When only the fastest is fast enough

Paul Larsen and Malcolm Barnsley with Vestas Sailrocket 1

This summer, the huge ‘Union Jack’ doors of the Columbine shed in East Cowes will part and true to the shed's origins, one more and perhaps final, amazing flying boat will emerge. The UK based team behind the VESTAS SAILROCKET project are building a new boat to finish the job of setting the outright world speed sailing record. The new craft will be an evolution of the innovative concept upon which their original craft was based.


The new boat is being built in the VESTAS R&D facilities at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight. It will incorporate many features to make it more versatile and practical to sail at world record speeds in a wider range of winds and sea states. The team will launch the new boat in East Cowes in time for the British summer and hope to carry out testing in the UK over the following months. If initial trials go well, the team will endeavour to bring the world record back to UK waters.


Pilot/project leader, Paul Larsen- “This represents a fantastic opportunity to develop a real breakthrough concept. Our first interpretation of it did a brilliant job of demonstrating the potential. I’m very proud of what we have achieved but also very aware that we haven’t finished the job. I personally can’t live with that. The first boat did what it was supposed to do... but by the time it did, the record had moved on. As it stands we still need to go two knots faster to break the current world record. I still believe our first boat could break that record but I also know she is near her limits. As a team we are now well positioned to design and build a much better, safer and above all faster boat which is more suitable for the challenges to come.


“The fact is that in the world of outright speed sailing, there is nothing of real interest to us below 50 knots. 50 knots has to be a minimum cruise speed for our next boat and it must be able to do it in a wide range of wind and sea states. Some of the problem areas require us to come up with new solutions as we can’t simply force conventional thinking onto an unconventional craft. We have put a lot more effort into making the boat stable in unusual situations. Our first version was a good boat but a lousy aeroplane. The next boat will be stable in both environments. No matter what we come up with... we will be pushing it right to the limit... and be able to bring a passenger along for the ride!


“It’s an ideal situation to be working so closely with VESTAS right in the heart of their R&D facilities. We use the same tools and speak the same language. The only difference is that when we take our design to the limit, I have to strap myself into it!”


Designer, Malcolm Barnsley- “Many valuable lessons have been learned. It’s ideal to be going straight in with a follow up boat while these are fresh in our minds. So many of the unknowns are now known and we have a far greater understanding of the concept and the novel issues surrounding it. Design-wise this provides a strong foundation which gives us the opportunity to deal with the big issues right from the start. Nonetheless we will maintain a highly modular and adjustable boat to best deal with any new issues that might arise.


“There will always be problems when exploring the limits, but we are confident these will be relatively minor in comparison to what we have had to deal with in the past. With the resources, knowledge and skill available, the development period to get above the current record will be very short indeed.”


President of Vestas Technology R&D, Finn Strom Madsen- “It has been a great ride so far. We are both trying to efficiently and practically extract as much energy from the wind as we can. Similarly, we share a passion to be the best in the world at what we do. We are looking forward to the new boat and have great faith that it will set the outright world speed sailing record.”


VESTAS SAILROCKET 1 will be on public display in all her battle scarred glory at the upcoming RYA VOLVO Dinghy Show, Alexandra Palace, March 6-7th .


Achievements to date– Emerged in 2008 as fastest sailing ‘boat’ in the world, Current B class world record holder, Best 500 meter average 49.38 knots, Best peak speed 52.78 knots (60.75mph).


The current Outright world record sits at 51.36 knots (59.1 mph) and is held by the French ‘Hydroptere’ project.


The outright world speed sailing record is set by taking the average speed of the craft between two points set 500 meters apart. All records are ratified by the sports governing body, the WSSRC (World Speed Sailing Record Council).

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