Bizarre Foiling Kite-Pod Aims To Smash The World Sailing Speed Record

·2-min read

A French startup is planning to beat the world sailing speed record with a bizarre kite-surfing concept.

Syroco, launched by a world record kite-surfing holder and a tech veteran, says its boat, Moonshot #1, plans to pass the 80-knot mark, or just a hair over 92 mph, in the next year.

The current record holder is Paul Larsen who reached 55.32 knots (63.7 mph) on his Vestas Sailrocket 2 in November 24, 2012 during a run on Walvis Bay, Namibia. Through this new quest for the world sailing speed record, Syroco aims to adapt the technologies derived from research for its speed craft to the fields of maritime transportation, in order to help merchant ships become more energy efficient and decrease their emissions of greenhouse gas.

"We don't just want to improve the speed record. Our objective is not only to reach 121 km/h, today we aim to shatter the record!" says four-time kite speed world champion and Syroco co-founder Alex Caizergues. Caizergues and his partner, Yves de Montcheuil, put together a team of sailors, naval architects and even specialists from the helicopter sector to design Moonshot #1, which is a wild combination of foil, kite and a 20-foot-long pod that holds two people.

"We had to rethink the way to go faster on the water, but it had to be as safe as it was efficient," says Caizergues.

Moonshot #1 flies its pod a few feet above the surface, using foils to keep it grounded to the water, with kites providing the propulsion. The pilots in the pod will have to control the kite and foil to avoid crashes at dangerous speeds. But the main hurdle the designers have faced is mastering the cavitation - the air bubbles that build up as the foils move faster - at speeds that no sailing vessel has ever reached. America's Cup racing vessels have used foils for about five years to attain lightning-fast water speeds, but they tweak the shapes continuously to minimise cavitation.

"The big challenge is finding a foil shape that works at both high and low speeds," says de Montcheuil. "Our goal is to take advantage of the cavitation and not, like most racing sailboats, fight against it."

The startup is developing foils that use "super-cavitation", a frictionless cavitation used by torpedoes and some propellers. It also plans to expand that technology beyond sailing into commercial shipping. "Speed isn't just our end goal," he adds.

"Our software simulation platform, Syroco Efficient Ship, lets us apply our research and help shipbuilders make much more efficient hulls that will reduce their carbon footprint. Nobody else is working with this kind of technology."

Syroco now has a third-scale, radio-controlled model it's testing with different foil and kite shapes Last month (December '21) the team celebrated the first stable flight of the prototype just offshore of Marseille, France, where it is based.

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