AND SMOKING...60+ RUN 2

BERNT WITH HIS GOPRO PLANE. THE FOOTAGE IS AMAZING. THIS GUY HAS SKILLS. BLOODY WELL DONE IN 30 KNOTS OF WIND.

I SAVED THE BIG REVEAL UNTIL I GOT THE BOAT BACK UP TO THE TIMING HUT. WALKING BACK UP WITH THE NUMBERS AND MALC.

I WROTE THE NUMBERS BACKWARDS IN THE SAND. THIS WAS THE MOMENT.

MALCOLM AND I. WE STARTED THIS GIG 11 YEARS EARLIER.

YEAH... PRETTY HAPPY WITH THAT.

GEORGIE BOY IS PRETTY HAPPY TOO.

SELF EXPLANATORY REALLY...

 

BRINGING THE BEAST BACK HOME IN ONE PIECE.

 

We are absolutely over the moon with todays performance. I'll leave it at that. Tomorrow is already written off. So cool, so damned cool.

THANKYOU VESTAS FOR BACKING US ALL THE WAY.

That's it. Job done!

Love, Paul x

Sat, 24 Nov 12 09:36

 Well the big forecast is playing out. It's 1017 here and the wind is already in. Our little corner of the Walvis Bay Yacht Club is buzzing as we prepare for the big day that we know lies ahead.

This is the first big wind day we have had in over 6 weeks now.

Today we focus purely on taking the outright record over 60 knots.

The project has been going on a big up for some time now and we want it to continue that way. Things can easily go the other way. The day is going to pump. We used to try and use that power to punch through our glass ceilings but now we have shown that we don't need it. We are operating at around 2.4-2.5 times windspeed and a few more knots makes a big difference. The thing is that whilst we know we will have a lot more power if it's gusting up to 30... what we don't know is what the nature of our drag curve is up ahead. Is it gradual or is it another 'brick wall'. On paper we expect cavitation to happen just over 65 knots. That's on paper. How it manifests itself is yet to be seen. This boat is damned powerful and in 30 knots, sheeted in hard with around 65-70 knots of apparent wind it's going to be one hell of a tug of war between the wing and the foil. VSR2 is being optimised for a big number. The pitch of the main foil has been reduced by 0.25 degrees, fairings have been added to the front of the stub beam (which holds the foil) and the outboard flap that controls the height of the leeward float has had its negative pitch range increased to help me keep it all on the level.

Yes I'm nervous. This is a big day.

 

I've already got the music ready for when we suit up.

Spiderbait, RATM, Pleasurade... that'll do it... 'Feelin' good' by Muse has already made an appearance.

 

Righto, let's see if we can take this to the next level.

 

Hopefully we will see you on the other side.

Cheers, Paul

 

(Helena will be tweeting as usual. The tweets appear on the front page)

 

Thu, 22 Nov 12 12:43

 Well the madness of the last weekend is calming down and we have had time to reflect a bit on what has happened.

I smile a lot these days.

Ben has been madly editing up the nautical mile run into a video and as I look at each edit and each camera angle it reminds of just what a fantastic run that was.

The 500 meter courses are short and intense. The actual 500 meter run is over in 16.4 seconds. You ride a couple of gusts and then bang, you're trying to bring it all to a halt. In my mind I'm evaluating each second and considering how it effects the average. Does this drag it up or bring it down? That's why I'm saying, "That's fast, that's fast, that's good... this will do it". It's my equivalent of 'one-one thousand,two-one thousand... counting seconds'. The mile... the mile is a whole different thing.

For starters the Walvis Bay speed strip is exactly 1.04 nautical miles long. It is a 'hammer head' beach between two lagoons.

YOU CAN SEE THE MAGIC MILE OF SPEED SPOT MARKED BY THE 500 METER STRIP HERE. FOR THE MILE RUN I START IN THE DISTANT 'SECOND' LAGOON AT THE TOP RIGHT OF THE PICTURE AND COME TOWARDS THE YACHT CLUB. I RUN OUT INTO FIRST 'WALVIS BAY' LAGOON TO FINISH.

 

In order for me to hit the start of the mile flying I need to be dropped out somewhere in the exposed waters of the second lagoon. I need to get started in what is considered pretty rough water for a dedicated speed sailing boat. It's a bit like taking an F1 car off road. You can do it... but it's not ideal. VSR2 is a tough boat built to live in the real world of Walvis Bay. It's a slightly 'jacked up' F1 car. We decided to do the mile as it didn't feel very windy and I didn't think we would have good conditions for a shot at our previous Outright record. The tide was also high which meant that I could use the full mile and not be forced to stop by the shallows at the end. We had never attempted the mile with this boat so now was as good a time as any to try.

