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Wind-Turbine Maker Vies For Sailing Record

sailrocket2
Photographed by Helena Darvelid/Vestas Sailrocket

By Christopher Martin

Vestas Wind Turbines isn't satisfied with being the world's largest maker of wind turbines. Today the Danish company is hailing the Greek wind god, Aeolus, to whip up winds strong enough to break another world record - in sailing.

Vestas engineers, drawing on expertise in aerodynamics and light-weight materials, designed and built the aptly named Sailrocket 2 at their research facility in the U.K.'s Isle of Wight. Today the team put their boat into water to challenge the previous sailing record, held by American kite surfer Rob Douglas. Kite surfing is an extreme water sport where the rider holds onto a large kite as if he were water skiing.

"She's a powerful beast of a boat,'' said Paul Larsen, who is piloting the boat for Vestas. "The secret will be to reduce the drag'' of the underwater foils.

Testing runs started in March. The vessel has unofficially reached speeds of up to 54 knots, just shy of the standing record of 55.65 knots reached by the kite surfer last year off the coast of Namibia. Given the right conditions, Larsen hopes to peel away a new record at 60 knots over a 500 meter course.

Vestas, which has more than 44,500 wind turbines installed globally, currently holds the B class (235 feet or less) world record for sailing, which it won in 2008 with its first attempt at building a boat.

The wind sailing contest is open to all water craft, including kite surfers. A win for Vestas would reclaim the speed sailing title from kite surfing to a vessel that actually resembles a boat.

The Vestas hydrofoil will be under the watchful gaze of the World Speed Sailing Record Council for the next 25 days. After his first attempt today, Larsen sent this message from the boat over Twitter: "Only a lowly beer in the container tonight. Did one messy run with 500 meter average of 45.2 knots. Wind was howling. Back in one piece."

-0- Nov/21/2011 20:02 GMT

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