68 MPH – “Smashed it!”


Hand it to Paul Larsen. He’s been at this game for years. Since 2002. I remember talking to him in 2005 in Qatar, UAE, at the start of the round-the-world Oryx Quest, and trying to convince him to run Sailrocket in the protected waters close to the western shore of South San Francisco Bay. Instead he dedicated his time to Walvis Bay, Namibia, which has become the speed capital of the sailing world. Today, Paul reports himself drenched in champagne with a new 500-meter record pending ratification.

Now, 59.23 knots sounds fast, but for most consumption, I reckon I’ll be calling it something like 68 miles per hour (!)

Larsen’s Vestas Sailrocket 2 is based on a unique stabilizing concept, with sail and keel elements positioned to cancel overturning moment while producing no net vertical lift. As a result, the only significant response to wind gusts is a change in speed. For Larsen and Vestas engineer Malcolm Barnsley, congratulations, and to wind turbine maker Vestas for going the distance, a big tip of the hat.

In a more contained moment, Paul explained that the current version of Sailrocket, “is designed to have enough power and efficiency to be able to drag a truly horrible plough-like cavitating foil through the water at over 60 knots. Anything better than ‘truly horrible’ will result in either higher speeds or greater efficiency in lighter winds. [The first version] was there to show us that the concept had the power and efficiency we thought it should. VSR2 is now built to exploit these characteristics to allow us to confront cavitation head on. Just like the sound barrier, once you are through… you are through. The equation for doing 100 knots or greater will have been written and validated for the next generation.”

After telling us he SMASHED IT! Paul writes:

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.



When Larsen and his team laid out the specs for the Sailrocket version that finally worked, they started with these principles:

VSR2 has to be dynamically stable in a number of conditions including a total main foil failure at 60 knots. She must remain stable when encountering either cavitation or ventilation of either foil.
VSR2 was designed to be able to handle sailing loads over 60 knots including a 1G turn with a realistic safety margin.
VSR2 has to be able to operate over 50 knots in winds from 20-30 knots and in much rougher water than the first boat.
VSR2’s wing must be very easily managed and fully depower when the main sheet is eased. It must be able to feather when we tow the boat back up to the top of the course after each run so we don’t have to lower it each time.
VSR2 must be able to carry two people at world record speeds with no reduction of safety margins.
VSR2 must be highly configurable, modular and easily folded to fit in a 40’ container.
VSR2 must have enough structural reserve to be easily upgraded for faster future attempts if necessary.

So, Paul, are you looking for 70?