MACQUARIE INNOVATION is a composite construction sailing vessel built in Victoria in 1994. In 2011 it set a new world sailing speed record when it became the first yacht to break the barrier of 50 knots. It followed in the footsteps of previous successful speed sailing records set by YELLOW PAGES ENDEAVOUR in 1993. The proa-like yacht and the Melbourne-based team behind it are further testament to Australian determination, and another example of Australians setting speed records on the water on a limited budget. The world’s fastest boat is Ken WARBY’S SPIRIT OF AUSTRALIA (HV000018) and his project was undertaken on his own initiative and then later obtained some corporate support.
DescriptionMACQUARIE INNOVATION was crewed by Simon McKeon and Tim Daddo and supported by a team of volunteers, donors and a talented but modest designer, Lindsay Cunningham, all of whom had worked toward their goal over a 15-year period. This is the same team that in 1993 sailed YELLOW PAGES ENDEAVOUR, an earlier version of this concept, to a world sailing speed record of 46.52 knots (86.52 km/h). This mark then stood for 11 years until being overtaken by a sailboard.
MACQUARIE INNOVATION is 11m long and built with carbon-fibre composite construction, light and stiff. The beams are also supported by rigging and spreaders. The wing is made of foam and heat-shrink cloth, with a low-aspect-ratio solid sail that reduces heeling moment, one of the limiting factors to the craft’s potential performance. The total structure weighs less than 200 kilograms. It is designed to set records in winds of around 20 knots. The team has concentrated their efforts on the efficiency of the two planing hulls, which create the most drag per unit of area. Each hull has only about 0.2 square metres of surface area in contact with the water.
MACQUARIE INNOVATION is a truly specialised craft, able to sail only on starboard tack. The crew wear crash helmets and sit in a pod that is designed to throw them clear if disaster ever strikes. An onshore support team manages the entire operation, based out of a 40-foot shipping container. It was an operation calling for true patience. Waiting for the optimum conditions can mean long periods of inactivity, in contrast the actual sailing time is measured in minutes.
MACQUARIE INNOVATION set an official record of 50.07 knots (92.73 km/h) for yachts. Sailing speed records grew out of the days when speed was a selling point for clippers competing to provide the fastest passages for passengers, or to bring home the first high-value luxury cargos of the season, such as tea from China. The traditional measure was of nautical miles covered in a 24-hour period, and the day’s average speed in knots.
In the 20th century, official protocols developed for measuring bursts of velocity over a short measured course, averaging the speed achieved on two runs made within a defined time period. By the 1980s the recently-invented planing sailboards had edged out more conventional craft, to dominate the world sailing speed record.
Lindsay Cunningham of Melbourne is a successful designer of International C Class catamarans, a highly innovative multi-hull racing class that use a wing rig instead of a conventional sail plan. Cunningham reasoned that while the planing sailboard was an ideal hull form, a fixed wing would be a more efficient sail plan for the pursuit of speed records. MISS NYLEX (HV000071) is an Australian C-Class catamaran that pioneered wing-sail technology. Designed by Roy Martin, MISS NYLEX won the 1974 Little America’s Cup for C-class cats and held an early Australian sailing speed record of 24 knots. Cunningham later designed other Australian C Class catamarans with wing sails that were also winners and defenders of the Cup.
In pursuit of the world sailing speed record, Cunningham’s unique design concept was to create a three-point proa configuration with two sailboard-inspired planing surfaces to leeward of the rig, balanced on the windward side by the crew in a pod-type hull. This lifted clear of the water once the craft was underway. The two sailboard type hulls are located fore and aft and a short span to leeward of the solid wing sail, with the crew weight applying its force about a longer span to windward to balance the huge sail power being generated.
The craft that is sailing down the course is a second-order lever, but it is upside down compared to the more easily recognised application of the principle, such as the wheelbarrow. And we also have something that looks like it belongs in an H G Wells scenario, a dynamic tripod that skis on water at 25 metres per second.
YELLOW PAGES ENDEAVOUR proved the validity of the concept, but eventually lost its record to another sailboard and then the outright speed record of 50.57 knots was established by a kite-sail craft – a planing sailboard-type hull powered by a parachute-like, soft-aerofoil kite – a craft which is often airborne rather than always touching the water. Becoming airborne is a condition now sanctioned by the governing body in London, the World Sailing Speed Record Council, with a division of the classes of sailing speed record that recognises the distinction between vessels of different attached-sail areas, and the kite-propelled craft.
MACQUARIE INNOVATION had many detailed improvements over YELLOW PAGES ENDEAVOUR and in trials had bursts of speed that matched the kite craft. The course was laid out at Shallow Inlet, Sandy Point, just inside Wilson’s Promontory in Victoria. The inlet is separated from Bass Strait by a low and wide sand spit that creates a perfect wave barrier. When consistent south-west winds come in across the spit, the team ran the craft very close to shore in smooth water.
Sailing over the approved 500-metre course with correction factors to allow for any tidal movement, MACQUARIE INNOVATION set a mark ratified at 50.07 knots. This was a new record for its class of competition, and made it the first yacht to break 50 knots. The team’s instruments show that at one point they were doing over 54 knots, or 100 km/h.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this achievement is that the record has been broken in an average wind speed of 24 knots. In earlier trials MACQUARIE INNOVATION set a record of 48 knots in only 15 knots of wind. It is the most efficient sail-powered craft to break a record, sailing with an apparent wind angle of around 25 degrees while traversing a broad-reaching course 90 degrees or more relative to the wind direction. What this means is that as the craft goes faster, the more the wind direction as felt on the boat moves forward until it appears to be blowing almost head-on. At the same time this apparent wind becomes stronger as the yacht’s speed is added to the actual wind’s speed.
Hull material and construction:synthetic core/fibreglass
Rig type:cat rigcat boatunauna rig
Spar material:carbon fibrecarbon
Hand propulsion/steering mechanism:wheel