A team of Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) engineers and students are on the quest to chase the world sailing speed record of 68.33 knots. The team strives to establish a new record through the combination of sailing, kitesurfing and engineering principles. The end goal is to demonstrate “applications of a new set of tools in fast marine transport, offshore sailing and energy production”.
For the past six months, Switzerland-based SP80 has been coordinating a critical stage with the construction of the “Sea Rocket” sailboat. Likened to a spaceship, the boat is designed to reach 80 knots (150 km/h) with only the wind as its sole source of power.
Instead of a traditional sail, the Sea Rocket’s trimaran design uses a detached kite. The boat will be larger than the initial concept — 10 metres long and seven metres wide — and will feature a sleeker shape, as well as stretched, aggressive lines for a more stable structure.
The cockpit has room for two, where one will pilot the kite while the other steers the boat. According to co-founder and pilot Benoît Gaudiot, the rule was set in the early development phase to ensure maximum safety for pilots.
Gaudiot added: “However, at low speeds, that is around 30 knots, the boat can be sailed solo, which will allow us to welcome passengers onboard to experience something extraordinary!”
To protect its occupants from possible carbon shards in the event of a crash, the cockpit has also been reinforced with Kevlar® — made to withstand accelerations of up to 50G. Sailing at 150 km/h on water, the boat’s speed will be equivalent to a Formula 1 car on land.
Hence, the pilots will be well-equipped with helmets, bucket seats and six point-harnesses. When necessary, oxygen masks will also be provided which is something that has yet to be seen in the sailing world.
The “Sea Rocket” is being assembled at renowned Italian shipyard Persico Marine, and the main hull will reach SP80’s Switzerland workshop in April. The SP80 team will take over and integrate all mechanical systems while the shipyard continues with the construction of the beam and floats.
Mayeul van den Broek, co-founder and project manager, shared in a statement: “2023 will be a decisive year, with the final preparations to break the 80 knots record and make sailing history. We are currently looking for the last financial and technical partnerships to take the adventure to the finish line.”
“The whole team is so proud to see this concept becoming a reality and we can’t wait to finally unveil and test our final design on the water!”
The final assembly of the sailboat is slated to launch later this year with the first world record attempts happening in Summer 2023 in the south of France. The three co-founders will be live on YouTube on 14 April, at 6 pm (CEST) to answer questions pertaining to the SP80 and the World Sailing Speed Record.
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