Paul Larsen and the VESTAS Sailrocket 2 Team continue to have an amazingly successful run in Walvis Bay, Namimbia. They are smashing records and opening champagne. Read below an excerpt from Paul’s blog describing the excitement of the team as they dial in Sailrocket 2 for record breaking runs.
Challenge and Adventure’s founder Vikki Penney was a long time supporter of Paul Larsen and his Sailrocket team and we here at Challenge and Adventure know she is up there smiling happily down on you ad the rest of the team Paul.
In Paul’s own words;
“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.
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.”
For more information on Paul Larsen and Sailrocket 2 click HERE
See Video of Paul smashing the record HERE
Paul Larsen and the VESTAS Sailrocket 2 Team have pulled off the the amazing. On Saturday in Walvis Bay, Namibia they broke their own record.
He is an excerpt from Paul’s blog in his own words and photos the team reaction.
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!”
A job very well done! Congratulations to Paul Larsen and the VESTAS Sailrocket team for once again stretching the envelope.
The UK based VESTAS SAILROCKET team have returned to Walvis Bay in Namibia for one more assault on the outright speed sailing record. The 28 day record period will commence on the 2nd of October.
Here is a run down from Paul of the first days attempts.
“And so it begins… with what looks like a rather mild day.
It’s just gone quarter past two and that makes it high tide. We spent the morning doing final tweaks and instrument calibrations. The wind has swung into the WSW but isn’t building at a great rate. My gut feel says it will get to around 17-19 knots tops.
We are all geared up anyway and will go out for a shakedown run. I’m sure we will find out more about our level of preparedness out there… than tinkering in here. Also, we have a new team member in Jeff Mearing who will get to see first hand what is expected. I warned Jeff that many a potentially great career… has been ruined on the first day;) It’s always fun bringing in new people as you wonder what they will make of the whole days activities.
I hope we do get to do a semi decent run as I’m looking forward to re-acquainting myself with the beast. The last time I sailed it… I wasn’t sure if it was going to be the last, period. But we both now have a great opportunity to try once more for the highest accolade in speed sailing, the outright record.
This will be the final record attempt for this wonderful boat. It has endured a long and eventful life to reach its current level of performance and its structure bears the scars of many a hard earned lesson. This is truly a unique and significant craft which has shown the potential of a radical concept for achieving both stability and efficiency in high speed sailing craft. The team, together with the sponsors and supporters have shared a fascinating journey but their ultimate objective, to be the outright fastest in the world, remains. The journey will only end when this objective is reached, one way or the other.
Already, since committing to this final attempt, the bar has been raised by the mighty French Hydroptere. In fact the outright record has been broken 6 or 7 times by 3 (and nearly 4) different craft since Sailrocket was first launched in 2004. VESTAS Sailrocket has already beaten the record as it was when she was launched, but now she needs to go almost exactly 4 knots faster again to achieve the new outright record of 51.38 knots*.”
Pilot/ project manager, Paul Larsen- Firstly, Congratulations to the Hydroptere team, we’ve got some work to do… but we wouldn’t be in this game if we didn’t like a challenge. Whilst it has been great to race the other true ‘boats’, it is the outright record we all strive for. This means that ultimately we have to beat the board riders as well. The MI (Macquarie Innovations) boys showed that they were within reach, now thanks to Hydroptere, the boat record IS the outright speed sailing record. Soon it’s going to be our shot to see if we can turn it up some more.
Nothing focuses the mind like competition. The record hasn’t fallen so many times recently by chance. Sometimes the limits are as much psychological as they are physical. When the level you need to attain gets so high that your current best isn’t enough then your options become limited and in some respect the job gets easier. You simply have to change your sights and find another gear. In this case it is ‘all or nothing’. We will no longer focus on the mile record as the Walvis Bay course is a little too short to challenge the new benchmark. We will go down there with our eyes firmly on the outright prize. 50 knots is last year’s story… we simply have to go well over that now. I look forward to taking this wonderful boat out to do battle one more time. There’s a final chapter to be written and I’m sure she still has a few knots up her sleeve. It will be one hell of a ‘suck-it and-see’ ride on the ragged edge that’s for sure!”
VESTAS Sailrocket Designer, Malcolm Barnsley- Now, in order to achieve our ultimate aim, we need to go almost exactly 4 knots quicker. We have learnt so much since we started. Through constant development we have managed to solve most of the relatively minor issues surrounding a new concept and allowed the real potential to begin to shine through. All of the boat projects have shown that when it all comes together, there are still large performance jumps that can be made at the top end. On paper, the 500m record is definitely within reach but everything has to be just right and if we do make it I doubt it will be by a big margin. Even in a place like Walvis Bay, which provides fantastic conditions on a regular basis, it will take a special day. Let’s hope we get those perfect conditions to make chasing down those four knots as easy as possible!