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Cork Week, How Rocketships work

17th December 2009
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Jargon – How the Cork Week Rocketships Work

Sailing fast is all about converting the wind’s energy into boat speed and these big ocean racers generate more horsepower and speed for their size than any single-hull craft that has ever sailed the seven seas.

When the wind blows over 20 knots they leave pursuing powerboats wallowing in their wake. Photographers have to resort to helicopters.

The secret to the success of these high-tech speedsters is their weight-saving, super-strong, carbon fibre construction and their radical underwater design.

Gone are the keel and rudder combinations of conventional sailboats where the shape and weight of the keel counteracts the heeling effect of the wind and helps prevent the boat making leeway (slipping sideways).

In place of the keel is a slender strut with a nine-ton ballast bulb at its tip. Swung out (canted) sideways under the boat by a hydraulic ram, the bulb provides extra stability, standing the boat up straighter and making the sails more efficient.

The twin rudders, one ahead of the strut and one behind it, perform a double duty. They provide the foil shape and area to minimise leeway while also improving maneuverability.

Tacking calls for no more than the touch of a button to swing the keel into a new direction.

Disney and Plattner, the CEO of Germany’s SAP software empire, were fellow competitors in a previous class of lightweight 75-foot ocean racers, worked together to create the new class.

"To have a bunch of boats where we can go out and actually have boat races instead of designer races seems to me to be really good idea,‰ Disney said. „That's what I hope for with this project – that it will attract people who want to go racing on the same terms. Not that we all don't like to go a little bit faster than the next guy, but it's a lot more fun when it’s a boat race."

Published in Cork Week
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