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30 January 2002, 02:20 pm
Record Attempt Plans
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Trimaran Eure et Loir

Skippers Eye Speed Barrier
London

Technology is hastening the day when sailing boats may speed over the waves at 60 knots.
The first step is to break the existing speed record of 46.52 knots set by Australia's Yellowpages Endeavour teamn and sailed by Simon Mc Keon (AUS) and Tim Dodder (AUS) over a 500 metre course in Melbourne, Australia in 1993. Various projects around the world may soon stretch technological and financial limits to crack the 50-knot barrier.

But Grant Dalton, New Zealand's seven-times around-the-world veteran, is even looking at 60 knots - the equivalent of 111kph on dry land - and hopes to make an attempt towards the end of the year.

"You shouldn't even bother unless you wanted to go over 60 knots," he said. "Anything less would be like kissing your sister; there's nothing in it."

Dalton told reporters in Auckland, where his Amer Sports One boat finished the third leg of the Volvo Ocean race in second place overall earlier this month: "Speed sells; it's where the sport is going."

Dalton, now back at sea en route to Rio de Janeiro on the fourth leg, said: "It really is a Formula One project, not a sailing one. The design is an aerodynamic solution not a hydrodynamic one and that means it is going to cost money to do it properly."

In Norfolk, on the English east coast, yacht designer Simon Sanderson who helped to break the 40-knot barrier in 1988, has already built a boat which is ready for a fresh record attempt - "The United Speed Sailor". Only a lack of cash holds back the project.

The boat is an 18-metre catamaran and its design borrows heavily from windsurfing technology. Despite being so long and having a 22-metre-tall mast, the carbon-fibre vessel weighs only 750kg.

"We're ready to go and we've got a boat which we really like and it works well," Sanderson said.

Further south in Suffolk, another enterprise named Spirit Yachts have designed a boat called Zero-G that almost flies about a metre off the surface with only the very bottom of the rudder and the keel touching the water.

But Spirit Yachts' co-director and partner Sean McMillan told Reuters the project was on standby.

"At the moment we don't know what we've got," he said. "We were defeated by weather and by various structural breakages. Testing will not resume this year due to our other commitments with other projects.

"It will be next year. I would like it to be successful but I have to be realistic. At the moment we're saying 'if' rather than 'when'."

Reuters-New Zealand Herald/News Editor
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