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.
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 onshore 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. Our 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.
Is electronic assistance allowed on board ?
Electronic assistance is allowed to relay information to the pilot (speed, wind direction, etc.) However, any electronics or energy storage helping to steer or stabilize the boat are 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 pilot. 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
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.
Taking off and landing with those 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 pilot during those phases. In addition, we know that taking off giant kite wings is possible: Don Montague and his team, made up of navigators and kiteboat conceptors, manage to take off kites spanning more than 110 m2! You can find more information about those achievements in Don Montague’s interview.
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 pilot’s safety, a release system is onboard so that he can immediately slow down in case of emergency.
How do you steer the kite?
All the kite’s lines will be linked to our boat’s cockpit, with our pilot 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.
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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