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You will find our co-founders answering live the questions you most often ask us.

Any questions ?

How did you come up with the idea of breaking a record? Why set an objective of 80 knots (150 km/h) ?

The dream was born in our three co-founders’ heads: Xavier Lepercq, Benoit Gaudiot and Mayeul van den Broek, who are sailing, kiting and speed enthusiasts. Studying at EPFL, they started to think about new concepts of sailing boats powered by a kite that could break the World Sailing Speed Record. After a few trials, simulations and design iterations, they understood that reaching 80 knots (150km/h) with a sailboat was realistic. Inspired by Paul Larsen and his team, who pulverised the previous world record by more than 15 knots (27,78 km/h), the three friends took the leap and decided to tackle the challenge: SP80 was born.
If you wish to know more about SP80’s debut, visit our story.

What’s your top speed?

For the record, we will need an average speed of 80 knots over 500m/ 1 nautical mile (1852m). The peak speeds expected during a run will be between 85 and 90 knots, thus approximately 165 km/h. 

 

Can we still call it sailing?

Nowadays, the definition of a sailboat is becoming more and more questionable, especially with the developments of new rigs like the wings on the America’s Cup or SailGP. A boat powered by a kite is considered to be a sailboat and is therefore qualified to attempt to break the world sailing speed record. You can find the rules for the record on the WSSRC website.

It is also worth noting that kite racing is now an Olympic discipline, managed by the World Sailing Federation.

 

How old are our team members?

Mainly composed of young engineers and EPFL students, the team is on average 23 years old! We are the youngest team to ever tackle the World Sailing Speed Record, which gives us the ability to approach the design and development of the boat with a fresh eye!

We also can reap the benefits of our partnership with EPFL, as we receive everyday help and advice from laboratories and professors who participated in major technological projects such as Alinghi, L’Hydroptère or Solar Impulse.
This alliance between youth and expertise is an undeniable asset to create the boats of tomorrow and to beat the world record! 

What conditions will the SP80 boat need to break the record?

The ideal conditions to break the record are very calm water with as few waves as possible and a very stable wind. These conditions are often found along coastlines with no hills and offshore wind.
Some well-known spots such as Leucate (France), Sandy Point (Australia), Luderitz or Walvis Bay (Namibia) frequently gather all the conditions to beat the World Sailing Speed Record. As SP80 is based in Switzerland and as the team is familiar with some spots in the south of France, we target areas such as Leucate. This is easier to deal with logistically, and also brings both our audience and partners at the heart of our attempts.
Regarding wind strength, our goal is to reach the 80 knots (150km/h) in 25 knots of wind (45km/h), which means that we are not counting on extremely windy weather and that our boat will be able to sail 3 times faster than the wind speed!

Is there a pilot on board?

According to regulations, a minimum of one person has to be on the boat for the record to be certified. We have two pilots on board: one will steer the kite while the other will drive the boat. Our first pilot is Benoît Gaudiot, co-founder of SP80 and kitesurf competitor. Benoît is used to speed as he holds the kitesurfing speed record in the -18 years old category, with a speed of 51 knots (94.45 km/h). He also knows the SP80 boat very well as he takes part in its design and development. What about the other pilot? Stay tuned…

Can you tack and jibe?

For the record, our boat is shaped to go very fast on one side. We won’t be able to jibe/tack at high speeds, but our symmetrical design will allow us to steer the boat back to the start of the run while sailing. 

After the record, by changing the foil and modifying the kite arm, the boat should be able to sail on both sides with the same efficiency. 

Is electronic assistance allowed on board ?

Electronic assistance is allowed to relay information to the pilots (speed, wind direction, etc.) However, any electronics or energy storage helping to steer or stabilize the boat is strictly prohibited. The World Sailing Speed Record is then a great challenge of engineering and design in order to have a naturally stable boat during all phases of the record run.
More information about this rule can be found in the World Sailing Speed Record rules.

Does the SP80 boat fly?

Nowadays, it has become quite usual to see flying boats in the sailing world. However, we do not want our boat to fly.
Indeed, at the very high speed we want to reach, our challenge is rather not to take off of the water, to guarantee the stability and thus the safety of our pilots. We are using a foil that produces a downward force, keeping our boat flat on the water. It is similar to a race car that uses the force of the wind to improve its grip on the track.
More information on this choice here in our SP80 Explained #2

Does having three contact points on water create too much drag?

