Two countries in opposing hemispheres are currently trying to be the first to break the current world speed sailing record, and crack the holy grail of 50 knots, regarded as the equivalent to the aeronautical sound barrier.

“No one remembers the second man to walk on the moon,” says Sean Langman, the creator and pilot of the radical purpose-built Australian 9m sail boat/sail plane called Wot Rocket who is acutely aware of the “race against the French to the 50”, and the possibility they could snatch his boyhood dream clean away.

Wot Rocket’s 500m world speed sailing record attempt was forced to shift gears following the launch of the French flying trimaran l’Hydroptere on 22 May.

“I want to go official now because the French have. Everything’s been stamped urgent,” admits Langman. Last Saturday l’Hydroptere clocked 46.8 knots according to their web site, Langman admitting the “brutish French design can probably be pushed harder, but I believe we have the ability to go faster” he says. In the past few weeks, Wot Rocket has undergone further refinements following three more sea trials on Botany Bay, the stretch of flat water where the official attempt will eventually take place.

The latest test sail, conducted yesterday, saw the entire project team including designer Andy Dovell on site for the first time. While the 8-12 knot forecast breeze failed to materialise at the upper end, “it was good to get the program back on track following a number of setbacks,” said Langman today. “We have suffered some issues with our control systems and have spent more than 300 hours further modifying the design. It’s really been a process of elimination”. Yesterday also marked the first successful trial of a newly built wing extension.

“Because the rules state we have to have a standing start, we plan to initially use the wing extension for more horsepower to get the pod free of the water. Then, once we reach 30 knots of speed we shall fire off the top wing section,” explains Langman.

This staged approach is where the ‘Rocket’ name originated, Langman likening Wot Rocket’s take off to a Saturn V rocket, which jettisons parts as it races out of the earth’s gravitational pull. Once the Trimble GPS is installed, likely to be this weekend, and the Wot Rocket project team is given the green light by the Speed Council to record its own speed, a notice of intention to make a record attempt will be lodged with the Council.

From that point onwards, each sail will be regarded as an official attempt on the current world record.

“There is no time to waste. The French launching has definitely moved our plans along,” co-pilot Martin Thompson added.Yet another sponsor has thrown its support behind the Australian speed record attempt. Superyachting is a Sydney based company that regularly supplies assets to the movie industry and has been involved with breaking existing records and setting new benchmarks for six passage records in the Pacific Rim Basin.

“The team at Superyachting is privileged to provide support to the Wot Rocket project to achieve the 50 knot and world speed record by supplying Protector Ribs as support and media vessels,” says Christopher Stirling. Noakes Boat & Shipyards and Graeme Wood, founder of Australasia's number one accommodation website Wotif.com, are major sponsors of Wot Rocket.

Source: Speed:World:Cup