The start up procedure from a distant shore around the back of 'speed-spot' went really well. It took a long time but we got into a good position to get a run into the start of the course.

GETTING LOWERED OUT IN SECOND LAGOON PRIOR TO STARTING THE MILE.

 

A proper small swell was running and VSR2 was rolling around as the RIB escorted me into position. My worry was that we would dip the low, horizontal wing extension between swells and do damage. Fortunately we managed to get away before this happened. VSR2 started planing quite quickly and I focused on picking up the transits to line me up with the course. I had to ease the wing out a bit to stop from accelerating too hard. We were well positioned but had to cover a couple of hundred meters of lumpy water before we got in close to the nice flat protected water... the good stuff. I was running at 90 degrees to the swell so steering a lot to ride along the crests and choose a smooth line. I was playing the wing to manage the speed and ... you know, sailing it like a normal boat. Whilst I was a bit worried about the risk... I was also enjoying playing with this wonderful boat in a new environment. I had to pick the point to start winding her up to speed. I know we can't hit the start at full pelt as it is just too rough but I wanted to push the whole mile hard. I started the mile at only 38 knots. The wind had come up to near ideal design conditions so I knew that if we could get onto the course that the record would be in serious trouble. Well now we were on the course in good shape so the hammer went down. VSR2 launched quickly over 50 knots once I sheeted the wing in. I now had a glorious long minute to soak up this wonderful craft flexing her new found skills. I could see the gusts ahead on the water. The view from the cockpit is perfect. No spray. It's panoramic. The drops in speed between the gust induced lunges of acceleration weren't that big. "This is good, that's fast, that's in the bank, this'll count..." By half way down I knew that Hydroptere was in serious trouble. We hit over 60 knots well before we went past the timing hut and camera position. The wind was registering 23-26 knots steady as we went past the TACKTICK weather station.

SAILING PAST THE TIMING HUT WITH THE TACKTICK WIND READOUT FROM THE BASE STATION IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA.

 

We were hanging around the 58-60 knot mark when we got the next solid gust and flew deep into the 60's again. We peaked at 64.78 knots in this gust (74.55 mph, 120kph). The front float was sort of floating off the chop. It didn't feel like its motion was defined purely by gravity. This made me think that the rudder loads might be higher than expected. If this is the case then the beam/wing combination is too far forward and the front of the boat is starting to fly a little.

THE FRONT FLOAT CAN BE SEEN HERE LIVING UP TO ITS NAME.

 

This is fast... but not ideal from a stability point of view. At times it felt like the float was 'lofting' and not just bouncing off the chop. I was coming towards the end of the course and planning my exit from the mile. I knew by this stage that I had more than enough in the bank to bag a big average. I was enetering the stage where I would start hitting the chop coming in from the long fetch of the first lagoon. At the point where I could begin turning into the wind by swinging into the first lagoon, I eased the wing and continued a long turn banging and bouncing off the chop.

SPEARING AROUND THE CORNER OFF THE END OF THE MILE AND INTO FIRST LAGOON.

 

Breathe. We had made it. The support RIB would be a long, long way behind. I checked the situation I was now in and made the boat stable.

That was an awesome soaking into our newfound world. The start up, the middle and the end were all just so incredible. I knew we had some big numbers sitting in that TRIMBLE behind me. It took me a while to appreciate how intense that whole experience had been. I realised that 'That was it'. That was what I had been chasing for 10 years. Exactly that. Strapped into a wild prototype boat pushing it as hard as it will go and immersing my senses in the thrill of going at speeds that no-one had ever seen before. Yeah, that was it alright. That was the dream that fired the whole journey... and it was GOOD. That magical mile had paid me back personally in full. Speed sailing and I are square now. Anything that comes after this is a bonus.

"GET OUR CHAMPAGNE DEALER ON SPEED-DIAL"

 

We gingerly brought the boat back in from the middle of First Lagoon and lowered the wing. Once again we came home in the dark. It was Sunday night and the town was quiet. We knew we had broken our own outright record again but had to process the data to get a feel for the mile. We were all pretty tired. We hadn't even expected to go sailing. No big winds were forecast and we were still getting over the celebrations of our first Outright record on Friday night. Saturday was a pretty dusty affair. No-one came down to the container for a long time on Sunday. We saw the data and knew that the TRIMBLE would record somehwere around the mid 55 knot range. It turned into 55.32 knots in the end. Of course we were happy... but we had already been very happy. We knew we had to get excited again regardless of our tired state so we called Sarah... our local dealer of fine French champagne. We were very happy.

ALL WORK DAYS SHOULD END LIKE THIS. DINNER WITH SARAH AND GARY AS THE LAST OF THE DAYS WINDS FADES TO NOTHING. HAPPY DAYS.

