The world's fastest sailing machine

Helena Darvelid /
Paul Larsen tells us how Vestas SailRocket 2 hit 60 knots...
This week is lining up to be a significant one for sailing speed records. Namibia is where it is all happening with the Luderitz Speed Challenge for the windsurfers and kiteboarders, while some 500km to the north in Walvis Bay, Paul Larsen and the Vestas SailRocket team on Monday established a new outright record (although not official) for ‘boats’ when their radical speed sailer averaged 54.08 knots down the 500m course, demolishing the previous record of 51.36 knots set by Alain Thebault’s team on L’Hydroptère in 2009. Still elusive remains the ultimate sailing speed record of 55.65 knots, set two years ago in Luderitz by American kiteboarder Rob Douglas, but not for long, believes Larsen. On Monday’s final run, in 25-30 knots of wind, their peak speed topped out at 61.92 knots and for five seconds on this run their average speed was a whopping 59.08 knots. “I thought we had it yesterday, as you would with a peak over 60 knots,” says Larsen. So later this week we could see the sailing speed record not just chipped away but, as Vestas SailRocket’s Aussie pilot puts it: “Being knocked out of the court”. And boy, do they deserve it. Larsen, Helena Darvelid and the Vestas SailRocket team have been plugging away at this record solidly for a decade now and during this period they have seen the world record over the 500m course increase by 9 knots, including, four years ago, it being taken through sailing’s ‘sound barrier’ of 50 knots by a pesky kiteboarder. However Larsen believes that Vestas SailRocket is now showing the potential to break 60 knots average speed. Having notched up a peak speed of 56 knots on their second run of the day, on the third Larsen recounts: “She just went into fast forwards. You are always getting