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SailRocket launched in Southampton

by Brigit Cunningham 23 Apr 2004 18:34 BST
Designer Malcolm Barnsley and pilot Paul Larsen with SailRocket © Mark Jardine

SAILROCKET, the boat which aims to break the world speed sailing record, was launched at Merlin Quay in Southampton on April 23rd by Lady Caroline Johnson, widow of Sir Peter Johnson, the founder of the World Speed Sailing Record Council.

Pilot Paul Larsen and designer Malcolm Barnsley have produced a radical design in SAILROCKET to ultimately achieve speeds of in excess of 50 knots (57.5 mph) taking high speed sailing technology into the dawn of a completely new era.

The current world speed sailing record stands at 46.52 knots and was set in 1993 by Yellow Pages Endeavour in Australia. The sailboard fraternity came to within 0.2 of a knot of beating this record late last year. The SAILROCKET team is set to raise the record substantially.

The attempt to capture the world record will take place in Weymouth, the original home of speed sailing, later this year. The first record was set in 1972 and then raised in various increments to 36 knots in 1980 by Tim Coleman's 'Crossbow II', after which it was exceeded by the sailboards.

After an absence of some 24 years the SAILROCKET team aims to bring the record back to the UK.

"I am absolutely delighted to see my dream reach this stage. For me it represents the culmination of a 25 year quest for speed under sail. Both the general concept and particular configuration are innovative and have not been tried before at full scale. Everything we have seen to date points to its practicality for the job at hand. Mathematics, wind tunnels and scale model testing are all great tools, but me must now enter the real world arena and see what happens," said Designer Malcolm Barnsley.

The design of SAILROCKET is based around a unique concept. Unlike all conventional yachts, the forces at work are aligned in such a way that it has no tendency to tip over. There is no heeling moment. 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! This means that SAILROCKET can just be pointed down the course and held in a straight line at the optimum angle to the optimum wind and the only things that will set the limit will be the aerodynamics and the efficiency of the underwater foil.

Wind Tunnel testing at Southampton University has shown that SAILROCKET is very efficient through the air. Testing on the water over the next few months should confirm that hydrodynamic surfaces can also maintain the required efficiencies at high speeds thus allowing the predicted speeds to be realised.

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."

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