Cutting-edge Vestas Sailrocket tops 52 knots, survives spill in record run

Gurit prepreg, adhesives and clearcoat helped the Vestas SailRocket achieve speeds of 47.36 knots.

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On Dec. 3, 2008, the British speed-sailing craft, Vestas Sailrocket, piloted by Australian Paul Larsen, became the world’s fastest sailboat by attaining an average speed of 47.36 knots/54.5 mph over the Walvis Bay 500m speed record course in Atlantic coastal waters off Namibia, Africa. With winds averaging only 22.6 knots/26 mph, the craft reached peak speeds of 52.22 knots and actually flipped upside down due to the high speed it reached. The record is subject to WSSRC ratification but, if upheld, gives the team a world record.

The ultra-efficient craft incorporates materials supplied, with technical support, by Gurit (Isle of Wight, U.K.). According to Gurit, the materials included SE 84LV carbon/epoxy prepreg, SA 80 adhesive films, SP 345 adhesive and Ultravar 2000 clear protective-coating systems. SE 84LV prepreg is a toughened system with high mechanical properties and low viscosity, reportedly making it a good candidate for heavy fiber weights and low-temperature, out-of-autoclave curing. Its high compressive strength reportedly led to its choice for the heavily loaded craft, which resembles a sailboard or kite board more than a sailing vessel. This material also has been selected for use by various America’s Cup syndicates and Volvo Ocean Race teams. SA 80 adhesive film, a toughened epoxy film on a glass carrier, reportedly provides high strain-to-failure and was chosen because it best met the craft’s performance requirements. Graham Harvey, Gurit’s head of marine, said, “It is great news for Paul and the team — and we are pleased to have contributed to their success.”