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20 July 2004, 09:02 am
It Works! - Sailrocket Tested
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WSSRC Outright Speed Record
Portland Harbour, Weymouth

After the first three days of trials SAILROCKET has performed extremely well and three of the six bottles of champagne have been cracked, the first sail bottle on day one, the 10 knot bottle on day two and yesterday we cracked the 20 knot bottle.
Day 1: (Team: Paul LARSEN, Malcolm BARNSLEY, Helena DARVELID, Mike GETTINGER, Rob DONNELL)

On the first day we just got the hang of manouevering the boat with a single RIB (kindly loaned by the Weymouth/Portland Sailing Academy) and this was not an easy feat as the boat is quite ungainly at low speeds and does things one would not expect. If the boat is held just a fraction past head to wind then it goes into an unstoppable tack scenario which continues full circle into an unstoppable gybe scenario. As there is no structure behind the mast, when the rig is laid flat there is nothing to hold the boom down with so it blows over the front and at one stage we lost the whole rig over the front and then ran into it shoving the pointy nose of SAILROCKET through the head of the sail and snapping it off. The boat looked like a dropped kebab! There was nothing we could do but sit and watch the scenario unfold. Unbelievably... nothing was broken as the pointy bit is just a false bow. So we put it all back together, changed a few settings and went out again and just did some tow tests. There was one brief sail in the lightish winds but it was only for a few hundred meters. The outboard pod was too 'nose-down' so we went ashore and pitched it up. On the second outing it looked much better.

The word for the day was EDUCATIONAL. Technically it was SAILROCKETS first sail and that night we partied in to the wee hours in the container with a bunch of 'Mothies' (from the Moth Europeans) who circled into the light and landed on the well stocked fridge!

Day 2: (Team: Paul LARSEN, Malcolm BARNSLEY, Helena DARVELID, Mike GETTINGER, Andy BELLAMY, Richard PEMBERTON)

A lovely day beckoned with a slightly stronger breeze. We knew that we had to sort out the geometry of the rig for towing, raising and lowering as this is 90% of the operation. The sailing is the easy bit. We put the boat in the water and took it out to the end of the pontoon and just hung it from three lines, aft, midships and forward to see how the boat wants to sit.

The line in the middle worked best so we now knew that we could come alongside in the RIB and hook a single line on here and then just sit there whilst the rig was raised or lowered by the pilot in the cockpit. PROGRESS. We also found that if we only lowered the rig 75% of the way that we could control it much more and that the mainsheet began to become effective thus stopping the rig from blowing over when the wind was from behind. We could now motor around in circles in stronger winds in complete control without breaking anything. BIG PROGRESS as there are a lot of moored boats up one end of the speed sailing course.

So knowing this we went out and went for another sail. We stayed out in the deeper, hence choppier, water and once more we let her go. SAILROCKET was very responsive to the helm like any light boat should be and I could sail her upwind and downwind with ease. With a bit of a gust she was off but there was an alarming amount of spray coming off the front planing surface. The outboard end was lifting as we knew it should and the pod was doing its job.The boat was nose down and it was obvious that the back was lifting first and this was preventing the nose from having the correct angle so she just stayed buried. I was surprised how quick she was going considering this and had the feeling that if she lifted that she would have really taken off. All this was in only 12 knots of wind. We didn't expect the boat to lift until we had 16 knots. Believe it or not... we don't have a GPS so we had to estimate speed from the RIB alongside. Everyone agreed on 15 knots. So the second bottle bit the dust in the ensuing BBQ. I discussed the events with Malcolm who suggested two things to try before we start modifying things. First we remove the aft planing surface to stop it lifting too early and secondly we need to sheet in more and sail more upwind to decrease any pitching moment.

All day the MOTHS were flying around us on their hydrofoils teasing us to come out and play. They were all eager to burn off SAILROCKET. I was laughing to myself thinking, 'Mate, when this thing lifts its skirts I could take out half your fleet in one pass like a bloody great carbon scythe, hydrofoils or no hydrofoils.' They were having a ball.

Day 3: (Team: Paul LARSEN, Helena DARVELID, Andy BELLAMY, Richard PEMBERTON, James BOYD)

Another great sailing day beckoned so out we went again. We are by this time increasingly confident in the handling of the boat and can begin to concentrate on the sailing. Today the breeze was up to 12-14 knots and the water was a bit choppier. We did one run down the outside of the moored boats in the rougher water and once I sailed upwind the nose popped up and she was off. The amount of spray was incredible and I was taking a lot of water back in the cockpit. I couldn't see anything but the prison on top of Portland!!! Man it was wet and now I can fully sympathise with Yves Parlier about stepped hulls. We estimate we were doing around 15-18 knots so a lot of the boat is still in the water. There doesn't seem to be as drastic a 'Hump' to get over as we expected and the hull form seems to put on speed quite progressively.
Paul Larsen (Source: Yachtsandyachting.com)
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