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Sea Rocket Makes Attempt at Sailing Speed Record

It looks more like a jet than a sailboat.

The Sea Rocket is a new composite racing sailboat that will soon attempt to break the world sailing speed record. 

On November 24, 2012, Paul Larsen smashed the world speed sailing record with an average speed of 75.3 mph (121.1 km/h). His record still stands, but the team behind the Sea Rocket believes they can best it with a combination of sailing, kite surfing and engineering.

The kite-powered trimaran looks more like a jet than a sailboat and was built by a team of engineers, sailing enthusiasts and students at EPFL - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne.

In 2023, the SP80 crew will try to reach 80 knots (about 92 mph, 148.6 km/h) off the coast of France. 

The SP80 team leaned on the experts at Collier Aerospace to help make the Sea Rocket. Collier used its HyperX analysis and sizing optimization software to provide composite optimization for most of the primary rigid structures on the craft, like the main hull, the power module and back floats. Collier helped determine the thinnest, lightest laminates and sandwich core material that met the mechanical requirements while staying safe. 

HyperX was also used for manufacturability by defining the fabrication and laydown sequences using the thin-ply carbon fiber-reinforced laminates and assessed various structural design concepts. It also provided static stress and buckling analysis, sometimes as the parts were being fabricated. The HyperX software model contains 300,000 elements and more than 500 unique design properties. 

The trimaran has four key elements. Three carbon fiber-reinforced composite hulls (the main hull and two side floats) are designed to always stay in contact with the water. Super-ventilated hydrofoils reduce cavitation and drag, and the team can choose from several different kites (sails) with surface areas ranging from 25 to 40 square meters based on wind conditions.

The patented composite power module is a mechanical system that constantly aligns the kite’s ascending force with the hydrofoils’ descending force, transmitting wind forces from the kite to the hydrofoils and the boat itself while maintaining stability. Together, the elements increase speed and minimize drag in both air and water to aid the team in succeeding with its record-breaking attempt.

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