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UK’s World Speed Sailing Record Attempt Underway

March 6, 2012

When the official 500-meter record was first documented by the World Sailing Speed Record Council in 1972, the speed was 26.30 knots (48.7 km/hr). The latest mark has doubled that pace at 55.65 knots (103 km/hr).

Tim Clarke, engineering team leader at Prospect Flow Solutions, Aberdeen, Scotland, wants to build a boat to go even faster. Realizing that a technological breakthrough was the key to winning the challenge Tim decided to develop his own, innovative approach to speed-sailing. He founded Verney Yachts in January 2009 and chipped away at a concept that breaks a host of sailboat design conventions

Clarke’s idea was to create a single-hull and equip it with two wing-sails—structures that, as their name implies, are a cross between a wing and a sail. The wing-sails in his design are rigid, not soft, manufactured from composite materials, and able to switch both position and function as the boat tacks, becoming either a wing if horizontal to the water or a sail if vertical.

With this new-concept boat, the v-44 Albatross, on the drawing board, the Verney team set their speed sights on 65 knots (120.25 km/hr) or greater—20 percent faster than the current record—without knowing whether the craft was feasible to build and without the opportunity to even construct a prototype.

Virtual testing 

To help translate the conceptual design into a physical reality, the team turned to Abaqus FEA from SIMULIA to test the boat’s performance virtually, using a 3D-computer model to analyze the structural strength of components, their response to wind loads, and the craft’s fluid and aerodynamic characteristics.

“Abaqus enabled us to quickly and efficiently visualize the effects of taking different design approaches,” Clarke says. When the design is finalized, the v-44 Albatross will be constructed without the benefit of prototypes or wind tunnel tow tank testing.

The projected date for the sailing speed record attempt is early 2013. The Verney team hopes that their boat will cover the official 500-meter distance in a scant 16 seconds or less. When it does, the v-44 Albatross will literally fly above the water, with only the keel breaking the surface.

Bringing a simulation-only design to life takes tremendous trust in the power of the engineering technology behind the design. “I used to think of Abaqus FEA as a tool that produced a good prototype,” Clarke says. “But now we’re using the software to go straight from design to a finished product. It’s a phenomenal age for engineering.”