 

It consolidated our first run and showcased what a great boat we had on our hands. She is tough and versatile. She can handle some rough play and what's more... she is bloody efficient. The average wind as recorded on the base station was just under 25 knots. The peak gust during the run was 27 knots. 

I had specified to Chris Hornzee Jones at AEROTROPE that the boat and new foils must be able to do 65 knots in 26 knots of wind so that we can get 500 meter averages of 60. The way by which we have developed this boat to hit its targets is very rewarding to behold. Nice work Chris (I did remind him that 64.78 isn't exactly 65 knots. I think his reply to 'pull my head in' might have not come from an aerodynamic perspective)!

That was the perfect finish to an amazing weekend of speed sailing. Just amazing.

Malcolm and George have flown in and the forecast looks weak except for Saturday which looks HUUUUGE! I'm trying to write this now but am also aware that todays wind is blowing a lot harder already than forecast. I reckon we might be saddling up soon.

So here is the video from that epic mile run. I remembered to turn on the Gopro on my helmet and we took Timan's advice from the comments of an earlier blog and strapped a small audio recording device to the front float.

THE MAGIC MILE VIDEO

 

Right now we are tooling up to head out again. This slick team is back in action and it's great to see. We are all getting pushed hard now as the workload the project is generating spirals upwards. I'm really impressed by how they rise to the joblist. We have pulled the boat fully apart and given her a good going over. She's ready to be pushed once more.

 

As a final note, I would like to thank you all on behalf of the team for the joy and encouragement you have shared in your replies to this blog. I want to reply to you all but we are a bit overwhelmed at the moment. We read them all and share the emotion of this wonderful time in our projects life. A big page has turned for Sailrocket but I can assure you that there is more to come.

Cheers, Paul.

 

 

Sun, 18 Nov 12 20:28

 Just in after the most incredible run. A whole nautical mile dipping well into the 60's on each gust. We peaked near or over 64 knots and beat our previous 500 meter average. I don't think we cracked 60 knots as a 500 meter average though. But anyway... we smashed the nautical mile record. The TRIMBLE file is big but on the small GT31 we averaged over 55.5 knots

 

(Hang on STOP PRESS: Trimble data in now... 55.32 knots for the mile subject to wssrc ratification. That's it).

63.98 knots 1 second peak... so definitely over 64 for a spike in there.

... and just marginally quicker than our previous best 500 meters at 59.38 knots... subject to wssrc stuff!

 

It's not an easy run to do on a course that is only 1.04 nautical miles long. I have to wind the boat up in rough water at the start and launch it out into rough water at full pelt at the end. Bloody interesting sailing in a boat specifically designed for flatter water.

So that was a big tick on our job list. We didn't even think we were going sailing today. Our media job list is huge and we had to drop everything to go sailing. The team is getting slick now and we made the switcharoo to sailing mode pretty effectively.

So it's Sunday and the town is shut. We're alone in the container with one paltry bottle of Pol Roger champagne left. Our local Champagne dealer is enroute.

This boat is wearing us out. We have barely recovered from the first hangover.

Damn that was good ride. I had the time to look around and just enjoy the sensation that that awesome piece of kit delivers. She was on the edge there a few times.

Bloody brilliant. Go Team.

Enjoy all. Cheers, Paul

Sun, 18 Nov 12 13:10

 Ok, the hangover is over and the laptops are smoking in the container. I'll write the full update soon. I've been overwhelmed by all the people writing in and obviously enjoying this as much as we are.

So it's time to take you all on that magic ride down the new 'holy water' of the speed sailing world. Here's the short and sharp of the magic happening...(you can imagine how nice it is to type these words in each time)...

VESTAS SAILROCKET 2 OUTRIGHT RECORD RUN.

There is no music on this so hopefully it will work on mobile devices.

Cheers, Paul

 

Fri, 16 Nov 12 20:43

 The title says it all. It's just soaking in now... with the Champagne.

Calling friends, team members... all are family tonight.

I'm sitting here with great French champagne all around and smiling people. VESTAS Sailrocket 2 sits outside on the lawn shivering lightly in the decreasing breeze. She has the noble composure of a race winning horse that struts around wondering what all the fuss is about.

We are downloading the TRIMBLE data now. The great thing is that the GPS we use out there is set for a 18 second average... but at 59 knots we might not need that long. It said we did a 59.01 knot average... The TRIMBLE should be higher. I will let you know here when I know.

I think I'll drink some more Pol Roger... and wait.

Christ... I'm buzzing and I know it is just going to get better. I will have this for life now. 

There it is 59.23 knot average fresh off the TRIMBLE. 62.53 peak.

Records subject to WSSRC ratification.

I'm signing out.

I have too many people to thank I don't know where to start.

I have to call mum and dad.

The happiest days!

Still more to come.

Paul.

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