SailGP aims for 110km/h, makes F1-style safety move
New Zealand is gaining momentum during the French stage of the SailGP.
SailGP boss Sir Russell Coutts believes his boats could hit 110kph with the introduction of new rudders and foils, and has revealed Formula 1-style safety measures will come with these.
France holds the SailGP speed record of 99.94 km/h set in St Tropez in September.
Cavitation issues with current rudders are holding back 50ft foiling catamarans, making them difficult to steer at top speeds.
The foiling catamarans are ready for their New Zealand debut.
Coutts thinks the new rudders and foils, currently in production, could increase the speed by 10 to 11 km/h.
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“With the new rudders and new foils you will see speeds of 110 km/h, which is incredible in a sailboat and quite scary,” he told the Into The Depths podcast.
Regarding the current appendages, Coutts said: “What I’m told is that the boat starts to shake, and it feels like you’re in a turbulent plane and the faster you go, the less you have. control.
“When you’re in a tight spot with a fleet of F50s all trying to shoot it down to score one, you can imagine it will be pretty daunting to suddenly lose some control over the rudders.”
The new speed targets see SailGP look to introduce a Halo-like pilot collision protection system to keep crews safe.
The concept under consideration has a semi-circular transparent structure located above the outer edge of the cockpits where the crew is seated.
SailGP recently had F1 champion Max Verstappen and his Red Bull Racing teammate Sergio Perez aboard one of their boats in France.
Coutts was eager for their feedback, and Perez expressed concern that the current cockpits were “really open.”
“I said [to him] we’re developing a Halo-like concept for that, and he said – yes, you should,” Coutts said.
SailGP is also working on a Kevlar patch to harden the sides of the F50s in the event of a collision.
Boats already have a collision warning system, which alerts drivers when a danger of collision is approaching.
SailGP has wrapped up its European season and the global league is restarting with its first Middle East regatta scheduled for November 12-13 in Dubai.
Christchurch is involved in this third season with races taking place at Lyttelton Harbor on 18th and 19th March.
The New Zealand team, managed by Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, are currently second behind defending champions Australia.