A team of sailing and kite surfing enthusiasts, as well as engineers, are pursuing an ambitious goal of setting a new world sailing speed record by 2022.
The team from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, calls itself SP80—as its aim is to reach 80 knots, or 93 mph (150 km/h). This would make their boat the fastest one recorded yet, beating Paul Larsen's long-held 2012 record of 65.45 knots, 75.2 mph (121.1 km/h), over 1,640 feet (500 meters) on the Vestas Sailrocket 2, per the team's press release.
The team has been working on its first prototype for a year, and today, you can watch the prototype as it skims over the waters of Lake Geneva at dizzying speeds — an exciting day for engineers and sailors alike!
How did the project take off?
The team of 40 students and alumni from EPFL came together thanks to Xavier Lepercq, Mayeul van den Broek, and Benoît Gaudiot, who all met at the university in 2017. Meeting within the framework of the Hydrocontest project, it didn't take long for the three sailing, kitesurfing, and engineering enthusiasts to hit it off. And that's how SP80 kickstarted.
With an average age of 22, the young team of volunteers is "over-motivated, full of ideas, and is advised by many experienced people," van den Broek told Interesting Engineering.
"I think it's this mix between youth and experience that allows us to explore ambitious and innovative paths where no one has dared to venture before while keeping our feet on the ground," he continued.
"In the team, we now want to invent the future, prove ourselves and break the codes of what is currently being done in naval architecture," van den Broek told us, and it's clear to see how they're doing just that.
The French trio and their team are putting together a carbonfiber boat that spans 22.9 feet (seven meters) long and 19.6 feet (six meters) wide. It weighs in at 330 pounds (150 kg). The smaller-scale prototype released today has dimensions of 14.7 by 11.4 feet (4.5 by 3.5 meters), roughly half the size of the final boat, per the press release.
The prototype is towed by a motorboat, instead of a kitesurfing wing. Gaudiot is at the helm of the motorboat and commands the prototype himself from there thanks to a hydraulic piston.
The final boat will have super-ventilating triangular hydrofoils and move along the water thanks to a kitewing. The team built its own kiteboards, testing out different hydrofoils last summer, and based some design features on Vestas' foil technology.
The success of the prototype will start the optimization process prior to the final boat's construction, which will begin next year before attempting to break the record in 2022. The team plans on running a number of other tests on Lake Geneva throughout autumn, gathering more and more data to improve their concept.
"Right now we are focused on the Record because that's what motivates the team and that's the challenge we set ourselves," wrote van den Broek in an email to Interesting Engineering.
He continued by saying, "Beyond that, I think that all these innovations in the world of sailing could one day also serve to move sectors such as maritime transport towards a more sustainable future. We haven't worked on that yet, but I think SP80 will certainly bring new concepts, development tools, and ideas that may find their way to improve other sectors in the future."