Paul Larsen reports from Namibia
The Sailrocket team have returned to the Walvis Bay speed strip for Round 2. They spent the last two weeks repairing the boat after a big wipeout on their first outing. Skipper Paul Larsen reports.
‘The first run was pretty intense. It was an amazing feeling to point our incredible craft down that gorgeous stretch of immaculate water for the first time. There was only 16.5 knots of wind but when she hooked into it she accelerated like never before and quickly beat her previous top speed by hitting 33 knots. I lost steerage and Sailrocket slewed towards the beach where I made a split second decision to bail out of the run. I eased the wing sail a fraction and then it was over in a split second. The wing came crashing down and chopped across the beam. The wing had backwinded slightly and generated a huge compressive load which caused a secondary component to fail. These solid wings don’t just feather and flap like a soft sail. The wing slammed into the water hard. There was a lot of damage. I couldn’t believe it was all over so quick. We had only progressed 250 meters down the course and the rig had done the unmentionable. We got it all back to the shore and then ferried it back to our base. We all felt pretty tired that night.
‘Two weeks later we are back in action and as pretty as ever. We went sailing again yesterday in light winds of 14 knots or less as we try and get to grips with the handling. Sailrocket hit 28.8 knots in the fading light and could have done more but top-speed was not our objective. We need to work up to that. We checked out some handling issues and got back in one piece.
‘The boat is becoming increasingly intimidating as it starts to reveal its potential. I know if I send it down this course in 20 knots of wind that it will go ballistic. I just need to make sure that I can control it. Malcolm (Sailrocket’s designer) is over here at the moment and we are working through a number of sailing profiles. We need to make the boat perform in a safe manner at very high speeds where even a slight turn to windward would spell disaster. The boat needs to have lee helm. Sheeting out to slow down at speed is not an option as it makes the boat round-up. I have to do a big bear away at high speed until the wing stalls.
It’s a scary thought.
‘I am confident that with a bit more practice and tweaking that we can begin to see the sort of ‘locked-in’ stability that the model demonstrated time and time again. For now this is what we are here for, to develop the boat and understand what we have created. Ultimately we want a craft which is incredibly powerful AND stable. That is the craft that will be king. Numbers are great but now my backside is starting to translate them into reality and it is pretty exciting to say the least.
‘Meanwhile Walvis Bay continues to impress us with its amazing conditions. I went for a run up the course on a sailboard the other evening. I was sailing directly into the setting sun a meter or so off the shore. In the golden glow it felt like I was sailing on another planet. The wind was strong but the water was so flat it was like skating. Surreal.’