Vestas Sailrocket 2 and the VSR2 team have headed to Walvis Bay in Namibia, with the aim of breaking the outright world speed sailing record for the short distance 500 meters (1,640 ft) of 55.65 knots (103 km/h) set in October 2010 by American kite-surfer, Rob Douglas.
Since the team started with the first boat in 2002, the record has gone up by almost 9 knots or around 20%. We felt that the kite surfers were going to be the ones to watch. They proved us right last October by effectively taking the record beyond the capabilities of all the other contenders. In order to do the 500 meter long record course over 56 knots, you probably need to be hitting peak speeds around 60 knots. It would not be worth trying to build a very expensive and complex boat just to go a little quicker than a simple kite surfer for a year or two. The new boat had to do more than that to justify the all round effort.
With VSR2 we have made a package that has a huge amount of power on a very efficient, low drag platform. It is designed to be always seeking stability like a well-built model airplane. At high speed the pilot should be able to take his hands off the controls. This was possible on the first boat. VSR2 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.
Overall the boat is very impractical in conventional sailing terms… but it aims to prove a point very well, just like the Bell X-1 did when it was lifted high into the sky in a converted bomber and lit its dangerous, hungry rocket engine in thin airs over California to break the sound barrier 64 odd years ago.