KITE-SAILING VARIATIONS: Speed Sailing and Transoceanic Record-Breaking


Feb 25/2022:  It’s hard to believe, but this coming November we’ll be hitting the 10th anniversary of Paul Larsen’s record-breaking 65.45-knot speed sailing run in Vestas Sailrocket 2. That record, almost 10 knots better than its predecessor, still stands. These days two different teams are hard at work designing and building vessels they hope to destroy Larsen’s record with. Both are relying on kite-sails to power their craft, and both are aiming for speeds in excess of 80 knots.

The image up top, from Syroco, working out of Marseilles, France, depicts a concept that doesn’t really involve a boat. It’s more like a flying passenger pod juxtaposed between a submerged T-foil and a kite. Syroco has created a prototype pod and tested it this past December, not with a kite, but with a fast powerboat equipped with a mast, to simulate the pod being dragged around by a kite.

It’s been confirmed: the pod can fly!


An artist’s video rendition of the pod in action under a kite looks like this:

Meanwhile, over in Switzerland, another team called SP80 is hard at work building something that looks much more like a boat, a trimaran-like hydrofoil that does stay in contact with the surface of the water.

Richard Mille, the Swiss watchmaker, is SP80’s title sponsor


SP80 ran a prototype on Lake Geneva in November 2021, also dragging their device about with a powerboat. They started building their end product last August, at Persico Marine in Italy, and hope to launch this spring. Their goal is to have captured the record by early 2023.

Here’s a video of the SP80 prototype run:

And another of what they hope the thing will look like actually sailing:

So far it seems SP80 is ahead in this game, but both teams are likely to hit some “speed” bumps as they strive toward their goal. Larsen and his Sailrocket team hit several, we’ll recall, including some spectacular crashes, and ultimately built two boats and worked for 11 years before they succeeded in their quest. Larsen, however, unlike these two contenders, did not have an immediate competitor breathing down his neck to help motivate him.

Both these current teams are building on Larsen’s work, in that they are using triangular foils that ventilate rather than cavitate in the water once they hit speeds in excess of 50 knots. This was the key trick that allowed Larsen to go as fast as he did 10 years ago.

More prosaically, we must also note that a Portuguese kite-surfer, Francisco Lufinha, set a new record for the fastest solo Atlantic crossing in a kite boat, 20 days, when he arrived at Martinique from the Canary Islands last December.

No foils here, just three hulls, in the traditional style


And here’s his video:

Now that’s some ocean sailing!

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