Sunday, October 25, 2009 a freight train. a freight train. This boat can beat the existing record. Yesterday she made that perfectly clear to me and those who watched.

Sitting here the following day... we know we went fast... but we still don't know how fast. We normally sail with three independant GPS systems onboard.

1/ One simple, standard hand-held GPS I strap to my arm which gives an immediate indication of peak speeds and 500 meter averages. It is not accurate enough for official timing but puts us in the ballpark. For some reason that was not put in my kit bag and we didn't know until it was too late.

2/ The mighty Trimble 5700 unit which is used for the official record. It records points every 1/10th of a second and can get down to millimeter accuracy. It has no displays so we have to post process that data once we have returned. The WSSRC (world speed sailing record council) official who watches our runs makes sure that he is present when it is loaded and unloaded to make sure that the data we present is indeed off the boat we are running... and not a jetski! We are struggling to process that data and have been for some time. The data is there... but we can't get it to make sense. We will send it to Trimble today.

3/The pi/Cosworth black box data logger. This brilliant little piece of kit also has a high rate GPS... but also needs to be post processed. It is much easier to process than the TRIMBLE... but not as accurate.

So yesterday whilst waiting for the wind to build to record breaking levels... I decided to do a shakedown run to keep everyone sharp including myself. It was at this point that we realised we didn't have the small gps. Nevermind. Not critical. The run went brilliantly, the boat was rock solid with great control. The nose was riding sweet even with the extra 20 kg of water ballast in it. The pod was skipping but not flying as were only doing low-mid 40's.

As we headed back up the course it was obvious that the wind was kicking in. The team at the timing hut radio'd in confirmation that the wind was topping 25 knots in the gusts.

It was on.

The French film crew was getting excited and the day had turned. It was also getting late. The grey overcast that normally hangs offshore blew in and it all began to get dark. We quickly put VESTAS Sailrocket in full record trim with all fairings and stripped rigging.

I started the run at near on 7pm. VESTAS Sailrocket leapt of her tether and tried to plane down-wind with a fully stalled wing. There were still lulls of 20-21 knots... but this was good.

I noted that the mainsheet cleat was jamming open for some reason. This was surprising as we all check, check and double check this system. I considered the options and had to act quick as we were already getting out. The marker buoys were getting hard to see and the chop was up due to the windstrength. As soon as I gave the wing a sniff of attached flow... the rocket launched. the spray was heavy and I sailed with the wing out to allow me to close on the shore and get out of the chop at a mild speed i.e. 30-35 knots. The wing flap was set to be sheeted in... which meant that if the mainsheet slipped in a jammed cleat that the wing would back-wind and come crashing down. I had to hold the mainsheet to be safe... which meant I had to sheet the flap with the other hand... which meant I had to steer with my feet all the way. I lined up the course but struggled to line up the two marks. It was flat enough but the sheeting had distracted me for a few seconds. We were now high in the 40's and I only got the flap in as we flew past the timing hut. They had 21 knots at the timing hut as we went by. the wind was being relayed over the VHF. I knew it was fast. I also knew that I wasn't in as close as I should be. I let the boat have its head and just rode the next big gust to the end before dumping the flap and abandoning the run. It was less than ideal... but the boat itself behaved brilliantly. Rock-solid, pod flying and locked in.

Damn... I knew it was fast... but too rough.

We had no idea how quick it was. It was a terrible thought to think that it could be a world record for all we knew... but we wouldn't know. So we couldn't get excited. It was possible that the magic moment you dreamt of for so many years could be blurred by slight oversights. I personally thought that it was a new personal best... but that's probably all.

When we got back to the container in the dark we quickly got the TRIMBLE and PI/COSWORTH boxes out. Helena was first to come out with data off the PI Black box. It measured a peak of only 49.17 but a 500 meter average of 48.27 knots. The trouble was that the peaks had all 'flat-lined'. The unit probably struggled with all the water washing over the decks. It looks like the real peaks will be in the 50's which will drag the average up. That's how it looks.

So it was new personal best... which I guess makes it a new 'B' class world record. But we are after bigger game. Much bigger game.

Alex is still crunching away on the TRIMBLE data beside me now. when I look at the video and how the run went... I can easily see where we will get another three knots from. The boat is in brilliant form and yesterday was nothing but confidence building. It could have been a record day... but I'm not going to deal in 'if's' here. We have a few days left with a couple of good forecasts. We will be sailing at low tide which is a bit of a pain.

Today it is forecast to blow 30. Yesterday reminded me of Malcom's belief that we don't need super strong winds... a steady 23.5 will do it. The average yesterday during the run was only 22.4!!! Being fully sheeted in and copping a 26-7 knot gust will send us ballistic again. The boat has no means to shed the power other than acceleration... and that power will give speeds where the foils will fail us. So we must be firm in our decision making... not gung-ho suicidal! It's a hard balance when standing waste deep in water at the top of a remote beach with officials, team members, film crews... and most importantly... all your dreams and aspirations... waiting at the other end.

We continue to refine the boat as every day we find new little issues. She's no teenager anymore. Even the support RIB is throwing us curve balls. yesterday the steering cable snapped and we had to quickly fit a makeshift tiller onto it.

So today... looks goooood. And I feel goooood about it.

I know we have the fastest sailing boat in the world... we just have to keep all the plates spinning to make it official.

One of these days.

Cheers, Paul.