At the center of our record breaking concept, we wanted to ensure the maximum stability of the boat, especially for the safety of our two pilots at 80 knots. The choice of having three support points was essential in guaranteeing the static stability of the boat! Thanks to the kite’s traction, the boat is very light on water and the drag of the hulls is reduced to a minimum. We validated this geometry with our prototype in 2020 and you can see on the video that during navigation, the floats barely touch the water! 

What kind of kites do you use? What size for the wing?

Our boat can sail with the majority of existing kites. Each of these kites has various pros and cons. Inflatable kites are easier to use but less speed efficient, ram-air kites are more efficient but taking off from a floating platform becomes a challenge, and it is even possible to push efficiency higher by using rigid kites. We explain our vision about those kites in the episode 5 of SP80 Explained.

Our boat is thus capable of breaking the record with a conventional kite, however we are still working on unique kites adapted specifically to our needs.

What about the size? The first tests are done with small-sized kites (from 15 m2). Then, with our growing understanding of the boat, our kites will also grow and reach sizes between 20 m2 and 50 m2 for the record day.

How do you steer the kite?

All the kite’s lines will be linked to our boat’s cockpit, with one of our pilots controlling the kite. The commands are quite similar to a usual kite but the system that is applied is different: in place of a conventional kite bar, we have mechanical elements such as a wheel, pedals, latches and winches that the pilot can control.

How will the kite take off?

For the record, the boat must accelerate on its own from 0 knots, but can be helped beforehand. For example, to help the kite take off. Taking off and landing huge kites in windy conditions is the biggest challenge we are going to face during our record attempts. We will have motorboats in place to help the pilots during those phases.
We know that taking off giant kite wings is possible: Don Montague and his team, made up of navigators and kiteboat conceptors, managed to get kites spanning more than 110 m2 to take off! You can find more information about those achievements in Don Montague’s interview.

How relevant is the aerodynamic drag of the kite’s lines?

At high-speed, the lines indeed generate parasitic drag. However, a kite can also generate much more power than a traditional sail, which compensates for the drag of its lines! Nevertheless, we have taken this element into account in our calculations and we continue to reduce this drag as much as possible in our developments.

Can you release the kite easily in case of emergency?

One big advantage of the kite compared to a classic sail is that it is possible to disengage the boat’s power instantly, simply by cutting the kite’s lines. To ensure our pilots’ safety, a release system is onboard so that he can immediately slow down in case of emergency.

What’s the advantage of a kite compared to a rigid sail ?

A kite is much more flexible and allows us to adapt the on-board power to the conditions of the day. For example, we can sail with a 25m2 kite as well as a 50m2 one without having to change boats. With a rigid sail, increasing the power and for example doubling the sail area would require making big changes to the boat before being able to embark this new sail.
In our case, we will be able to test our boat with small wings, before progressively increasing their size, thus increasing our power and speed. 

What’s “cavitation” ?

Cavitation is a physical phenomenon in which water starts to boil as a result of a pressure drop. On the foils of a boat, this occurs at around 54 knots (about 100 km/h) and prevents the boat from accelerating due to the instability it creates. It’s a bit like the famous sound barrier in aeronautics!
To reach 80 knots, we have to find a way around this problem, that’s why we chose to use “superventilating foils”.
If you want to know more, watch episode 4 of our SP80 explained! 

What’s a superventilating foil?

It’s a foil with a different geometry to traditional ones, the goal being to prevent cavitation by using another phenomenon called ventilation. Find more detailed explanations in this article and/or this video

What happens after SP80 breaks the record?

Today our main goal is to break the World Sailing Speed Record. Our boat is very specialised and solely intended for this goal, thus it cannot be reused directly for commercial applications or other.
However, SP80 has gathered a qualified and a passionate team, which develops innovative technical tools and has a unique expertise. Our boat allows us to explore new technological avenues and to push the limits of the sailing world. After the record, we are convinced that our approach will open new paths for ideas and progress to further fields related to environmental issues, such as transport of goods or the production of energy.

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